National GI Nurses & Associates Week takes place this year (March 22-28) in the middle of a world in upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic that has taken hold around the world has a direct and significant impact on healthcare workers around the globe.
While the industry continues to grapple with the demands placed on its workers, GI nurses continue to do their work to help those with disorders involving the entire gastrointestinal tract.
Sponsored by the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses & Associates, this week focuses on the nursing practice of gastroenterology and endoscopy and the conditions of the GI tract. Nurses in this specialty are involved in all aspects of care of GI patients. They will treat patients who have various conditions including reflux, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or cancer. Because of the broad range of conditions, GI nurses are specialists in body systems that are also related to the GI tract and how each impacts the other.
Gastroenterology nurses will meet with patients, will assist with procedures and follow up care, and offer ongoing patient support. Nurses in this role are also a primary source of education about these conditions and how they impact overall health.
Because GI conditions have significant impact on other areas of health, GI nurses work as part of a team that helps patients with life-changing adjustments. They might work with nutritionists to help patients with celiac disease learn how to adapt to the often overwhelming challenge of eliminating any wheat ingredients from their diets and other nutrition education. GI nurses will also work to help control any chronic pain that presents with gastrointestinal disorders or diseases. Patients also frequently turn to their GI nurses to help them navigate the social aspects of having a condition that can be highly disruptive to daily life, so nurses will bring in other team members while they also use their own vast knowledge of coping skills.
Nurses in the gastroenterology field frequently assist with procedures that include endoscopy to determine allergy, irritation, or disease or colonoscopies to diagnose disease or as a screening tool for colon cancer. They will be with patients through these procedures and will educate them on what to expect and normal recovery. Because GI nurses work with patients who are of all ages and also with patients who may have other complex conditions, they have to remain alert for any unexpected complications.
GI nurses rely on their critical thinking skills as well as a deep sense of empathy for their patients. GI conditions involve symptoms that sometimes bring embarrassment for patients, and GI nurses are excellent at normalizing what the body is doing.
If this career path interests you, experience in a broad specialty like med/surge nursing will be an asset for moving forward. You’ll want to gain experience with GI patients, so that is the next step. To advance your career and to ensure you are providing your patients with the best possible care, becoming certified is next. Taking the GI certification exam shows you set high standards for yourself and are willing to take on the extra work to become the best nurse you can. The additional knowledge gained with the certification process will boost your skills.
Celebrate GI nurses this week, and stay safe out there on the front lines.
Nurses looking to advance in their careers and in the quality of patient care they deliver can look to certification to provide both.
March 19 recognizes National Certified Nurses Day, and many nurses find certification provides an opportunity to gain focused, crucial knowledge and skills that make them better nurses.
Which nurses should attain certification? Any nurse who wants to gain additional training in a specialty should reach for becoming certified. Certification is available in dozens of specialties from cardiac to pediatric, and nurses aren’t restricted to only one certification. You can obtain certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner, a Certified Pediatric Nurse, a Certified Urologic Registered Nurse, a Cardiac Vascular nurse, and many others.
Why is there a day devoted to nurses who take this step? Certified nurses have shown a personal and professional commitment to their career and the nursing profession in general. They have chosen to achieve, and exceed, the highest non-degree level of expectation toward a specific area.
Should you become certified? If you’ve been in your role for a while and are ready to take on additional responsibilities, certification offers that opportunity. What if you’ve been thinking of taking a new path in nursing and switching into another area? Certification can help you by giving you opportunities to learn and gain expertise.
Certification generally requires a couple of years of nursing experience in the designated area before you can be qualified to take a certification exam. Nursing students can keep the goal in sight while they are gaining practical experience. That experience allows you to develop a solid foundation of clinical nursing practice, especially in the area of certification you want to earn.
When you’ve decided that becoming a nurse with certification is a good step for your career and for the level of care you provide to your patients, you’ll need to map out a preparation plan. You can begin by asking your colleagues who are certified what they did to prepare and any tips they might have to share. They can also be a steady source of encouragement through the process. Talk with your supervisor about your plans to take the certification exam, too.
Nurses who want to earn certification credentials generally start preparing for the exam months in advance. There are study guides available to help. And, despite the anxiety that taking a test like this can sometimes trigger, preparation will be a big help in your final score.
If you’ve already achieved advanced credentials in a specialty or a subspecialty, you’ve shown a dedication to your profession that is public, recognized, and respected. Generally, certification can help nurses who want to assume greater responsibility, greater leadership, and, often, a salary boost.
National Certified Nurses Day honors nurses who have met this additional, and rigorous, challenge. It also inspires nurses who haven’t achieved certification yet to take that next step—whether it is deciding to take the leap, applying for a certification exam, or beginning to study for the test.
To all certified nurses—your work is appreciated by patients and colleagues around the globe.
While the nation continues to grapple with the growing COVID-19 pandemic, one fact is particularly worrisome. Older adults who contract the virus are dying at much higher percentages than younger people.
Minority Nurse turned to experts with the Gerontologic Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA) to understand the risks associated with COVID-19 and how nurses can work to protect their patients and themselves.
“The effects of aging have a major influence in the response to a respiratory virus or bacteria,” says Michelle Moccia, DNP, ANP-BC, CCRN, GS-C, and GAPNA’s past president. “As one ages the immune system is less responsive to a virus or bacteria with an inflammatory response to fight off the virus and/or tolerate the complications from the virus. The elderly have limited cardiopulmonary reserve thus a compromise in airway and breathing can lead to the inability to breathe thus predisposing individual to complications such as pneumonia.”
And as the medical community gains more understanding about this particular virus, other factors are emerging, says Deborah Dunn, EdD, MSN, GNP-BC, ACNS-BC, GS-C, and GAPNA’s president. “Some experts have theorized that in addition to the pneumonia burden there may be an increased or exaggerated lung inflammatory response to COVID 19 in older adults – leading to the severe respiratory distress and failure seen in older adults.”
What can people in those specific age categories do? “It is best for older adults to avoid crowds,” says Moccia, noting the oft-heard advice about washing hands, staying home if you’re sick, and avoiding others who are ill holds true. And Dunn notes that if a loved one is in a facility and the facility restricts visitors, it’s going to be important to keep up communication with loved ones to keep anxiety and social isolation at bay.
“Prevention and control of the spread of COVID-19 rests on halting transmission,” says Dunn. “Nurses know that in the healthcare setting they play a key role in stopping transmission by frequent handwashing, avoiding droplet contact, and early identification, triage, treatment, and quarantine of persons who may have infection.”
Both Dunn and Moccia say nurses should be especially careful to wash their hands before and after entering a patient’s room, wearing gloves when contact with bodily fluids/blood/secretions may occur, practicing needle precautions, and wearing protective equipment if they are in contact with a patient who has or is suspected to have COVID-19.
As patient advocates, nurses can educate patients and their families. Nurses can help patients with personal hygiene like washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, and disposing of used tissues, says Dunn. Protecting their health while giving them some control also helps with the uncertainty and anxiety people are feeling right now.
“Families with older adults in care settings such as assisted living facilities or nursing homes want to know that their loved ones are being cared for and having their needs met,” says Dunn. “Nurses working in these facilities should facilitate communication about the measures being taken to protect patients from infection, why adherence to the measures is needed, and reassure families about the status of their loved ones health.”
As nurses work through this unprecedented outbreak, they can keep updated with the CDC website about COVID-19. Nurses who work with infectious and contagious illnesses know that staying current with continuing education can be life saving—for them and for their patients. “Nurses in acute care settings and other healthcare setting where they may care for patients with contagious conditions that require face masks during care should be fitted for the N-95 mask and be trained in the proper wearing of the mask,” says Dunn.
As COVID-19 works its way around the globe, the medical community is working hard to prevent the spread, educate the public, and even offer some hope.
“I’m sure we will see a lot more information from infectious disease experts,” says Dunn, “as they are studying COVID-19 underlying physiologic mechanisms closely and develop targeted treatments.”
It’s no secret—most nurses don’t get enough sleep. While many Americans admit to not getting enough shut eye, the implications for nurses are far reaching.
The National Sleep Foundation recognizes this week (March 8 – 14) as National Sleep Awareness Week. The irony isn’t lost on nurses that a week devoted to sleep coincides with National Patient Safety Awareness Week (and the switch to Daylight Savings Time and an hour of lost sleep). Patient safety depends on a healthcare workforce that’s able to perform at a consistently high level. Getting less-than-optimal sleep or not sleeping enough cuts into everything from reaction time to memory and has a big impact on the quality of care offered by sleep deprived nurses.
How serious is sleep deprivation to nurses? As many people know, getting enough good-quality rest takes an effort and some planning. For nurses, who tend to have sleep disrupted even more because of changing shift work, planning for a consistent pattern of sleep is a huge challenge.
Last December, a study by researchers at the Rory Meyers College of Nursing found that nurses are getting less sleep before they head to work than they should. The study found “sleep deprivation hurts workers’ ability to handle complex and stressful tasks. … In healthcare, fatigued nurses may be a risk for making critical mistakes in administering medication or making clinical decisions.” Many factors influenced nurses and sleep including changing shifts, length of shifts, commuting time, and family responsibilities, and there’s often little nurses can do to change those major influences. The report, say the authors, is evidence that the overall working environment in healthcare needs an overhaul, especially in areas of overtime, scheduling, and prioritizing sleep.
If nurses can’t change their major responsibilities, there are a few other things they can do that can help them get more rest. Awareness about the impacts of poor sleep and not enough sleep is critical for nurses. While some people can get by skimping on sleep, patients depend on nurses being in top form.
If sleep is a problem for you, here are some things to consider.
- Physical issues like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome can disrupt your sleep.
- Shift Work Disorder is directly related to those who work varying shifts and disrupt their circadian rhythms.
- A sleep environment that’s not comfortable can be problematic.
- For women, hormones can play a big role in sleep disruption.
- Family responsibilities like waking children, active teens, and even caring for aging parents can interrupt your sleep.
- Stress keeps you up at night.
Fixing the problem starts with identifying it, so take some time to figure out what’s happening in your own life. Making your sleep a priority is probably one of the best ways to get more rest, but it’s also the hardest. Realize that getting your best sleep likely means sacrifice in some other area.
Start with a complete physical if you think apnea, restless legs, or chronic insomnia might be keeping you up. Then make small, incremental changes—maybe by getting to bed 15 or 30 minutes earlier. Assess your bedroom and see if you can make changes to adjust the comfort level in any way. Can your bedtime routine be adjusted at all to give you a little more quiet or a little more routine so your body is triggered into sleep mode. Take a hard look at your responsibilities—can you get help with anything or can you let some things go? What small changes can you make to reduce your stress (therapy, a 10-minute walk, a few minutes to read or to listen to a funny podcast on your commute)?
Getting enough rest is one of the easiest health priorities to let slide. As a nation of sleep-deprived people, you might feel like your issue is no different from anyone else’s. That might be true, but nurses especially owe it to themselves to be as well rested as possible. Your job is physically and mentally exhausting, even on the good days. Restorative sleep helps your body and mind recover and helps keep you at the top of your game.
With COVID-19 making a rapid advance across the globe, this week’s recognition of Patient Safety Awareness Week draws attention to a critical subject.
Sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), nurses can use the week to learn new standards and practices, especially in light of COVID-19, and can also educate patients and their caregivers on how to protect themselves across the healthcare spectrum.
Although patients and the healthcare workforce expect and strive to keep adverse health incidents to a minimum, negative events do happen. According to the World Health Organization, patient safety is a “serious global health concern.” The organization reports that the “risk of patient death occurring due to a preventable medical accident, while receiving health care, is estimated to be 1 in 300.”
The numbers are especially alarming when patients and healthcare workers realize those numbers are attributed to preventable events and mistakes. As a nurse, you know lives depend on you paying attention to everything you do. Your patients and colleagues depend on your high-quality care and top-notch performance every single day you’re at work. With those kinds of standards, nurses know patient safety is a top priority.
Patient safety has a clear spillover impact into other areas of healthcare—workplace safety in particular. When patient safety is compromised, nurses’ safety is compromised. And it doesn’t take much to create unsafe situations.
Think of these examples:
- Moving a patient without proper equipment or sufficient staff. As a result, the patient is exposed to a risk of falling and the nurse is now more likely to have a physical injury from trying to move the patient in unsafe circumstances.
- Sharps or equipment being improperly stored or disposed of exposes patients and nurses to disease and injury
- Medication errors because there is no established process for reducing error
- Infections due to lack of proper hygiene
As a nurse, you can take steps every day to ensure and promote patient safety.
- If you notice a process that could become or already is creating a safety concern, address it with your supervisor.
- Make sure your attention to safety never wavers and notice when you feel distracted.
- Ask for continual professional development opportunities around patient safety.
- Propose a process or standard plan around high-risk activities so that it becomes a standard care plan in your organization.
- Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, eating nutritious foods, and managing your stress.
- Practice immaculate personal hygiene and encourage it in your colleagues and in your patients and their caregivers. Thorough hand washing protects everyone.
- Lobby for patient and healthcare worker safety in local and national government and in organizations. Even a simple letter to a representative or supporting a professional organization that works for these issues can help.
Becoming an advocate for patient safety is part of any nurse’s focus. In your daily work, spread the word and educate anyone who will listen. Talk about patient safety to peers, colleagues, patients, family members, and other caregivers. Raising awareness with simple and continual discussion can make a significant impact—in the lives of your patients and in your own life.
For your own way to mark this week, join the IHI’s free webinar Principles for Improving Patient Safety Measurement, on
March 10, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET. Registration is required.