Oncology Nurses Offer Care and Compassion

Oncology Nurses Offer Care and Compassion

During Oncology Nursing Month, oncology nurses and the specialty they work in are honored and highlighted. Oncology nurses work with patients who have dealt with a cancer diagnosis–whether years ago or more recent. No matter when a patient hears they have cancer, the words are startling and set in motion treatment and care plans, family discussions, and life adjustments, while also triggering some powerful emotional responses.

Typically, a nurse cares for the health of a patient with cancer, but also understands that the patient’s diagnosis touches many lives especially that of family and friends. Oncology nurses understand their very special role and help their patients process varied health issues, have hope for the future, and have compassion for the often grueling road of cancer treatment.

While many oncology nurses work in centers and offices devoted to cancer treatment and care, there are also other important and challenging roles they can explore on different career platforms.

Treatment
An oncology nurse may work with cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy as they monitor and care for patients on treatment days. Nurses in this role will continually assess the patient’s response to the treatment, notice and track changes, answer questions and provide relevant information, and be a calm and strong presence for patients. Nurses may choose to treat different ages of patients–from the youngest infants with cancer to the very oldest patients. Oncology nurses have a special ability to be compassionate and empathetic as they are driven to understand the journey each patient faces and help make that journey easier by providing support. Oncology nurses may also find they are drawn to helping cancer patients with hospice care to make them as comfortable as they can.

Research
A clinical research nurse works within a research team to advance cancer treatment, prevention, and eradication. Clinical research nurses may take a variety of roles, each of which may touch a different aspect of the research project. Nurses can act as educators, provide clinical care to research participants, and provide nursing leadership for the research facility, among other responsibilities. With so many cancer trials happening, nurses can make a direct and immediate impact in areas that are of particular interest to them or in which they have special expertise.

Education
Oncology nurses who have worked in cancer care and treatment have much-needed expertise to share with nursing students, colleagues, the public, and government officials. Oncology nurses may teach at the undergraduate or graduate levels to inspire the next generation of nurses to work in the field, and they may chair panels and seminars at conferences. They may give talks for younger students in high school who may not know about what oncology nurses do but are interested in a nursing career and want to help people who have cancer. Oncology nurses may help lobby and inform the state and federal government to increase cancer research funding or to influence the direct impact the government can have on helping people and families affected by cancer.

Leadership
Oncology nurses may advance their careers and nursing specialty by joining professional organizations like the Oncology Nursing Society. They can network with other oncology nurses to exchange information about the latest developments in cancer care, to compare nursing processes, to take advantage of targeted professional development for oncology nurses, and to act as part of a larger body of advocates for the field and the patients they care for. Nurses who join professional organizations can take on leadership roles to guide projects and advocacy and reevaluate standards in the public and private sector.

Neuroscience Nurses and a Complex Specialty

Neuroscience Nurses and a Complex Specialty

This week’s recognition of National Neuroscience Nurses Week helps raise awareness of this nursing specialty and honors the work neuroscience nurses do.

Nurses who find a good fit in this field are generally fascinated by brain science and all the different implications that brain health and brain injury have on a person’s daily life. Neuroscience nurses help patients who may have a brain disease, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or who may have brain injuries resulting from a car accident or a fall or from an aneurism or infection. Neuroscience nurses also work with patients who have had a stroke or have multiple sclerosis.

Neuroscience nurses work with patients to help them stabilize if they have had a brain injury and to manage the everyday impacts of brain injury and disease. They may work in recovery and rehabilitation to monitor progression and to encourage patients and families as they take the journey to recovery or, in some cases, to manage a progressive disease. They may also work in an inpatient or outpatient facility or in the OR. Frequently, nurses in this role develop long relationships with patients and their families. As people recover from or progress through the impacts and symptoms of brain injury or brain disease, these nurses are a sounding board, a resource, and a champion of their patients.

Because the human brain is incredibly complex and any brain injury can have a major impact on the way the body functions, a career in neuroscience nursing is challenging. Nurses in this specialty must remain current in all the latest research in brain science and in the rapidly advancing technology that helps patients with brain injury or diseases. While patient care is generally the primary focus in the career, nurses who are fascinated by brain science can also choose to lead research, may hold leadership and teaching roles in academia, and may advocate for the patients and nurses who are impacted by brain health.

The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN) is the professional organization for nurses in this specialty and is an excellent resource for both novice and veteran neuroscience nurses. Nurses can connect with others in their field, learn about educational opportunities, find out about conferences, and have access to job openings. Because neuroscience nurses have a complex specialty, the network of nurses in the field can act as a nationwide resource for puzzling cases or to hear about groundbreaking research being done around the globe. Nurses might also reference the World Federation of Neuroscience Nurses to see what’s happening in the field worldwide.

As with all nursing specialties, certification gives the additional knowledge to provide the best and most up-to-date patient care possible. The American Board of Neuroscience Nursing offers two certifications: the Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN®) and the Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN®) certification. In addition to ensuring that nurses have the latest skills and knowledge, obtaining certification helps nurses explore varied facets of the areas they work in to make important connections. The additional credential also increases professional and personal confidence as colleagues respect and rely on their certified coworkers.

Neuroscience nurses know that brain health can change everything from a patient’s physical health to their psychological health and so they must be able to adapt to changing conditions rapidly and calmly. As they gain experience in the field they develop valuable knowledge and capabilities that positively impact the patient and the larger health team. While the challenges are constant, so are the rewards.

National School Nurse Day Is May 11

National School Nurse Day Is May 11

In the middle of National Nurses Week, a day is designated to honor the school nurses who work in schools nationwide and address issues that range from splinters to seizures. This year’s School Nurse Day on May 11 helps recognize and celebrate this career.

School nurses take care of children who attend school and with that familiarity they build close relationships with the children they see and often their families. Like a puzzle to piece together, school nurses work with the larger school community to understand and help treat the health needs of schoolchildren.

The pandemic has put increased pressure on school nurses, who already frequently are short staffed in their school districts. As much as school nurses are expected to advocate for the children they care for, they also need to advocate for themselves and their profession to ensure the best conditions for them to do their jobs.

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) is a proponent of school nurse advocacy and has identified some of the top legislative priorities for school nurses and areas where nurses in the field can get involved.

For 2022, NASN targets areas that have a powerful impact on the children they work with, and their families, and issues that influence how a school nurse can operate within a school. Topmost is that each child should have access to a school nurse with the passage of the Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere (Nurse) Act. Passage of this act would make it easier for schools to fund school nurses and would have the intention of alleviating some of the financial cost to districts. With grants, schools would be more able to provide a nurse who is sometimes the only medical professional a child might see.

In a forward-looking advocacy, NASN also encourages nurses to work for passage of the Tobacco Tax Equity Act, which will impart a tax on more tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. By raising taxes, nurses would hope to address the health disparities that are linked to youth tobacco use–and that in the wider community.

Because nurses know that health equity is so essential, the passage of the Improving the Social Determinants of Health Act is another identified priority. Children can’t learn as effectively if they don’t have secure housing or a nourishing and stable food supply. These and other social factors that provide a foundation from which children can have better lives are essential.

Advocacy can take as much time as a nurse has to offer. From writing to a legislator to getting more involved with work on the local, state, or federal level, there is always something that can be done to help make the jobs of school nurses and the schoolchildren they work with better.

A school nurse is a health practitioner in the educational field and so straddles two distinct professional worlds. Their work, focused on the students and their families, must encompass health and also the wider community they may see. Despite the tensions that can sometimes arise between the two areas, school nurses find incredibly meaningful, challenging, and rewarding work in their field.

Student Nurses’ Day: Meet Azariah Torain

Student Nurses’ Day: Meet Azariah Torain

Current student nurses have had an academic path that has been influenced in all ways by a global pandemic. This year, Minority Nurse celebrates National Student Nurse Day (honored every year on May 8) by learning more about Azariah Torain, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh. Torain also is involved in the National Student Nurses’ Association where she is the 2022-2023 Imprint Editor and chair of the Image of Nursing Committee.

What made you decide to go to nursing school

Nursing school was a clear choice for me. I wanted to go into a career path where I could both challenge myself and positively impact another person’s life. I knew that nursing school would offer me the flexibility to switch my specialty if I ever got bored with what I was doing. I am very indecisive so I appreciate this option.

Do you know what nursing specialty you would like to go into?

The specialty I think I would enjoy the most would likely be the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Taking care of the worlds’ smallest patients would be so rewarding but also an extremely challenging role. This could change tomorrow though. I am set on my end goal of going back to school and eventually becoming involved in executive leadership in some form.

What excites you most about the nursing industry? 

What excites me the most about nursing is the fact that it is an industry full of innovative people. We are fast-paced and our practice is always shifting and evolving based on evidence-based practice. The amount of career paths are endless and so is the potential for growth.

What has been your biggest surprise as a student nurse?

My biggest surprise as a student nurse was definitely how quickly we are learning new things, especially this past semester. We would learn a skill in lab one week and the next we would have a competency evaluation and we are completing the skill from memory. Soon after that we are doing the skill on actual patients. My confidence in my ability has increased significantly as the year has gone by, but never too confident to ask for help.

Has the pandemic changed your path, outlook, or educational plans at all? 

The pandemic has shined a light on so many previously overlooked job opportunities in nursing. The prevalence of travel nursing and telehealth have me considering new possibilities! Being a freshman in 2020 was not fun, and I didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to. With this school year a bit tamer, I have gotten to participate in so much more, and I truly feel like I’m getting the full nursing student experience.

Do you have mentors or supporters? 

My parents are easily my number-one supporters, I had a skateboarding incident and broke my front tooth in half three days before my white coat ceremony. My mom somehow was able to find someone to fix it just in time. Even from hours away she still saves the day.

How do you envision your nursing educational and career paths? 

I envision the two being very closely intertwined. As I advance in my education I will hopefully advance through my career. I plan on getting a Masters’ in Business Administration and possibly a doctorate level nursing degree in executive leadership.

What would you say to others considering who are thinking of becoming student nurses?

I would encourage anyone looking into nursing to make sure that they are at a stable place in life before enrolling in school. Nursing school can be done and it can be extremely rewarding but it is also incredibly taxing. I welcome anyone to join the nursing profession and if you are thinking of nursing school, you should be active and join a professional organization like NSNA.

National Nurses Week: A Look at Trailblazing Nurses

National Nurses Week: A Look at Trailblazing Nurses

National Nurses Week, celebrated May 6-12 is a bright spot in the year for many nurses. Gatherings and appreciation across the nation boost morale and give nurses a lift up.

For Dr. Vivienne Pierce McDaniel DNP, MSN, RN, and DEI Consultant for Sentinel U’s Virtual Nursing Clinical Simulations, National Nurses Week truly begins on May 7 as that is the birthday of Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first Black nurse to become licensed. National Nurses Week also honors the birthday of Florence Nightingale, long considered the founder of nursing, with its end date of May 12.

As a nurse for whom nursing is a second career, McDaniel feels a connection to historic trailblazer, Mary Eliza Mahoney for her own career. McDaniel is also a fellow of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Diversity Leadership Institute, is the president of the Central Virginia Chapter Black Nurses Association, the chair of the Virginia Nurses Association’s DEI Council, the historian for DNPs of Color, and a mentor for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Diversity Leadership Institute. She is a member of the Eta Eta Chapter of Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc.

McDaniel, who is a devoted historian, says she became fascinated by the stories of the earliest Black nurses. “I feel a kinship with them,” she says. “And I didn’t even know they existed. When I was going to school, I didn’t see any professors that looked like me. I started researching and looking for people who look like me, and I was inspired to learn about them and chronicle their lives.”

For women who were such important pioneers, McDaniel says learning about Mahoney and other Black nurses in history was happenstance. “What’s troubling is that I didn’t learn about her in nursing school,” says McDaniel. With a scant two sentences devoted to Mahoney in the nursing textbook McDaniel’s classes used, she has no recollection of conversation about this woman who paved a path for generations of nurses to follow.

And while Mahoney is someone who gained formal experience, her journey was indirect. She worked in the New England Hospital for Women and Children doing jobs including laundress and cook. But that was typical, says McDaniel. “Many nurses in the past gained formal and informal training,” she says. “Many gained their knowledge experientially because they were not allowed entry into nursing school.”

And while many consider these nurses as unsung or hidden figures, McDaniel says they really have been erased from history. Their work was so essential–on the front lines of Civil War battlefields, for example–but not recognized.

While many people know about Louisa May Alcott’s work as a nurse and an author, few people have heard of Matilda Cleaver John, a Black nurse who fought to keep Alcott alive when she was sick with typhoid, says McDaniel. “No one hears about them,” she says.

With so many restrictions on Black nurses–where they could work, who they could care for, and what tasks they could perform–the women who took this career path were up against formidable challenges. Because of that, McDaniel wants others to know about the essential and transformative work performed by nurses who never got credit for the lives they saved, and the personal risk involved to do that work. It is, she says, a direct reason for the disparities and inequities that exist in nursing today.

“I am greatly influenced by Mary Eliza Mahoney not just because she was the first Black woman to graduate from a nursing school,” says McDaniel, “but also because of all she endured and the hurdles she had to cross to do what she did.”

With that in mind, McDaniel says her personal celebrations are especially poignant during National Nurses Week, and she particularly begins honoring the week on May 7 when she recognizes and remembers Mahoney.

Eventually, McDaniel would like to see a full history of nursing, once that reflects all nurses, included in nursing textbooks. “I want to bring them out of obscurity,” she says. “They had so much against them because of the color of their skin but they still did courageous things. I am inspired by their advocacy efforts.”

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Register for McDaniel’s DNPs of Color talk on May 7 at 6 pm EDT Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Mary Eliza Mahoney.

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To find out more about Black nurses, McDaniel recommends reading:

The Path We Tread: Blacks in Nursing Worldwide, 1854-1994 by M. Elizabeth Carnegie

Forgotten Angels: The lives of African American women who served as nurses in the Civil War by Kalinda Page

Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33D United States Colored Troops by Susie King Taylor

Mary Eliza Mahoney and The Legacy Of African-American Nurses (Women in Medicine) by Susan MuaddiDarraj

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