Marking Vascular Nurses Week

Marking Vascular Nurses Week

September 5 kicked off Vascular Nurses Week, a week celebrated every year in honor of the work vascular nurses do.

The Society for Vascular Nursing helps promote this week which is dedicated to the vascular nurses who assist patients with health, lifestyle, and activity issues surrounding vascular disease.

Nurses in this specialty have a particular interest in the circulatory system and how it operates and impacts so many aspects of patient health. A vascular nurse’s role is hands-on and allows for direct patient care and interaction. Nurses in this role may work in a specialized office, a hospital, or in various outpatient settings. They work with patients who have received a new diagnosis and those who have been managing their vascular disease for decades. As patients age, their needs and conditions will change and that requires vascular nurses to understand disease progression over a lifetime.

Patients who need treatment from vascular nurses might have a variety of simple or complex health challenges. Within the spectrum of vascular diseases are conditions that impact the arteries and veins such as arterial diseases, blood clots, aneurysms, or varicose veins.

Vascular nurses work with patients to help treat their conditions, manage their symptoms, and educate themselves about vascular disease. Nurses who are interested in this path will need to obtain their RN license and then will want to work within the cardiovascular field to gain an understanding of the circulatory systems and how vascular disease can change health.

As nurses work within the field, they can seek certification in vascular nursing or cardiac vascular nursing. This kind of advanced credentialing helps nurses provide the best patient care and will also boost nurses’ confidence. Certified nurses are the experts in their fields and the additional knowledge gained from preparation for the exam will serve patients best. Certified nurses are current on the most recent evidence-based practices and so can offer the kind of patient care that is progressive and based in rigorous practices. And, as in most nursing specialties, advanced degrees help professional nurses move their careers ahead faster and have more options for nursing practices.

One of the primary goals of a vascular nurse is to educate patients on vascular diseases and the changes they can make to have positive outcomes wherever possible. Lifestyle changes can have a big impact for some patients, so teaching about the benefits of exercise on improving blood flow and elasticity of veins or the benefits of losing even a small amount of weight to help lessen pressure and stress on the circulatory system can reap huge rewards. When patients implement positive changes and begin to see the results they want, nurses are rewarded by seeing the direct impact of their work.

Not all patients can improve their conditions with lifestyle changes, so vascular nurses are able to talk with patients from a point of true empathy to understand the discomfort, lifestyle impacts, and fear that vascular disease can bring.  Vascular nurses need to understand medications such as blood thinners, co-morbidities including diabetes, and the impacts of activities like smoking on the circulatory system. With this broad approach in mind, they can help vascular disease patients thrive.

Happy Vascular Nurses Week!

Why HESI Specialty Exam Testing Makes a Difference

Why HESI Specialty Exam Testing Makes a Difference

Preparation for the NCLEX is a challenging task for nursing students, but recent research findings presented at the Sigma 32nd International Nursing Research Congress show a correlation between the number of HESI specialty exams a nursing student completes and greater NCLEX-RN exam success.

For most nursing students, passing the NCLEX is their top post-graduation task. Once they have that exam under their belts, they become a registered nurse and can move forward on their career path. Many students study on their own using various methods and approaches, but this study shows clear benefits between more HESI exams taken and a better outcome on the HESI Exit Exam and on the final NCLEX-RN exam.

According to Christine Gouveia, PhD, vice president of Applied Learning Sciences at Elsevier and visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, the findings help educators and students prepare more efficiently and effectively for the NCLEX. “HESI exams span a nursing program and curriculum and are an excellent indicator of student progress on their academic journey,” she says.

Preparation with HESI exams offer multilayered benefits as nursing students gain knowledge and confidence from the testing, preparation, and remediation tools offered with HESI specialty exams and results. As students progress through different exams, they answer questions that are designed to closely resemble the questions on the NCLEX, so they can apply their knowledge in a practical way and demonstrate their critical thinking skills, says Gouveia. Those tools are helpful as they finish school and begin their careers. “Clinical judgment is critically important,” says Gouveia. “Critical thinking is necessary for nurses to practice safe effective care.”

The HESI specialty exams are an important tool for educators as well. Educators analyze the individual and cohort results to help students identify weak areas where they can use some additional work. They are able to work on remediation quickly using quizzes and case studies to synthesize their knowledge effectively. The scores also reveal students’ strengths and give them an indication of where they are excelling in their studies and can help them stay focused and motivated. Coaching support is also available to students to help them navigate challenges and to reflect on what and how they are learning and how to gain the most from their nursing education.

The results of the latest study mirror previous findings from a smaller sample size. Student success is more easily predicted when students score a 900 or greater on the HESI Exit Exam, says Gouveia. Those students are 96.4% to 99.2% likely to pass the NCLEX-RN. The study found, for example, that a student who took six specialty exams scored on average 29 points higher than those that did not take any. Completing 12 HESI Specialty Exams translated into an average gain of 160 points.

Gouveia says the study results have been translated into effective evidence-based tools using data to create predictive algorithms and interpret the results on the HESI® Readiness for NCLEX®Dashboard. The data allows educators and teams to monitor results and trends throughout a program and make real-time adjustments to benefit students as much as possible.

Generally, students find the HESI exams within their nursing school curriculum, but if they are unable to access the suite of HESI for Nursing products, Gouveia recommends students look at NCLEX exam review products like the HESI Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN® Examination.

However students use the HESI specialty exam preparation, they will reap the rewards of using proven methods to have more success.

Correctional Nursing Offers Rewards and Challenges

Correctional Nursing Offers Rewards and Challenges

Lori Roscoe, DNP, APRN, ANP-C, CCHP-RN, never expected to go into correctional nursing, but the career path has given her tremendous rewards.

“It’s the best-kept secret in nursing,” Roscoe says of correctional nursing. Nurses who are interested in community health and public health are especially drawn to correctional nursing for the direct and immediate impact they can have.

Correctional nursing is recognized as a specialty area by the American Nurses Association which also approved the scope of practice for correctional nurses.

“I actually got into correctional nursing by accident,” says Roscoe. Nursing was her second career following several years as a teacher. Early in her nursing career, Roscoe spent time as an emergency department nurse. That background provided a foundation of nursing skills she uses in her daily work now. And it also helped her recognize her affinity for working in a high-intensity, high-energy environment.

By chance, Roscoe heard a keynote address at a family member’s correctional officer academy graduation ceremony. The speaker was the Associate Commissioner for Health Services at the state Department of Corrections. Roscoe was struck with the realization that many of the regular patients she saw in the ED also had spent time in correctional facilities. Several months later, a job opportunity opened up in the department of corrections and Roscoe applied. She was motivated to work with and have an immediate impact on such a vulnerable population.

Her first job was at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution–Framingham. “It was my first experience in women’s correctional healthcare and I loved it,” she says. “I like working with people for whom I can really make a difference.” Some of the women in the prison were unfamiliar with healthcare and taking care of themselves. The reward is to see what can happen when someone who has been neglecting their health learns about what to do and is able to do it, says Roscoe. Roscoe says she’s able to get patients back on medications as needed, can monitor them, and help them get better nutrition than what they typically have access to.

“It’s all about what nurses teach patients everywhere and it works.” says Roscoe about healthcare education. “The population we work with often has a low health literacy, so we do a lot of patient education.”Roscoe says correctional nurses must have good assessment skills. They need to be able to do a thorough physical assessment, recognize the abnormal or unexpected findings,  and address them.  It’s critical that they ask the right questions to help uncover the correct diagnosis.

“We see totally different people and drastic improvements in health,” she says. “When substance users get clean, we see a remarkable improvement in their overall well-being.”

That kind of positive effect motivates correctional nurses and it also motivates those they work with. In corrections, says Roscoe, healthcare is appreciated, but it’s also different from what other nurses see. “The biggest challenge as a nurse is I am practicing in an environment where healthcare is not the primary mission,” she says. “We are a collaborative partner, but at the end of the day, security concerns are paramount.”

Lockdowns will disrupt the most efficient schedule and unpredictability is common. And while Roscoe says that can hamper her day-to-day practice, it’s also beneficial. “It’s also a positive,” she says. “It allows us as nurses to be flexible and creative in how we provide services.”

For instance, if someone needs a finger splint, Roscoe needs to figure out how to splint a finger using materials that will be acceptable in a corrections environment. If an incarcerated individual needs a CPAP machine and it’s not allowed in the general population, Roscoe has to determine if the patient needs to be moved. “We need to determine why things are important to have or crucial to have and then advocate for the patient,” she says.

For nurses considering this path, gaining some previous experience is especially helpful. “We used to say this is not an entry-level job,” says Roscoe, noting the complexity of navigating healthcare and a corrections environment. Nurses can earn certification as a Certified Correctional Health Professional and a Correctional Nurse Manager.

And while safety is something all corrections nurses are aware of, Roscoe points out that her time in the ED offered less reassurance about safety. “I didn’t have an officer standing at the door then,” she says, noting that nurses in all roles must be aware of their surroundings. “I’m more nervous going to the mall at Christmas time walking alone in the parking lot with all my packages.”

The patients Roscoe sees know the nurses are there to help them. “The majority of incarcerated persons are happy we are there and wouldn’t jeopardize that by harming the nurses,” she says. “I have always found that if you are firm, fair, and consistent, you will earn the respect of patients and they will act appropriately.”

To find out more about correctional nursing, look at the American Correctional Nurses Association, which formed two years ago and of which Roscoe is one of the founding members. And check out Roscoe’s blog CorrectionalNurse.Net for more information about this nursing specialty.

Promotion Ready? 4 Tips for the Big Ask

Promotion Ready? 4 Tips for the Big Ask

Career advancement through a promotion or job change takes more than just hard work. Nurses, so good at advocating for their patients, have to advocate for themselves when they want to get ahead.

Asking for a promotion is a good place to begin. But just asking for a promotion might not get you the results you’re looking for. How can you make sure you’re prepared to get the promotion you want?

Here are a few ideas for promotion preparation.

List your successes

Are you uncomfortable talking about how great you are at your job? When you’re hoping for a promotion, you have to show your supervisor how much you have accomplished. Supervisors know what you do, and they know your duties. They assign responsibilities to you, but they aren’t going to remember everything. Bring a list of your increasing successes in your position. Talk about how you boosted efficiency, saved your unit money, mentored a new nurse, educated your colleagues by leading seminars, or introduced a new process that increased patient or nurse safety. Remind your organization why you are such a valuable employee.

Be open to change

Have you considered all the possibilities of moving ahead in your organization?  Before you ask for a promotion, assess where your organization needs help. Where does your organization need your skills to increase its overall performance? Moving into a role that is a professional stretch but gives you an opportunity for real job growth will jump start your career. And showing exactly how your professional skills will have a positive impact on the larger organization demonstrates a broad perspective companies want from leaders.

Show your initiative

If you want a promotion, show your supervisor that you’ve taken on additional work to sharpen your skills and increase your preparation. Think about your possible next career steps and look at the people who are in similar roles. Compare your experience and skill set with theirs so you can find any gaps where you’ll need to gain extra training or knowledge. Consider if you’d need to take classes or other professional development to prepare for a role you want and get started on what you can.

Branch out in the professional community

Have you joined a professional organization like the National Black Nurses Association or the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses? If you haven’t done that yet or you’re in an organization but aren’t an active member, it’s time to change. Professional organizations offer many benefits to members including rich opportunities for networking, professional development opportunities, support, and mentoring (maybe even an unexpected job interview!). Nurses in professional organizations are also able to take on increasingly complex leadership roles within the organization. Those roles are separate from their work, but leadership positions or active participation in events and advocacy are excellent examples to show your supervisor when you’re asking for a promotion. Your outside involvement with a nursing organization demonstrates your commitment to the industry as well.

When it’s time for a promotion, be an active participant in the process to increase your chances of getting ahead in your organization.

Sun Safety and Protecting Yourself

Sun Safety and Protecting Yourself

There’s lots of summer left, but you don’t want to let your guard down on sun safety. The summer months are often a time to catch up on time outdoors, but you want to ensure you keep yourself as protected as possible from damaging UV rays.

While many people correctly associate sun safety with their skin and avoiding sunburns, there are also other protections you need to take from these invisible and damaging rays.

According to the American Cancer Society, UV radiation can come from many sources including the sun, inside lighting, and equipment like welding torches and tanning beds. UV rays are divided into UVA, UVB, and UVC and overexposure to any of them can be harmful.

Keep these protections in mind this summer and share UV safety tips with your patients, too.

Your Skin

UV rays, from natural or manmade sources, cause skin damage, no matter what the color of your skin is. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, with repeated and unprotected exposure UV radiation causes skin damage. That skin damage can lead to wrinkles (primarily from UVA) and dark or light pigmentation changes at best and skin cancer (generally from UVB) at worst. Natural UVC rays from the sun don’t usually reach the ground but are more of a threat from some equipment (welding torches and some sanitizing bulbs). Protecting yourself with sunscreen is an easy way to guard your skin from those harmful rays while still getting to enjoy time outside.

Your Eyes

Most people don’t associate eye problems with UV rays. According to the American Optometric Association, protecting your eyes from UV exposure from indoor and outdoor sources is essential. Over time, exposure can lead to problems like cataracts, eye cancer, or macular degeneration. Proper eye protection includes consistent use of sunglasses or eye gear that block all UV rays.

Your Immune System

Many people associate sunlight with health and growth and will forgo sun protection thinking they are making themselves healthier. And while there are benefits to getting some sunlight, such as production of Vitamin D, UV overexposure can impact some people in a decidedly unhealthy way. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), too much UV exposure can actually suppress the immune system. If your immune system is suppressed at all, it makes  it harder for your body to fight off infections.

Stay Protected

Protecting yourself from UV exposure takes some vigilance but can become a habit over time. Wear sun protection in the form that works best for you. Whether you choose sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, or clothing with UV protection, guarding your skin and eyes from the sun’s rays outside is simple. If UV radiation exposure happens inside, take proper precautions with the right equipment. Avoid tanning beds and get regular skin checks by a dermatologist.

Be aware of any medication that could impact how your body reacts to UV exposure (some antibiotics, for example, increase your chances of sunburn). The EPA offers an easy-to-use UV Index that tells you the daily UV risk depending on your zip code.

Awareness about UV radiation is the first step to protecting yourself.