With a recent and horrifying uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans, May’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is especially timely to help educate people and find another opportunity to eliminate the systemic racism that leads to such harmful incidents.
According to the Center for Study of Hate & Extremism, the rate of anti-Asian hate crimes rose 149 percent in 2020 alone and continues to rise in 2021. The long-lasting implications for being a target of a hate crime or even part of a larger group that is being targeted are troublesome. Whether you’ve experienced AAPI racism personally or seen it happen to colleagues, family, or friends, the impact to mental health and personal security is only the beginning of the potential detrimental effects.
As a nurse, you may treat patients who have been hurt or threatened in a hate crime. You may treat people who direct hate and threats at you or someone in your care. The concern and fear can be paralyzing, and making sure your colleagues and supervisors are aware of incidents can help your organization track them.
And it’s helpful to have the government recognize the problem and take active steps to mitigate hate crimes. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, recently signed into law by President Joe Biden, is designed to make reporting hate crimes easier through more extensive public outreach, straightforward reporting and resources available in multiple languages, and community education opportunities to reduce crime.
AAPI nurses can find a professional organization such as the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, Inc., that offers resources and support as well. You can check out their past newsletters to find out about what nurses across the country are working on, topics of concern or interest, and news about conferences or professional development opportunities. As many minority nurses find excellent networking opportunities though professional organizations dedicated to their identity, belonging to AAPINA can also help you learn methods to combat racism that other nurses around the country have had success with.
Throughout the healthcare industry, organizations are collaborating to help fight racism and hate crimes. The National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing will tackle the issue in a broad approach with multiple organizations. With large and small efforts, progress will be made and honoring Asian Pacific American Heritage Month offers more opportunities for action.
Oncology nurses help patients face the uncertain territory that a cancer diagnosis brings and navigate a path through treatment.
May is Oncology Nursing Month and the time is set aside to celebrate the work oncology nurses do with patients, the advocacy they bring to their specialty, and the continual professional development they engage in.
Oncology nurses are committed to the best patient care and that means they need to stay engaged in the latest research and evidence-based practices that are always emerging. Cancer care is highly innovative as new therapies, cutting-edge drugs, and novel understandings of cancer progression are discovered. Nurses who decide to specialize in oncology nursing will match their drive for continual learning with the deep empathy for what their patients and families are coping with.
If you’re interested in becoming an oncology nurse, talking with oncology nurses is helpful to begin your research. The demand for nurses who specialize in cancer care is expected to increase over the next year as life expectancy is extended, the population ages, and more people are surviving cancer with increasingly successful targeted treatment.
The first steps are to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and take the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse. As with other nursing paths, you’ll want to gain general nursing experience where you’re likely to interact with cancer patients. Because people are surviving longer with cancer and treatments are keeping cancer either in remission or at a level where people manage the disease for years, you’re probably going to encounter people living with cancer in just about any unit you work in. You’ll begin to understand the special health needs they have, and the roadblocks they may encounter. For instance, they may have medication contradictions for other existing health conditions, or they may have to consider different approaches to new treatments they need. And they may have emotional and psychological needs to consider as you are working with them.
Cancer care, and living with cancer, is incredibly complex and touches virtually every other aspect of a patient’s life—from nutritional needs to sleep to navigating the world during a pandemic. As you begin to focus your career on oncology nursing, your experience with how all these different factors impact your patient will help you determine the best way to help and guide them while offering excellent patient care.
Certification through an organization like the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation is essential for oncology nurses because it helps you stay on top of the innovative treatments as they are implemented. Additional certifications are available as you move deeper into a specialty area of oncology nursing. The additional knowledge you’ll gain through certification will only help you provide better, more informed patient care, and your efforts will signal your commitment to being the best nurse you can be.
This field is growing and dynamic. Oncology nurses are needed in many healthcare settings, and they develop relationships with patients over the course of treatment and continued care. This nursing path is flexible, innovative, and rewarding.
“I did the lab thing for eight months and then went to nursing right away,” she says. Her background still fuels her passion for everything she does in her nursing work. “In nursing I am using art and science. I get intrigued by looking at COVID and the dynamics of that piece. Using my science and nursing backgrounds, I see how it all works.”
After nursing school, Lane’s first job was in a neuro NICU, she says, an option that really isn’t open to new nurses today and was a rarity when she began. “It was unheard of for a new grad to go into ICU,” she says. “They put us in with the residents and fellows so we would have knowledge of the brain. Since then, I have always been a neuro girl.”
One of those early experiences really highlighted the resiliency of the brain and completely hooked Lane on working with neuro patients. As she was working at a clinical in the operating room, Lane says she was so fascinated by the brain surgery going on that she asked to stay for the whole procedure, long past the required hours for the day. “I had the patient the next day,” she recalls, and it was incredible for her to see how people recover and how the brain adapts.
As patients recover, Lane knows the empathy and precise care they need. “It’s an art, science, and a craft,” she says of the complex neuroscience nursing it takes to guide neuro patients through their recovery. “They need to take it one day at a time. It’s a journey and it takes time.” It also takes a village and neuro nurses are looking for ways to help families through such a complex process as well.
Lane says she can’t emphasize enough the importance of joining a professional organization, especially for anyone interested in neuroscience nursing. As a neuroscience nurse, she says, there is so much new science emerging around the brain, that nurses need resources to stay current. “I believe neuro is the only service line that touches every other service line,” she says. So whether a nurse is looking at a a more specific specialty such as stroke, Parkinson’s, or migraine, as Lane does, there are all other areas of the body to consider. “I can text someone [from a professional network] and ask, ‘What are you doing on the West Coast for this?’”
With so many professional organizations devoted to nurses, Lane says they also give minority nurses an essential professional relationships. “Diversity is so important in nursing,” she says. “We need to understand different perspectives and experiences.” In some areas, there may be a dozen languages that need translation on any given day, and families who need to speak with someone who can help them. If there are only nurses who speak English, a big piece of care is missing. Professional organizations help build those connections. “You have resources around you and it’s very collaborative,” Lane says. “Neuro is small and you can see a professional network as a helping hand.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is something neuro nurses are seeing as the tip of the iceberg right now. Next year will be interesting for neuro, she says, as the longer term impacts of COVID on the brain may begin to emerge. But the foundational science behind neuroscience care will still apply. “We can figure out how to help if you are in a brain fog,” she says. “There’s rehab or cognitive brush ups or drills. People need to be mindful, pause, and not multitask. It uses so much more energy to do that—and that intrigues me.”
Lane has long focused on stroke care, but she says she’s becoming more interested in epilepsy. “There are so many specialties within the neuro specialty,” she says. “I want to always learn something different. It helps to keep your own brain engaged and to learn something new. I am learning more about epilepsy and the more we can know and share, the better.”
As neuroscience nurses advance in their careers, they are also excellent advocates and mentors for younger nurses . “I am helping new nurses in the field and helping the community understand neuroscience,” she says. “We need to keep talking about it. The sky is the limit. This is truly a calling for me.”
International Nurses Day on May 12 honors nurses worldwide with a day of celebration for all the work they do to care for patients, people in their communities, and those they know and love.
The past year has been one of tumult and exhaustion for nurses as the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges and conditions that today’s nurses never worked through before. As Minority Nurse honors nurses around the world today, we thought hearing from a student nurse—one on the brink of starting a career path that has seen so much pain and joy in the past year—would give a perspective of the next generation of nurses on International Nurses Day 2021.
Twenty-year-old Bisola Ariyo is this year’s valedictorian for Howard University’s College of Nursing Class of 2021. Her work as a nursing student took on new meaning in the past year, she says, and only amplified the determination she’s always had to excel as a nurse.
As a student in Lagos, Nigeria, Ariyo earned a full scholarship to Howard University—where she dreamed of going. Originally, she (and her parents) thought she was going to pursue a med school track, but she realized her love of biology was suited for a different path.
“I did my first internship and my first clinical and I experienced that bedside, hands-on work,” she says. “Doctors don’t do that. Nurses build relationships and it’s a big responsibility when you think you’re the only advocate for this patient. They look to you for all sorts of things. It made me admire nurses, and I wanted to be just like them.”
Throughout her college years, her dedication never wavered and her scholarship was something she used as a guiding light. “I wanted to come here and be everything I was expected to be,” she says, noting that she’s a recent an inductee of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. “It drives everything I do. I wanted to make my parents proud and make myself proud.”
As the pandemic swept through the world during her junior year, Ariyo says everything changed. During those early days, her father became ill and while his illness was not related to COVID, it put her in a deeply empathetic place. “It gave me an idea of what people were going through in the pandemic,” she says. Her parents were far away and the feeling deeply unsettled her.
When her family saw the work she was doing thorough the pandemic, it changed their perspective. Hearing about Ariyo’s 12-hours shifts, her parents were concerned about her safety and if she had enough PPE. They understood the gravity of her work. “Now my mom tells everyone her daughter is a nurse,” Ariyo says. “Before that, she thought doctors were the most prestigious. She has the most respect for nurses now.”
This spring, when she found herself working at a vaccine clinic and giving so many shots every day, she says she was grateful. “I was vaccinating people who were so thankful to get the vaccine and who would now get to see their grandmothers or their friends,” she says. “I never envisioned giving vaccines all day was something I would ever be doing, but I hope to take that experience with me.”
Ariyo decided on her specialty path after a summer externship at Duke University Hospital Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where she shadowed a nurse and performed pre-op and post-op care of children with congenital heart defects. She’s decided to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. “Every day was a joy,” she says of the experience. Whether she was seeing children get better or enduring the sadness when they didn’t, Ariyo says working with children was profoundly moving. “They are so resilient,” she says of children. “Being part of that every day made me realize that is what I want to do. And that is the patient population I want to serve.”
As Ariyo gained additional work, she also saw how crucial it is for the nursing industry to attract more minority nurses. “Nursing is definitely impacted by how representation matters to patient care,” she says. While on a post-Hurricane Maria alternative spring break program with Howard University in Puerto Rico, Ariyo says she noticed how a language barrier or residents’ general mistrust of the healthcare system influenced care. “The Black or brown people or people of color who don’t trust the healthcare system are looking for the Black person in the room because that’s the person that looks like them,” she says. “There’s a responsibility for me and a trust they have in me because I look like them.” The experience even gave rise to new goal—learning Spanish. “I felt bad when there was no interpreter in the room,” Ariyo says. “Minority nurses are so important.”
Being part of Howard University’s nursing school gives Ariyo deep pride. She has taken advantage of every opportunity and has worked as a mentor at an afterschool program; was a HU Geriatrics Lab student researcher on the Alzheimer’s research team; and is a member of the Comprehensive Medical Mentoring Program (CMMP) and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS).
Although she knows the work has been challenging, she sees herself reflected in her fellow graduates on this International Nurses Day. “My class is 42 strong incredible Black women,” preparing for a nursing career, she says. “I feel brave because I see all the other people in my class as brave as I am. And despite how much social unrest there has been, we can take solace in this future generation. It is a time for hope.”
This week’s National School Nurse Day (May 12) honors the tireless and complex work of school nurses—all of whom cared for students thorough a constantly changing year that veered between in-person, remote, and a hybrid of both.
I had a wonderful community health nursing rotation within my undergraduate nursing coursework that always stuck with me. I worked on a trauma unit after earning my BSN, and often thought back to that course and the role of a public health nurse. I remember calling my high school nurse on one of my days off and asking her “what do I have to do to become a school nurse?” I made the decision to follow my passion after that phone call and haven’t looked back since.
How has your job changed in the last year and with all the ramifications from the pandemic?
School nurses have always answered the call to serve during times of crisis. What I know for sure about school nursing is that we are each demonstrating how essential the role of a school nurse is to the health, safety, and well-being of students, staff, and the communities across the state of Illinois.
School nurses were at the frontlines before stay-at-home orders went into effect last year; over the summer many of us answered the call to action and donated PPE to our colleagues, volunteered at COVID testing sites, donated blood, served on various state taskforces, and supported our students by delivering meals. We are now serving in the tremendous role as frontline healthcare providers mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in our schools by isolating, contact tracing, ensuring IDPH COVID-19 Exclusion Guidelines, and case management amongst many other things.
We continue to amplify our voices at the local, state, and national level, all the while working together to address the health inequities faced by so many of our students and families that have only magnified over these past several months.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about my career in school nursing is the continuity of care that I’m able to offer my students throughout their high school experience. I love being a school nurse, and I encourage everyone reading this to follow their passion and find your place to thrive. I also enjoy being an advocate for my profession and teaching. I’ve been teaching for over seven years now, and it fulfills my other passion of educating the next generation of nurse leaders.
School nurses’ jobs are incredibly complex and you care for kids with many health conditions. What do you wish people knew about your role?
I wish people knew how vital our role is and that we are public health experts. I have a vision that every child in the U.S. will one day have access to a full-time certified school nurse. Every child deserves that access and it should not be determined by their zip code.
Can you give us an example of your work in educating the public on issues that are relevant right now?
In partnership with the COVID Collaborative, the Ad Council launched a historic public communications effort to educate the public about the COVID-19 vaccines. I was chosen to participate in these messages for healthcare professionals nationwide! The videos featured Dr. Anthony Fauci and other healthcare experts. We explained the rollout and administration of COVID-19 vaccinations and discussed how to navigate questions and conversations with patients.
At the local level, I am leading a science-first public health campaign through IASN by calling all Illinois school nurses to share their COVID-19 vaccine photos and videos by and using the hashtag #VaxUpIL and #IASNVaxUp to show how safe and important it is to get vaccinated. This campaign will also cover topics like masking, testing, vaccinations, and will address vaccine hesitancy. I’m designing the messages with diversity and inclusion in mind to maximize their reach and effectiveness.
To ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines we must consider the social determinants of health that have increased the prevalence of COVID-19 within BIPOC communities. The national vaccination effort is one of the greatest operational challenges America has ever faced, and this is with existing underfunded public health programs across the country. I’m proud to be doing my part in this effort.
Barrera serves on the legislative committee and most recently as an expert panel member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the American Nurses Association-Illinois. She holds a chair elect position within the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Nursing Section, is an active representative of Hispanic nurses on the Nursing Coalition on Climate Change and Health, and is an active member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). Barrera has been recognized for her leadership and community work by several organizations, both locally and nationally and most recently was named a 2020 Pinnacle Nurse Leader in Illinois. She is committed to being a lifelong learner and continues her efforts in improving child health outcomes in our most vulnerable populations through her current practice, advocacy, and teaching.