Can Travel Nurses Help the Nursing Shortage?

Can Travel Nurses Help the Nursing Shortage?

With nursing shortages a pressing issue throughout pockets of the country, one branch of nursing could help remedy the solution, says Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, and chief clinical officer of AMN Healthcare. Travel nurses can fill short-term needs while organizations are able to assess, stabilize, and hire permanent nurses without compromising patient care during a staffing shortage.

Faller says travel nurses can help fill the gaps while providing high-quality, reliable care. She points to a study slated for summer publication in the peer-reviewed journal, Nurse Leader, that reveals that patient outcomes for travel nurses and staff nurses are no different. In fact, the study asserts, travel nurses might help ease the staffing burdens and contribute to less error and nurse burnout. Using data sources from Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI®), the study looked at a U.S. hospital to assess patient outcomes when using both core nurses and travel nurses.

According to Faller, most travel nurses work in temporary job assignments of three months at a time. After their rotation is done, they might stay for another three months, sign on for a permanent position, or move on to another assignment in a new location.

It’s very appealing,” says Faller. It’s a quick and easy way to get a new job and gain both professional experience in a new area while also having the chance to travel. Some nurses want to shift their location for a life event—a child is getting married across the country or has a new baby, for instance. Or a nurse from a smaller community might want to gain experience in a larger academic center, Faller says. Maybe they have a list of places they want to see and travel nursing will help them do that while also working at a job they enjoy.

Travel nurses only account for two percent of all nurses, says Faller, but they offer both a distinct nursing career opportunity and a boon for organizations who need more nurses.

Different organizations find travel nurses help their staffing needs in varied ways, says Faller, and help keep the quality of care high. “Travel nurses give them the ability to fill vacancies where they are finding themselves short staffed,” Faller says.

Organizations can fill the positions while continuing to focus on recruiting. Travel nurses are also especially helpful when it comes to covering non-productive hours, says Faller. For instance, known times when nursing staff members are taking PTO, jury duty, has a leave of absence, or even needs educational time off are all good times for travel nurses to fill in. Travel nurses can also help offset overtime costs and hours. “Those have to get covered somehow,” says Faller, and helping ease up on too much staff overtime can also help offset nurse burnout and eventually retain nurses and keep turnover down.

If an organization is launching a new event, like electronic medical records, travel nurses can help cover staffing while regular staff is undergoing training.

And Faller notes that travel nurses are held to the same high standards as staff nurses. They need to have the same credentials as other nurses for whatever location they are going to, she says. And while approximately 25 states are part of the multi-state contract that allows nurses to use one license for many states, the rest of the states do require independent state licenses. Travel nurses also must pass background checks, drug screening, and any other requirements for hiring. And travel nurses are well-educated, she says, with 64 percent of travel nurses having a BSN or higher.

A nurse with a couple of travel experiences under his or her belt has some valuable skills, says Faller. These nurses are adaptive by nature, learning quickly how an operation is run and how to find what they need to do their jobs well.

As the demographics of the country continue to change and become increasingly diverse, travel nurses can help fill a gap and provide a service that many organizations need. Nurses who speak multiple languages or who fit with the cultural background of the patient population being served are especially valuable, says Faller. “There is a large demand for that cultural matching,” she says, noting that even a familiarity with a certain culture can help organizations align with their patient populations in a way that helps everyone.

Whether you are considering travel nursing for a career move or are an administrator assessing the best way to fill in the gaps, travel nursing is an option that’s both viable and valuable.

A Neuroscience Nurse Reflects on Her Career

A Neuroscience Nurse Reflects on Her Career

May is a time to celebrate the work of neuroscience nurses across the country. The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses suggests several ways to highlight the work neuroscience nurses do with Neuroscience Nurses Week, but one of the best things is to find out what makes a neuroscience nurse love the job so much.

Shirley Ansari, BSN, RN, CNRN, and a nurse in The Johns Hopkins Hospital Neuroscience Acute Care Unit, says her journey to becoming a neuroscience nurse was not planned, but has given her professional challenges and personal satisfaction for her entire career.

I became a registered nurse (RN) in 1984 and finished my nursing training in Mumbai, India,” Ansari says. “As a new RN, I was assigned to the neuroscience unit because the unit was short-staffed at the time. At the time, I had a limited knowledge of how to take care of neurological and neurosurgical patients.”

As a new nurse, Ansari says neuroscience nursing was challenging simply because the patients in her care had complex needs and were all quite varied. The pace was fast and care situations were changing constantly.

Nevertheless,” she says, “with the help of senior nurses and their expertise, I was able to learn a lot and found it very motivating to deal with patients who suffered from a wide variety of brain and nervous system disorders.”

Because neuroscience nurses work with patients who are often in acute situations, they have to be highly resourceful both technically and emotionally. “As a neuroscience nurse, one should have the capability to deal with critical situations by being empathetic towards the patient as well as being simultaneously alert and attentive to the details,” Ansari says.

Because of their patients’ care needs, neuroscience nurses have to walk a fine line between motivating patients to do the work they might need to do and understanding what limitations they have at that moment. “My approach always involves a high level of calm and patience as many of these patients are not able to function normally due to their impaired cognitive function,” says Ansari.

The complex conditions and the rapidly changing environment means neuroscience nurses have to be ready to constantly take in new information and new developments but remain focused and steady. They will use all their nursing skills and develop strong communications skills that will work effectively within a team in a high pressure environment.

When thinking about advice to offer nurses considering this branch of nursing, she says well-rounded capabilities are essential. “They should have a high level of understanding to grasp what is happening with their patients and should be able to assess quickly and effectively in order to administer the proper type of care,” she says. “They should be able to communicate and delegate efficiently in order to deal with emergent situations. Lastly, they should be willing to work in a high stress situation by maintaining proficiency and composure.”

For Ansari, a career in neuroscience nursing brings many benefits, especially when she can see the progress of patients in her care. “Being able to facilitate and witness a patient’s recovery from initial treatment and rehab to having a more fruitful quality of life with their families is extremely rewarding,” she says.

As with many areas of nursing, Ansari says the constant change keeps her job fresh every day. “To this day, [the diverse work] is one of primary aspects of neuroscience nursing that I truly enjoy and find completely gratifying,” Ansari says. “The ability to learn something new amidst changing and challenging situations keeps me engaged, interested, and motivated in my work every single day.”

Take Your Health Seriously and Elevate Your Nursing

Take Your Health Seriously and Elevate Your Nursing

Nurses know all there is to know about how to get and stay healthy. They give patients the rundown on good cholesterol numbers, target weights, prime activity goals, and even how to keep stress at bay.

But nurses are also notorious for putting their own health at the bottom of their own to-do lists. With their drive and passion for caring for others, there’s often precious little time left over to devote to themselves. But a recent Kronos Incorporated survey revealed how tired nurses are despite being happy with their jobs. Four out of five nurses surveyed say they find it hard to “balance mind, body, and spirit.”

So as National Women’s Health Week kicks off (next month we will address men’s health issues!), here are a few short tips the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for staying healthy.

Have a Healthy Body

Staying in balance starts with keeping your body healthy. Do as much as you can to find what works for you to feed your body with healthy and nutrient-dense foods. Stay hydrated, even it it means just drinking water because you have to. Keep your body moving. As a nurse you might move all day, so just add in some stretches to stay limber and help prevent injury.

Get Well-Deserved Rest

It can’t be said enough: nurses need rest. And with the Kronos survey revealing an alarming amount of fatigued nurses (43 percent hide how tired they are from their managers), sleep is nothing to scrimp on. Get the rest you need however you can get it. If you can’t get the 7 to 9 hours a night that’s optimal (who really can do that?) then fit in a short nap or at least a rest time. Getting enough sleep helps prevent not just nurse burnout, but will prevent errors from overly sleepy nurses. That means your rest can save someone’s life.

Limit the Extras

So consider extra fat, sugar, and caffeine as special. A little is fine, but a lot is just a once-in-a-while thing. Limit or cut our alcohol and flat-out don’t smoke or use recreational or illegal drugs. Give your body a good foundation to build on

Be Safe

A big part of staying healthy, says the Office on Women’s Health, is to stay safe. So wear proper gear when you are skiing, rollerblading, or riding a bike or motorcycle. If you are in a car, wear a seatbelt and don’t text while driving. If you’re on a boat, wear a life preserver, and if you swim, make sure you aren’t alone.

Track Your Health

Keep track of things like your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and any other important health numbers. Check your skin for changes, your breasts for lumps or noticeable changes, and keep your vaccines up to date.

Don’t Forget the Mind/Spirit Connection

Nurses especially need time that is quiet. Turn the radio off in the car or if you ride the subway, tune out with headphones set on ocean sounds or bird calls. Nurture your spirit with what makes you happy—friends, family, church, nature. Even thirty minutes of time to recharge, if it is meaningful and you really enjoy it, can have calming effects that last long into your work week.

Taking some time to find the balance between your mind, body, and spirit can keep you healthy, but will also make you a better nurse.

National Nursing Home Week Begins May 14

National Nursing Home Week Begins May 14

May 14 to 20 marks the American Health Care Association’s National Nursing Home Week to honor the many types of nursing care provided in these skilled nursing care facilities.

The 2017 theme, “The Spirit of America” highlights the bonds that bring together all the people in nursing homes—whether it’s staff, volunteers, families, wider community members, friends, or residents. Each person brings a different background, varied reasons for walking through the doors, and wide-ranging life experiences, but the community they form is like the American spirit so many of us treasure.

Since 1967, the AHCA has used National Nursing Home Association Week to celebrate these skilled nursing care facilities and the essential care they offer to elderly or disabled people. But, as anyone who has ever worked in or visited a nursing home facility knows, the care given here has a wide impact that expands to include the loved ones of residents and the larger community.

If you want to join in on celebrating this week or if you work in one of these facilities, check to see what’s being offered. If there are any events to honor the week in your local community or where you work, try to participate in some way.

If you can’t find anything going on, propose a way to mark the week by honoring the staff and visitors with flowers, food, or even a small reception where everyone can come together. With so many stories under one roof, there are bound to be common experiences to share and new stories and situations that everyone can learn about. And don’t forget the power of social media! Give a shout out on Twitter (#NNHW), Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram to let others know of the important work and caring that goes on in skilled nursing care facilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of 2014, 1.4 million Americans lived in nursing home facilities. And with services ranging from long-term care to rehabilitative care to hospice care, the range of skills provided in these settings is extensive. Some people live in skilled nursing care facilities while others are only there for a short time to recover from illness or surgery. But all share in the same spirit of working closely and learning from each other.

According to the AHCA’s website, as “the nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers, AHCA advocates for quality care and services for frail, elderly, and disabled Americans. Our members provide essential care to approximately one million individuals in over 13,400 not-for-profit and proprietary member facilities.”

If you work in a nursing home, celebrate all you and your colleagues do this week. And take the time to honor the residents and the people you care for. Sharing stories is often one of the best ways to learn about those around you.

International Nurses’ Day Unites Nurses Globally on May 12

International Nurses’ Day Unites Nurses Globally on May 12

Each year, National Nurses Week brings celebrations across the United States. But within that week is an important reminder of the work that nurses do across the globe, under varying conditions, with dramatically different equipment, but with the same steely determination to protect the health of the people they care for.

This year, International Nurses’ Day is celebrated on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale, as many know, is considered an early healthcare innovator who founded modern nursing practices and helped shape nursing to such an extent that her influence remains to this day. Nightingale’s passion for aiding the ill and injured and keeping nursing practices focused on sanitation helped saves lives of those in her care and countless lives today.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) sponsors the day and has designated this year’s theme as “Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Nurses around the world can participate and unite their nursing voices by using the hashtags #VoiceToLead and #IND2017 in their social media posts.

The SDGs are a collection of more than 17 goals that impact nurses and the care they provide. The health inequities experienced by people around the world result from a mix of factors, but all impact the sustainable development issues facing nurses today. The issues range from ending poverty (that’s goal number one) to improving health and education and fighting climate change.

In honor of International Nurses’ Day, which debuted in 1965, the ICN is providing case studies from nurses across the globe—for instance there’s the story about addressing COPD in China to reducing the HIV stigma in Zambia.

For nurses who are interested in finding out more or adding their voice to the international nursing community, a Resources and Evidence toolkit is available for download.

According to the International Council of Nurses website, the organization “is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.”