Thanksgiving Is National Family History Day

Thanksgiving Is National Family History Day

As families and friends gather for Thanksgiving Day this year, there will likely be oft-repeated tales about favorite recipes or the family stories that always make everyone laugh. In the midst of these gatherings is an excellent opportunity to learn more about what makes your family unique – in every sense of the word.

In 2004, the Surgeon General, through the Department of Health & Human Services, designated Thanksgiving as National Family History Day. This is an opportunity for all families to learn more about the common and rare diseases that can run through several generations.

As you all reminisce about holidays gone by, it’s a good time to begin documenting the various health conditions family members have. If you have high blood pressure and other relatives do too, it’s a great opportunity to educate the younger family members about the disease in an open, honest, and informed manner. The teens in the family don’t need to be terrified about the potential for heart disease or diabetes, but they should be armed with information about how they can help keep themselves healthy.

National Family History Day gives families a chance to uncover common threads they might not have realized. While the Surgeon General’s office found that most Americans believe in the important of knowing a family history, only about one-third have ever tried to document their own family’s health history.

What should you ask about? Really anything that might help you. Once you know the common threads, you can all learn about how to stay healthy or manage those specific conditions. For instance, are there relatives with breast and ovarian cancer (especially early onset) from generations ago? What about testicular cancer? When everyone is together, you can act as an educated group to make sure family members are getting appropriate testing or monitoring.

Because the Surgeon General considers family history as such an important health indicator and screening approach, the office has created the My Family Health Portrait online monitoring tool to help families document conditions and diseases. This tool means the documented history can be shared among family members and updated as health changes occur. Family members can even bring a copy of the document to healthcare visits to help inform their health team about important information.

Nurses don’t need anyone to tell them what kind of a predictor family history is. Each day, they see families with shared conditions. But if they don’t discuss their own detailed family health histories and if they don’t always ask the right questions, they could be missing some important health information of their own. Many families don’t talk about things like reproductive health problems or of mental health issues. Some might not discuss alcoholism or addiction. But each of these health conditions provides an essential piece of a family’s health picture.

Before you begin this process, the Surgeon General’s office has prepared some tips to help you. You’ll want to be ready to get the information, but realize you might not get everything on the first try. Make sure you are clear about what you are doing and why. Some people don’t like to talk about their health issues, but if they realize it could help save a loved one, they might look at your information gathering in a very different light.

Consider this an ongoing conversation among family members, and that Thanksgiving is just a start. Realize not everyone will be on board. Get as much information as you can without upsetting anyone. Be encouraged by what you can find out – you are helping your family now and for generations to come.

Jose Maria Says Emergency Nursing Is Where He Belongs

Jose Maria Says Emergency Nursing Is Where He Belongs

With dozens and dozens of nursing specialties, some nurses take varied paths to end up in the specialty that is the best fit. Many try different health care situations or medical training before deciding that one area of nursing is the career where they will make the impact they want and will satisfy their professional goals.

Jose M. Maria, MS, FNP, RN, CEN, director of emergency services at Brookdale Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, says he came to emergency nursing after gaining training and experience as an EMT and paramedic. “Emergency medicine was the next logical choice in starting my nursing career,” he says. “I haven’t looked back since.”

Maria, a native of the Dominican Republic, says his specific EMS experience really gave him a solid foundation to know what he wanted and provided him with the essential capability for any emergency nurse. “It allowed me to develop the skills to adapt to any situation while keeping a cool head,” he says.

But emergency nurses also benefit from having more than a cool head and a great skill set, says Maria. The flexibility to move from one situation to another one that is entirely different is essential for a successful emergency nurse. And then there’s the part where you work your tail off. An emergency nurse who doesn’t complain about the task (or 20 tasks) at hand and does what’s needed will have a much easier time working in such a fast-paced environment.

And when it’s time to transition a patient to inpatient nurses, challenges remain. In fact, Maria says that transition point is one of the most challenging aspects of emergency nursing. “This is a common challenge at every organization I have been a part of,” he says.

Preparation and planning, as with any part of the emergency nurse’s job, can help. And finding out how other nurses work also helps inform your own practice. “I try to stay current in practice and use resources like ENA CONNECT and to speak with colleagues across the states,” says Maria. “Like many professions, preparation is key for success in the emergency department.”

But with those skills and responsibilities, emergency department nurses encounter a lot of critical and crisis situations to adapt to. For Maria, those situations reveal why he does what he does. “The most satisfying and most important part of my job is to save lives,” he says. “It’s a powerful and overwhelming feeling to have brought someone back from death and see them walking out of the hospital.”

Anyone considering emergency nursing as a career path can follow Maria’s advice to rotate through other specialties before deciding on the ED. Each area offers you a new set of experiences and training that will be useful in the emergency department.

“Because we see a wide range of complaints, we can actually help our patients,” he says. “Working in psychiatry for example, helps you build conflict resolutions skills, improve communication techniques, and builds patience needed in the acute psychiatric emergency. Working in the ICU, with their attention to detail, improves your documentation. Working on a medicine floor helps in time management skills. Working a surgical unit, improves your teaching techniques with patients.”

And while the emergency department is intense and fast, emergency nurses do find a way to offer each other the kind of support and camaraderie that is distinct. Their humor might even be considered dark, says Maria.

“People have a hard time understanding that even in the darkest of times, humor helps us deal with our internal anxiety about the cases we work,” he says.

4 Tips for Nursing Students’ Finances

4 Tips for Nursing Students’ Finances

When you’re a nursing student, thinking about your finances seems almost like a pointless task. With the immediacy of paying for school and the almost universal need for student loans that you pay back after graduation, thoughts of your future financial plans stay where they are – way in the future.

Believe it or not, this is actually a great time to think about your future and your finances, which includes retirement but also might include big-ticket things like a car, a house, travel, or additional educational costs. When you start working right after graduation, you’ll want to develop good financial habits right from the outset. If you can begin planning for your future early, you’ll be much better prepared.

You may not be able to set aside money when you’re still taking courses and during clinicals, but you can learn how to make good financial choices.

Set a Budget

As a nursing student, get comfortable with the funds you have, the funds you earn, and the amounts you owe. Don’t guess at how much your food costs are each month—add them up so you know. Use an online budget app like Mint (it’s free!) to calculate that in with your rent or mortgage, any insurance costs, student loan payments, transportation, and costs for entertainment, pets, or clothes.

Balance that with what you take home each month and you’ll get a good idea of your cash flow. If you get comfortable doing that early on, you’ll have an easier time making sure you make solid, financially stable decisions in the future.

Learn Where to Save

When you have a budget, you’ll know what you have and don’t have. You can figure out if you can cut back on one thing to make some extra money for something you want. Eliminating a take-out lunch once a week and you can easily save another $50 to $70 a month. Add that to an emergency fund until you have enough to cover three to six months of expenses. Then start putting it in a retirement fund. You’ll never notice the difference.

Pay Your Loans

This one is simple, but can be difficult. If you have student loans pay them on time every single time they are due. Defaulting on your student loans or being late on payments can wreak havoc with your credit score. And you’ll need good credit to secure a car loan, a loan for a home, or even future student loans if you return to school. Don’t let a mistake limit your life that much.

Plan Your Next Steps

Set some financial goals. Do you want to save $1,000 this year? Do you want to commit to saving 15 percent of your income? Figure out how much that breaks down to save each week and then do that. Either have it automatically withdrawn and placed in a different account or fund or do it yourself each payday. Setting concrete goals complete with amounts and the steps you have to take to reach your goal is half the battle.

Start implementing steps toward setting good financial behaviors now and you’ll be thankful years down the road.

Dr. Scharmaine Baker Honors National Nurse Practitioner Week

Dr. Scharmaine Baker Honors National Nurse Practitioner Week

This week, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners is highlighting all the work nurse practitioners (NPs) do with National Nurse Practitioner Week.

The week kicks off today and runs through November 18 and honors the work NPs do both on the job and as ambassadors for the nursing profession.

Minority Nurse caught up with Dr. Scharmaine L. Baker, FNP, FAANP, FAAN, CEO at Advanced Clinical Consultants, to talk about the role of a nurse practitioner. After Hurricane Katrina, Baker’s New Orleans patient caseload swelled from 100 to 500 in three months. With a critical shortage of health care facilities and providers, Baker’s skills as an NP not only saved her patients, but also clearly showed how invaluable her thorough NP training is.

National Nurse Practitioner Week, says Baker, is a way to give nurse practitioners the recognition they often don’t receive. “National Nurse Practitioner Week gives us the positive spotlight that we deserve,” she says.

This kind of national attention to the nurse practitioner’s work shows the devotion nurses have to caring for a patient, and also helps clear up any misunderstandings about the role and how an NP works within a health care team. “Nurse practitioners don’t just prescribe a medicine and send you out of the door,” says Baker. “We take the time to listen to the patient stories about their children, spouses, pets, and job promotions. These stories often solve the complicated puzzle of making an accurate diagnosis. It’s called holistic care of the total man.”

When prospective nursing students are deciding on a career path, Baker urges them to consider a few things. Top in their minds should be the honest assessment of their commitment to making this career decision. Taking the time to complete the challenging NP studies isn’t easy, she says. “Once they have decided that this is indeed the right time to pursue an Advanced Practice Nursing degree,” she adds, “then the necessary preparations as far as letting family and friends know that they will be somewhat unavailable for the next three to four years because the schooling demands all of your time for successful completion.”

But when the degree completion and training are done, the potential for a lifelong career that challenges you, uses all your skills, and lets you connect with and help people is gratifying on many levels. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll be diagnosing, assessing, and treating medical conditions. You’ll also look at the whole patient. NPs take into account the interplay between a patient’s physical and emotional well-being as well as the environment they live in. By doing so, they can help treat every part of a patient’s condition.

“I get to hear the stories that make my patients happy or sad,” says Baker. “Then, I get to connect those stories to their physical state. They are always related. I enjoy providing health care on this advanced level. I get to take care of the whole patient.”

Baker also points out that while NPs continue to earn recognition and some states are allowing them to practice on their own, there is still work to be done. “The most challenging and frustrating part of advanced practice nursing is the many restrictive laws that prevent us from practicing to the full extent of our scope,” she says. “It’s downright ridiculous! I long for the day when all states will actively have full practice authority.”

Currently, nearly two dozen states allow nurses to have full practice authority where they practice without physician oversight. Baker continues to advocate for full practice authority among all nurse practitioners. She also urges NPs and the nursing profession to continue to honor the nurses who worked so hard to get all nurses where they are today.

“Many have fought for us to be where we are,” says Baker. “Every time we show up and provide stellar care, we make our founding nurses beam with joy. We must never forget their sacrifices.”

Celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week this week and spread the word about these highly skilled professionals. Use #NPWeek to share photos and tags on your social media posts to help others see just what satisfaction a career as an NP can bring.

Mona Clayton Tells Others “A Nursing Career Is Possible”

Mona Clayton Tells Others “A Nursing Career Is Possible”

When young children and young adults don’t hear about nursing as a viable career choice or learn about how to pursue a nursing career, the world loses an untold number of excellent potential nurses.

Mona Clayton, MSN, RN and CEO of Nurses 2 Roc Pub, knows all too well how some dreams need a little nudge. She is making sure that will happen with a goal to reach out to 100,000 people worldwide to tell them that a nursing career might just be the best career for them.

As a kid growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Clayton didn’t have the encouragement she needed to even think of nursing as a career. “You could say nursing chose me, I didn’t choose nursing,” says Clayton. “I didn’t think about nursing as a career at all. I didn’t like blood, and I didn’t like math. And I never had anyone tell me I could do this.”

She didn’t have professional role models telling her that her fascination with health care and the medical dramas she watched on television might mean she had a passion worth pursuing. They could have told her she could overcome her queasiness about blood and that improving her math just meant she had to practice.

Clayton aims to be the inspiration and mentor for those who might want to follow the same path. With seminars in person and online, casual discussions, a blog, and a pure determination to have good people become good nurse, Clayton spreads her message.

Clayton’s path changed when her cousin became a nurse and when Clayton herself worked in a trauma unit while attending college. After forays into journalism, pharmacy, computer science, and business, Clayton went back to school for her nursing degree in her mid 30s. As an older single mom who was also a minority and didn’t consider herself great in math, Clayton says the unknown was scary. “I think the main barrier for many people is the mindset that they think nursing is an impossible venture,” she says.

In fact, Clayton says when she is running a seminar, the young adults she is speaking with invariably ask her the nuts and bolts of how she achieved her goals. They want to know how she applied to a nursing school and how she even knew which one to apply to. They ask how she was able to pay for classes and did she work and go to school simultaneously. They want the details on how she managed while being a single mom and how hard her classes were. They are all hungry for information on how to make their dream become reality.

Clayton admits the road for her wasn’t always smooth. Her daughter was active in lots of school activities, and Clayton relied on extended family to help fill in the gaps as she continued to work and go to school while raising her daughter. When the going got tough, Clayton says she just looked at her daughter. “She kept me going,” she says. “I wanted her to see the importance of education. I wanted her to see how I did it and then they think, ‘If she did it, I can do it, too.’”

And while Clayton’s message connects her with people worldwide, you’ll also find her talking to people in Target or at the gym. She talks to kids who are curious about nursing and older people who are thinking about going back to school for nursing. And she recruits men and women believing a balance of genders is necessary in the workplace.

I could go and work as a nurse and not do this,” says Clayton, “but this is a passion and drive I have. It feels great when I see someone succeed.”