5 Essential Skills for Community-Based Hospice Nurses

5 Essential Skills for Community-Based Hospice Nurses

Community-based hospice nursing is one of the many areas in which nurses can practice the art of caring towards others. It is somewhat of a non-traditional specialty, given that it takes place outside the walls of hospitals and facilities, but it is definitely rewarding. But becoming a successful community-based hospice nurse has its own challenges. It requires a certain set of skills for those who choose to pursue it.

1. The ability to work with little supervision.

Working in the community means spending most, if not the entire day, working alone. This means that nurses need to be able to hold themselves accountable in getting things done in a timely manner. There are no managers to watch what they are doing, but they are still expected to accomplish what they need to do for the day.

2. The ability to cope with solitude.

Humans are built to be social beings, and that applies to work settings. Workplaces can function as social settings, which can provide the interaction people need on a day-to-day basis. As a community-based hospice nurse, social interaction may be very limited, and those who wish to try it must learn other ways to meet this basic human need to connect with others. There are many ways to do this, including participating in meetings and gatherings at the office, connecting with other community-based nurses through various associations, and maintaining communication with colleagues who work in other places. Working alone does not need be a cause for social isolation.

3. Being a diligent communicator.

Community-based hospice nurses may spend most of their time alone, but much of what they do is actually in coordination with a team. Hospice nurses are part of an interdisciplinary team that includes, licensed practical/vocational nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, among others. In order to be effective, community-based hospice nurses must be able to communicate with these other disciplines when necessary to ensure proper delivery of care to patients and families.

4. Being culturally sensitive.

Cultural sensitivity is an important aspect of nursing practice and this applies to hospice nursing in the community. Hospice nurses must be keen to ask and know about any religious, cultural, or social practices that patients and families may have towards the end of life. Doing this helps ensure that patients die with the dignity they deserve.

5. Being emotionally strong.

Nurses, in general, deal with people at their most difficult times. This is especially true for hospice nurses. Visiting patients in their homes requires great emotional resiliency. Hospice nurses may find themselves dealing with patients who are in distress or are living their last days or hours. In some cases, hospice nurses may be the only person besides family members present when a patient dies at home. Nurses must not only come to terms with their feelings about mortality, but also being able to provide comfort to families who have just lost a dear loved one.

Being a community-based hospice nurse is fulfilling in many ways, and those who possess the right skills may find this to be viable long-term career.

HHS Office of Minority Health Announces #VaccineReady as the Theme for National Minority Health Month

HHS Office of Minority Health Announces #VaccineReady as the Theme for National Minority Health Month

April is National Minority Health Month, and this year, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is focusing on the impacts COVID-19 is having on racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native communities and underscoring the need for these vulnerable communities to get vaccinated as more vaccines become available. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain vulnerable populations, such as non-Hispanic African Americans, individuals living in nonmetropolitan areas, and adults with lower levels of education, income or who do not have health insurance, have a higher likelihood of forgoing getting vaccinated.

This year’s theme for National Minority Health Month is #VaccineReady. The goal of this campaign is to empower vulnerable populations to get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines, share accurate vaccine information, participate in clinical trials, get vaccinated when the time comes, and proactively practice COVID-19 safety measures.

Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19 and the CDC recommends that everyone get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. As more vaccines become available, there are steps communities can take to protect themselves until they can get vaccinated:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Stay at least six feet (about two arm lengths) from others who do not live with you.
  • Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.

To learn more about National Minority Health Month and to receive updates on news and activities, sign up for OMH email updates and follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Visit the National Minority Health Month webpage to download and share this year’s logo.

4 Quick Tips to Stop Budget Leaks

4 Quick Tips to Stop Budget Leaks

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.

Is Crisis Nursing the Right Job for You?

Is Crisis Nursing the Right Job for You?

If you consider yourself highly empathetic, adaptable, and patient, crisis nursing might be the right field for you. This ever-growing nursing niche involves administering care to patients experiencing issues with mental health, substance abuse, trauma and co-occurring disorders. Each day, crisis nurses hop into action to help de-escalate and diffuse crisis situations while providing essential medical care, proving that some heroes wear scrubs, not capes. But we already knew that!

Before you determine whether this is the right nursing job for you, you want to figure out what crisis nursing is all about and do a deep dive into some of the things these patient professionals do daily. Read information on crisis nursing and discover some of the key skills, traits, and qualifications below to help you determine if you should become a crisis nurse.

What Is a Crisis Nurse?

To put it simply, crisis nurses work in situations of emotional turbulence and disturbance, such as when a person is depressed, suicidal, grieving, or displaced from their home. Additionally, crisis nurses are often asked to travel to provide care after natural disasters and health care emergencies, such as during a particularly destructive hurricane or during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These nurses are adaptable enough to fit in where needed and can help address some of the unique challenges of patients suffering through a crisis, from grief and suicidal thoughts to traumas such as job loss and homelessness. Like standard travel nursing assignments, crisis nursing jobs typically last for 13 weeks, but they can be anywhere from eight and 26 weeks long, depending on the specific needs of the area.

Yes, It Pays More

So does crisis nursing come with a monetary incentive? Yep! Because of their willingness to adapt, travel, and work in turbulent situations, crisis nurses earn a higher salary than nurses who work in non-crisis environments. In fact, many nurses in these roles earn something called a “crisis rate” or “crisis pay” which can be up to $20 more per hour than the standard rate for the hospital.

This makes crisis nurses among the highest-paid nurses. But higher pay doesn’t automatically mean a better situation. As we learned from the measurable spike in nurse burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis environments can take a serious toll on health care professionals. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re willing to hop in where needed and know how to manage feelings of burnout, the additional pay may be worthwhile.

How Do You Become a Crisis Nurse?

The required qualifications of crisis nursing vary widely from one system to the next, but all employers require you to start out by obtaining your registered nurse (RN) degree and license through an accredited nursing program. From there, you may be required to complete at least a year of related work experience in a role within psychiatric, addiction, or mental health. You’ll also want to prepare yourself for the potential of periodically relocating and how that could affect your personal life and housing.

Qualities Required of a Crisis Nurse

All RNs know that even non-crisis nurses occasionally face crises in virtually every health care environment. It just comes with the territory of working in medicine and no one should become a nurse without understanding that. With that being said, crisis nurses are specially trained in things such as de-escalation, passive non-compliance, and trauma-informed care. Some of the key personality traits required for these skill sets include:

  • The willingness to be ready for anything. Because of the aforementioned crisis pay, these kinds of nursing positions are highly competitive and get snatched up quickly. One of the key characteristics of a successful crisis nurse is his or her ability to drop everything and spring into action to fill a vacancy.
  • Empathy. Crisis nurses can’t just be in it for the money. They have to be willing to relate to what patients and their families are going through in order to provide adequate care. Empathy is key for nurses because it helps them build trust with patients and in turn strengthens communication, which is extremely critical during those essential crisis moments.
  • Interpersonal skills. Knowing how to communicate with others—especially those who are in states of crises—is crucial to helping people in these scenarios because it helps with de-escalation, motivation, and understanding key indicators of broader issues. Plus, like having empathy, it helps patients and their family members trust you so that you can provide adequate care.
  • Physical fortitude. All nurses need to be able stay on their feet—and their toes—for long shifts, but a good pair of comfortable nursing clogs are designed to help those working in crisis scenarios. This field puts nurses in the most demanding and busy workplaces, so physical endurance is key.
  • Adaptability. One of the many things we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that health care systems require extremely flexible and adaptable staff during crisis situations. For example, as many individuals opted out of elective surgery, the demand for critical care nursing grew and nurses had to hop into the chaos wherever they were needed.
  • Good judgment. Things move fast in crisis scenarios, and providing successful patient care requires nurses who are able to think critically on their toes, making good decisions along the way. They need to know how to respond and when to bring in additional resources.
  • The willingness to support your coworkers. Being a team player is absolutely essential in crisis nursing when things are changing rapidly and there isn’t always enough support. The willingness to dive right in and assist where needed is especially important in situations where you’re brand-new to the environment and your coworkers may not automatically be comfortable leaning on you.

 

A Rewarding Nursing Niche

You already know that our communities are facing a large, looming nursing shortage, and it’s likely that the shortage will involve a lack of nurses trained in crisis and trauma. For nurses who want to work directly with the community and make a measurable difference in their patients’ lives each day, crisis nursing is a fantastic opportunity!

Lisa Pruitt Talks About Critical Care Transport Nursing

Lisa Pruitt Talks About Critical Care Transport Nursing

 Every year, February 18 is designated as Critical Care Transport Nurses Day to bring attention to this nursing specialty. Minority Nurse asked Lisa Pruitt, RN, BSN, C-NPT, and a board member of the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association about her career in this field, what makes her devoted to her work, and how nurses interested in this field can get started on this career path.

 Please tell me how you found this nursing specialty and why it appealed to you.

I started my nursing career in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).  I knew from the time I was a small child I wanted to be a pediatric nurse. I felt right at home in the setting of critical care. I loved the challenge, the critical thinking, and attention to detail involved. But, most of all the reward of helping these children and their families during quite possibly during the worst times in their lives, is an honor. Some of the nurses I admired most and learned from and aspired to be like, were critical care transport nurses. I was drawn to critical care transport because I wanted to be a part of a team that could give these patients the chance to receive the necessary care they needed. A critical care transport for many of these patients can mean the difference between life and death and to be able to offer that service to a child/family in need is inspiring.

What kind of nursing training did you complete for your current role?

I worked several years in pediatric critical care (PICU) before applying/accepting my first critical care transport position. My training prior to my current role included years of critical care experience in a high acuity PICU and an extensive orientation to pediatric and neonatal transport. This training included several advanced certification classes, simulation, didactic, OR, and other department rotations led by physicians as well as operational, safety, and survival training in each of the three modes of transport (fixed wing, rotor wing, and ambulance).

What makes this nursing path different from other nursing specialties?

The scope of practice and skill set for a critical care transport nurse is much more expansive than other nursing specialties. Being proficient with advanced procedures (endotracheal intubation, central line placement, needle chest decompression), critical thinking and decision making in an autonomous setting is what sets the transport nurse apart from other nursing specialties. We don’t necessarily have a diagnosis when we arrive to transport a patient, and we must rely on our previous experiences and knowledge. We are the eyes and ears for the provider (physician). Ensuring our attention to detail is spot on and anticipating and executing a plan of care is quite different than relying on and carrying out a plan of care already developed (as it is in an inpatient setting).

How do critical care transport nurses adapt to working in such varied environments?

Being adaptable is how I always say critical care nurses “earn their money!” There are no two transport situations ever the same, and often the transport environment can lead to a lot of unplanned situations (unfamiliar diagnosis or illness, unexpected weather, equipment malfunctions, mechanical issues). Contrary to working in a hospital, the transport environment offers less resources—people, hands, equipment, diagnostics, redundancy, etc. Transport nurses are the “MacGyvers” of nursing. You might have a child’s life in your hands, and you and your partner (usually a Paramedic/RT/RN) have to utilize your critical thinking, decision making, and limited resources to adapt to any situation and literally function as a mobile ICU. Often, what we are told en route to a patient is entirely different when we walk through the door and meet our patient, so we have to avoid tunnel vision, change our mind set, and adapt to the new situation we are presented with. This becomes easier as we gain more experiences in our career.

Transport nursing is not black and white; it’s all very gray, and you quickly learn if this career is suited for you!

How has COVID-19 impacted your work?

How hasn’t it?! It seems everything has changed—process, procedures, and (what used to be) routines. The stress and burden of COVID-19 has affected everyone at some level both personally and professionally. That in itself has weighed heavily on many of us. In an already stressful environment, COVID-19 has added another layer of complexity to the mix. With, we are reusing what used to be one-time-use masks. We are making the difficult decisions about whether or not we should or can bring the parent with us. [We ask] where do these patients go? Do we have the right supplies (and what are those?) to protect us, the health care providers, from COVID-19. And what about our own family members who are battling COIVD-19 and/or lost their battle to COVID-19, but we still put ourselves on the front line? How are we caring for ourselves?

Transport nurses are a certain type of person. They tend to carry a lot of weight on their shoulders. So when does that weight cause us to fall? Not for a long time, but when it does, it can be devastating. We are really good at taking care of everyone else, but not ourselves. I have seen the weight/burden/stress of COVID-19 firsthand unfortunately be the cause of that fall. With all this change, I do believe whole heartedly, we will come out of this closer to our partners/colleagues, and be stronger and more resilient. I believe some the processes that have been instituted since COVID-19 will actually continue in our practice, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Our infection control practices are on point! And that will continue to benefit all patients and ourselves as health care providers. A lot of good has and will continue to emerge.

What kind of patient interaction tips could you share, especially given the added layer of moving patients from one area to the next? 

Communication is key! Making sure our patients and families always know what is going on and what our plan is can offer a patient and/or family the reassurance they need to move forward on possibly the worst day of their life. I also believe strongly (as long as safety is never compromised) that bringing a parent or loved one along on the transport is so important. We can’t ever make promises that an outcome will be what they always want, but I ALWAYS make one promise to every single patient I transport: I will always do my best and I will promise to take care of their baby/child the exact same way I would take care of my own.

If nurses are considering moving into a critical care transport nursing path, what would you like them to know?

Transport nursing is the BEST! When you get jet fuel in your blood, it never goes away! If transport nursing is something one is interested in exploring, then do a ride along. Most transport teams offer a comprehensive ride-along program to potential transport nurses. See firsthand if you could see yourself doing it. It is not a career for everyone, but if it is, then go for it!  Establish a strong foundation of critical care nursing experience in an ED or ICU. Take every opportunity to advance your education and skill set. Join professional organizations like ASTNA and network with transport professionals, read transport scholarly articles like those published in the Air Medical Journal, and ask questions. Words of wisdom from my six-year-old daughter London, “Picture it. Do it. Never Give Up.”

Improve Your Written Communication

Improve Your Written Communication

The last year has given rise to a newfound reliance on Zoom and lots of virtual meetings, but excellent written communication is always needed.

If you’re not sure how your written business communication skills measure up, you can refresh your style with a few solid tips.

Whether you’re writing a quick follow-up note to a colleague, a department memo, or a message to a board of directors, your written communication needs to be polished. Like any other business skill, how well you master the art of professional communication is a reflection on you, so it’s worthwhile to take the time to do it right.

Before you write anything intended for work, think first and write second. It even helps to have an actual checklist in your head or on your desk. If you get into the habit of doing this, you’ll cut down on having to resend an email because you forgot an attachment or a link, sending communication that doesn’t answer the most important point or question, or even sending something with an unprofessional tone.

What should your checklist include? Keep these prompts in mind.

Who is this message intended for?

If it’s an informal note, you can have a more informal tone. But it’s still best to begin with a short salutation (“Hi,” is fine) and end with a thanks. If it’s a more formal communication or is in response to a larger project or initiative, make sure your tone matches that level.

What is the most important point I am trying to convey?

Readers have incredibly short attention spans and in the midst of a pandemic, these spans have become even shorter. Highlight the most important point right up front. You can even tease it a little with the subject line if you’re writing an email. Think about what you would say in person (sometimes this is referred to as the Guess What? step) and try to be that brief in your writing.

How will people find more information?

Are you referencing any kind of study, other communication, organization, or piece of essential information? If so, attach necessary files (Word docs, PDFs, slides, etc.), add hyperlinks, or note where readers can go if they need more information.

Do I have any implicit bias in this situation or with this topic?

If you’re writing about something that is controversial, that you have a differing opinion on, or where you need to really make a case for something, you’ll want to pay extra attention to the tone of your message. There’s nothing wrong with strong feelings, but written communication provides little context around what you are saying so it helps to be extra cautious.

Can anyone read this?

Anything you send creates a record, so take extra care to ensure a message that is direct, but not inflammatory. And don’t ever, no matter how tempting, say something about someone else in an email that you wouldn’t want that person to read. Aside from being exceedingly unprofessional, emails can be sent far and wide and you can’t be quite sure who will see them.

Do I have any mistakes?

Remember, spell check won’t catch improperly used words that are spelled correctly. Even if you’re in a rush, take one final look to make sure everything is accurate and that the right people are on the distribution (and their names are spelled correctly).

Send with Confidence

If you’re able to follow these steps, your written communication skills are bound to improve and will reflect positively on your professionalism. Eventually, this checklist will become a habit and will likely save you some big headaches over the years.

9 Must-Have Diagnostic Tools

9 Must-Have Diagnostic Tools

A critical part of treating patients is identifying exactly what injuries and ailments they are struggling with. To that end, medical professionals rely on a great many diagnostic tools to help them accurately identify patients’ health conditions. Some of the devices are multipurpose, while others are more targeted—but all are important tools in a clinician’s diagnostic kit. Here are nine essential diagnostic tools that all clinicians in scrubs should have.

1. Stethoscope

No clinician can be without their trusty stethoscope. These devices allow medical professionals to listen to the heart, lungs, and other vital organs, helping them give more accurate diagnoses and better treat patients. There are many different types of stethoscopes available for every budget. If you’re looking for something more technologically advanced, you can also look into getting a Bluetooth stethoscope, which offers capabilities such as audio amplification and recording clips. Bluetooth stethoscopes are an especially good choice for providers who have hearing impairments or loss, and thus struggle to use a traditional stethoscope.

2. Pulse Oximeter

Once an afterthought in some circles, pulse oximeters are now experiencing a time in the spotlight due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Low oxygen levels are an early warning sign that medical intervention may be needed in COVID-19 patients who otherwise seem to be doing well.) Pulse oximeters measure the percentage of blood hemoglobin carrying oxygen by passing a beam of red light through the fingertip and assessing how much light is absorbed. You should absolutely have one of these diagnostic tools in your nursing bag, especially if you work with patients who are likely to have COVID-19.

3. Thermometer

Speaking of tools that can be used to diagnose coronavirus, you should definitely have a thermometer on hand as well. There are many different types of thermometers available. The fastest and most accurate is a digital thermometer, which uses a metal probe to take the temperature, which it displays on the digital screen readout. However, infrared “no touch” forehead thermometers are also getting a lot of attention these days, as they cut down on the risk of transmission. Whatever type of thermometer you decide on, make sure that you thoroughly clean it before and after each use, even if it doesn’t actually touch the patient.

4. Reflex Hammer

The humble reflex hammer can be used to diagnose joint reflexes as well as bone fractures in the joint. Go with the classic triangle-head Taylor hammer, or choose from several other designs, such as the Buck and Babinski hammers. Most hammers cost only a few dollars apiece, so there’s really no excuse for not having one among your clinical supplies.

5. Blood Pressure Cuff

Blood oxygen levels aren’t the only thing about the blood that can help you diagnose health conditions. Blood pressure is also an indicator of heart disease and stroke risk. Combined with a stethoscope, a traditional blood pressure cuff will help you measure both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Alongside a stethoscope, this is one of those diagnostic tools that you should never be without.

6. Penlight

Another affordable yet essential diagnostic tool, penlights are used to assess pupil response and check for injuries such as a concussion. They can also be used in a pinch to look into cavities, such as the ears and throat, though dedicated diagnostic tools are more convenient for that. Most pens come with a pupil gauge on the side to help clinicians quickly assess pupil size. If you tend to lose your penlights, look for one with a clip that will help it stay put.

7. Ophthalmoscope

An ophthalmoscope is a specialized light that allows you to look directly into a patient’s eyes—or rather the back of their eyeballs—which can be used to assess the health of the retina, optic nerve, vasculature, and vitreous humor. This specially designed light lets clinicians examine the eye without blinding the patient. Ophthalmoscopes are often sold in a set with otoscopes. These two devices should not be confused for each other, despite the similar names. Otoscopes should not be used in place of ophthalmoscopes and vice versa, as the eye is a very delicate organ that needs to be examined carefully.

8. Otoscope

An otoscope is a specialized light that clinicians use to examine the ears and sometimes also the throat. The light is focused using a disposable plastic tip, which also helps protect the light from unsanitary ear wax and other substances. Using an otoscope, clinicians can look directly into the ear to assess the health of the eardrum and ear canal, as well as check for any blockages or injuries. Make sure to change out the disposable tip after each time you use the otoscope to keep yourself and your patients safe.

9. ECG Machines

Historically, ECG machines have been large, clunky and expensive. However, thanks to technological advancements, ECG devices are now shrinking and becoming more portable and affordable. One especially exciting development is the Eko DUO Stethoscope, which combines the benefits of a digital stethoscope with the functionality of an ECG machine. With the DUO, you can listen to your patient’s heart and lungs and then immediately take a reading of their heart’s electrical signals. As technology continues to improve, we will no doubt see more and more accessible devices such as the Eko DUO stethoscope come onto the market for clinicians.

Diagnosing a patient isn’t always easy, but diagnostic tools can help aid the process and give more insights into a patient’s state of health. Whether you’re new to the medical field or a seasoned clinician, you should definitely include these nine diagnostic tools among your clinical supplies.

 

5 Heart-health Hacks

5 Heart-health Hacks

February celebrates heart health, but it’s not always easy to make all the best choices for your heart. Try any of these five heart health hacks to get started on a good path to better cardiac health.

1. Treat Yourself

Proper diet is essential to a heart-healthy lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean your food can’t feel decadent. Reducing fats, especially saturated and trans fats, is a given, but so is making sure you’re getting enough fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. But a heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to be boring or bland. Experiment with spices and flavorings to add some variety. And while a banana split or a wedge of triple-chocolate cake isn’t going to do your heart any good, a few chocolate covered strawberries can satisfy your sweet tooth without overloading your heart.

2. Floss Your Teeth

Heart health depends on lots of protective behaviors, not just intense exercise. Daily flossing has long been known to be a protective action you can take to keep your mouth healthy, but does it also protect your heart? In general, periodontal disease may raise the risk of heart disease and may interfere with proper heart valve functions. Because gum disease can trigger inflammation, and inflammation is tied to heart disease, brushing and flossing every day can help you keep problems at bay and may give your heart extra protection. You get a lot of benefits from just a few minutes of effort.

3. Zone Out

Meditation is known to help bring down stress and reduce inflammation-triggering cortisol. But lots of people think of meditation as something that requires time they don’t have. What if you think of meditation as zoning out, but with a focused mental health purpose? When you walk, focus just on the feel of your feet hitting the ground. Listen closely to the noises outside or to the notes in a favorite piece of music. Watch a movie or read a book that engrosses you. Do something you so enjoy that time slips away. Getting into that kind of quiet state helps your heart reap some important benefits of restorative calm.

4. Stretch Your Legs

Something as easy as stretching, and stretching your legs in particular, can help with heart health. Some studies have shown that a regular, easy routine of stretching your legs can help keep arteries more flexible which improves blood flow. When the vascular system is in better shape, your cardiac health is going to benefit. Incorporate a routine of stretching your legs every day.

5. Laugh a Lot

From relieving your stress to increasing blood flow to upping your oxygen levels, laughing is serious business when it comes to your heart health. And while the weight of the pandemic might make laughing less easy to come by, it is worthwhile to seek it out. In this digital era, finding a funny video of silly animals or watching 10 minutes of a favorite comedian is easy enough. You can also check in with your funniest friend or even join a group that laughs on purpose—there are laughter clubs that do just that. Don’t wait for the laughter to just happen—make it happen for your heart health.

President Biden Announces Members of the Biden-Harris Administration COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force

President Biden Announces Members of the Biden-Harris Administration COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force

The COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will provide recommendations for addressing health inequities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country, it has had a disproportionate impact on some of our most vulnerable communities. Shortly after COVID-19 was first identified in the United States, disparities in testing, cases, hospitalizations, and mortality began to emerge. These inequities were quickly evident by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors.

President Biden and Vice President Harris have released a National Strategy to combat the pandemic that has equity at its core. To help ensure an equitable response to the pandemic, the President signed an executive order on January 21 creating a task force to address COVID-19 related health and social inequities. This Task Force is chaired by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

Today, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced the following individuals to serve as non-federal members of the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Individuals selected by the President are:

Mayra Alvarez of San Diego, CA
James Hildreth of Nashville, TN
Andrew Imparato of Sacramento, CA
Victor Joseph of Tanana, AK
Joneigh Khaldun of Lansing, MI
Octavio Martinez of New Braunfels, TX
Tim Putnam of Batesville, IN
Vincent Toranzo of Pembroke Pines, FL
Mary Turner of Plymouth, MN
Homer Venters of Port Washington, NY
Bobby Watts of Goodlettsville, TN
Haeyoung Yoon of New York, NY

The twelve Task Force members represent a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, a range of racial and ethnic groups, and a number of important populations, including: children and youth; educators and students; health care providers, immigrants; individuals with disabilities; LGBTQ+ individuals; public health experts; rural communities; state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments; and unions.

As Chair, Dr. Nunez-Smith will also ask six additional Federal agencies to be represented on the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force as federal members. This includes the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, and Department of Labor.

The Task Force is charged with issuing a range of recommendations to help inform the COVID-19 response and recovery. This includes recommendations on equitable allocation of COVID-19 resources and relief funds, effective outreach and communication to underserved and minority populations, and improving cultural proficiency within the Federal Government. Additional recommendations include efforts to improve data collection and use, as well as a long-term plan to address data shortfalls regarding communities of color and other underserved populations. The Task Force’s work will conclude after issuing a final report to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator describing the drivers of observed COVID-19 inequities, the potential for ongoing disparities faced by COVID-19 survivors, and actions to ensure that future pandemic responses do not ignore or exacerbate health inequities.

Mayra Alvarez, MPH
Mayra E. Alvarez, MHA is President of The Children’s Partnership, a California advocacy organization working to advance child health equity. Previously, she served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama-Biden administration, including at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Office of Minority Health, and the Office of Health Reform. She has also served as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and House of Representatives.  A native of California, she graduated from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California at Berkeley.

James Hildreth, PhD, MD
James Hildreth is president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College, the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health sciences center. Dr. Hildreth served previously as dean of the College of Biological Sciences at University of California, Davis and as a professor and associate dean at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Hildreth is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and an internationally acclaimed immunologist whose work has focused on several human viruses including HIV.  He currently serves on the advisory council for the NIH director and as a member of the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. Dr. Hildreth has led Meharry’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities have access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines. He graduated from Harvard University as a Rhodes Scholar, from Oxford University with a PhD in immunology, and obtained an MD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Andrew Imparato, JD
Andy Imparato is a disability rights lawyer and the Executive Director of Disability Rights California, where he has spearheaded advocacy on crisis standards of care and vaccine prioritization in the last year. Imparato joined DRC after a 26-year career in Washington, DC, where he served as the chief executive of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the American Association of People with Disabilities. From 2010-2013, Imparato served as Chairman Tom Harkin’s Disability Policy Director on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Imparato’s perspective is informed by his lived experience with bipolar disorder.

Victor Joseph
Victor Joseph was elected by the 42 member tribes to the position of Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) Chief/Chairman in March of 2014 and served through October of 2020.  As the Chief Chairman he was the principal executive officer for the corporation and presided over all corporate meetings of the member tribes.  Prior to being elected TCC’s Chief Chairman Victor was employed as TCC’s Health Director from 2007 to 2014.  He worked for TCC a total of 28 years in a variety of leadership position.  He has also served as Alaska Representative on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee and on the Indian Health Services Budget Formulation Committee. Joseph is a tribal member of the Native Village of Tanana. He has extensive experience building strong working relationships with tribal leaders, colleagues, staff, funding agencies and corporate beneficiaries.

Joneigh Khaldun, MD, MPH
Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun is the Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan and the Chief Deputy Director for Health in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). She is the lead strategist for Michigan’s COVID-19 response. Prior to her role in Michigan she was the Director of the Detroit Health Department, where she established a comprehensive reproductive health network and led Detroit’s response to the Hepatitis A outbreak. Dr. Khaldun has held former roles as the Baltimore City Health Department’s Chief Medical Officer and Fellow in the Obama-Biden Administration’s Office of Health Reform in the US Department of Health and Human Services. She obtained her BS from the University of Michigan, MD from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and MPH in health policy from George Washington University. She practices emergency medicine part-time at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Octavio Martinez, MD, MBA, MPH
Octavio N. Martinez, Jr. is the Executive Director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at The University of Texas at Austin.  Additionally, Martinez is a Senior Associate Vice President within the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement; clinical professor in the university’s School of Social Work; and professor at Dell Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.  A native Texan, Martinez has an MPH from Harvard University’s School of Public Health, an MD from Baylor College of Medicine, and an MBA and BBA in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin.

Tim Putnam, DHA, EMS
Tim Putnam is President and CEO of Margaret Mary Health, a community hospital in Batesville, Indiana and has over 30 years of healthcare experience. He received his Doctorate in Health Administration from the Medical University of South Carolina where his dissertation was focused on acute stroke care in rural hospitals. He is a past president of the Indiana Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Association. In 2015 he was appointed by the Governor to the newly created Indiana Board of Graduate Medical Education and has chaired the Board since its inception. Dr. Putnam is also a certified Emergency Medical Technician.

Vincent Toranzo
Vincent C. Toranzo is an active student from Broward County, Florida. Mr. Toranzo has experience with the inner workings of municipality functions. He serves as the State Secretary of the Florida Association of Student Councils advocating for the inclusion of student voices in their community, such as assistance to foster children and the assurance of students’ safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Toranzo was awarded the U.S. President’s Award for Educational Excellence and a Citizenship Award for School and Public Service from his local U.S. congresswoman.

Mary Turner, RN
Mary Turner is an ICU nurse at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and in her sixth year as President of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union—the Minnesota affiliate of National Nurses United. She previously worked at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis for 10 years. Turner has been on the National Nurses United’s Joint Nursing Commission since 2011. She serves as the Chair of the Board for Isuroon, which provides empowerment, culturally sensitive health education, and advocacy for Somali women.

Homer Venters, MD
Homer Venters is a physician and epidemiologist working at the intersection of incarceration, health and human rights. Dr. Venters is currently focused on addressing COVID-19 responses in jails, prisons and immigration detention facilities. Dr. Venters is the former Chief Medical Officer of the NYC Correctional Health Services and author of Life and Death in Rikers Island. Dr. Venters has also worked in the nonprofit sector as the Director of Programs of Physicians for Human Rights and President of Community Oriented Correctional Health Service. Dr. Venters is a Clinical Associate Professor of the New York University College of Global Public Health.

Bobby Watts, MPH, MS
G. Robert (“Bobby”) Watts is CEO of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, which supports 300 Health Care for the Homeless FQHCs and 100 Medical Respite programs with training, research, and advocacy to end homelessness.  Watts has 25 years’ experience in administration, direct service, and implementation of homeless health and shelter services. Watts served as Executive Director of Care for the Homeless in New York City for twelve years. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health from which he holds an MPH in health administration and an MS in epidemiology.

Haeyoung Yoon, JD
Haeyoung Yoon is Senior Policy Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Over the course of her career, Yoon has worked on low-wage and immigrant workers rights issues. Prior to National Domestic Workers Alliance, Yoon was a Distinguished Taconic Fellow at Community Change. Yoon also has extensive litigation experience and taught at the New York University School of Law and Brooklyn Law School. She recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship regarding Immigrants as Essential Workers during COVID-19. Yoon received her JD from CUNY School of Law, her MA from Harvard University, and her BA from Barnard College.

Celebrate, and Protect, Your Heart Health

Celebrate, and Protect, Your Heart Health

Long known as a month filled with valentines and heart-themed decorations, it’s no wonder that February was chosen as the month to highlight heart health.

The February 2021 celebration marks the 57th annual American Heart Month, and spotlights women’s heart health with a “Heart to Heart: Why Losing One Woman Is Too Many” campaign. In a time when one in three women are diagnosed with heart disease annually, this important month is a time when nurses can check their own heart health and strive to be a resource and help provide patients with accurate and timely information about heart disease.

The American Heart Association stresses the immediate need for information about heart health because of COVID-19’s direct impacts on the cardiovascular system.

As always, people can take lots of steps to keep their hearts healthy and can, in fact, prevent or mitigate a great number of serious heart disease cases. A healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference in heart health and even moderate steps can have significant impact. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to have a strong heart, and it’s important to talk about small lifestyle changes with patients so they feel like they can make a difference in their own health.

What works? According to the American Heart Association, adopting a healthy lifestyle includes

  • not smoking,
  • maintaining a healthy weight,
  • controlling blood sugar and cholesterol,
  • treating high blood pressure,
  • getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, and
  • getting regular checkups.

And other habits can be just as important for keeping your heart in top shape. Getting enough sleep, keeping socially active with friends and loved ones, and trying to reduce the impact of stress with stress reduction practices (whether that’s a hobby or talking to a professional), all play a part in keeping your heart strong. And everyone should know the symptoms of heart attack or stroke.

Beyond lifestyle changes, do some sleuthing and find out as much as you can about your family’s heart health history. As genetic components can predispose certain families to heart disease, knowing if anyone in your family has had or currently has high blood pressure, a history of heart attacks or strokes, heart valve problems, or heart failure, can help you determine if you’re at a higher risk. It’s especially important to know the ages of these diagnoses as a family history of early heart disease can help guide your own testing and monitoring decisions.

Cardiovascular nurses treat patients with heart disease and often act as a great resource for patients. As they walk patients through their diagnoses and treatment, they are also able to help connect patients and families with other resources including nutritionists, physical therapists, support groups, and other specialists.

The Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA), believes that prevention is essential in beating heart disease and so offers plenty of heart health resources for nurses. They have handouts for nurses to give to patients to help with everything from peripheral artery disease to diabetes to hypertension. PCNA also offers free resources for health care providers to help improve their practice with additional information around improving communication, a stroke prevention guide, or a cardiovascular risk provider tool.

Heart health impacts everyone and so keeping your patients informed can help them get to a healthy place. And paying attention to your own heart health can help you keep heart disease at bay.