March 14 kicks off Patient Safety Awareness Week, an annual recognition of the essential need to improve safety in all settings.
For nurses, awareness about patient safety impacts every aspect of their work. From medication prescriptions and delivery, to diagnoses and follow up, to ambulatory safety and safety of those who are bedridden, to the treatment of conditions and issues that affect virtually every area of the body, nurses place safety at the very top of the list of what they do.
No matter how careful healthcare workers are and how much they prioritize patient safety, there’s always room for improvement. And the numbers are alarming when it comes to the widespread impact errors have. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 4 in 10 patients are harmed in primary and outpatient healthcare situations across the globe. Of the harm done, more than three-quarters of the cases are preventable and the most harmful errors fall under medication use, prescriptions, and medical diagnosis. Even treatment in some of the highest income nations with excellent healthcare isn’t entirely protective. One in 10 patients suffers harm in a hospital setting in these countries and almost half of those errors are preventable.
Organizations including the Center for Patient Safety and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) advocate for attention to common ways where patients are harmed during healthcare treatment. Resources such as the Patient Safety Essentials Toolkit from the IHI can help nurses and nursing teams assess their typical workflow and make changes that can have a big impact on outcomes. From the SBAR (Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation) technique to better communication, even small adjustments in the way a unit operates can improve patient outcomes and safety for both patients and staff.
The opportunity for improvement is extensive. According to the WHO, patient harm occurs on many levels and in varied settings. From medication error to infection prevention practices to radiation errors or unsafe injection practices, the potential for mistakes occurs across the spectrum of care. It can also include harm such as falls and other unintentional injury.
As a nurse, educating yourself about the latest evidence-based safety practices is always good professional development, as is learning new skills. Take courses, read journals, and investigate what other healthcare settings are doing successfully. Promote safety practices on your unit and advocate for opportunities to learn more about protecting your patients at work, whether that’s through speakers, seminars, or with hands-on education and projects.
What is one thing you can do to elevate your own practice this week?
Professional development is one of the most important items in your nurses’ toolkit. Learning new skills, finding out about new technology and how to use it, and discovering new evidence-based practices will make you a better nurse.
But after a year that has wreaked havoc across the world, do you really need to think about professional development during a pandemic?
Simply put, yes. But depending on your role and your current workload, you can adapt to take realistic steps.
Professional development keeps you at the top of your game. As lifelong learners, nurses are committed to continually improving their skills because their patients depend on it. There’s no way to be the best nurse possible if your thinking remains the same as it did when you first started a nursing practice. But if you’re overwhelmed and your workload just isn’t letting up, your professional development goals might look different from another nurse.
What does professional development look like now?
1. Assess the Past Year
If you’re too tapped to even consider adding professional development to your life, think ahead. The past year has been one long lesson in trial by fire and you have learned a lot, even if you don’t have a certificate for it. Think about what you did that might have sparked a curiosity to learn more. What areas do you think you did well in? What areas could use some additional skills? Did you assume roles or responsibilities you liked or some that didn’t fit so well? All of these indicators can help you think about professional development in the future.
2. Make a List
Your last year probably found you using skills you never thought you’d use on a regular basis. Maybe you assumed a leadership role because you had to or you found the leadership role you were already in morphing into something much different. Leading a unit through a pandemic is nothing like what you did before. What can you do in the next year to build on the skills you sharpened through the pandemic?
3. Take Action
Sometimes getting started is the hardest step. At some point, life will return to some semblance of normal, and you’ll want your career to be in good shape to move forward when that happens. Taking action can be a large or small undertaking, but doing something is the goal. When you think about your actionable goal, be realistic for the current time. If you are able to apply for a degree program or to take a certification, now is the time to get that plan in action. If you can’t commit to something big, remember that small actions are important.
Join a professional organization and attend one event.
Network with a nurse you admire.
Read a book or subscribe to a journal in your specialty to sharpen your expertise.
Take an online course in an area that can build up essential skills including communication, conflict resolution, targeted technology, time management, or goal setting.
Share your knowledge by teaching a class in your organization or in your community. You’ll benefit from the public speaking practice and organization skill building, and your audience will benefit from your advanced understanding of the subject matter.
Professional development is an ongoing task, and when the world of nursing is in such change, it’s even more important. But many nurses are tired and stressed, so professional development is going to look a little different than it might have a year ago. Just keep moving forward and learning, but do it with an intention that will bring your career to a better place.
Whether you’re a brand-new nursing student or a nursing graduate student earning an advanced degree, working with faculty members will help you get as much as possible out of your higher ed years. Sometimes connecting with and learning from faculty members is easier said than done, but forming bonds with your professors can help you in many ways.
If you’re wondering how to best approach faculty members you admire, who are in your specialty, or who teach an especially difficult course, there are a few things to remember.
Take the Initiative
Don’t be afraid to talk to them. As a nursing student, you know your professors are busy and some of them can even be intimidating. But they decided on a career that includes teaching because they want to help others succeed in nursing. Approach them when they are available—good times during scheduled office hours. Ask if they have time to chat or if setting aside more time would fit their schedule. Bring your questions about the work in class or even ideas for relevant and independent projects outside the course requirements.
Know What They Can and Can’t Do
If you’re excited to find a faculty member whose research or career trajectory mirrors your own interests, know they will probably be an excellent resource for you. They might be able to help guide you on important projects, your research direction, or the soft skills (like how to make a great presentation or communicate effectively with your team) that career nurses need to excel. They might be able to introduce you to other nursing professionals across the globe who you can learn from as well. Don’t expect them to find a job for you, but they might be able to steer you in a direction where you’ll find opportunities like grant information or job openings.
Meet Their Standards
Professors want to work with driven and dedicated students. They don’t expect you to perform miracles, but your efforts will have more impact if you ask questions when you don’t understand something, show up on time, and follow up on outstanding tasks. If you’re working on a team, pull your weight and contribute to make the group’s work better. If you’re working independently, produce work that shows initiative and a real interest in the subject and turn it in on time. Professors expect high-quality work from nursing students, so check everything twice.
Faculty members are in their roles so they can teach students, and they like to hear when a student appreciates their efforts. If a professor gives you an opportunity to present at a conference, participate in a paper, or follow a specific interest in a lab that’s not exactly part of the syllabus, be sure to thank them. A note or email is appreciated or you can just tell them how their encouragement made a difference and tell them “thank you for helping me.”
Keep in Touch
One of the special talents of many professors is their ability to remember students long after they have graduated. Often, you’ll find a moment in your career that reflects directly on a course you took and a professor who influenced you. Keeping in touch with professors who were particularly encouraging or knowledgeable is a great way to stay connected to people who changed your life and to build your network. You may even be able to offer something in return over the course of your own career.
Faculty members want to help their students. With some guidelines in place, approaching them can make all the difference in your academic work and even your career.
Most people are familiar with a board of trustees. These are the leaders who advise, guide, direct, and lead businesses large and small while keeping the organizations’ best professional, financial, and strategic goals in mind. Members of a board of trustees are a diverse group with broad expertise; these varied backgrounds allow the group to look at problems or issues through several different lenses.
As a professional nurse, having your own board of trustees is one way to help your personal and professional growth flourish. Your board doesn’t need to sit around in a conference room (or, today, on Zoom), your own group can be informal, and they can actually be a mutually supportive group who has each member’s best interests in mind.
Who will you invite into your board of trustees? Here are a few things to consider.
Those You Admire and Respect
Nurses who hold leadership roles and who perform their work duties in a way you want to emulate are excellent people to have in your corner. Asking for their advice and guidance or just watching how they approach their responsibilities is going to help your career.
Those Who Don’t Know the Industry
Your board of trustees shouldn’t include only those in the medical industry. Professionals in other industries—from banking to teaching to construction—are going to help you. They can offer perspectives of patient personalities and what might be percolating for the general public. They may offer insight into business practices that could help your own work flow be more efficient or could boost the morale of your unit. They can also give you tips on salary negotiation or interviewing.
Those Who Help with Nitty Gritty
Your alma mater can help you with a career search or with a resume review. The neighbor or cousin who can watch your kids while you finish up a grant proposal is worth more than gold. Your colleague who motivates you to exercise or take a break when you‘ve hit a wall is going to watch out for you. These people belong on your board and you belong on theirs. These are all great opportunities for reciprocal relationships—you can help them as much as they help you.
Those You Network With
Colleagues who are active in nursing associations can help you network to find a new professional opportunity. These are the people who can help you pinpoint excellent presentation topics or give you insider information on how to navigate a particular conference. They can guide you to elevate your visibility in the industry.
Those Who Know You Best
An opportunity might look so-so on paper, but your best friend might be the one to point out how it matches your passions and gives you a launching pad. Or a job offer might be weighed by your sister who asks if you’ll be able to move the 1,000 miles required to make it happen and then cheers you on when you figure out how to do exactly that. This is the crew who will tell it like it is and who always have your back.
Having a board of trustees—or really a board of trust—in your corner is a way to ensure you aren’t going it alone. People are often willing to help. It’s important to offer something in return and to understand you also bring value to the relationship.
If you’re hoping to ask for advice about a career switch from a nurse who is in that specialty, make an offer to take them out to lunch. If someone is watching your kids, offer to watch theirs or to pick up some groceries the next time you go to the store. There are many ways we can all support each other. Start building a circle of trusted people and see the impact it has on your well-being and your career.
Are you looking to overhaul your budget, but don’t have lots of wiggle room for savings? Even if your employment is solid right now, it doesn’t mean you’re not nervous about your cash flow. Your costs might have gone up or your hours might have been reduced (or both). Or maybe you’re just trying to build a savings safety net or to fortify one you had to dip into.
Whatever the reason, there are some easy tweaks you can make in your daily spending habits to boost your bank accounts without too much effort. These steps are easy and can add up to significant cash savings with little change to your daily life.
1. Take a Look at Your Fees
If you own a home, now is an excellent time to refinance. Rates are low and you can save a bundle of cash over the course of your loan period. You might be able to shave years off your mortgage—who can’t use that kind of extra money? And take a look at your car insurance or home insurance. Do some comparison shopping and see if you can find better rates for the same coverage. Don’t forget to check if your employer has any kind of discount program for insurance coverage.
2. Ditch the Extras
Like a leaky faucet, small cash drains can lead to financial problems. Where are the possible leaks in your budget plan? The monthly charge for Spotify. The magazine subscription that renews automatically. The phone plan that is out of step with what you need. The bank fee every month. The three streaming subscriptions you haven’t had time to watch lately. The gym membership that you aren’t using. The monthly fee for a service plan you meant to cancel last year. All those small leaks can add up to a big cash drain. Check your monthly expenses for at least one or two things you can cancel.
3. Find Your Perks
You’ve heard your friend talk about her credit card extras. How’s your credit card matching up? You don’t need (and really shouldn’t hang onto) a handful of credit cards, but you should make sure the ones you have are working for you. Perks like extra mileage, money back, or discounts on things you use frequently come with certain credit cards. If your credit is good and your credit card isn’t offering you some real benefits (and a low interest rate), ask for them to give you an upgrade or look for a new card.
4. Sell Your Stuff
Do you have clothes you don’t wear or lamps just taking up space in your closet? Why not sell them and make some cash? Online resale retailers like Poshmark or your local consignment shop are a boon to people who want to sell their gently used (but in good shape) clothes, jewelry, bags, shoes, and sometimes even household items. You’ll earn a percentage of the sale price and will probably never miss what you got rid of. And springtime inspires lots of people to clean out and have a big yard sale. Join forces with people in your neighborhood and make some extra money for things you no longer want.
Look for the leaks in your daily spending and you might be able to save hundreds of dollars over the course of the year.