On March 19, nurses everywhere can honor the extra work they have put into getting certified as the nation celebrates Certified Nurses Day.
Sponsored by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Nurses Association, Certified Nurses Day offers a chance to acknowledge nurses’ extra efforts to gain the board certification that establishes advanced knowledge and specialization in specific areas.
Nurses can earn certification in everything from national healthcare disaster certification to cardiac rehabilitation to nursing case management, sharpening their skill set and therefore improving the patient care they provide. But certification takes work. Nurses must pass a credentialing exam and complete continuing education to maintain certification every few years.
Registered nurses are able to practice nursing, but nurses who earn certification status in various specialties are valuable to employers for additional reasons. Their extra motivation and willingness to become certified signals a dedication to nursing and to patient care. Earning certification shows they pursue their passions to advance their skills and go above and beyond typical job duties.
According to the ANCC, Certified Nurses Day is celebrated on “the birthday of Margretta ‘Gretta’ Madden Styles, the renowned expert of nurse credentialing. An accomplished advocate for nursing standards and certification, for more than two decades Styles advanced nursing practice and regulation worldwide.”
Nurses who are board certified in any specialty can help educate other nurses of the value of obtaining this extra designation. And the healthcare settings, patients, employers, and others for whom nurses form an invaluable part of the team can bolster the efforts and recognize the extra work it takes to earn and keep that certification.
If you don’t have certification in a specialty you’re particularly interested in or if you want to obtain another certification, the ANCC can help answer questions. Each certification has different testing and renewal requirements, so it’s best to check what you’ll need.
Many certified nurses appreciate the expertise recognition their certification confers. If you are especially interested in an area of nursing and have knowledge that people turn to you for, getting certified makes your knowledge and professionalism recognizable to others. Some nurses say they are reluctant to take the credentialing exam as they aren’t sure if they will pass. If that is your concern, take the extra time to study. If you don’t pass, you can take it again. Not everyone passes credentialing exams on the first try, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t refocus and take it again.
On Certified Nurses Day celebrate yourself and your colleagues who have obtained this extra education. Make plans to go out to lunch or just to say thanks to your colleagues who are making an effort to improve nursing care and their own professional skills. If you are thinking about getting certified in a specialty, take steps today to get the process started. You’ll advance your knowledge, your career, and your profession while providing the best possible patient care.
Although patient safety affects each and every one of us, it’s not always a topic people dwell on. But nurses do and they will join the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) in celebrating Patient Safety Awareness Week from March 12 to 18.
“Everyone is a patient and patient safety is a public health issue,” says Sara Valentin, CMP for NPSF, assistant vice president and program lead for Patient Safety Awareness Week. “But unless you are in the health care field or a patient or a family member of someone who has experienced medical harm in some capacity, you wouldn’t know about it.”
Patient Safety Awareness Week aims to educate and inform people about patient safety with tips for taking charge of your own health or for working in a health care setting. “Preventable medical harm is one of our top issues we focus on,” says Valentin. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful if that never happened again?”
One look at the news shows new systems and approaches have significantly reduced the instance of medical harm, but it still happens. “We have made progress, but we still have a lot to do,” says Valentin. “This is a good time to stop and pause and look at the work people have done.”
NPSF generally chooses a few topics to focus on during each annual Patient Safety Awareness Week and communication and medication safety are especially noted this year. And while there are lots of events to participate in and educational and practical tips to learn and share, Valentin says the NPSF also says a little levity helps keep the topic fresh. The organization is encouraging anyone to spread the word that “We are all patients” by posting photos of themselves in hospital gowns or in patient care settings using #WeAreAllPatients.
NPSF is celebrating National Patient Safety Week in many ways. They will host a Twitter chat (@theNPSF), “Patient Safety: What Patients Want (and Need) to Know,” on Tuesday, March 14, from 1 to 2 pm (ET). Use #psaw17chat to participate.
According to the NPSF website, a free webcast, “The Voice of the Patient and the Public,” is set for Wednesday, March 15, from 2 to 3 pm (ET) and includes several prominent panelists. Registration is required online at http://bit.ly/psawweb17.
According to Valentin, “Medication itself is a big topic.” NPSF plans to offer information, resources, and facts to help people protect themselves from medication errors and to make anyone handling medications aware of where things could go wrong.
Good communication is a significant deterrent to medical errors, but in the hectic health care world, it requires constant diligence from everyone. Patients can look at their relationships with health care providers as partnerships where they should ask questions and clarify instructions until they really understand what the final plan is.
Nurses can give their patients the time to ask questions. Even when it seems like you cannot squeeze one more minute out of the day, spending a few extra minutes to make sure a patient understands the proper medication, the correct dose, and instructions for taking it is essential. She says, “You can ask, ‘Do you have any more questions,’ or ‘Are you comfortable with what we have talked about?’” Some patients are especially easily overwhelmed in a medical setting and might not listen to each and every thing you are saying. Giving one last opportunity to clarify things can prevent mistakes.
And nurses can continually tweak their own processes. Nurses also need to listen to each other carefully to make sure they are both communicating and understanding everything that is needed and being said.
And while this one week will highlights the critical importance of avoiding errors, Valentin says nurses know it’s a 24/7 issue. “Every day is patient safety day,” she says. “This is a week to celebrate, but it’s something we work on every single day.”
As Black History Month draws to a close, now is an excellent time to reflect on all the nurses who paved the way for today’s increasingly diverse nursing workforce.
The numbers still don’t reflect the levels of diversity in the country as a whole, or even necessarily in the settings where they work, but African-American and black nurses are entering the nursing profession and earning advanced nursing degrees in greater numbers than ever before.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing workforce is achieving greater diversity, but there’s still a long way to go. While the 2015 National Nursing Workforce Study stated 19.5 percent of nursing respondents reported a racial or ethnic minority background, the rate was even higher among newly registered nurses.
With a nod to early black nurses like Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman, who each paved the way for minority nurses to follow, nurses are expanding into many specializations and gaining higher degrees. With the current push to have 80 percent of nurses educated with a completed bachelor of science in nursing by 2020, higher ed and advanced degrees are an important part of getting ahead in nursing. Of the 176,000 nurse practitioners, 8.5 percent are African-American. And of the 3,102,000 registered nurses, 11.9 percent are African-American.
Minority nurses continue to make big strides in increasing the diversity of the overall nursing population. According to American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) figures, the percentages of black or African- American nurses earning master’s or doctoral degrees has increased significantly in the past 10 years.
In 2006, 10.6 percent of those earning doctoral degrees were African American. In 2016, that percentage jumped to 16.2. And in those same years, the number of those earning master’s degrees also saw a percentage jump. In 2006, 11.3 percent of those going for a master’s degree were black. Ten years later, the percentage was 14.3. Overall, the percentage of minority nurses seeing nursing degrees hovers at about 30 percent of the total.
All that good news helps patients who say they want to see a diverse workforce in the healthcare professions. Many patients feel comfortable with someone who looks like them, but, more importantly, a diverse workforce helps spread culturally competent nursing practices. The entire nursing staff may not represent the ethnic diversity in a given setting, but they can learn from those who might understand certain cultural traditions, languages, or practices. All that understanding makes for better patient care and outcomes and an especially effective nursing staff.
So as Black History Month draws to a close, take a few moments to reflect on how far African-American and black nurses have come and the essential care and understanding they provide to the public. And take a moment to take pride in being part of that.
February is all about heart health—what you can do to improve it, ways to prevent damaging it, and finding out what heart-healthy habits work for your lifestyle. Stress is a big contributor to poor heart health, so relieving stress is a natural way to improve your odds.
But reducing stress, especially when you’re a nurse, is not always as easy as it sounds. Sure, you can try (and probably have great success with) yoga classes or even with the scientifically proven meditation. But if you want to find something a little off the beaten track, try these odd ways to give your stress the boot.
1. Bake Bread
Baking bread is such a huge stress reliever that some medical professionals tell their patients to try it. But you have to put the bread machine away for this one. This is bread baking the old-fashioned way. All the banging and kneading of the dough not only gives your upper body a workout, but the repetitive motion is incredibly soothing. Then call a friend to come over and share your wonderful loaf of bread.
2. Laugh Really Hard
There are lots of formal and informal laughing groups that gather strictly for the purpose of laughing. People get together and try to force a few big laughs, but the resulting honest laughter can really relieve your stress. You can also get your laugh meter going the old-fashioned way. If you want your laughs to come from something funny, tune your radio into some comedy stations, download some funny podcasts, or get some comedians’ CDs from the library. You might have to seek it out, but ticking your funny bone really is good for your health.
3. Carry a Fragrant Cotton Ball
This might sound weird, but carrying around a cotton ball infused with an essential oil can have a huge impact on your mood. Carry your scented cotton ball in a baggie or a small plastic container (remember the idea of this blog is weird ways to relieve stress!) so you can sniff it periodically throughout the day. Lavender is an excellent and well-known relaxing scent. Citrusy scents like lemon, lime, or grapefruit are invigorating and might help your brain out of an afternoon slump.
4. Rest Your Eyes on Beauty
When there’s no way you can step outside or escape to the blue ocean of the Caribbean, find an app with a flickering fireplace or with soothing ocean waves or the bird songs in a rainforest. Spending a few minutes looking at something peaceful (bonus for added sounds) will bring your blood pressure down a few notches even if it’s not the real thing. You can spend just a few minutes gazing and then get back to your day a little more relaxed.
5. Watch a Sad Movie
This is not for everyone! But if you are one of those people who feels relieved after a good cry, you might want to turn on a good tearjerker. A good crying jag can release a lot of pent-up emotions and, in fact, get rid of some of the stress you’re holding in. But, if you’re someone who takes a long time to shake the sad feeling of movies that make you weep, skip this tip.
Finding out what makes you feel better is always good–even if it is a little out of the ordinary. In the end, what matters is your health, so find a great stress reliever and stick with it..
Of all the risk factors for heart disease, the areas you have no control over are often the ones that are especially troublesome. While you can make inroads to a healthier diet, more activity and exercise, reducing stress, and even taking appropriate medications, it often feels like there’s nothing you can do to change your family’s track record of heart disease.
As February is American Heart Month, now is a great time to take stock of your own heart health. Knowing that your family carries a higher risk for heart disease is actually a great motivator to keep your own heart as healthy as possible. In many cases, if you ramp up your efforts to control what you can, you can negate some of your family’s health lineage.
Can you change your family’s past? No – if you had a father and three aunts who died from heart disease in their 40s, you need to take that very seriously. But it doesn’t mean you will take the same path.
How can you beat your genetics?
Know Your History
The American Heart Association recommends gathering as much family history as you possibly can. If you are at least able to start with members of your immediate family, that will help you assess your risk.
Look for family members with a history of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or congestive heart failure. Find out how old family members were when they were diagnosed and how old they were if they died from the disease. And try to notice any patterns – is the predominant problem heart attack or stroke?
Accept (But Don’t Give Into) Your Genes
There is virtually no way to change your genetic makeup. But if you carry an elevated risk, it can make you feel unsure of what’s to come. So while you can’t change your genetic cards, you can change how you live your life.
A lifestyle that is heart-healthy, heart-friendly, and heart-supportive can contribute greatly to your overall heart health and start to bring your elevated risk into a more normal range.
Talk with Your Team
Talk to your healthcare providers to make sure you are getting all the tests you need to uncover any early indicators of heart disease. Discuss medications and other therapies that can lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol and even get things like triglycerides into normal range.
Some minority populations are more predisposed to heart disease (including African Americans and Hispanics), so go over some of those risk factors. And have a discussion about any other conditions you may have that could put you at a higher risk including diabetes, depression, and even psoriatic arthritis.
Make Heart Health a Priority
No one else is going to put your heart health first, so that’s going to be up to you. Put caring for your heart at the top of your to-do list. That means taking a look at obvious things like your eating habits, your weight, your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. But it also means making sure you get enough sleep (lack of sleep raises your risk of heart disease over time) and making sure you take the time for pleasure.
Loneliness also contributes to declining heart health, so develop a rich social life and figure out exactly what that looks like for you. Some people want three parties every weekend and others are happiest having dinner with best friends every couple of weeks or a favorite book club every week.
No matter what story your family health patterns reveal, it doesn’t mean that’s your destiny. With some changes and lots of diligence and close observation, you can keep you heart healthy and strong.