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.
In honor of Transplant Nurses Day—April 19—we decided to ask a transplant nurse what it’s like to work in this part of the nursing field. Austin Timmons, BSN, RN, CNOR, an Operating Room Registered Nurse at Largo Medical Center in Largo, Florida. Took times to answers some questions for us. What follows is an edited version of our interview.
As a transplant nurse, what does your job entail? What do you do on a daily basis?
A transplant nurse’s job entails many criteria including patient education, clinical care, and patient safety as well as a wide array of interdisciplinary coordination within the hospital. Transplant nurses work closely with transplant physicians, pharmacists, the lab, anesthesia, Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), perfusionists, surgical scrub technicians, and other specialists to coordinate the best care possible for our patients.
As an Operating Room nurse specifically, I focus–along with other members of the OR team–on providing the most current standards of care to our patients in a safe and respectful manner. We handle setting up supplies for a transplant procedure, providing education for our patients, keeping the patients safe under anesthesia, handling donor organs, and eventually taking our patients safely to a recovery unit to begin their journey with their new organ.
Why did you choose this field of nursing?
I personally chose this field of nursing to help expand the transplant services within our community and to assist in offering the best care possible for the patients that we receive. We all work closely together and have our own roles to make the procedure come together as a whole. We have a growing presence in our community, and, as a healthcare team, we are proud to be a part of the transplant program.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
One of the biggest challenges of my job includes seeing the patient immediately before surgery. This is always an emotional time for them, and as nurses, we are able to comfort and sympathize with them at the bedside before the procedure begins. We are constantly in close contact with family members during the procedure to keep them involved and are available for their support as well.
What are the greatest rewards?
On the other side of the coin, the greatest reward as a transplant nurse in the operating room is seeing the patients after the procedure is complete–witnessing their joy and appreciation for this gift of life. For example, after one of our kidney transplant recipients had been brought to the Intensive Care Unit and woke up, the patient began to cry out of joy when they saw they were making their own urine for the first time in over a year. Knowing that our team has played an integral part in such a big milestone for their health is a great feeling.
What would you say to someone considering this type of nursing work?
To someone considering this type of work I would say, “Go for it!” It is a rewarding experience and allows you to work with many different departments and specialties, all of which have one common goal in mind. I believe compassion, attention to detail, organization, highly developed communication skills, and transplant-specific education are needed for this type of nursing work.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you about being a transplant nurse that is important for people to know?
One other thing that I would add is the involvement with our local population. The Transplant Institute of Florida at Largo Medical Center works with Life Link and other organizations to support community-centered events and education regarding donation and transplantation. These events help to strengthen our presence and help reach out to people in need.
The International Transplant Nurses Society sponsors the Transplant Nurses Day on April 19 this year, and the organization offers some great tips and suggestions for celebrating the day.
Transplant nurses specialize in the care of people who are undergoing or have had transplant surgery of solid organs. Since 2006, the ITNS has helped honor nurses who are committed to this branch of nursing by recognizing their efforts and their skill on the third Wednesday of every April.
The transplant nurses on staff work with a distinct population and help patients through all phases of care. They are there to help both the sickest patients awaiting transplant surgery and the healthy live donors, and assist during the procedures. Transplant nurses also work closely with patients and their families post-surgery to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible and to monitor for any complications such as organ rejection.
During this year’s Transplant Nurses Day, take a few tips from the ITNS and shower your transplant nurses with some extra love. Like with many other holidays to celebrate a specific field of nursing, the celebration to honor a group is what makes it special.
A luncheon or a gathering with cake and coffee is always a nice break in the day and a good way to say thanks. This is a great time to call out some nurses who have gone above and beyond their job duties and give them a small gift like a gift card to a local shop or coffee store they love. Personal thank you notes are also always appreciated.
In keeping with the ITNS mission, spreading education about transplant nurses and what they do is important. Invite local and state legislators to come hear a presentation in the near future about this profession. If you’re a transplant nurse, see if your team will take the time to make a presentation to a local school or library to teach others about what you do.
If transplant nursing sounds like something you would like to do, you’ll need to obtain your RN and then gain experience in critical care and surgical units. You need to be certified with a Transplant Nurses Certification through the American Board for Transplant Certification. As the field is so fast-paced, keeping up with the latest cutting-edge research and outcomes will become part of your job duties.
Say thank you to your transplant nurses on Transplant Nurses Day, and if you’re a transplant nurse, take the time today to honor all you do and the patients you help.
Working as a nurse can really take a toll on your body. While many nurses work either all day work or all night work, there are others who work both day and night shifts, and that can be really tough.
We asked some experts for tips on how to make the switch and keep yourself healthy while working swing shifts.
Carrie Silvers, RN, MSN, a professor of nursing at the University of Arizona gave these tips:
On switching days to nights: Stay up later the night before you switch, and sleep in as late as possible. I used to find it hard to nap during the day, anticipating my shift. Schedule early family dinners and bath times for the kids on work nights.
On switching nights to days: A couple of ways I switched included not going to bed right away when I got home in the morning. I was able to see my kids, and make them breakfast. I’d sleep a shorter period of time so that I could go to bed that night and get a good night’s sleep. This also allowed me to be awake when they got home from school, help with homework, dinner, sports, and bedtime stories.
On eating healthy: Eat a balanced and healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables with an increase in lean protein intake. Increasing protein will help with stamina and staying awake. Pack healthy snacks and a meal to take to work. Avoid high fat and fried foods while at work. Limit caffeine intake to early in your shift, and to only a couple of servings. Working during the day I would avoid caffeinated beverages after noon, and on night shift after midnight.
On exercise: I used to exercise before work because it helped me to wake up and get my blood circulating. Even a walk or 30-minute exercise videos work.
On staying hydrated: Drink a lot of water. At least 8 glasses/shift. You’ll feel hydrated, less tired, and your body will thank you.
Nicole Thomas, RN, MSN, CCM, founder of Nicole Thomas, Inc and Going Beyond the Chart, has been a nurse for more than 11 years and worked many swing shifts. Here are some of her tips for working swing shifts:
Get a calendar and get organized. By working swing shifts, it is very easy to forget other obligations including medical appointments, family functions, meetings, etc. for yourself and your family. You must get organized, and you can do that by getting a planner that you can write in or simply use google calendar which is free and has a mobile app which is amazing.
Do things you enjoy doing. While it’s important to rest, you have to have fun and enjoy life. Working shift work oftentimes limits you being able to enjoy events, family functions, etc. so you must make time to do the things you like. If you don’t, you can feel like you are missing out on living a fulfilling life. Have a balance.
My first experience with “minority health” came during my Master of Public Health degree program. I served as a member of the speakers’ committee for the annual Minority Health Conference at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We sought to raise awareness about issues related to health disparities and how to take collaborative action across different professions. Our participants included academic scholars, researchers, public health practitioners, community leaders, human rights advocates and policy makers.
We often hear the terms “health disparities,” “health inequities” and “social determinants” as they relate to populations, locally, nationally and globally. So let’s start with a few basic definitions:
Health equity means achieving the highest level of health for all people. It requires valuing every human being equally with continuous efforts to address avoidable social and economic inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices. Health equity also seeks the elimination of health and healthcare disparities.
Health disparities are defined as a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with one’s social or economic status. Health disparities negatively affect groups of people who have experienced greater social and/or economic obstacles to health due to characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion. These characteristics include but are not limited to:
- Racial or ethnic group
- Socioeconomic status
- Mental health
- Physical disability
- Sexual orientation
- Geographic location
Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health refers to environmental conditions in which people are born, live, work and play that affect a wide array of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.
Ways to Observe National Minority Health Month
There are several easy ways to participate in National Minority Health Month. This year’s theme is “Bridging Health Equity across Communities.” During April, consider doing the following activities:
- Learn more about your own family’s medical history and keep a good record of your health conditions and treatment plans.
- Read, watch or listen to local news about emerging health conditions in your community.
- Obtain details about culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
- Attend a local event.
- Join community-based organizations or a local health department task force on minority health.
- Use and share the resources from reputable organizations.
- Use social media groups that engage in discussions about minority health and help spread the word.
- Sign up for OMH newsletters to receive email updates on Office of Minority Health and health disparities issues.
- Contact the Department of Health and Human Services if you have questions about National Minority Health Month.
Public Health Involving Minorities Is a Global Concern
National Minority Health Month recognizes health disparities in the United States, but coping with public health issues involving minorities remains both a local and a global problem. Fortunately, there are local public health events that address issues disproportionately affecting minorities, such as the Houston Heart Failure Management Conference, Save a Life and the Adult Congenital Heart Symposium.
In addition, international organizations have addressed global public health issues affecting minorities. The national ministries of health in the African region, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization/African Region are evaluating Ebola outbreak response capabilities, which have been strengthened through my collaboration.
The best way to teach more consumers about public health – and especially the health of minority groups – is through education. Staying informed, getting involved and getting connected are powerful ways to raise awareness and learn about the health problems affecting minorities.