As Men’s Health Month closes out, it’s worth noting the disparities that exist among men of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Although some health advice like eating well, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and exercising are across-the-board good measures, men experience distinct health challenges they should be aware of. And among minority men, there are even more serious health challenges as well.
Here are four men’s health problems that minority men might want to pay extra attention to. Knowing what health issues they are more prone to, being aware of early detection, and having a plan to help mitigate these health threats can reap huge payoffs.
Many factors influence heart disease, and racial and ethnic minority men tend to experience this condition at higher rates than whites, according to the American Heart Association. Trying to track and control blood pressure, cholesterol, and other lipid levels like triglycerides will help. It’s always a good idea to remind anyone, male or female, that high blood pressure and high cholesterol don’t always come with symptoms, but are especially problematic.
Prostate cancer is one of the top men’s health issues. Black men receive a disproportionate number of new prostate cancer diagnoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black men experience 160.5 new cases (per 100,000 men) of prostate cancer for every 91.9 new cases for white men. Hispanic men experience a slightly lower rate than both groups at 79.5, but the risk for all men increases with age. Regular checks can help with early detection.
The American Diabetes Association states that while minorities deal with diabetes at higher rates, they also are more likely to suffer complications from the disease. Getting tested is essential to keep track of blood sugar numbers. If someone has diabetes, keeping on top of treatment is key to lessening the chances of complications. Like heart disease, diabetes can have life-altering and life-threatening complications if left untreated.
Cultural taboos around mental health issues can actually contribute to the problem. If men are uncomfortable or feel ashamed about their mental health struggles, they won’t seek treatment. A report by the American Psychological Association noted that of men reporting depression symptoms lasting longer than a year, black men are in a much higher bracket. In that category, 56 percent of black men vs. 38 percent of white men report those symptoms. The same report also states findings that show American Indian/Alaskan native men had the highest suicide rates of all ethnicities of men. This is a slow but steady struggle, but normalizing mental health to deal with it as the physical disease it is, and not a weakness, can help remoe the stigma. Many more minorities lack access to mental health care, so helping patients find care that is accessible might remove a barrier to getting help.
Minority men face specific men’s health struggles, and as a nurse just opening up the conversation around some of these topics can be a game changer.
A recently released survey by the Federal Reserve Board shows that many households reported similar or slightly more economic stability than in the previous year. But, the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S Households, doesn’t pretend everything is rosy.
Despite the overall positive results, which have continued to improve since the survey started in 2013, still shows some areas of concern. For instance, there are not widespread measures of improvement among all groups. The report found nearly 80 percent of white respondents reported that they were “doing OK financially,” but that only two-thirds of black and Hispanic respondents answered the same way.
It’s not a surprise that where people live also impacts their reported overall well being. Of the 11,000 respondents who answered the survey last October and November, only two-thirds of those living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods were satisfied with where they live, compared with 8 in 10 in moderate- to upper-income neighborhoods. Those with at least a bachelor’s degree reported more stability than those with a high school diploma.
What does this mean for you as a nurse? It brings a different perspective into your practice depending on where you are located. As someone who works with the public every day, you know how the stressors of the environment can play out in the health of your patients. It’s worth digging a little deeper when you are able to find out the particular stressors of your area.
For instance, what are the pressures of a patient in a specific neighborhood? Some patients might report a lack of public or accessible transportation makes it difficult to get to appointments, buy groceries, or find a job. Other neighborhoods lack high-quality mental health care or they are in a food desert making it almost impossible to buy fresh groceries. Still other neighborhoods don’t feel safe for certain populations.
What can this Federal Reserve Report help you learn about your patient population? If you see many older patients, they may be struggling in retirement or they may feel forced to continue working to pay the bills. The report found that 25 percent of respondents who were not retired yet had nothing saved for retirement. Of those of retirement age 60+, 13 percent have nothing saved. Again, minorities reported being less prepared financially for retirement than white respondents.
The repercussions for the patients who are continuing to work to pay the bills can impact everything from their sleep schedules to what they can afford for food, medication, housing, and transportation. It can also have an impact socially and with their emotional health. If someone continues to work past retirement age because they have to, for instance, they may feel a resentment and exhaustion that is absent or not disruptive in someone who chooses to remain gainfully employed. On the other end of the generational spectrum is the younger population struggling to pay bills and launch an independent life because they are swamped with student debt. They may be raising a family and working more than one job to keep up.
All of the touch points in the report are good points for nurses to ponder. Knowing what your general population struggles with can help you ask the right questions to get to a deeper level of care. Some stressors aren’t as obvious (financial distress), aren’t acceptable to talk about in some cultures (gender identity), or may not be easy to bring up (domestic violence or mental health struggles).
As the top patient advocates, nurses can help bring issues to the forefront and can help patients get the kind of help they need to live the healthiest lives possible.
What are some of the top stressors your patient population faces?
The National Network of Career Nursing Assistants marks the 42nd year of celebrating National Nursing Assistant Week from June 13-20. As lifelong caregivers, nursing assistants are a vital cog in the wheel of complete and attentive nursing care. They provide the hands-on, routine care for many patients, particularly those in long-term care facilities.
As part of the nursing team, nursing assistants often rely on their experience and the expertise of their colleagues to help patients in the ways that work best for them. Based on their long-term knowledge and interaction with patients, they are able to discern the slight nuances in providing one-on-one care to each patient.
Nursing assistants learn how different patients can be moved most comfortably and what foods can be digested most easily, for instance. They understand the emotional triggers for patients and the topics or situations that bring calm or comfort. They understand how to encourage patients in the ways they will respond to best. All of this important information is passed on to the entire medical team to help put together the best care plan.
In addition to the hands-on care, nursing assistants often provide essential and cherished companionship for patients. Because they interact with them so frequently, they become an important social aspect in the day-to-day care activities. They listen for vital clues to how a patient is feeling and can provide reassurance for typical issues or raise the alarm when something seems off or unusual. It’s often those smaller changes that can be a tip-off for a larger problem brewing.
With such frequent check-ins, nursing assistants advocate for their patients and have an important voice on the the care team. Nursing assistants who are in the same facility for a long time or who are career nursing assistant are also a source of stability for patients in times when everything else can be changing. A familiar face is welcome and reassuring.
As the national population continues to see the Baby Boomer population age and also live longer, the need for nursing assistants is growing. According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, another 700,000 jobs will need to be filled to meet the demand over the next 25 years. And nursing assistants can work in a variety of settings, from nursing homes to emergency departments to hospice care.
National Nursing Assistants Week is an excellent time to recognize the role nursing assistants play in your care team’s work. From physicians to patients, they fill a critical need.
If there is one thing nurses see nearly every single day, it’s high blood pressure in patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three Americans has high blood pressure and more have borderline high blood pressure, so being able to help patients with the condition is essential.
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and nurses know the urgent need of giving accurate information to help patients. If left untreated or improperly treated, this condition can have devastating, long-term impacts on cardiovascular health and throughout the body—that’s why it’s often called the “silent killer.” It’s also the reason many people don’t see it as the serious health threat it is.
Here are four ways you can help your patients comprehend the risks.
Understand Why High Blood Pressure Is Serious
Many patients, particularly those who are fairly symptom free, often don’t pay attention to their numbers. But they also often don’t realize how untreated high blood pressure can wreak havoc on the human body. According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure impacts everything from your heart health to your vision. One of the biggest struggles nurses have with prevention behaviors is getting people to understand that maintaining a normal blood pressure is critically important to overall health.
Realize It’s Manageable
Thankfully, the condition can be treated with effective and available treatments including medications. Generally, patients are put on a dose of blood pressure medication that helps keep their numbers in the right range. Lifestyle changes are even more manageable and sustainable for some patients. While not everyone can reduce their blood pressure with lifestyle changes, many people can reduce it so they require less medical intervention. Losing weight helps reduce the workload of the systems in the body and therefore can help reduce blood pressure. Eating healthier foods, getting exercise, reducing stress, and getting enough good-quality sleep also helps.
Accept It’s Sometimes Genetic
Plenty of exceptionally healthy people still have high blood pressure. As a disease with a genetic component, high blood pressure often runs in families. For some people, doing everything you’re supposed to do to reduce blood pressure still doesn’t work. The important thing is to make sure you get it treated. Help patients understand that if what they’re doing isn’t working, they still have to get those numbers in a good zone.
Be Alert for Red Flags
Lots of people can check their blood pressure at home or in the local drug store and that’s a great additional tool. But patients who do that should understand that that’s not all they have to do. Increasing blood pressure sometimes indicates something else is going on. If blood pressure suddenly spikes or drops or if symptoms start to resurface, make sure patients know they need to check in with you.
With education, interventions, and modifications, most people can successfully control their blood pressure. The biggest factor is making sure patients understand why it’s so essential to treat the condition before it escalates into something worse.
As cancer treatment changes at a rapid pace, the job of an oncology nurse evolves with lightning speed. May is Oncology Nursing Month and showcases the speed, skill, and thirst for life-long learning necessary for this career.
Oncology nurses care for patients from infancy to the very oldest in a population, so the potential to specialize in specific areas is available. And because cancer occurs throughout the body and body systems, staying up-to-date on the latest developments is required for oncology nurses. The Oncology Nurses Society is an excellent resource for nurses in the field or those considering it.
The good news is that cancer patients are living longer and with a better quality of life, even with advanced cancer. Research around the world sparks new hope for targeting cancer that is present and for preventing cancer in ways never before possible. As medical researchers continue to make new discoveries, they are saving lives and giving people hope.
Because so many cancers that were often quickly fatal a generation ago are now being managed, the field of oncology nursing is adapting to care for these patients. Nurses now treat survivors of childhood cancers who are well into adulthood and requiring long-term surveillance through other life events like pregnancy or even additional medical conditions. They are also treating older patients whose cancer is manageable medically but still has significant impact on quality of life. The complexities of offering top-quality medical care for the physical disease often merges with providing top-quality care for the emotional and spiritual issues that can crop up.
Oncology nurses see the effects of cancer on entire families as well and so frequently work within a family dynamic that ranges from the most heart-breaking sadness to the most celebratory joy. Nurses who are thinking of this specialty should work in several care settings and with different patients and conditions to find a path that resonates with their interests and passion. Some nurses choose a particular specialty based on their personal experience. Becoming certified in specific areas will increase your knowledge and help your career—you can find that information through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.
One of the primary goals in oncology nursing is education—and there’s a lot of educating that happens with a cancer diagnosis. Patients who receive a cancer diagnosis are often scared, so educating them in a way they can understand is essential. As every oncology nurse knows, there is more to it than just presenting the facts—empathy and compassion play a big role, too..
As the patient moves along through treatment, nurses are there every step of the way to help them understand how the treatment works and what kind of changes or side effects are likely or known. They offer ways to help alleviate discomfort or pain and may be able to put patients in touch with other resources (support groups, mental health support, additional home care) to help them as well.
Patients also want to know what might happen in the future and if the cancer will go away or could come back. And while tools are being developed to help the medical community get to that point, those predictions aren’t reliably available right now. Oncology nurses play a big role in helping patients live with their disease and the unpredictability that accompanies cancer. Their care and compassion are often remembered as playing a significant role in a patient’s journey.