Reflecting on Black History Month and Nursing

Reflecting on Black History Month and Nursing

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.

5 Weird Ways to Relieve Stress

5 Weird Ways to Relieve Stress

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..

 

 

ACA Loss Will Negatively Affect Health Care Worker Experience

ACA Loss Will Negatively Affect Health Care Worker Experience

Hospitals will face a major dilemma if the current federal administration repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a suitable replacement. The ACA offers millions of Americans affordable health insurance, and hospitals have seen their revenues, and their quality of care, rise as those newly insured citizens access their services. If the ACA goes away, those health care patients and their accompanying insurance payments disappear, putting even more stress on today’s health care labor force. With profit decline comes employee decline, both in number and quality. This will first and foremost affect nursing staff, putting some out of work and others in-over-their-heads.

An Uncertain Health Care Future

Before enactment of the ACA, existing law required (and still requires) that health care facilities provide “stabilizing care” to any person who requests services, regardless of their ability to pay. Medicaid covered these costs. Without ACA coverage, many patients will be forced back to receiving only the substandard “stabilizing care,” and will not receive the services they need to regain their health.

In that circumstance, the medical facility will be forced to balance the volume of unsubsidized, stabilizing care offered against the revenues generated by paying patients, cost reductions, or staff workload increases. If they offer excessive unsubsidized care, they risk declining income levels, staff numbers and possible bankruptcy. If they provide too little, they risk losing their Medicaid/Medicare funding. In both cases, the facility, its staff, and America’s uninsured patients will suffer.

Unpaid Care Is Expensive for the Medical Office …

Every medical consultation generates a series of cost-creating actions, from those of the scheduling secretary to the attending medical professional, and all the way through to the deposits made by the final billing clerk. According to the American Hospital Association, hospitals provided $35.7 billion in uncompensated care to their patients in 2015 alone. When a hospital absorbs these losses, it is also forced to reduce the services it can afford to provide.

Consequently, it is not unheard of for doctors to reduce the size of their bills by limiting the services they provide or the number of recommendations they make, based on their perception of what the patient can afford. Other studies confirm that uninsured patients are checked into a hospital for shorter stays, and they are offered fewer interventions for their condition. For the health professionals, these painful decisions are in direct conflict with their oath to provide the best care possible for every patient.

… And Hard on the Staff

One group of hospital workers that will certainly absorb a significant percentage of additional work due to funding cuts are the nurses. Reduced funding often leads to reduced staff numbers; remaining staff end up working longer, harder shifts, with more responsibility and less break time. And nursing is already a challenging job, with a high demand for significant physical labor that also takes an emotional toll. In fact, between 2002 and 2012, nurses have reported the highest stress levels of all health care professionals.

Additionally, long hours may not allow nurses to get the sleep they need. Inefficient sleep has been associated with a deficit in performance, caused by cognitive problems, mood alterations, reduced motivation, increased safety risk, and physiological changes. These effects only get worse with total sleep deprivation, common among nurses who work consecutive shifts.

Additional Stress Factors

Research reveals that the changes in the nursing profession in particular and the health care system in general, contribute significantly to the problem:

  • Sophisticated technology offers immense benefits but adds additional layers of responsibility on already overloaded schedules;
  • Burnout is common, too. Protocols can change as resources ebb; nurses are compelled to follow evolving practices without the opportunity to add input regarding their patient’s care. A 2012 study published by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions found high levels of burnout correlated to lower ratings for quality of care.
  • Reduced staff numbers also drive nurses to work even when they are sick. Many choose to potentially infect their patients rather than leave their colleagues unsupported on shift.

The reality for America is that, before the ACA, unpaid hospital bills were often eventually born by other elements of the system, including taxpayers and patients who incurred higher medical care costs. Repealing it won’t save the country money, but instead will add extra stress to the system and further erode the health of millions of its citizens.

Can You Beat Your Family History of Heart Disease?

Can You Beat Your Family History of Heart Disease?

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.

Celebrate Perianesthesia Nurses This Week

Celebrate Perianesthesia Nurses This Week

From February 6 to 12, Perianesthesia Nurse Awareness Week will be celebrated and honored by perianesthesia nurses and the colleagues they work with.

According to Armi Holcomb, RN, BSN, CPAN, and immediate past president of the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN) perianesthesia nursing is one of the most well-rounded areas of nursing. For that reason, she sees the field as exciting and satisfying for both personal and professional reasons.

Perianesthesia nurses always have to weigh several different factors when treating each individual patient.

We see people before surgery and have to know about their preexisting conditions or any medical conditions they have to make sure the surgery is safe,” she says. “We are the patient’s first line of defense.”

Perianesthesia nurses, who administer care during the transition times of pre- and post-surgery, are especially aware of the recovery room care.

Holcomb, who has practiced in many settings including med-surge and ICU, says perianesthesia nursing is her niche. “We see the whole patient,” she says. And then, she says, the perianesthesia nurses are there to help patients transition safely after surgery. “We make sure they can transfer to home, to inpatient, or to the ICU,” she says.

Perianesthesia nurses undergo a certification process through the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc. Certification must be renewed every three years.

As medical care becomes more advanced and complex, the patients nurses see are also generally more acute. Many have coexisting conditions that can have a big impact on surgery and anesthesia. Because of that, these nurses have to always be on top of trends and research. “We have to be life-long learners,” she says, noting that perianesthesia nurses have to keep current with physical health, pharmacology, and surgical needs.

All of that weighs in and it’s critical thinking,” says Holcomb. Perianesthesia nurses never back away from asking questions and will always advocate for patients, says Holcomb. And they are a tight bunch. ASPAN emphasizes mentoring and sharing knowledge among members.

If you are a perianesthesia nurse or work with one, take time this week to reflect on all you do. Celebrate with colleagues and do something to honor your own work (Holcomb says her organization will celebrate nurses with goody bags and a luncheon among other things).

And if your state doesn’t have a proclamation for this week, you can always advocate for one. ASPAN even offers a sample proclamation to guide your efforts.

Congratulations to all the perianesthesia nurses!

How Actively Caring and Exercising Your Own Career Planning Benefits Everyone

How Actively Caring and Exercising Your Own Career Planning Benefits Everyone

Health care professionals and organizations all recognize the importance of paying attention to our health. Every day we witness the negative consequences of neglecting to cultivate and maintain healthy routines. Sickness loves to seek out the overburdened mind and body. With today’s frantic pace of life and the speed at which we all must make decisions about where and how to invest our time and energy, it is not surprising but yet ironic that health care professionals often fail to properly nurture their own careers.

The Big Picture

Professionals in the health care field now more than ever face an amazing number of enticing career options, if they are mindful of them. In an effort to meet the rising needs of aging boomers, rising “at-risk” patients, and many other challenges, the health care industry is using the latest technologies into all workplaces and seeking the most talented and passionate minds available. Prospective health care candidates, particularly those willing to relocate, have an enviable number of rewarding career paths to pursue. Recognizing and navigating those options, however, can be intimidating.

You should know that great recruiters should be keenly aware of how a job change affects not only the individual but also their families, friends and communities. Career navigation should be guided by a well-planned and thoughtful strategy that addresses both a candidate’s goals and their individual personality and strengths. As a recruiter for ThinkingAhead, I invest my time and effort into truly understanding the sensibilities and nuances of candidates I represent. My goal is to match their talents and skills not just with a position but with a work culture and environment that will encourage their professional growth and personal happiness, making the change an overwhelmingly successful one, both for the professional and their intimate circle.

Know Thyself

We’re all well beyond busy — we need to accept this as the new normal. It can seem as if there is never an opportunity to sit and contemplate who we are professionally and what we want long-term from our careers. But if candidates don’t take the time to think about their lives’ direction, they’ll end up following someone else’s lead or agenda. I personally focus on working to impress upon candidates the value of exploring the positives and negatives of their career decisions and the need to be proactive about reaching their professional objectives. This process needs to begin with an assessment of their professional achievements to date – what tangible positive imprints they have made professionally that are rewarding to them in retrospect and keep them excited about going to their offices daily.

When I’m working with candidates, I often hear that they are uncomfortable with “bragging” about what they have accomplished. When discussing professional backgrounds, candidates have a tendency to shift to discussing their roles and responsibilities, rather than highlighting the projects/programs they headed that added significant value to their organization. This supposed “humility” impedes a candidate’s ability to see the true trajectory of their careers and personal strengths and weaknesses and conceals their own truths. Careers, like lives, are defined by actions and deeds, not titles and roles. An honest evaluation of an individual’s accomplishments—and how we feel about those successes— can provide a detailed career profile for candidates who have difficulty defining what about their job fulfills and frustrates them.

Embrace Synergy via Technology

Adeptly using technology is part of the new bedside manner. Candidates and clients in the health care industry are at the forefront of figuring how technology can change the way we work, heal and live. The data garnered through devices and systems throughout the health care industry can often improve everything from patient care and satisfaction to the financial performance of an organization. Data is becoming increasingly integrated into every health care job and organization. Data drives decisions from how hospitals invest money to what demographics and geographic areas are most in need of proactive care.

Technology is the catalyst behind the synergy that is morphing traditional health care jobs into dynamic, modern positions that require an appreciation for data. Technical and operational responsibilities are no longer siloed. As an example, my clients value IT professionals with a clinical or operational background as well as clinical experts with technical acumen. This merging of duties can often means that a chief nursing officer is most valued if they have informatics and optimization skills or that a CIO must show a strong success in working with the clinicians at their organizations. Candidates who are willing to embrace technology and understand how it impacts health care from every angle are poised to lead the industry into a new and inspiring era of care for everyone.

So be true to yourself and understand your passion and strengths to lead you to continued success in your profession!