Marygrace Colucci (center) along with her supervisor/nurse manager Louise Esposito (right) and Marianna Vazquez, CNO (left)
Imagine moving to the United States from the Philippines and building a nursing and military career. That’s what Marygrace Colucci, RN, BSN, MSN, did when she migrated to the U.S. in 1995. Today, Colucci is living her lifelong dream as a staff RN in the ophthalmology operating room at Northwell Health at Syosset Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York.
In May, Colucci was honored with the Zuckerberg Nursing Excellence Award during National Nurses Week. The award recognizes exceptional nurses at Northwell Health.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse,” Colucci says. “I have seven siblings, so my parents could only send me to a two-year midwifery program due to the financial constraint to support a four-year BSN program. I graduated at 18, passed the midwifery board but couldn’t get my license until I was 21 years old. I started working as a midwife in the hospital with just a permit, and I remember having so much fun delivering babies, and assisting in C-section procedures.”
Colucci says that when she first arrived in the U.S., it was a huge culture shock. “I missed my family and friends. I was homesick, but eventually got over it,” she says. “I was afraid to talk to people because of the language barrier; not because I didn’t know how to speak the language, but more because I was shy of my English and my accent.”
Colucci was inspired by her cousin who served in the U.S. Army as a nurse. “He was sort of my role model, and that is why I joined the Army Reserve in 1998,” Colucci says. “Joining the Army helped me overcome most of the challenges I had to face back then such as the language barrier, being shy, and lacking self-confidence. The Army taught me how to face all kinds of adversity. I’d have to say the Army really turned me into the kind of person I am today.”
Another supportive influence for Colucci has been her husband. “When I graduated with my associate’s degree in nursing, he told me I should go back to school, which I intended to do anyway. I went on to finish my BSN, and he told me again that I should go for my master’s, which I intended on doing. But him pushing me to go further was really a good motivator. And now that I’m done with my NP, he said go for your doctorate, which I’m still considering.”
Colucci says for now she is focusing on her military career. She hopes to be promoted to major in the future. “I also want to focus on helping soldiers from my unit, which I am currently commanding,” she says. “I try to motivate my soldiers and tell them that they can do so much with their skills, and that there are so many opportunities available if they’ll just work hard for everything that they want to achieve.”
“I also tell my fellow Filipino coworkers to advance their education by going back to school,” she says. “I told them that if I can do it, so can they. I’m not really smart; I just happen to be disciplined and really put a lot of time and effort into everything I set my mind on achieving.”
Colucci sees herself working in emergency medicine in the future. “I had a great time when I was doing my clinical at the urgent care centers. I told myself I will embark in that field if given the chance. I think emergency medicine is a very good and rewarding field to practice. I would like to be promoted to major in the next two years; and eventually to lieutenant colonel in the Army Nurse Corps.”
Women represent nearly 80% of the healthcare workforce, and they represent 77% of hospital employees. Also, 26% of hospital and health system CEOs were women in 2014. Statistics show the number of women in healthcare is rising, but there are still challenges. One of the most widely talked about challenge is gender inequality, including the lack of women in leadership positions. While gender inequality is important, this issue is not why women in healthcare are an endangered species.
Women in the healthcare industry are just as likely (if not more) to suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and other mental and emotional issues. Like most healthcare workers, women who are physicians, registered nurses, home health aides and more enter the field with a passion to help others. But if you fall into these categories, how many times have you neglected your own needs? Shouldn’t you treat yourself with the same care as a patient?
While the term endangered is normally used in reference to animals, you’re surrounded by just as many threats as a leopard in the wild. For decades, women in healthcare have suffered from stress, fatigue, strain due to schedule, insufficiency in internal training, and injuries from physical tasks. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, female physicians die by suicide at a 400 percent higher rate than women in other professions. One article posed the question “who takes care of the caregivers?”
The answer is YOU!
There are some issues in healthcare that is a work in process, but you have the power to positively influence your well-being today. Your patients need you. Your family needs you. And, you need you. So, treat yourself with proper rest, prayer, stress management techniques, supportive relationships, and be the first thing on your to-do list by adhering to your discovery checklist.
Top 5 Tips for Graduate school
So, you are thinking about completing your Master’s degree. You may be just graduating with your bachelor’s, established in your career, seeking career advancement, or an overall career change. You should commend yourself wherever you currently are in your professional journey. Graduate school is essential for career progression and as daunting as the challenge may be it is feasible and worthwhile. However, there are certain things that I wish I had known previously to enrolling in my first graduate courses that would have saved me a ton of grief on this grad school journey.
Learn the APA Manual
Do you briefly remember being introduced to this in your undergraduate English and Research classes? You know, the blue book that you couldn’t wait to toss as soon as you completed those courses! Well, don’t get too excited and toss that manual out just yet. The APA manual will be your bible at the graduate level. It is best to not only familiarize yourself with it but read it cover to cover. In all seriousness, there will be no mercy for APA formatting issues at the graduate level, and failure to comply will hinder your ability to graduate. Let’s be honest; graduate school is very expensive so do not lose points over APA errors and get your bang for your bucks when it’s time to cash in on that top G.P.A.
Grad school will push your writing capabilities to the maximum. When I first started, I went in under the false pretenses that I was a decent writer. After all, my highest scores were always in English and Language Arts. However, never underestimate the power of proofreading your document, or having someone else review it. It is important to remember that you are not supposed to be writing as if you are talking in scholarly writing. Read every single thing you submit out loud at least two times before turning it in. You will be surprised at some errors you will find in your documents once you hear it out loud. I swear by Owlet Purdue, Grammarly, and PERRLA to assist with the completion of my papers.
One of the biggest mistakes that I made during my Grad school journey was “taking a break”. Apparently, life happens to everybody, but if you can help it, you should stay on the course to graduate on time. While taking a leave of absence is certainly an option, there are some universities have a time limit on the amount of time you can spend on the completion of your master’s degree. Taking a leave of absence sounds a nice break until you return and you are under even more pressure to complete your degree. Stay on track and graduate on time. Put yourself out of grad school misery. Try not to prolong it.
My zodiac sign of a Libra makes finding balance very high on my priority list. Regardless of your sign, it is essential to find a way to balance everything you have going on in life. Many of us are career focused, have spouses or partners, children, and community obligations. There are going to be some times that you will simply have to say no to others as well as avoid taking on too many additional duties. You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Do not feel guilty about taking a step back or going on a much need hiatus to keep everything together. Remember that this is temporary, and there will always be opportunities to restock your plate once you have graduated.
Cost vs. Reputation
This has been an ongoing debate for such a long time. I will give you my honest opinion and say that it is best to go for value in regards to selecting a school to attend. There is absolutely nothing wrong with investing yourself, but please do not break the bank along the way. Try your very best to avoid debt, save up, and develop a reasonable budget that you can use to finance your educational goals. If you are shelling out a ton of money, ensure that the institution has a reputation that fits your tuition bill. Student loan debt is a serious problem. Remember that you will need to pay that money back, and if this degree does not make a high paying job seem promising to you it may be necessary to scale back. Remember, grad school isn’t cheap!
Wrapping it All Up
I hope that you avoid the pitfalls that I incurred during my grad school journey and that these tips will help ease you in your transition and prepare you for entry into grad school. A graduate degree is totally obtainable; it’s just a different academic dynamic. I’ll see you on the other side!
“ Once you know yourself, in this living stillness, there is nothing in this world that is greater than you”
One of the elements of discovery is “stillness”… I am sure you are thinking, ” What does that really mean? As healthcare professional, how can I incorporate STILLNESS into my life when I have been trained to move and move fast because it is the difference between life and death?”
Guess what, IT IS POSSIBLE! Let’s break this down a little bit more.
Many people see the word “stillness” and automatically think it means to have no movement which is true to a certain point, but from the perspective of discovery, “stillness” is the state of being or being one with yourself. Not thinking about the kids, what you have to cook for dinner, the bills you need to pay, but can’t… the job you dread, the co-worker or friend that gets on your nerves, etc. I mean you DO NOT think about any of that, just simply BE!! In the state of being is where we really and truly get to “know thyself” and not what everyone else tells us about ourselves. In stillness we allow the voice of the holy spirit, which is our GPS navigation system, to guide us through the streets called life. In stillness we learn to quiet the mind and not allow anything that is going on around us affect us. So when you are in a state of stillness, it doesn’t mean that things are not going on around you, it means that they are not going on within you. Let me make it a little clearer for you, you can be at work on a 35 bed med-surg unit with 10 physicians and 3 respiratory therapist on the unit, family all over the place, a supervisor who is screaming at staff, and a co-worker who scrolling through her social media timelines chilling while you have 10 outstanding task and not let ANY, I mean ANY of it affect you internally. The key is to create an intention of stillness which can be achieved by having some intentionality about how you are carrying yourself in a given moment and focus on what is within your control.
Now that we have what stillness means from the perspective of discovery out of the way, I can hear you saying “ Nicole I don’t have time for that”, I have to take care of my family, walk the dogs, manage all the household chores, manage the financial accounts, and I am sure that the list could go on and on but guess what you CAN practice stillness through all of this (I am not telling you what anyone told me but what I know)!! And to be honest if you want to live a life purposefully as a healthcare professional according to Gods’ will then it is a non-negotiable.
So let me share 4 tips that helped me to begin my practice of stillness and make the practice of stillness a ritual in my life.
1. Deep Breath- Yep simply deep breath! I hear you saying “and what is that going to help”? When we take deep breaths it induces the parasympathetic system and slows down your heart rate, which leads to a state of relaxation (use this one when you have trouble going on all around you so that it is not going on in you).
2. Schedule Time to Be- Look lets keep it real we all live busy life’s that pull us in 50 directions and many us live by a Google calendar which tells where to be and when. Well guess what place your “Be Time” on there too. It has been proven that anything we do for 21 days becomes a habit.
3. Get off Social Media- Yep I said it!! Get off Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. stalking pages and looking at fairytale lives that often don’t exist and practice just “ Being” (I was once guilty of this one, LOL). With the hours we spend on these sites weekly, we can really get to “know thyself” and find our purpose as a healthcare professional.
4. Find a Location that brings you Serenity- Know I know I said the state of being can happen when trouble is all around you which means we can have stillness anywhere but to get to a place where we can do this, we can get practice by doing it in areas where we find peace. So that may be by the water, outdoors with the birds chirping, a certain room in your home, etc. Practicing stillness in a location that brings you peace prepares you to be able to do it anywhere.
These tips are the very tip of the iceberg for practicing stillness because stillness goes much deeper but I wanted to start with building a foundation for you to build upon.
Remember in Psalms 46:10 we were told to “ Be still and know that I am god”.
Medical Malpractice is defined as the improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care professional. Let me help make this a little bit clearer for you and share a few interesting facts and figures about medical malpractice:
- The belief that malpractice suits are filed with the intention of making a lot of money is false. A study done between 51 New York hospitals showed that poor, Medicaid, or uninsured patients are significantly less likely to sue for malpractice.
- The ratio of the number of people that die due to preventable mistakes and the number of people who file a lawsuit is low. According to the Institute of Medicine, about 98,000 die each year due to preventable mistakes, and hundreds of thousands more are injured because of them. However, only one in eight people actually file a lawsuit.
- The states with the highest per capita malpractice payouts are New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. While the lowest states are North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Indiana.
- It seems like a no-brainer that medical malpractice is preventable, but it’s the third leading cause of death in America. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 80% of events in the healthcare system are the result of human error.
- Malpractice suits usually deal with serious injury, and most people don’t bother suing over small accidents that don’t leave any lasting harm. In 75 different countries, 90% of malpractice suits involved permanent injury or death.
- Although nurses are usually in charge of nursing homes patients, many states have adopted special procedures for nursing home issues that don’t fall under malpractice.
- While the number of doctors has increased, some doctors still feel they’re handling too many patients. According to the Maryland Practice Team, 40% of doctors feel their patient volume can lead to errors.
- America spends $2.2 trillion a year on healthcare, and only $7.1 billion on defending claims and compensating victims. While that seems like a lot, it only accounts for 0.3 percent of healthcare costs.
- There are two common reasons for a malpractice suit. For inpatient errors, 34% of malpractice suits were because of surgical errors. For outpatient errors, 46% of malpractice suits were the result of errors in diagnoses.
- Only 7.6 percent of doctors found guilty in two or more malpractice suits were punished, and only 13 percent of doctors who were guilty in five or more malpractice suits were punished.
Wow, so that was a lot right? Yes it was! These interesting facts and figures may have you wondering how can I avoid being apart of a medical malpractice suit where I am defending my actions as a clinician. Well I am glad you asked! I would like to share 5 tips to help you remain free and clear of being a defendant of a medical malpractice case:
- Document, Document, Document– As a legal nurse consultant, I can’t tell you how many nurse are not documenting properly. Remember the things we were all taught in nursing school ” if it was documented, it wasn’t done!! It is very hard to go before a court and say “Oh I did it, but I forgot to document it”. I can tell you this is a automatic strike against you. Also make sure your documentation is clear and concise. It should paint a very clear picture of exactly what happened while that patient was in your care and not leave anything to the imagination.
- Check Physician Orders a Minimum of 3 Times Before Carrying Them Out- Listen I know how it is to be on a floor with 6 patients, all of them needing IV pushes, 3 of them are on the call light, and the physician is giving you 10 orders; can you say frustrating!! But we have to slow down and verify physician orders and if they do not seem right, don’t be afraid to question the physician on the orders. I have witnessed countless medical malpractice cases where the nurse carried out incorrect orders or orders that should have made a light bulb go off in their head and say ” I don’t think this is right “, and they didn’t verify the order and carried it out which caused serious damages to the patient.
- Write Your Notes Legibly– For some of us we are not yet at a stage where we have the privilege to document on our patients in a computerized charting system through our respective employer. So we are still hand writing our documentation. The barrier with that is that notes can become extremely hard to read at times thus leaving a lot of room for questions should a patient that you ever took care of decides to file a medical malpractice suit. Now while you can definitely explain to a court what the notes says while in the middle of a medical malpractice litigation suit, why send yourself through that headache of having to do that when you can just write legibly.
- Communicate– Communication is key! We know this to be true in every area of our life and this is no different within the healthcare profession. To prevent from making any type of error on a patient that you are caring for, you must communicate with all parties involved in their care and that includes but is not limited to the physician, certified nursing assistant, charge nurse, radiology, social worker etc. Everyone has to be on the same page with what is going on with the patient and notify each other of any critical information that is going on with the patient. I have seen numerous cases where the clinican indicates ” Well I didn’t do xyz because no one communicated this information to me. NOPE, that is not going to fly!! We are licensed professionals that have taken an oath and we must act as so, so we must COMMUNICATE.
- Always be a Student– Like everything around us, healthcare is changing. Which means we must change with it, we must stay updated on the latest and greatest, on the practices that were once in practice that has now been eliminated, etc. Attend conferences, take that class you employer is offering, really pay attention in those continuing education courses. We are ultimately responsible as licensed clinical professionals to provide care that is current, up to date, and the standard for our profession.
Nicole Thomas, RN, MSN, CCM, LNC
Health is defined as the state of being free from illness or injury. Health is what keeps all individuals in a state of harmony and balance because when our health is good, we are good. However, the state of being free from illness or injury is not equal across all spectrums of the human species. Some of you may deal with health related issues on a daily basis, occasionally, or rarely. Despite your frequency, it’s doubtful time allows you to look up interesting facts and figures on this topic. For instance, did you know that black women have a shorter life expectancy than White women by 5 years, 50% higher all-cause mortality rates, and death rates from major causes such as heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases, and diabetes that are often 2 to 3 times higher than those for Caucasian women? Knowledge is power, so here are a few interesting facts and figures about the health of minority women that make you go hmmm.
- Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women. But African Ameri- can women are more likely to die of this cancer because their cancers are often diagnosed later and at an advanced stage when they are harder to treat and cure. There is also some question about whether African American women have more aggressive tumors.
- African American women between the ages of 35-44, have an increased breast cancer death rate of more than twice the rate of White women in the same age group—20.02 deaths per 100,000 com- pared to 10.2 deaths per 100,000.
- Black women develop high blood pressure earlier in life and have higher average blood pressures compared with white women. About 37 percent of black women have high blood pressure.
- About 5.8% of all white women, 7.6% of black women, and 5.6% of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.
- A 2011 Journal of Women’s study indicated that 57 percent of Latina women, 40 percent of African American women, and 32 percent of white women had three or more risk factors for having a heart attack.
- According to the article published by the Diabetes Sisters, the prevalence of diabetes is at least 2-4 times higher among African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander women than among white women.
- One in four African American women over 55 years of age has diabetes.
So, which fact do you find most interesting?
Breast Cancer: A Resource Guide for Women. (2009). Retrieved from:http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/assets/pdf/checked/bcrg2005.pdf
Pryor, David. Diabetes in African American Women. Retrieved from:http://www.blackwomenshealth.com/blog/diabetes-in-african-american-women/.
Women of Color Have More Risk Factors for Heart Disease. (2012). Retrieved from:http://www.hhs.gov/ash/news/2012/20120206.html.
Women and Diabetes. (2012). Retrieved from:https://diabetessisters.org/women-diabetes.