During this year’s International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), it helps to shed light on how every small effort can make a big difference. During a continuing pandemic and an impending flu season, infection control is critically important to protect patients, healthcare workers, and the community at large.
Nurses’ days are guided by infection control processes and the last year and a half has seen more controls and preventive measure implemented. Not only wearing PPE, but putting it on and removing it correctly are essential to proper infection control.
International Infection Prevention Week began 35 years ago and this year’s theme is “Make Your Intention Infection Prevention.” According to IIPW, the organization intends to highlight the science of infection prevention during this year’s awareness week to help the general community understand how infections happen and how they can be prevented.
As nurses, interactions with patients are excellent times to remind them of infection control practices, and infection control in your workplace is critically important.
Talk with your patients
More people are aware of vaccination, mask wearing, hand washing, keeping a social distance, and other infection prevention measures that have become so common and essential in helping to control COVID-19. Reminding patients how these things are important to future infection prevention is helpful. Bring up antibiotic resistance and explain the caution around taking antibiotics for conditions where they aren’t helpful and can actually contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Remind them to get help
Let patients know they should seek medical care when things just don’t seem right. Former President Bill Clinton’s recent infection landed him in the hospital, and it’s reported that he felt off–just especially extra tired. Patients don’t always realize that something like a urinary tract infection can lead to a much larger and potentially life-threatening infection. Educating them that infection comes in many forms will help them recognize trouble. As a nurse, it’s also a good tips to remember. You’re around so many people and it’s worth being aware of when something seems off.
Spread awareness at work
Healthcare workplaces have seen a surge in infection prevention measures since COVID emerged. Although it might seem like second nature, it is always a good idea to keep infection prevention at the center of workplace issues. Depending on the patient population you work with, infection prevention could also include needle safety for everything from injections to blood draws to IV insertion. Anything involving bodily fluids, wound care for example are also potential infection spreading tasks. Find out how your workplace is focused on keeping workers safe.
October 10 kicks of a celebration of the work emergency nurses do with Emergency Nurses Week. In the past year and a half, emergency nurses have faced a pandemic and the overwhelming care needs of a staggering patient load. Frequently, emergency nurses are the initial care provider for people who have COVID-19 symptoms, and they have taken on a care caseload filled with some of the sickest patients these nurses have ever encountered.
Emergency nurses are needed more than ever. As pandemic cases continue to rise and fall and as patients who put off needed care are presenting with even more advanced needs, emergency nurses are in perpetual demand.
As the need for their skills rises, emergency nurses are especially prone to exhaustion and burnout. Taking care of themselves becomes a low priority when the demands of the job are so high, so continual, and so overwhelming. If running to the bathroom is considered a break, how can emergency nurses be expected to keep up the pace?
And while there’s no magic potion to improve the work balance (let alone a work-life balance), nurses can be aware of doing whatever they can to make life any easier right now. And remembering that eventually, this impossible time will pass.
With an unrelenting job, nurses need to let themselves take shortcuts when they can. Buying premade meals or getting groceries delivered saves time and effort that are in short supply. The shortcut doesn’t have to lead to unhealthy choices. Focus on foods that give you the biggest nutritional bang for the buck. Prepared salads, cooked veggies, chopped fruit, and grilled meats are great choices. And when you’re too tired to even think about eating, a comforting soup–pureed or hearty–with bread and cheese will fill you up and nourish you.
Asking for help is often a nurse’s Achilles heel. After giving so much care, nurses are reluctant to admit they need some help. Whether it’s childcare, elder care, transportation, or mental health care, a little assistance can make your life easier–and that can make the world of difference. Even connecting with other nurses through an organization like the Emergency Nurses Association can give you the support you’re seeking.
Find the Joy
For many nurses, there’s been less joy this year. As waves of patients remain high, the emotional toll on nurses and healthcare workers is evident. Keep yourself going by finding the small joys in your day. A great playlist, a funny podcast, a movie that lets you escape (even if it takes five sessions to watch because you keep falling asleep), or even the softest socks that soothe your aching feet at the end of the day are good choices. Bonus points if it requires no extra effort and double bonus points if it’s something you can look forward to.
During Emergency Nurses Week, honor those who work in this demanding specialty. And if you are an emergency nurse, thank you for all you are doing!
This week’s celebration of Pediatric Nurses Week (October 4-8) is a reminder of the specialized work these dedicated nurses offer to their young patients.
For anyone interested in a career as a pediatric nurse, it’s helpful to know the responsibilities of this job. Nurses who work with children are the biggest advocates for their young patients. From toddlers to teenagers, pediatric nurses will become familiar with, and fluent in, the issues facing these ages.
Nurses who work with children will have an understanding of everything from toilet training and toddler play habits to social media and adolescent decision making habits. Pediatric nurses will see children for well visits, minor illness like a stomach flu, and life-threatening diseases including cancer.
Because of the range of ages, potential conditions, and situations, pediatric nurses have to know myriad relevant medical information and also how any issues or concerns will impact the family. Working with so many different families while focusing on a young patient can be challenging for pediatric nurses. Families are also the best advocates for the child and so creating a good working relationship with families is especially helpful. Compassion and understanding go a long way, but calling attention to concerns is also a pediatric nurse’s responsibility.
The Society of Pediatric Nurses is an excellent resource for nurses who work with children and their families. It offers guidance on education, advocacy, and clinical information to cover the needs of just about any pediatric nurse.
Nurses in this specialty are in high demand and can find a satisfying career in one office or by changing the focus of their career. They can find work in a family practice, a specialty practice, a hospital, an outpatient or surgical clinic, schools, or even rehabilitation centers.
By taking the exam, nurses are proving they have the most updated knowledge on evidence-based practices and on treating their young patients. This helps them give the best care possible as this specialty changes rapidly. Nurses who become certified are also demonstrating a specific commitment to being the best nurses they can and to gaining the tools necessary to make that happen. For a career move, this extra level is frequently noticed by your peers, supervisors, and organization. Nurses who are certified and keep their certification current are the nurse leaders organizations look for and depend on.
When Danielle McCamey DNP, CRNP, ACNP-BC, FCCP, was searching for other nurses of color who were on the same path to a doctorate degree in nursing, she had a tough time. Knowing she couldn’t be the only one seeking a similar camaraderie, McCamey founded DNPs of Color, a nonprofit focused on building the community she was hoping to find.
“When I got my DNP, I was the only Black woman, and I had a different lived experience from my cohort mates,” says McCamey, now DNPs of Color’s president and CEO. “I craved a community.”
In 2016, McCamey approached several professional nursing organizations. She pitched the idea of an organization focused on building a community of nurses of color who were on the path to earn the DNP, had earned it, or were just beginning to think about getting this advanced degree. No one followed up on the idea, so McCamey took it on as a personal project and started up a DNPs of Color Facebook page hoping to connect with others on her own. “That blew up,” she says. “It was beyond my expectations, and there were so many similar stories.”
As a first-generation student, McCamey’s academic track was new to her family. “There was lots of pressure to succeed and to represent myself for my community, my family, my ancestors,” she says. And she also wanted a sense of validation on her journey, one in which she experienced microaggressions, implicit bias, and racism.
A Lived Experience
McCamey is so passionate about DNPs of Color because of her own history. If not for the encouragement and guidance of Bimbola Akintade PHD, MBA, MHA, CCRN, ACNP-BC, NEA-BC, FAANP, she never would have considered earning a DNP. The two were colleagues (Akintade is a DNPs of Color board member), and McCamey was in her second year as an NP when he suggested she earn a higher degree.
“I had a small voice in my head that I was not capable,” she says, recalling a high school guidance counselor who told her that because she was Black and from a single-parent family, she’d never make it to college. An encouraging track coach changed her mind, and she was accepted to all 20 colleges she applied to (and, yes, she has since informed her old guidance counselor of her successes). Based on her own lived experiences, McCamey says DNPs of Color is dedicated to giving voice to those who have been silent or silenced for so long.
Establishing an Organization
In 2018, McCamey moved DNPs of Color to a nonprofit status because there was nothing else like her organization, and she knew how much it could help other nurses. The first virtual program DNPs of Color held was a virtual commencement and the immediate and enthusiastic feedback was encouraging. “It was about elevating stories of students of color earning their degrees,” she says. “There are so many stories. I never get tired of people saying this organization serves a purpose and ultimately impacts patients and health equity.”
The new focus of the Future of Nursing 2020-2030 report puts DNPs of Color in a direct position to support DNP students, diversity, and those in the BIPOC community, says McCamey. Right now, DNPs of Color is a social media-based platform with plans to move into a membership-based format next year. For now, she encourages anyone interested to join DNPs of Color’s private Facebook or LinkedIn groups so they will be alerted to the new strategies in the new year.
With three guiding pillars, McCamey says DNPs of Color focuses on networking, mentoring, and advocacy. Within those pillars, nurses are able to connect and learn essential guidance for moving forward in their careers, gaining fellowships, professional development tips, or navigating speaking and teaching engagements. “Many people do not understand the value of networking,” says McCamey because they may have never had mentors who can demonstrate it. “It opens up so many opportunities.”
Mentors, she says, are needed in all aspects of life–personal and professional. When McCamey finally had her DNP in hand, she says she wasn’t quite sure what was expected and what she could do to contribute to her community and give back. It was almost a feeling of “I did this, but now what?”
The advocacy piece of the organization is devoted to serving people of color and those who are historically marginalized or excluded, says McCamey. It’s about nurses doing what they can to make nursing and healthcare more equitable. Nurses with a DNP have a special skill set, she says, as they are well versed in academia and in clinical practice. They know how to create policies that are possible, effective, and nursing- or patient-focused. “For people of color, healthcare outcomes increase when implicit bias decreases,” she says. “Patients want to see people who look like them. If we are there, it promotes diversity.
The DNPs of Color community continues to grow daily, says McCamey. “As an organization, I am expecting that we are going to grow exponentially. And as the push for DEI increases, we will be instrumental in moving that needle forward.”
This year’s celebration of Neonatal Nurses Week continues a tradition that began 21 years ago. In 2000, the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) launched a day to honor neonatal nurses and expanded that time to a week two years ago to commemorate nurses in this distinct nursing specialty.
Neonatal nurses care for the smallest patients and work closely with a larger team of specialists as they advocate for babies in their care. Nurses care for babies who are often critically ill and are born with various health issues ranging from low birth weight, heart problems, birth defects, infections, and possible drug dependence or exposure. Neonatal babies may need care for recovery from surgery or may have been born prematurely.
Generally, the newborn age is considered neonatal, but neonatal nurses care for these babies until they leave the hospital. Some nurses may continue to care for babies with particular health issues until they are toddlers, although this is less frequent. As a neonatal nurse, you can expect to care for this age range as part of your specialty.
Nurses in this role support and advocate for the families of babies in their care. Families of infants in intensive care are frequently scared, exhausted, and need information on their baby’s health. Keeping them in the loop by giving them information in a way they can understand and take action on is especially important.
As your tiny patients leave your care, families depend on neonatal nurses to help them transition to the next phase where families assume a larger role of the care or care coordination of their baby. As you work with the families and caregivers of these special babies, healthcare education becomes a top task. You’ll help pass along often-complicated information on how to care for an infant who may need various equipment, special medications, or specialized feeding plans that even experienced parents may not know anything about.
As a neonatal nurse, improving your skills and continuous learning must be a professional and personal commitment. Treating and advocating for the tiniest patients who are not able to advocate for themselves makes your knowledge essential.
Becoming certified as a RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC®) confirms your commitment to the best patient care and gives you invaluable expertise. As with other certification paths, nurses who want to achieve certification should plan to have at least two years of work in a specialty area like a NICU so they are able to gain hands-on, real-world skills. Once you have your certification, you’ll need to renew your credentials every three years.
Student nurses who are considering neonatal nursing as a career path can look into a student membership of NANN, which will give them the tools they need and help them establish a network of nurses in similar paths. Professional organizations are excellent resources for nurses who want to stay current on the latest evidence-based practices, recent developments in treating neonatal patients, and exciting research that may lead to improved care.
Neonatal nursing is a rewarding and challenging career path. Self-care for nurses is important as the intensity of the NICU includes elation and grief and every emotion in between. If you are a neonatal nurse, try to find some activities that help you manage the intensity of your work and give you a balance with your work and home life. Some days it will be impossible as it’s all too easy to bring your worries about your patients with you when you leave work. It’s important to recognize when that happens, honor the critical work you are doing, and have some plans to get back on track.
As medical technology continues to advance, in some areas with rapid speed, the babies in NICU have an increasingly better outlook. And for neonatal nurses, the small victories make the biggest differences.