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?
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.
In hopes of gaining a breadth of experience, many nursing students immediately look for a job in a hospital setting upon graduation. But Judy Liesveld, associate professor at the University of New Mexico’s College of Nursing, encourages students to look past the typical offerings.
Working on a “Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention-Bachelor of Science in Nursing Practicum” grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Liesveld runs a program in which selected nursing students from the University of New Mexico and San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico, work twice a year (once in fall and once in early spring) in the Chinle Indian Health Service Unit on very rural Navajo Nation Reservation located in Arizona, three hours outside of Albuquerque.
In their two-week stay on the reservation, the students are immersed in an unfamiliar culture and with medically underserved people who need healthcare that runs the gamut from minor to serious. Students who want to return are able to complete a senior capstone in the following term.
“When they are in this setting, they are in a very rural setting where it’s a totally different culture with a vulnerable population,” she says. “This totally helps to expand their world view. This is a robust, rich experience for them.”
And the experience the nursing students get in a short time rivals intense clinical experience in a larger healthcare setting, she says. Liesveld should know—her first job out of nursing school was working in Chinle Health Services.
The Chinle clinicals, as they are called, bring students through things like the emergency department, obstetrics, urgent care, and pediatrics. There are primary care clinics that the students participate in as well as home visits where many residents live without running water or heat in extremely remote areas where dirt roads are common. Even in living conditions that aren’t what they are used to, students see the human bonds that make the community what it is, Liesveld says. They see an incredibly close family structure and a culture that is powerful and strong.
The nursing students give presentations on health topics to different populations increasing both their presentation capabilities and their understanding of the different needs throughout a community.
“They presented at a senior center on smokeless tobacco and at a middle school on self esteem,” she says. Through the presentations, the nursing students interacted with people and felt like they were making a difference.
“The hope is students will love the experience and will work in rural settings,” says Liesveld. But if they never work in a rural setting again, she says the experience they gain on the reservation is one they will never forget and one that will offer them skills they will use throughout their careers.
“They learn they have to be resourceful and they learn how to think on their feet,” says Liesveld. Students quickly develop authentic rapport with the residents and they use nursing skills they might not have a chance to use in other places. “It changes their world,” she says.
If they stay in the region, they are likely to work with a Native American population, so the exposure to their culture will give them a cultural competency that can only be gained by such an immersive experience.
And the ripple effect of what they have learned can lead to advocacy as well. Students begin to think about health policy on a national level and what that means for the country as a whole and these rural pockets of communities that exist across the nation.
When there is that kind of meshing of skills, understanding, and cultural exposure, nursing students, wherever they land after graduation, will have a broad view that will benefit them and their patients.
A new study on paid family and medical leave by the Pew Research Center shows American workers want access to paid time off for family or medical events. But even if they have access, many workers don’t a;ways feel secure to take the leave.
On the whole, Americans appreciate paid time off after a child is born or is adopted, if they have a medical issue that requires time off, or if they need time to care for an ill family member. But many study respondents disagreed on who should absorb the cost and just how reliable the system was.
Despite many calls to elevate the United States’ paid leave policy to that of other countries, respondents were divided over if the government should mandate access to paid leave. Only 51 percent thought that the government should mandate time off in those circumstances while the remaining 48 percent thought employers should be able to decide whether or not to offer employees that benefit.
In general, most people believe that paid family and medical leave is beneficial, with 82 percent believing the benefit should be available to new moms and 69 percent believing new dads should have the option. And if the government mandates the policy, 73 percent said they believed it should be available to both mothers and fathers (only 26 percent thought it should be for new moms only).
The United States stacks up woefully behind many other countries in offering paid parental leave to workers who have just had a child or adopted a child. According to another Pew study, the United States ranks last out of 41 countries in paid leave policy.
But industries are taking notice. Many respondents, while acknowledging that paid family leave was more beneficial to families and individuals than to businesses, said they thought offering the benefit would attract more quality works and also help retain them.
No matter where you work, according to a Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study, larger firms tend to offer more access to paid family and medical leave. But the Pew study asserts that many workers don’t take the time even if they are able to for reasons ranging from fear of losing their job to overwhelming job demands.
Those in lower income brackets were much less likely to receive or take paid family leave. Nearly one-third of those with household incomes of $30,000 or less said they were unable to take leave within the past two years although they wanted to, while only 14 percent of those with households of income above that level reported the same.
The study reveals that American workers, while they might support this leave, aren’t always able to, don’t always have access to it, or feel there might be career repercussions if they take the leave.
What do you think about paid family or medical leave for American workers?