Dr. Scharmaine Baker Honors National Nurse Practitioner Week

Dr. Scharmaine Baker Honors National Nurse Practitioner Week

This week, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners is highlighting all the work nurse practitioners (NPs) do with National Nurse Practitioner Week.

The week kicks off today and runs through November 18 and honors the work NPs do both on the job and as ambassadors for the nursing profession.

Minority Nurse caught up with Dr. Scharmaine L. Baker, FNP, FAANP, FAAN, CEO at Advanced Clinical Consultants, to talk about the role of a nurse practitioner. After Hurricane Katrina, Baker’s New Orleans patient caseload swelled from 100 to 500 in three months. With a critical shortage of health care facilities and providers, Baker’s skills as an NP not only saved her patients, but also clearly showed how invaluable her thorough NP training is.

National Nurse Practitioner Week, says Baker, is a way to give nurse practitioners the recognition they often don’t receive. “National Nurse Practitioner Week gives us the positive spotlight that we deserve,” she says.

This kind of national attention to the nurse practitioner’s work shows the devotion nurses have to caring for a patient, and also helps clear up any misunderstandings about the role and how an NP works within a health care team. “Nurse practitioners don’t just prescribe a medicine and send you out of the door,” says Baker. “We take the time to listen to the patient stories about their children, spouses, pets, and job promotions. These stories often solve the complicated puzzle of making an accurate diagnosis. It’s called holistic care of the total man.”

When prospective nursing students are deciding on a career path, Baker urges them to consider a few things. Top in their minds should be the honest assessment of their commitment to making this career decision. Taking the time to complete the challenging NP studies isn’t easy, she says. “Once they have decided that this is indeed the right time to pursue an Advanced Practice Nursing degree,” she adds, “then the necessary preparations as far as letting family and friends know that they will be somewhat unavailable for the next three to four years because the schooling demands all of your time for successful completion.”

But when the degree completion and training are done, the potential for a lifelong career that challenges you, uses all your skills, and lets you connect with and help people is gratifying on many levels. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll be diagnosing, assessing, and treating medical conditions. You’ll also look at the whole patient. NPs take into account the interplay between a patient’s physical and emotional well-being as well as the environment they live in. By doing so, they can help treat every part of a patient’s condition.

“I get to hear the stories that make my patients happy or sad,” says Baker. “Then, I get to connect those stories to their physical state. They are always related. I enjoy providing health care on this advanced level. I get to take care of the whole patient.”

Baker also points out that while NPs continue to earn recognition and some states are allowing them to practice on their own, there is still work to be done. “The most challenging and frustrating part of advanced practice nursing is the many restrictive laws that prevent us from practicing to the full extent of our scope,” she says. “It’s downright ridiculous! I long for the day when all states will actively have full practice authority.”

Currently, nearly two dozen states allow nurses to have full practice authority where they practice without physician oversight. Baker continues to advocate for full practice authority among all nurse practitioners. She also urges NPs and the nursing profession to continue to honor the nurses who worked so hard to get all nurses where they are today.

“Many have fought for us to be where we are,” says Baker. “Every time we show up and provide stellar care, we make our founding nurses beam with joy. We must never forget their sacrifices.”

Celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week this week and spread the word about these highly skilled professionals. Use #NPWeek to share photos and tags on your social media posts to help others see just what satisfaction a career as an NP can bring.

What Is Nursing Informatics?

What Is Nursing Informatics?

According to the HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, nursing informaticists are in a growing field that offers a rewarding career move and one that also helps to advance the field of nursing. Nursing informaticists use their nursing backgrounds, cutting-edge technology, and all the data, communication, and information that is produced in the field to make a healthier world.

According to the American Medical Informatics Association, nurse informaticists are challenged with a wide set of responsibilities, most of which focus on the systems and technologies in which patient information, healthcare results, and research findings are used, stored, and connected. Survey respondents classified their jobs into three main categories: systems implementation, utilization and optimization, and systems development.

Some informaticists tasks include building regional and nationally connected data and communication systems, determining the best ways to ensure that research findings are accessible through practice, promoting information presentation and retrieval in a manner that supports safe patient care, and even defining healthcare policies.

According to the survey, nearly half of the respondents reported great career satisfaction earning salaries of more than $100,000. Because the field is progressing so rapidly, given the technological developments, nursing informaticists receive both on-the-job training and additional training. Forty-one percent of the respondents said they are participating in some kind of degree program to get additional training—including a formal degree program or a non-degree degree program or coursework.

Many nursing informaticists are registered nurses and then go on to earn a bachelor’s or master’s in nursing to gain expertise in the field. Some nursing informaticists might earn an advanced degree in an information technology area like computer science. For those looking to earn an advanced degree, scholarships are available through the American Nursing Informatics Association.

If you are interested in nurse informatics, certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center is also available and the survey results showed that about 51 percent of respondents indicated they would be pursuing some kind of certification and that they thought this additional education would have a positive impact on their careers.

If you’re a nurse who enjoys technology, check out this branch of nursing.

Nursing Assistants Are Essential Team Members

Nursing Assistants Are Essential Team Members

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Nursing Assistants Week and brings with it a great time for healthcare teams to reflect on how all the members of a team help it run smoothly.

This year’s theme for National Nursing Assistants Week is “Specialists in the Art of Caring,” and the theme is one that resonates with nursing assistants. Nursing assistants are essential members of the team and often work especially closely with patients who are disabled or elderly and live in long-term care facilities or are in rehabilitation facilities. They often spend their days caring for patients who may have very limited mobility or have severe dementia or other conditions that may prevent them from performing tasks for themselves. The hands-on care they provide helps people feel better and also provides the comfort of companionship.

Many nursing assistants are so devoted to the caregiving role that they will become certified in their field. The National Association for Health Care Assistants is also joining in the celebration by honoring certified nursing assistants who have taken the extra step toward professional development and education to become certified.

With nearly 1.5 million nursing assistants in the national workforce, the field is one that is growing and in need of additional professionals. With a high school diploma, prospective nursing assistants can gain additional training and certification through many local sources including community colleges and often the Red Cross. Nursing assistants have a physically demanding workload. They frequently move people all day long and so have to be especially careful about proper movement, getting help instead of hoping they can lift or move someone, and using available equipment to assist them in the physical tasks of the job.

Despite the rigor of the typical day, nursing assistants are especially devoted to the people in their care and strive to give them understanding and dignity at a time when they are especially vulnerable. The conversations they provide, even if they are one-sided at times, are an important and uplifting part of a patient’s day. Conversations about everything from the day’s weather to the political state of countries half a world away to comparing family traditions, all help take care of the whole patient, not just their physical needs.

This week is a time to call out the nursing assistants in your organization or on your team to thank them for the caring job they are doing. They are an essential part of making a team run, and because of what they do, the licensed nurses and physicians are able to take care of the pressing medical needs of the patient better, knowing the patient is comfortable and their needs have been met.

Honor this important direct care role by saying thank you to the nursing assistants in your organization and by holding events throughout the week to let them feel appreciated. Flowers, gift cards, a surprise coffee and cake or unexpected refreshments for them, and signs marking the week help make the week special, but can also start some important conversations about the essential teamwork and high-quality caregiving that goes on thanks to this important role.

A Neuroscience Nurse Reflects on Her Career

A Neuroscience Nurse Reflects on Her Career

May is a time to celebrate the work of neuroscience nurses across the country. The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses suggests several ways to highlight the work neuroscience nurses do with Neuroscience Nurses Week, but one of the best things is to find out what makes a neuroscience nurse love the job so much.

Shirley Ansari, BSN, RN, CNRN, and a nurse in The Johns Hopkins Hospital Neuroscience Acute Care Unit, says her journey to becoming a neuroscience nurse was not planned, but has given her professional challenges and personal satisfaction for her entire career.

I became a registered nurse (RN) in 1984 and finished my nursing training in Mumbai, India,” Ansari says. “As a new RN, I was assigned to the neuroscience unit because the unit was short-staffed at the time. At the time, I had a limited knowledge of how to take care of neurological and neurosurgical patients.”

As a new nurse, Ansari says neuroscience nursing was challenging simply because the patients in her care had complex needs and were all quite varied. The pace was fast and care situations were changing constantly.

Nevertheless,” she says, “with the help of senior nurses and their expertise, I was able to learn a lot and found it very motivating to deal with patients who suffered from a wide variety of brain and nervous system disorders.”

Because neuroscience nurses work with patients who are often in acute situations, they have to be highly resourceful both technically and emotionally. “As a neuroscience nurse, one should have the capability to deal with critical situations by being empathetic towards the patient as well as being simultaneously alert and attentive to the details,” Ansari says.

Because of their patients’ care needs, neuroscience nurses have to walk a fine line between motivating patients to do the work they might need to do and understanding what limitations they have at that moment. “My approach always involves a high level of calm and patience as many of these patients are not able to function normally due to their impaired cognitive function,” says Ansari.

The complex conditions and the rapidly changing environment means neuroscience nurses have to be ready to constantly take in new information and new developments but remain focused and steady. They will use all their nursing skills and develop strong communications skills that will work effectively within a team in a high pressure environment.

When thinking about advice to offer nurses considering this branch of nursing, she says well-rounded capabilities are essential. “They should have a high level of understanding to grasp what is happening with their patients and should be able to assess quickly and effectively in order to administer the proper type of care,” she says. “They should be able to communicate and delegate efficiently in order to deal with emergent situations. Lastly, they should be willing to work in a high stress situation by maintaining proficiency and composure.”

For Ansari, a career in neuroscience nursing brings many benefits, especially when she can see the progress of patients in her care. “Being able to facilitate and witness a patient’s recovery from initial treatment and rehab to having a more fruitful quality of life with their families is extremely rewarding,” she says.

As with many areas of nursing, Ansari says the constant change keeps her job fresh every day. “To this day, [the diverse work] is one of primary aspects of neuroscience nursing that I truly enjoy and find completely gratifying,” Ansari says. “The ability to learn something new amidst changing and challenging situations keeps me engaged, interested, and motivated in my work every single day.”

National Nursing Home Week Begins May 14

National Nursing Home Week Begins May 14

May 14 to 20 marks the American Health Care Association’s National Nursing Home Week to honor the many types of nursing care provided in these skilled nursing care facilities.

The 2017 theme, “The Spirit of America” highlights the bonds that bring together all the people in nursing homes—whether it’s staff, volunteers, families, wider community members, friends, or residents. Each person brings a different background, varied reasons for walking through the doors, and wide-ranging life experiences, but the community they form is like the American spirit so many of us treasure.

Since 1967, the AHCA has used National Nursing Home Association Week to celebrate these skilled nursing care facilities and the essential care they offer to elderly or disabled people. But, as anyone who has ever worked in or visited a nursing home facility knows, the care given here has a wide impact that expands to include the loved ones of residents and the larger community.

If you want to join in on celebrating this week or if you work in one of these facilities, check to see what’s being offered. If there are any events to honor the week in your local community or where you work, try to participate in some way.

If you can’t find anything going on, propose a way to mark the week by honoring the staff and visitors with flowers, food, or even a small reception where everyone can come together. With so many stories under one roof, there are bound to be common experiences to share and new stories and situations that everyone can learn about. And don’t forget the power of social media! Give a shout out on Twitter (#NNHW), Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram to let others know of the important work and caring that goes on in skilled nursing care facilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of 2014, 1.4 million Americans lived in nursing home facilities. And with services ranging from long-term care to rehabilitative care to hospice care, the range of skills provided in these settings is extensive. Some people live in skilled nursing care facilities while others are only there for a short time to recover from illness or surgery. But all share in the same spirit of working closely and learning from each other.

According to the AHCA’s website, as “the nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers, AHCA advocates for quality care and services for frail, elderly, and disabled Americans. Our members provide essential care to approximately one million individuals in over 13,400 not-for-profit and proprietary member facilities.”

If you work in a nursing home, celebrate all you and your colleagues do this week. And take the time to honor the residents and the people you care for. Sharing stories is often one of the best ways to learn about those around you.

International Nurses’ Day Unites Nurses Globally on May 12

International Nurses’ Day Unites Nurses Globally on May 12

Each year, National Nurses Week brings celebrations across the United States. But within that week is an important reminder of the work that nurses do across the globe, under varying conditions, with dramatically different equipment, but with the same steely determination to protect the health of the people they care for.

This year, International Nurses’ Day is celebrated on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale, as many know, is considered an early healthcare innovator who founded modern nursing practices and helped shape nursing to such an extent that her influence remains to this day. Nightingale’s passion for aiding the ill and injured and keeping nursing practices focused on sanitation helped saves lives of those in her care and countless lives today.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) sponsors the day and has designated this year’s theme as “Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Nurses around the world can participate and unite their nursing voices by using the hashtags #VoiceToLead and #IND2017 in their social media posts.

The SDGs are a collection of more than 17 goals that impact nurses and the care they provide. The health inequities experienced by people around the world result from a mix of factors, but all impact the sustainable development issues facing nurses today. The issues range from ending poverty (that’s goal number one) to improving health and education and fighting climate change.

In honor of International Nurses’ Day, which debuted in 1965, the ICN is providing case studies from nurses across the globe—for instance there’s the story about addressing COPD in China to reducing the HIV stigma in Zambia.

For nurses who are interested in finding out more or adding their voice to the international nursing community, a Resources and Evidence toolkit is available for download.

According to the International Council of Nurses website, the organization “is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.”