Whether it’s a child who fell on the playground or a teen who is undergoing cancer treatment, school nurses see it all. As children are able to attend school with more and increasingly complex medical conditions, school nurses are on the front lines of monitoring, assisting, and advocating for schoolchildren across the nation.
So on May 10, National School Nurse Day, take a few moments to thank a school nurse in your life or in your community. The theme this year is “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Students” to highlight how much school nurses do to improve the health within their communities and how they are excellent and inspiring role models for the students and families who rely on their care.
“The needs of our students are increasing daily and school nurses want to meet those needs so that students have the opportunity to succeed in the classroom to prepare for a healthy and successful future,” says Beth Mattey, MSN, RN, NCSN, and president of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) which created National School Nurse Day in 1972. “School nurses are on the front lines of population health.”
It’s no secret that kids who are healthy in body and mind will perform better in school and have more engaging and satisfying school experiences. “Schools have an energy and vitality about them where children and teens bring untapped potential,” says Mattey. A school nurse is there to offer medical care, but is often a comfort, a cheerleader, a family advocate, and a health care provider experienced with complex and diverse healthcare conditions and needs.
“School nurses have long provided a hidden health care, often working as the only health care provider in the education setting,” says Mattey. “As the needs of our students are growing, the contribution school nurses bring to health AND education of students as a member of the health care team and the education team is increasingly being recognized and valued.”
According to Mattey, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that the incidence of children with chronic health conditions are increasing. The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health says 27.3 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 30.8 percent of teens age 12 to 17 have a chronic health condition. And for many children, their health struggles are compounded by additional factors. “Across the nation, fifteen million children live in poverty,” she says, “and almost 46 million children receive supplemental nutrition assistance. “
And with so many shifting factors, school nurses are seeing steep increases in issues like anxiety than did school nurses of a couple of generations ago. Mattey explains how almost 23 percent of children have been exposed to two or more adverse childhood events which can affect one’s physical and mental health. “School nurses report they spend at least 32 percent of their time addressing mental health needs of students,” says Mattey.
And as laying a foundation for a healthy life begins during the school years, Mattey says this is a great time to help influence healthy choices and behaviors. “For 14 years I worked with teens in our high school to reduce the use of tobacco,” she says. “We developed posters and shared the message across the state through music. We reduced tobacco use by 51 percent in our high school.” Other school nurses work with students in physical activity programs and programs to promote healthy eating.
“It is incredibly fulfilling when we help a child and family manage a chronic health condition such as asthma, diabetes, or allergies and remain in school,” says Mattey. “School nurses want students healthy, safe, and ready to learn.”
And with school nurses in so many communities, their membership has a powerful base. NASN has 16,000 members in 50 affiliates and overseas who advocate for school children, their communities, and the national health of children.
On National School Nurse Day, acknowledging the complex and essential role school nurses play in both an educational and a community setting is important. “On May 10, school nurses will continue to care for students as they always do,” says Mattey. “This day perhaps, we will walk with an extra spring in our step knowing that the knowledge and expertise we bring to our students and community makes a difference in the lives of our students every day.”
Get ready to kick off National Nurses Week! This annual event to recognize the compassionate and critical work nurses perform and to celebrate the profession begins tomorrow, May 6 and lasts until May 12.
The week provides time to honor the role of nurses in their own lives and in the collective national landscape.
This year’s theme: Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit reflects the American Nurses Association’s designation of 2017 as the Year of the Healthy Nurse. The theme points to the delicate and essential equilibrium that nurses must find to successfully thrive in such a distinctly unique profession.
National Nurses Week is marked throughout the nation in all kinds of settings—from healthcare settings to nursing schools.
Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman says the week offers a chance to celebrate nurses and to also take a look at where the profession is going.
Vanderbilt, which has both a medical center and a nursing school, has events including a blessing of the hands and a state of nursing address by the chief nursing officer. There are awards to recognize outstanding nurses and a dean’s diversity lecture that will examine how the nursing profession as a whole can meet the needs of a diverse population.
At the nursing school, where more than 900 students take classes, there will be several versions of birthday parties for Florence Nightingale whose birthday is marked every May 12.
“We are having an ice cream social for the students just to say, ‘We’re glad you’ve chosen nursing and this is our way of celebrating nurses,’” says Norman.
Here are a few ideas to celebrate National Nurses Week either with colleagues, family, friends, or by yourself:
Have a party
Nurses deserve to have someone else take care of them, so having a reception at work or meeting for lunch with your nurse friends offers time to stop and celebrate.
If you supervise other nurses, be sure to thank them for all they do. They are the front lines of patient care and perform superhuman feats each day.
Spread the word about the ANA’s free webinar “A Nurse’s Guide to Preventing Compassion Fatigue, Moral Distress, and Burnout” on May 10 at 1 pm EDT (registration closes on May 9 at 7 pm EDT).
Between May 12 and May 17, you may also view the free webinar recording of “Empathy 101: How to Care for Yourself While Emotionally Supporting Others,” offered by Nurse.com at http://ce.nurse.com/course/Web332 . The webinar features Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN.
As Norman says, the week also offers a time for nurses to consider the journey that brought them to where they are. Norman says she is frequently reminded of her own journey.
“It is a time for us to reflect on the choice we made back when we were deciding on our profession,” she says. “To be able to try to meet the needs of others—that’s a privilege. To teach others how to do that—that’s an even bigger privilege.”
Are you tired of going to your job?
Nursing might be one of the most exciting and dynamic careers, but that doesn’t mean you are in the right role. With so many options available in the nursing field, there’s no reason to be stuck in a job you don’t like.
If you’re starting to think about finding a new place to work or even just changing roles in your current organization, it helps to plan ahead.
Here are five things to do now if you’re thinking of getting back in the job market.
1. Decide What You Want
It won’t do you any good if you just jump from one job to another without understanding why you are making the big move. Decide what’s most important to you. Is it a bigger salary? More benefits? A less pressured environment? Are you looking for more or less work hours? Or is your work environment abrasive and difficult? Once you know why you’re leaving and what you really want, you can move forward.
2. Polish Up
Get your resume ready. If you’ve been in your current role for a while, list all of your responsibilities, duties, successes, and accomplishments. Decide how you can show what you did rather than just tell what you did. Talk about a successful change you made at work and if it saved your team time or money. Did you work with a specific population and increase their health outcomes? Did you manage an increasingly larger staff? If you aren’t sure where to begin, hiring a pro will be a good investment. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated with a current photo (no selfies allowed!) and that your social media sites are professional.
3. Find Your Cheerleaders
You will need references, so think of the people who have worked with you successfully. Maybe you worked on a team, were the lead on an initiative, or even were active in charity work outside of your day-to-day job. You need to ask colleagues if they will act as a reference before you list them in any job application process,
4. Play Detective
Investigate the companies where you are applying for a job or where you would like to work. Find out about recent (or planned) major changes. You wouldn’t want to look for a shorter commute and find out that a facility is moving. Do they have a new leadership team of highly respected leaders? How is their financial history and do they have any recent layoffs? Google searches reveal lots of information. A thorough investigation will give you a good perspective on the place you could be going.
5. Network Your Tail Off
Job hunters can’t underestimate the importance of getting out there, making an impression, and adding to the professional and industry conversations. If you can’t get to networking events, being making well-placed, thoughtful comments on LinkedIn or Twitter. Do the best you can to connect with people, but not just for what they can give you. The best networkers are finding out how they can make positive and long-lasting contributions to the nursing industry. They are seeking ways to enhance their careers, of course, but also for ways they can add their talents. They know a solid network is multifaceted and will exist long after they find a dream job.
A well-planned approach to job hunting will save time and effort in the long run. Focusing on what you want, how you can get there, and what you have to offer to the larger profession is a great first step.
New nurse graduates have a lot on their plate. With diploma in hand, they can barely shout a celebratory “woo hoo” before passing the NCLEX becomes the next focus. But this early time in your nursing career is an especially important time to begin laying the foundation of the kind of nurse you want to be.
Nursing students often say connecting with patients is what makes their long days worthwhile. No matter what population you will be working with, finding a way to bridge the gap and connect with patients makes your job easier and builds confidence and satisfaction for your patients.
Here are a few ways to start building relationships—whether they last for hours or years—it makes a difference.
1. Introduce Yourself
Your patients have medical professionals coming in and out of their rooms all day long. Don’t take it personally if they don’t remember your name or when you first came in or even what you need to do. Tell them your name and what you will be doing. Let them know how long you’ll be taking care of them.
2. Be Present
With all the hectic happenings in a healthcare setting, nurses have to have eyes and ears open to everything. Sometimes that means when you are with a patient, you aren’t 100 percent focused on them. Making the effort to bring your attention to the patient in front of you helps. “Be present in the moment,” advises Pamela Chally, Dean Emeritus, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida. “Even something nonverbal does a lot for being present. It can be a touch or eye contact,” she says.
3. Keep Them Updated
Let your patients know what to expect. If you know they’ll have a CAT scan later in the day, let them know the approximate time. If that time changes, pass that information along. They might have questions about what’s going on and why they need certain tests or procedures. Let them know or, if you don’t know all the details, find out for them.
4. Spend Some Time
This is the most difficult piece because time is one thing nurses don’t have to spare. But making the most of your time with a patient can help overcome the quantity of the time you can offer. You can’t sit in the room and chat the afternoon away, but you can ask them about their outside life. Talk about the latest baseball game, their scrapbooking habit, or what they like about their job.
5. Learn About Them
If they have family in the room, try to learn a little about them and about your patient as well. Be mindful if a family doesn’t want to talk, but also listen for small details that aren’t volatile. Hobbies, favorite places, favorite foods, or upcoming events they are looking forward to are all great ways to connect and will help break the ice.
6. Have Patience
In addition to their professional skill and their calm demeanor, nurses’ patience is legendary. But having patience isn’t always easy, and when you have patients who are scared, in pain, or just not particularly pleasant, it can be downright difficult. Watch the nurses around you to see what coping techniques they have developed to deal when tempers flare in your setting. Do they deflect with questions? Do they ignore the situation and continue on calmly or do they address it directly? What does your manager recommend when you encounter a situation that’s not easy? And find your own way of bringing yourself back to a calm place when things get tough.
7. Make It Personal
With so many people to care for, it’s not going to be easy to remember small details about everyone. But if you can remember your patient is especially nervous about blood draws, has very particular food preferences or issues, or is more modest than most (or not!), you can be prepared for those situations. Showing that you care about them as a person will help build a mutual trust.
Building relationships with patients, no matter what setting you see them in, has a ripple effect. You’ll make their stay or visit more pleasant, but you’ll also feel more satisfaction from having connected with them, too. And if your patient trusts you and feels like you are advocating for their interests, they are more likely to listen to what you say and ask questions when they don’t understand something.
Building a relationship with a patient can lead them on a path to better health overall and a better quality of life—what nurse doesn’t want that?
Now that spring is upon most of the country, it’s a good time to refresh yourself about understanding tick-borne disease, learning how to protect yourself, and recognizing signs and symptoms of infections in yourself and in your patients.
Lyme disease gets most of the tick-borne disease headlines, but there are plenty of other illnesses caused by ticks that cause just as much misery and potentially life-changing harm.
Ticks tend to live in wooded areas and fields with tall grasses. The feed on blood, so small rodents like mice or larger animals like deer, moose, or human beings make perfect hosts for these bugs. Household pets that go outside are also known to bring ticks into your home where they can drop off on floors and furniture and attach to people. They will attach to their host and can remain attached for days, transmitting diseases along the way. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the more well known tick-borne diseases include Lyme, bartonella, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, tularemia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Most people can see the larger ticks, but they can get into areas that you won’t notice immediately – like your back, your feet, under your arms, or your scalp. But the ticks in the larval stage are nearly microscopic and are almost invisible unless you are searching for them. Even then, they are tough to see. And many ticks transmit a chemical that acts like an anesthetic, so your skin might not be irritated when they are biting you.
The first step in tick-borne illness is preventing yourself from ever getting it. That means treating your indoor/outdoor pets with tick medication that will both repel ticks from your animals and kill any that attach.
When you are outside, cover up with long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves if you are taking a hike or gardening. Use bug spray containing DEET to keep ticks off your exposed skin, but make sure you wash it off when you come in. And when you do come in from outside, head straight to the shower. Take your clothes off (from underwear to socks to coats) and pout them in plastic bags if you can’t get them right into the washing machine. Wash your clothes and then put everything in the dryer to kill off any ticks that might still be attached.
If you do notice a tick, pull it off with tweezers by grabbing the tick at the head and pulling hard enough to remove the whole tick. You want to make sure the head is not still burrowed into the skin. If that happens, you might need to get it removed (yet another bonus when you are working with nurses!). Wash the area and your hands and then apply an antibiotic and a bandage. Watch for signs of infection around the bite (or a Lyme-alert of a bulls-eye rash). Also pay attention to how you feel—any joint pain, fevers, flu-like symptoms, headaches—could signal a tick-borne illness.
Generally, treatment will consist of several weeks of antibiotics, but some people suffer longer-term issues. According to the Lyme Disease Association, there’s debate in the medical community, as some health practitioners believe Lyme is exceptionally difficult to diagnose and eradicate. Other believe the lingering symptoms some patients feel are related more to an autoimmune issue.
Either way, a tick-borne illness is miserable to deal with and your best course of action is prevention. You don’t have to avoid the outdoors, but take precautions and check yourself, your family members, and your pets when you all come in from the outside.