As we head into the second year of the pandemic, it’s undeniable that the mental health of a lot of people has been affected; and because mental health and addiction are often co-occurring, the rates of substance use and overdoses have increased as well. Research has also shown that the segment of the population that is being disproportionately affected is the Black community.
Let’s be honest: mental health and/or addiction in the Black community are not welcomed diagnoses. As a Black woman working in behavioral health care, I see first-hand the aversions that many people have towards the words “mental health” and “addiction.” In addition to the stigma that exists with those two conditions in society, people with mental health issues in the Black community can also be seen by some as “crazy,” which is something no one wants attached to them, and also a significant deterrent for a lot of people to reach out for help.
There are other deterrents, though, that exist within the community: namely the systemic racism in health care and all that it entails. Historically, we’ve been subjected to treatment that is highly unethical at best, such as the Tuskegee Experiment in which African American men diagnosed with syphilis were not told nor treated. Then there’s the case of Henrietta Lacks whose cancer cells, taken and utilized without her knowledge or consent, were identified as the first immortalized human cell line. These are just a couple of examples from the past, but inequalities in treatment still exist today. For example, in a 2016 study, 50% of the medical students and residents who participated thought black people couldn’t feel pain in the same way as others because our skin is thicker and our nerve endings are less sensitive than those of other races or ethnicities. The Black maternal death rate is still the highest in the country with researchers suspecting institutional racism to be a contributing factor. And take COVID-19 – a survey found that 35% of Black adults would not take the vaccine with one respondent saying, “… I don’t trust the medical community because of mistakes in the past.” I know that the apprehension to seeking medical care and distrust of the health care system is not something born of paranoia and delusions, and it’s something I’d like to see change.
Right now, a lot of people are struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues that can be treated, but they don’t want to reach out. As we enter the second year of the pandemic, among other stressors, and with signs of deteriorating mental health and substance use becoming ever-apparent, it’s incumbent on us medical professionals to meet this community where they are. Here is how we do that:
Educate. Educate the Black community with subject matter experts who look like them. Us Black nurses, doctors, and other medical providers have a unique understanding of other Black people’s concerns. With our medical expertise and lived experiences as Black people, we can help chip away at the distrust our people have in the medical community.
Access. Provide accountability through accessibility. Once they have the information and are ready to take the steps to receive the type of care they need, we need to make sure that barriers no longer exist. Extremely long wait times, a lack of accessibility, and a lack of practicality is enough to cause people who are actually attempting to get help to stop trying entirely. If we don’t have the tools and resources to get them to an appointment, such as internet access for telehealth and scheduling, then the education we’ve provided becomes null and void.
Break the stigma. At the rate the country is going, it’s very likely that things won’t be changing too much anytime soon. COVID-19 will continue to disproportionately impact the Black community and will continue to lead to substance misuse.
Please ask for help.
I cannot stress the importance of reaching out for help for a medical condition that will progressively get worse. This is where we can use what is typically the cornerstone of our community: the church.
For many, one of the first people our problems are brought to is our Pastor. We ask for guidance and support from the church and everyone does what they can, but we need the church to further that support by pointing those struggling to the medical professionals who can provide appropriate treatment and care.
The doors to treatment centers are still open. Mental health conditions and addiction do not, and will not, cease because of a pandemic. If anything, they’ve both gotten worse. I implore everyone in the Black community to not be afraid to ask for help, there is absolutely nothing wrong in doing so; addiction and mental health conditions are health issues just as real as a broken leg – they both require the help of a professional.
I ask you to please overcome the hesitation to reach out; as a Black woman, I understand, but as a medical provider, I care and want to help.
The April 12 celebration of Radiologic and Imaging Nurses Day (also known as Radiology Nurses Day) honors nurses who specialize in areas of radiology nursing. Sponsored by the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing (ARIN), this event helps raise awareness of this role and offers an opportunity for nurses to celebrate their accomplishments in this fast-paced, complex field.
Minority Nurse recently interviewed Martha M Manning BSN, RN CRN, and president of NEC-ARIN 2020-21, the New England chapter of ARIN to find out more about this nursing specialty.
What led you to your career as a radiology nurse?
My mother was a nurse and loved it. It was a career she chose to give up to raise her family of nine children but she kept up with her nursing journals and her colleagues still in the field. She always loved it. I believe nursing is a gift and helping people was a driving force in becoming a nurse for me. I graduated in 1984 from Middlesex Community College with an associate’s in nursing. I began my career at Lowell General Hospital in 1985 and started in the Radiology department in 1997. I earned my bachelor’s of science in nursing from Rivier University in 1995. Earning my degree has equipped me to be a better nurse. After all of those years and all of the experience, I had I still had things to learn.
Please tell me a little about the diversity on your team and why that’s important for your team and your patients.
I began as one of the first nurses in radiology. I was floated down from our surgical day care unit and saw a need for nursing presence. Joint Commission was noticing radiology departments and the need for continued nursing care for inpatients in the area. I fell in love with the people of radiology, the work they did and have never looked back.
As we expanded from a team of one to a team of ten we’ve organically become more diverse through our focus on providing the best patient care. Our hiring is aimed at providing an excellent patient experience, which has naturally led to diversity in experiences, backgrounds, races, ethnicity, and gender. Our diverse and well-rounded team is an outcome of our process of hiring the best candidates to serve our patients.
It sounds like nurses need experience in varied areas before they take on a role as an imaging nurse. What are some of the complexities imaging nurse’s work with and how does prior experience prepare nurses for this work?
Interventional radiology is an extraordinary field, and imaging nursing is growing with it. The acuity of patients that are on the procedural table now requires an experienced critical care nurses education and background.
The team can be called in to stop bleeding from a hemorrhaging splenic arterial bleed or a post-partum hemorrhage. Everyone needs to know their role, critical and accurate nursing assessments are vital to the success of the cases. It takes time to develop cardiac rhythm and hemodynamic monitoring skills and assessments that need to be second language to the IR nurse. Compassion is so important too! Consensus on hiring is important to our culture of respect and professionalism.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I am currently the clinical manager of the IR and imaging nurses at Lowell General Hospital. I do love making a difference. Sometimes it’s with patients and now it’s often with staff, too. Good management makes for a good team. Mutual respect enables us to practice in an environment that supports growth and looks for opportunity to improve.
How has your involvement with NEC-ARIN helped you professionally and personally?
Yes. I believe membership to a local or national organization as well as certification in your specialty improves professional practice. Position statements, scope, and standards of practice are important pieces of our growing practice.
You will find IR and imaging nurses in every hospital today. We are in IR suites, in radiology waiting rooms, CT rooms, and US. We are here to support the radiology departments and the inpatient nurses who send their patients from their rooms for procedures and exams. We comfort, educate, and assess people of all ages and background…and we love what we do!
Sponsored by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), this week promotes the work WOC nurses do in their daily interactions with patients and as policy influencers on a local, national, and global scale. As nurses who care for those with incontinence (fecal or urinary), ostomies, or wounds that are non-healing, WOC nurses must rely on their ability to think critically, pivot when things change unexpectedly, and remain committed to lifelong learning for the best patient outcomes and the greatest career satisfaction.
WOC nurses fill many roles as they act as advocates for their patients, educators for patients and their loved ones, resources for their healthcare teams, and leaders in the areas of policy and protections for patients with these varied conditions. Because wound, ostomy, and continence nurses understand the conditions and the physical and emotional challenges all wounds bring, they are able to create meaningful and lasting change in the healthcare system.
Nurses can participate in all levels of advocacy to help patient outcomes and also to protect nurses in the industry. The WOCN suggests writing to a legislator, spreading awareness through social media channels, or meeting with representatives to inform them of concerns or challenges facing nurses and patients in this area. WOC nurses can also act as resources for their local communities by offering educational seminars about healthcare conditions, assistance options, and even current research and progress.
Wound care expertise is in high demand, and nurses in this specialty will treat all kinds of complex wounds from a tube to a burn to diabetic wounds to surgical wounds to pressure wounds. Nurses help patients and their healthcare teams manage the care of their wounds so the body can heal properly and prevent infection.
The patient burden for coping with wounds, which are sometimes exceptionally painful, can’t be understated. Nurses will also navigate through the emotional and psychological supports of wound management so patients will be able to have healthy outcomes where risks of infection and pain are as minimal as possible. They will work closely with patients and often form close bonds as they help treat long-term or chronic wounds and conditions.
If you’re a WOC nurse, take this week to celebrate your strong influence on your patients and to even spend some time learning something new in your field through a seminar, a new journal, or a discussion with nurses in your network or members of a professional organization.
2020 brought to light the INTRANSIGENT nurse. This year was ushered by the unforeseen- the unexpected, unpredicted, unanticipated eruption of COVID-19, which brought a seismic wave of panic, fear the world over, and brought every nation’s economy to a grinding halt. While it looks like the virus can run a government aground, due to incompetence and ineptness, rising to the occasion to save a nation are the unsung heroes in scrubs. YES – the nurses, along with other health care providers, are at the forefront of this war. Geared up to a bare minimum of PPEs, giving them a modicum of confidence in keeping themselves safe, they bravely trudge over the fear and the virus with sheer tenacity, determination, and dedication to the call of duty. Their assiduity to the crisis has left a profound and moving picture of the BEST of humanity – a picture that will be etched in our memory of memories forever.
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus which left health organizations around the globe scrambling for a cure. It is a war with the unknown and yet, unknown it may be, the nurses are in the battle armed with strength of character, sharp awareness of their ethical responsibility and a dogged resistance to give up in the face of great uncertainty of one’s own safety.
Nurses are …
Noble. Nurses are not blue-blooded by birth but has patrician ideals and aspirations – that is, to serve. Nurses are hell-bent, driven, purposeful and intentional – to do the right thing.
Undeterred. Nurses remain steadfast in the face of setbacks. They remain to be the voice of reason amidst the noise of the government who make emphatic declarations that are seemingly plausible but wrong – statements simply aired to give their actions a specious appearance of novelty and a tinge of humanity because there is none.
Regal. Geared up not in a ritzy way yet, they conduct their duty in an exalted, august manner.
Spartan. Nurses are people of great courage. They give up their security to save humanity.
Energetic campaigner for the vulnerable and the defenseless. They go on the offensive to defend the helpless. Creative, Ingenious. Resourceful.
As unforeseen as this crisis may have been, COVID-19 has not predicted 2020-2021 to be the year of the nurse either. The COVID-19 virus may seem relentless but it is no match to the unshakable spirit and intelligent mind of the INTRANSIGENT nurse. Nurses have the Midas touch… nurses act to complete humanity. To all my fellow NURSES on the frontline, I wave the flag of victory! You deserve the highest of honors! To you, my HATS OFF!
The role of the health care professional has seen its fair share of evolution throughout history. Shamans and healers in ancient societies paved the way for modern medical professionals, who have a duty to society as a whole that spans well beyond diagnosis and healing. Medical doctors today are expected to exhibit professionalism as well as effectively communicate with patients and colleagues, and conduct plenty of research.
And for optimal patient care, that research isn’t confined to information directly related to the health care industry. Health care professionals must also remain on top of current events, and be aware of the various societal issues that can shape both medicine and public policy, such as immigration. In this regard, health care workers often double as agents of societal change.
As the Hippocratic oath remains a crucial part of modern medicine, ethical considerations are of paramount importance in the health care arena. Whether you’re a primary care provider, registered nurse, anesthesiologist, or another type of health care worker, you’re in a prime position to advocate for immigrant families. You may be unequipped to help immigrant families in a legal or political capacity, but your direct health care efforts may ultimately catalyze societal change.
Medical Care for Immigrant Families
It’s important to note that the needs of immigrant families may differ drastically based on the citizenship status of family members. And the terminology itself doesn’t necessarily tell the entire story: Children who were born in the U.S. but have at least one foreign-born parent are typically identified as children in immigrant families (CIF). As of 2019, an estimated 1 in 4 children in the U.S. can thus be considered CIF, but their social determinants can vary considerably.
For instance, immigrant family members who are legal U.S. citizens can access the same health care benefits afforded to all Americans, including Medicaid and Medicare. Undocumented immigrants, however, are much less likely to have any type of health coverage. These individuals are subsequently more vulnerable to chronic health issues and contagious viruses including COVID-19.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the United States. What’s more, “physicians and other health professionals should be aware of how to advocate for these patients, including through self-education, education of trainees, in the exam room, and on Capitol Hill.” A large number of undocumented immigrants tend to avoid seeking medical care, even if it’s urgent, due to fear of deportation or the intervention of government agencies.
Politically speaking, the subject of illegal immigration is a contentious one. Yet it’s crucial to remember that, for many families and individuals, immigrating isn’t exactly a choice. Many immigrants to the U.S. are refugees seeking asylum, or humanitarian protection, from persecution or war in their home countries. Asylum seekers are subject to a lengthy immigration process, and there is a governmental cap on the number of refugees admitted on an annual basis.
The Importance of Immigrant Health Care Workers
As a health care worker, it may behoove you to learn a little bit about the immigrant families that you serve to better address their needs. But you should also look to your colleagues for guidance and inspiration: Plenty of immigrants are gainfully employed in the health care industry. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), about 2.6 million immigrants are employed in various health care fields, including approximately 1.5 million doctors, registered nurses, and pharmacists.
Unfortunately, immigrant health care workers tend to be underappreciated, yet this segment of the workforce is invaluable in the realm of disaster response. In 2021, disaster response is heavily focused on curbing the spread of COVID-19, but the discipline encompasses much more, notably natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires. Within disaster response, the humanitarian side of health care is heavily emphasized, as disaster survivors often require social services — to access food and emergency housing, for example — in addition to medical care.
Similarly, immigrant families may have similar psychological and humanitarian needs, even far removed from disaster response scenarios. Health care professionals from immigrant families are well-equipped to address these sorts of needs among their patients, especially if they have personal experience in seeking legal asylum, or securing stable housing and job opportunities.
Looking to the Future: From Telemedicine to Health Care for All
No matter your background, as a health care professional, you’re likely well-versed in the various social determinants that can influence one’s health and well-being. The conditions and places that one is born and raised in, widely known as social determinants of health, overwhelmingly correlate to individual health, as well as that of entire communities.
Even those social determinants that are directly related to economics and education can have a significant impact on individual health, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. In regards to social determinants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “for many people in racial and ethnic minority groups, living conditions may contribute to underlying health conditions and make it difficult to follow steps to prevent getting sick with COVID-19 or to seek treatment if they do get sick.”
The good news is that, as a health care provider, you can help bridge the gaps among your minority and immigrant patients, and telemedicine is an ideal starting point. In a world under the threat of a deadly pandemic, telemedicine has become a crucial component of health care. While you can’t treat serious conditions solely via telehealth, the platform is extremely versatile. Telemedicine can streamline patient monitoring as well as the appointment setting process, reducing the need for multiple visits or a lengthy commute to a hospital or clinic. Further, simple tests such as vision exams can be conducted safely and easily using telehealth.
And signs indicate that telemedicine is likely here to stay, post-pandemic, as it can help generate revenue in health care facilities ranging from major research hospitals to local clinics and private practices.
Although revenue is certainly relevant in every corner of the health care industry, caring for patients is still the ultimate goal. As a health care professional, you may find that advocating for your patients is just as important as administering quality health care. Determining the individual needs of your patients, whether immigrants or natural-born citizens, can ultimately serve to improve public health overall, and give you greater satisfaction that you’re truly making a difference in the world.
“It is fake news.” … that is the loud, common cry of the many. In a society where the majority rules and the ones with the loudest roar make waves to suspend the truth. Where facts seem to cease to exist because the multitudes ignore it. Where wrong rebuffs its own pretense to be congruent to the cognitive dissonance of the masses. Where wanting to be liked has become the prevailing social norm. Where lying has been normalized by the media and has become the new world order. Where the powerful and the privileged lie too often enough it becomes the truth to many who believes – not because it is so but solely because the bulk of the populace believes it to be true. Where, in a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Where speaking the truth becomes blasphemous to those who righteously claim to be Christians. Christians who rerouted the way of speaking the truth in love by disseminating fear in a cacophony of subversive fibs. Where wadded up falsities, hypocrisy, and irony are stitched together to create an artistic quilt of flattery, illusion, manipulation, and control of the senses – stripping the many of their power of self-determination. Brainwashed – a paralysis of reason and logic sets in.
When a preponderance of men gets bedazzled by the cock and bull story of somebody so lightweight, then society resigns to live in mendacity – a world connected without truth. Danger and impending peril to the pillars of institutional and constitutional norms loom in the horizon as the viral twisted social construct of truth remains unimpeded. So, with collected bated breath we await with great apprehension the destruction of everything we behold – but often minimalized and trivialized in its value – our FREEDOM.
With a conflated false sense of valor and a screwed command of reality, the many amongst us relegated their power of sensible self-governance to be commandeered by their bold disobedience to TRUTH – to do the unthinkable. A bewildered nation stood still in disbelief as the sacred cradle of our very existence as a nation of men dedicated to the ideals of equality, justice, and freedom got desecrated by no less our own. Yet. Yet, our Constitution survived the grave assault on its legitimacy. And yes, our societal and democratic institutions came through the perils injured but still in one piece. Freedom and democracy prevailed. Its endurance, a testament to the certitude that truth matters and its glaring significance can never be diminished.
As Leo Tolstoy said, “Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” Nor a lie becomes truth simply because the plurality of men believes in it. It will not, nor will it ever be. No societal class, party, or individual can claim the exclusive rights to truth. Truth is apolitical. Truth is unbiased. Truth is without prejudice. “Truth will always be truth, regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or ignorance,” said W. Clement Stone. No amount of opposition, spin and disruption, sneering and jeering will obscure the truth because the light of truth will always find a tunnel to let its light shine through. TRUTH is TRUTH. Only TRUTH can claim the right to TRUTH. As Winston Churchill aptly said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” And when everything is said and done, TRUTH remained steadfast – unperturbed by common dissonance and unencumbered by the frailties of man.
It has been over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S., and vaccines are now being distributed widely, with 304 million doses administered across the country to date. Vaccine distribution is key to ending the pandemic, but the impact of the virus continues to be felt in nearly every industry, but especially in healthcare, with nurses on the front lines as our heroes treating patients and containing the spread of the infectious disease.
Healthcare caregivers are, and have been, operating 24/7 under stressful circumstances, working to prioritize patient care and the wellbeing of all employees. While the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases is on the decline, the lasting shifts continue to be apparent in healthcare organizations as they work to recruit and hire the best healthcare talent. According to Jobvite’s 2020 Recruiter Nation report, 26% of recruiters have reported hiring is happening rapidly at healthcare organizations, whereas 37% have reported headcount and hiring have both been reduced. These inconsistencies showcase the rapidly changing needs of individual healthcare organizations. While every hospital is different, there have been several hiring trends that have come to the forefront that nurses should be aware of.
Nursing candidates can leverage these opportunities in order to stand out within pools of talent. By keeping these trends top of mind, job seekers can more easily navigate the hiring process, scoring positions in their departments and facilities of choice.
Managing increased levels of stress and burnout
The workload, and in turn stress, for all healthcare workers continues to increase – with 48% of new nurses now leaving within the second year, according to the same Jobvite report. This turnover rate has risen due to the pandemic and can be attributed to the unprecedented stress that comes with it, as well as individual health concerns with nurses at an increased risk of exposure to the virus.
Nurses must keep this in mind while looking for a job, as it is crucial that an organization communicates their expectations and workload during the hiring phase and allows nurses to better balance their already busy schedules. Nurses are often working more than 12 hours a day, multiple times a week, creating a greater need for stress management techniques and an open communication with nursing leadership. Setting realistic expectations and being able to plan, will greatly reduce stress and help manage burnout.
The Focus on patient-centric care
There is a growing need for nurses that embody compassionate, patient-centric care. One executive surveyed had shared: “I’ve never had to terminate a doctor due to his medical skills. It’s only been due to issues related to bedside manner.” This is often the case with nurses, too. Approximately 70% of hospitals named employee engagement as their top priority for patient experience, so having the right, patient-centric nurses, is critical to the success of any healthcare facility.
Unlike many other professions, nurses must be both knowledgeable, friendly, and polite in every interaction, even in the face of staffing shortages or while handling difficult patients. This can seem like competing priorities. Because these qualities are being heavily sought after by employers, nursing candidates can use this knowledge to their advantage during job interviews to highlight examples of how they embody and excel in demonstrating these patient-focused qualities.
By sharing personal anecdotes based on previous professional and life experiences during interview opportunities, nurses are able to exhibit their values and dedication to service, relating to the employer’s individual mission and goals. Connecting with employer branding can enable nurses to find organizations that share the same standards, leading to a more successful and gratifying nursing career.
Great tools that help increase hiring of underrepresented workers
Having a diversity of talent that represents everyone, regardless of an individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, age, veteran status, or other identifying factors, builds a stronger and more inclusive work environment. Employing healthcare staff, particularly nurses, that can communicate with non-English speaking patients is critical. For example, discharging a patient who cannot understand the directions on how to take their prescriptions is not only inconvenient, but also life-dangering. Having staff who share similar cultural experiences with their patients is critical in building relationships, and ultimately providing the best quality care.
Many healthcare organizations are using tools such as the complimentary Job Description Grader by Jobvite, which ensures job descriptions are engaging and inclusive. Along with the current best practices in diversity and inclusion, this tool uses AI, analytics, and benchmarking to review job descriptions and make recommendations for more inclusive language to prevent unconscious bias. Nurses seeking jobs should be sure to highlight any diverse skills and unique attributes that would allow them to attract desired employers. Other solutions, such as Bias BlockerTM from Jobvite automatically hides identifiable information from a candidate’s resume before hiring manager review. Knowing tools like these exist in the marketplace should help all nurses feel confident that leading TA teams are taking steps to reduce bias and increase the hiring of underrepresented workers.
Navigating the job search despite the 24/7 work life
Patients don’t all get sick between 9-5, and because nurses work around the clock, it makes it difficult to connect and schedule job interviews. Many healthcare workers are on their feet all day and not at a computer job searching. Nursing candidates on-the-go can utilize capabilities to text with recruiters, easily scheduling interviews and completing applications on their phones.
Fortunately, interviewing trends are adapting with the surge of video conferencing amid COVID. While nurses are primarily working on-site, many in this industry are becoming increasingly comfortable communicating via video in today’s job market. In fact, many healthcare practitioners are also communicating with patients virtually with the expansion of telehealth nationwide. Therefore, it’s important that prospective nurses are able to effectively communicate both in-person and through a screen.
Acing a remote job interview involves establishing a quiet space and professional appearance. Nurses typically wear scrubs in their day-to-day work lives, but this is often not recommended for nursing job interviews, as business professional or business casual attire is preferred. Additionally, checking connectivity beforehand and practicing maintaining eye contact can lead to a favorable interview. Nurses shouldn’t forget to ask the interviewer questions, too! Knowing details about the training program, culture, and the specific unit can be beneficial when making a decision about which employer is the best fit.
The stakes for hiring the best nurses has never been higher. By being aware of these trends, nursing candidates can better understand the industry and optimize their chances of finding the right healthcare employer and position.
In a span of just one week, there have already been two mass shootings that have gained national attention. The killings in Georgia and Colorado are the latest in what seems like a never-ending stream of stories about innocent people getting killed senselessly and violently. Now, in what has become a national routine, political lines are already being drawn. And they are being drawn on the same old line: gun control.
It is hard to not take a breath of exasperation whenever we see the same cycle play out repeatedly in the aftermath of a mass shooting. It starts when the seemingly dormant, yet perpetually antagonistic factions of gun policy resurface in mass media and re-ignite their unending war against each other. As the public’s attention on gun violence once again reaches a critical mass, public officials then proceed one by one to take up gun policy as their new priority. Depending on their persuasion, some leaders may say that there are not enough guns to protect the innocent, while others may say that gun ownership is out of control. The debate intensifies and captivates the nation for weeks or months on end until finally, it reaches a crescendo that ends in nothing but the same, inevitable stalemate that has become the hallmark of almost every mass shooting. The problem never gets solved, national discourse moves on to other news, while innocent people never get the justice they truly deserve.
It does not have to be this way. We, as a society, need to re-evaluate how we approach mass shootings. Gun policy is certainly an issue worth looking into, but it is not THE main issue in these cases. Perhaps we need to start looking at something else. Talking about guns just because guns factored into a news story addresses only the symptom of a major problem, but do not address the true causes of mass shootings.
Public discourse is important. But what is equally important is the content of such discourse. Mass shootings are not and should not be mainly about gun control. Instead, mass shootings must be seen as opportunities to discuss ways on how to address the country’s mental health crisis. Rather than worsening the fault lines of national political dialogue, our leaders can instead find more common ground in improving our nation’s mental health infrastructure. Clearly, these mass shootings are psychotic acts of violence. Guns are the tools that these people use to cause destruction, but it is the mind controlling these guns that we must really be focusing on.
In the medical field, a typical psychiatric assessment involves asking people if they are thinking of harming themselves or others. An affirmative response triggers a cascade of interventions that most likely will lead to a ‘5150’ or an involuntary hold until a person is no longer deemed a danger to self or others. The desire to harm others is so serious that health professionals are trained to carry out a set standard of procedures to protect people from imminent danger. In these situations, there is no debate. There is no time to waste. The person deemed to be a danger is promptly treated and given the attention they deserve. In doing this, the medical community sees thoughts of self-harm or harm to others as an acute crisis, just like any ailment or disease that warrant a visit to the hospital.
If society can give mental health issues the same sense of urgency and level of seriousness that it gets from the medical community, we may be able to find meaningful solutions and prevent these atrocious mass shootings in the future. Our leaders can work together towards allocating more resources towards identifying and assisting at-risk individuals and groups. For instance, hiring more school counselors and other types of mentors who are trained in psychiatric disorders may be able to curtail the possibility of school shootings if early intervention is provided for students that are showing signs of antisocial behavior. Companies and organizations can also be incentivized to provide robust training programs that promote understanding and tolerance of cultural differences. And instead of relying completely on police to deter criminal behavior, communities can invest some resources towards social workers who are trained to diffuse aggressive behavior peacefully and potentially help would-be deviants towards a better path in life.
Mental health issues are not just a medical issue. They are a vital social issue that warrant our utmost attention. Mental health issues permeate the fabric of our collective soul as a nation whether we recognize it or not. The problem is, if we continue to ignore them, they can and will fester like an untreated, open wound.
Patricia Cummings, BSN, RN, had an experience that most other nurses don’t get. She gave the COVID-19 vaccine to Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. Cummings, a student in Walden University’s Master of Science in Nursing program and clinical nurse manager at United Medical Center says that it was a phenomenal experience, but also acknowledges how the Black community is facing challenges with people receiving the shot.
“My experience of being able to inoculate Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband was truly humbling and exciting. I feel honored that I was given an opportunity to be a part of history, as Vice President Harris is the first woman and the first African American and Asian American person to be appointed to that role. It is certainly one of the greatest highlights of my nursing career thus far,” says Cummings.
But she says that, initially, even she, a nurse, was hesitant about getting vaccinated. “I wanted to conduct my own research on the scientific background of the vaccine as well as speak with colleagues who are experts in the fields of infectious diseases and epidemiology. After reviewing the results of the clinical trials and the vaccine production process, I was convinced about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, and hence decided to take it,” Cummings explains. “As the mother of two children, we have had to make several adjustments in our socialization, schooling, and other activities. I desire to return to a level of normalcy in my personal life, and I understand that getting vaccinated is presently the only viable solution to avoid contracting and spreading the virus. I am also saddened at the hundreds of thousands of lives lost as a result of the virus and am anxious to seeing the pandemic come to an end.”
Cummings says that one of the biggest challenges facing the Black community is having access to the virus. “Until recently, the vaccine was only accessible at a few hospitals and clinics that are typically far and inaccessible. Additionally, the registration process has been arduous and often requires one to be computer literate, as many sites require registration via the internet,” she says.
However, this isn’t the only reason why BIPOC are hesitant to get vaccinated. History has scared many people. “Hesitancy in the BIPOC population is primarily attributed to their distrust in the U.S. health care system. Historical events such as the Tuskegee Experiment, in which Black men were deceived regarding treatment for syphilis, have had lasting effects on the BIPOC community,” says Cummings. “Additionally, many have expressed skepticism about the short timeframe in which the vaccine was created and the fact that, at first, the only available vaccines required two doses.”
Cummings suggests that nurses can help alleviate patients’ fears because they’ve tended to be seen as people whom the BIPOC can trust as providing information. “Nurses should therefore provide factual information about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine based on their understanding of the clinical trials, as well as the vaccination process thus far,” she says. “Additionally, they should promote vaccination as a part of primary prevention, health, and wellness.”
Building trust in the community she serves is something that Cummings works on regularly. “As a student at Walden pursuing my MSN in the Nurse Executive program, I have learned the importance that the role of a leader as a change agent plays in influencing others to make beneficial choices. I have therefore chosen to put significant effort into sharing information about the vaccine’s efficacy and safety in hopes of building trust in my community,” says Cummings. “I also share my own vaccination experience and am transparent about my initial hesitancy. Additionally, I participate in community events that afford me a voice to safely share information and answer questions in real time.”
Another problem, though, faces certain minority communities—not speaking the same language. “One challenge that I believe exists among Hispanics and other non-English speaking populations is a language barrier. I have not seen adequate advertising and information provided in languages other than English. I believe that it is imperative that vaccine information is presented in a manner that is comprehensible to all people,” says Cummings. “It is important to add that I am passionate about health promotion and wellness. I believe that all people should be able to make informed decisions. My goal is not to strong-arm anyone into accepting the vaccine, but merely to provide them with truthful information and my own experiences in hopes that they make wise choices.”
As spring makes its arrival across the nation and motivates some spring cleaning, this week’s National Poison Prevention Week is a good time to reassess your living and working space. The third full week in March calls attention to the changes everyone can make to prevent poison control accidents.
National Poison Control Hotline 1- 800-222-1222
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), preparation is the key to preventing accidents and knowing what to do if they do happen. As a nurse, you can help those around you and spread the word that calling poison control and emergency help is the best first step in any suspected poisoning. Even if you have a question, calling poison control will put you in touch with experts who can help.
The National Capital Poison Center says young children are particularly at risk for accidental poisonings, but it can happen to anyone. Batteries are a particular threat to young children and are often overlooked.
Safe at Home
Home safety checks are one of the most important steps people can take to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. If you periodically run through your home with poison control safety in mind, you’ll be able to remove potential hazards that are often unnoticed. If you have small children at home or who visit your home, paying special attention to smaller objects or less obvious threats is critical.
Store these potentially hazardous items out of reach of small children:
medications, both prescription and over the counter
all household chemicals (laundry, cleaning, ironing, workshop, etc.)
personal care products including nail polish remover, sunscreen, hair products, contact lens products, mouthwash
Make sure any bags containing these items are also out of reach.
Safe at Work
As a nurse, you’re around potentially hazardous products throughout your working day. Try to be an advocate for poison control safety for your colleagues and for patients as well. Rigorous safety protocols are often in place for patient care and medication storage and delivery, but periodic assessment of processes is always worthwhile.
At work, cleaning chemicals are a potential problem, so it’s important for your staff to know that mixing chemicals can cause fatal vapors quickly.
As a nurse, you’re familiar with first aid and poison control safety measures. But do your friends and family know what to do in an emergency? Equipping them with some basic guidelines can help them know the proper way to act if they’re ever in a possible poisoning situation.
If something happens, you don’t want to have to search for the number to call. Post the Poison Control Hotline number 1-800-222-1222 in prominent places in your home, where you work, and notice if it’s posted in any daycare, elder care, camps, schools, or clubs where you or your loved ones frequent. You can also text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your mobile phone.