Alzheimer’s disease and other brain conditions and diseases continue to affect ever-greater numbers of people. And while scientists are making advances in treatments, the cure for these complex, devastating diseases is still uncertain.
But there are things you can do to protect your brain health. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to check in on your own self-care and also to see how your patients are taking care of their brain health. African Americans and Latinos bear greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than older whites, so it’s especially important for some minority populations to understand their increased risk.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is not a normal aging process that happens to everyone as they get older. People may have typical memory slips, but Alzheimer’s involves much more than just forgetting where you put your keys.
With early detection, Alzheimer’s treatment can begin earlier and hopefully slow the progression, but as of right now, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s.
Learn the Signs
There are warning signs for Alzheimer’s that will let you know you, a loved one, or a patient is struggling with more than a little memory loss. While it’s normal aging to forget someone’s name, it’s not normal aging to forget who the person is. Other things to consider are disruptive mood changes (more than irritability about the dog walker being late), poor self care, and severe confusion about where they are or even what year it is.
Know How to Protect Your Brain
Experts say what’s good for your heart is good for your brain. Take care of yourself by getting rest, eating nutritious foods, socializing with people you enjoy, staying hydrated, not smoking, drinking alcohol minimally, and keeping at a healthy weight and blood pressure. But there’s more you can also do. Keep your brain active. As a nurse, you’re days are hardly ever the same and that’s good for your brain. Check in with your patients to see if they are keeping their brains stimulated with anything from hobbies to social clubs to trying new puzzles, reading or listening to new books, or even listening to unfamiliar music.
Brain injury is serious and some of it is preventable. Wear a helmet while biking, skiing, skateboarding, rollerblading, for any extreme sports, or riding a motorcycle or ATV (and make sure family members and friends do the same). Always wear a seat belt in the car. Check your home for tripping dangers like loose carpets, items on the stairs, or things on the floors. Take care in winter weather for icy spots. Anything you can do to prevent brain injury is good for both your long-term and short-term brain health.
Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases are a real health threat to all aging Americans, so you have a right to be concerned. But there are promising therapies on the horizon and there are things you can do now to help protect yourself as much as is possible. Spread the word about brain health and chat about it with your patients to pass along a few tips.
Patient safety is always a nurse’s top concern. Whether it’s the proper medication, a room free of potential trip hazards, or a safety checklist before procedures, nurses are on top of patient safety.
But what happens when your patients leave your care?
June is National Safety Month, so now is a great time to remind those in your care about how to stay safe at home. The National Safety Council has some excellent tips for everyone to remember this summer.
Here are a few things to go over before they go.
Who Is Helping Them?
Do your patients have home care set up? Will a paid worker, a neighbor, or a family member be available to help them when they get home? If not, see how you can work with your patient and the care team to make sure they have the level of care they will need.
How Safe Is the Living Area?
Try to tease out the details as much as you can to pass the information on to those who are helping discharge your patient. Do your patients go home to a place where there are working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors? Do they have a safety plan to get out? If they are living in an over 55 community, what is the town response to an emergency?
Do They Have a Plan?
If your patient is going home alone, is there someone who can check their home for things like tripping hazards? Do they have a plan for getting fresh, nutritious foods? They might qualify for services like Meals on Wheels. If not, you might alert them to meal or grocery delivery if it is available in their area. See if a faith or community organization might be able to provide a few meals as well.
Are They Set on Medications?
How will they take their medications? Are they clear on when and how to take each medication? Are there any foods, drinks, or other medications they should avoid while taking this regimen? See if they need a better explanation or if a caregiver can assist with timing the meds or even with a chart or a timed pill dispenser.
Do They Know Their Next Healthcare Steps?
Are your patients clear on what their follow-up plans are? Do they know if they need to see a specialist or their primary care provider? Ask a few questions to see if they really understand the instructions. If they seem confused, try to figure out where the sticking point is so they understand.
Nurses want patients to leave the hospital safely and to go into a safe environment. Taking a few minutes to see if patients and their caregivers can carryout the necessary care can go a long way to setting them on the road to recovery once they are out of your direct care.
With a constantly evolving healthcare environment in the US, patients and their advocates have become concerned about their ability to access the drugs and medications they need. Pfizer has been offering assistance programs to help eligible patients gain access to the company’s medications for over 30 years. Their current Pfizer RxPathways program connects patients to more than 90 Pfizer medications for free or reduced prices.
To remind patients of the benefits available to them, Pfizer has posted company announcements on their social networks. The Pfizer RxPathways program has been put in place to connect eligible patients with a full range of assistance programs including insurance support, co-payment assistance, and free or discounted medications. Pfizer spokeswoman Sharon Castillo says,
“We’ve launched a national digital ads campaign to raise awareness of the support options we offer. We want to reassure Hispanic patients that, despite any changes in public health care policy, Pfizer is here to help them access their medications.”
From 2012 to 2016, Pfizer assisted over 1.6 million patients in receiving Pfizer prescription drugs for free or reduced costs. Patients can contact the call center to speak with Spanish-trained counselors who will address their individual needs and guide them to the appropriate programs and resources. Castillo is standing by her belief that, “Everyone deserves access to quality health care, and medicines are among the most powerful tools for curing, treating and preventing illness and disability in patients.”
To learn more about Pfizer’s RxPathways program, visit here.
There are lots of health tips that men and women can both benefit from. Getting enough sleep and exercise and eating a well-balanced diet are some good all-around health tips everyone can use. But the genders have some pretty diverse health challenges. For example, did you know men die, on average, five years sooner than women?
Whether you are a man looking into your own health concerns or a woman with men in her life, Men’s Health Week (June 12 to 18) is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year and comes right in the middle of Men’s Health Month. If you’re a nurse and a man, use this opportunity to talk to your male patients about the specific health problems men face and what to do to help prevent them or cope with them.
How can men make sure they are doing the best they can for their own health? Here are some pointers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and MensHealthMonth.org.
One of the best ways to stay healthy is to get regular screenings for diseases and conditions that can be detected and therefore treated, early. Get an annual checkup so you can stay on top of your blood sugar levels, your weight, your cholesterol, and your blood pressure. Get a colonoscopy if you’re past age 50— earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer or if you have certain conditions that could increase your risk. Be sure a prostate screening is part of your annual exam and examine your testicles at least every month to notice any changes or lumps and bumps. Check your skin regularly for new moles or those that seem to have changed size, shape, or color. If you notice any unusual changes on your body, bring it to the attention of your physician.
Play Hard, But Play Safe
Whatever your interest—biking, running, flying, rock climbing—make sure you practice basic safety rules. Use proper protective gear and equipment. If you’re swimming, go with someone. If you’re hiking or camping, let people know where you’ll be. Bring along extra provisions and proper weather gear. Basic safety considerations can go a long way toward keeping you healthy.
Men tend to let their social relationships slide when life gets busy. With work and family obligations, it’s tough to carve out time with friends. But social connections and solid friendships can help ward off many health problems including depression, heart disease, and even dementia.
Make Healthy Choices
All the basic health tips hold true because they work. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins. Ease up on meats, cheeses, butter, fried foods, and treats like full-fat ice cream. Get daily or near-daily exercise. Get enough sleep. Keep your vaccines up to date. Use protection during sex. Don’t smoke anything, ever. Drink alcohol in moderation. Wear sunscreen. Protect your heart health (and keep inflammation down) by keeping your stress under control. Find help for your stress if you can’t manage it on your own.
Wear Blue to Start the Conversation
The Friday before Father’s Day is traditionally a Wear Blue Day, when anyone concerned about men’s health can wear blue clothing or blue ribbon pins to show support of Men’s Health Month. You can also give a shout out on social media with #MensHealthMonth or #ShowUsYourBlue.
Spread the word about men’s health during the month of June. You never know what kind of lasting impact a few words of wisdom might have,
Summertime brings thoughts of slower days, languid days at the beach, and vacations filled with sunshine. Nurses don’t always get to match the ideal vision of a lazy summer, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t take advantage of this fleeting time of year.
Here are a few simple things to add to your summer 2017 bucket list..
Treat Your Feet
Your feet take a pounding – literally. Pamper them with a reflexology appointment, a pedicure, or just a good soak in bubbly warm water. Slather on peppermint foot lotion you stash in the fridge for extra relief. Spritz a cooling spray on your legs (make your own with water and essential oils). A barefoot walk on a sandy beach can also make your feet feel terrific.
Relax Your Neck
Your neck and shoulders probably feel like steel and nearly frozen in place with all the movement your day requires. Buy a heat pack you can warm up in the microwave or make your own with a long sock and some unhulled barley that you can pick up at the supermarket. At the end of a long day, it’s instant relaxation.
Be a Goof
Summer is made for letting loose a little. Skip with your kids, build a sandcastle at the beach, or rent kayaks and splash in the water for the day. Draw with sidewalk chalk. Have a picnic and bring hula hoops and a football to toss around.
Get Extra Sleep
A siesta is always refreshing and the restful effects can last for days. If you can spend extra time in bed in the morning or can hit the sheets a little earlier, you’ll boost your attention span, your mood, and your overall health.
Learn to Unwind
Nurses are never really off the job, so it’s sometimes tough to really relax. On those hot and humid days, grab a book or pop in some music and head to a cool spot. Be still and quiet and appreciate how different it feels from your typical work day.
Summertime food is special. Juicy fruits and plentiful veggies in all hues are at every corner farmer’s market. Pasta salads, potato salads, fresh salsa, and cold soups taste even better eaten outside. A flaming-hot grill waiting for all kinds of seafood, meats, and veggies (even watermelon can be grilled) can keep your kitchen cool and inspire you to try lighter foods. Take advantage of the bounty of summertime. And whenever you can, eat alfresco.
Don’t let the season go by without enjoying some quality time outdoors. Take a beach yoga class, walk with your friends or by yourself, take in an outdoor concert, watch fireworks, learn a new bike path, try a new swimming hole, or climb a mountain. Whatever you do, just being free of four walls is refreshing and inspiring.
What’s on your summer bucket list?
With nursing shortages a pressing issue throughout pockets of the country, one branch of nursing could help remedy the solution, says Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, and chief clinical officer of AMN Healthcare. Travel nurses can fill short-term needs while organizations are able to assess, stabilize, and hire permanent nurses without compromising patient care during a staffing shortage.
Faller says travel nurses can help fill the gaps while providing high-quality, reliable care. She points to a study slated for summer publication in the peer-reviewed journal, Nurse Leader, that reveals that patient outcomes for travel nurses and staff nurses are no different. In fact, the study asserts, travel nurses might help ease the staffing burdens and contribute to less error and nurse burnout. Using data sources from Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators™ (NDNQI®), the study looked at a U.S. hospital to assess patient outcomes when using both core nurses and travel nurses.
According to Faller, most travel nurses work in temporary job assignments of three months at a time. After their rotation is done, they might stay for another three months, sign on for a permanent position, or move on to another assignment in a new location.
“It’s very appealing,” says Faller. It’s a quick and easy way to get a new job and gain both professional experience in a new area while also having the chance to travel. Some nurses want to shift their location for a life event—a child is getting married across the country or has a new baby, for instance. Or a nurse from a smaller community might want to gain experience in a larger academic center, Faller says. Maybe they have a list of places they want to see and travel nursing will help them do that while also working at a job they enjoy.
Travel nurses only account for two percent of all nurses, says Faller, but they offer both a distinct nursing career opportunity and a boon for organizations who need more nurses.
Different organizations find travel nurses help their staffing needs in varied ways, says Faller, and help keep the quality of care high. “Travel nurses give them the ability to fill vacancies where they are finding themselves short staffed,” Faller says.
Organizations can fill the positions while continuing to focus on recruiting. Travel nurses are also especially helpful when it comes to covering non-productive hours, says Faller. For instance, known times when nursing staff members are taking PTO, jury duty, has a leave of absence, or even needs educational time off are all good times for travel nurses to fill in. Travel nurses can also help offset overtime costs and hours. “Those have to get covered somehow,” says Faller, and helping ease up on too much staff overtime can also help offset nurse burnout and eventually retain nurses and keep turnover down.
If an organization is launching a new event, like electronic medical records, travel nurses can help cover staffing while regular staff is undergoing training.
And Faller notes that travel nurses are held to the same high standards as staff nurses. They need to have the same credentials as other nurses for whatever location they are going to, she says. And while approximately 25 states are part of the multi-state contract that allows nurses to use one license for many states, the rest of the states do require independent state licenses. Travel nurses also must pass background checks, drug screening, and any other requirements for hiring. And travel nurses are well-educated, she says, with 64 percent of travel nurses having a BSN or higher.
A nurse with a couple of travel experiences under his or her belt has some valuable skills, says Faller. These nurses are adaptive by nature, learning quickly how an operation is run and how to find what they need to do their jobs well.
As the demographics of the country continue to change and become increasingly diverse, travel nurses can help fill a gap and provide a service that many organizations need. Nurses who speak multiple languages or who fit with the cultural background of the patient population being served are especially valuable, says Faller. “There is a large demand for that cultural matching,” she says, noting that even a familiarity with a certain culture can help organizations align with their patient populations in a way that helps everyone.
Whether you are considering travel nursing for a career move or are an administrator assessing the best way to fill in the gaps, travel nursing is an option that’s both viable and valuable.