Nurse Hero or Nurse Warrior?

Nurse Hero or Nurse Warrior?

Nurses have been called many things over the years, and saint, hero, angel, and savior are just several ways they’ve been described. In a misguided sense, nurses have even been unceremoniously sexualized in the form of the tired cliché of the sexy nurse Halloween costume.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it became increasingly common to see signs outside hospitals saying something akin to, “Heroes work here.” Is the hero moniker truly helpful to the cause of nursing? Does calling nurses saints, heroes, angels, and saviors help them in any way? I posit that it’s the opposite: using such terms is a dehumanizing misinterpretation of what nurses do and who they truly are. 

Heroes Work Here?

Much praise was heaped upon nurses and other healthcare professionals during the worst months of the pandemic. On many a day throughout those most challenging times, people stood outside of their homes banging pots and pans at the 7 pm change of shift to express gratitude for nurses’ hard work (never mind that it’s the rare nurse who can get out of work at 7 pm to hear such a concert, but it’s the thought that counts). 

Meanwhile, the “heroes work here” banners outside hospitals reiterated the claim of heroism, putting nurses and their colleagues on pedestals that might have felt just a tad uncomfortable and precarious.

So, what’s wrong with the proclamation that heroes work in a given facility? What harm does it do when we tell a nurse they’re a saint in scrubs? What does it say when we place a mantle of superhumanity on those who serve as frontline healthcare professionals, risking their lives in the process? There’s nothing inherently wrong with a sincere expression of gratitude, yet it can sometimes not sit well with those on the receiving end. 

Superhumans ‘r’ Us

Angels, saints, and heroes are individuals with superhuman traits. They are people whose qualities place them above the powers of mere mortals. They leap tall buildings in a single bound, fly weightless on gossamer wings, and perform miracles and wonders before amazed groups of onlookers. 

While the work of nurses may appear superhuman and saintly to the average layperson, the day-to-day slog of hanging chemo, transferring patients, changing catheters, cleaning up feces, drawing blood, and dressing wounds may not feel so heroic or superhuman to those who perform such duties.

Nurses work on the front lines amidst the muck, mire, and bodily fluids of human life and suffering. And during their work, they can be slapped, punched, kicked, spat on, cursed at, and verbally abused. 

Nurses’ work can cause them to suffer compassion fatigue, burnout, addiction, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal ideation. Are these superhuman traits and reactions? I would say they’re altogether human. 

While it is simply a game of semantics, the difference between hero, angel, saint, and warrior could not be starker. When we consider angels, saints, and heroes, we might be more prone to think of creatures who have fewer needs than us mortals — these creatures with special powers have more endurance and are more impervious to the slings and arrows of life. By seeing nurses as superhuman, we can dehumanize them. 

Call Us Warriors

Many nurses I’ve spoken with are much more comfortable with the word warrior than the descriptors hero, angel, or saint. They feel that warrior is a more accurate description of what they do and who they are as nurses. Healthcare delivery can feel like a battle – especially during situations like the coronavirus pandemic — and pushing through the worst times in the medical trenches makes the term warrior extremely apt. 

Heroes of folklore, mythology, and fantasy are mythic, larger-than-life figures who demonstrate superhuman faculties that set them apart. I would venture that few nurses feel larger than life; in fact, most nurses are arguably more fully in touch with the realities of life (and death) in ways that many members of the general public are not.

Nurses are warriors fighting for the good of the whole against disease, illness, injury, and, at times, death itself. They engage in the battle by leveraging their human knowledge, expertise, skill, and compassion acquired through years of study, hard work, suffering, and learning. See them as heroic if you must, but also see them as the righteous warriors they truly are. 

Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Latanya Weston

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Latanya Weston

For 15 years, Latanya Weston was in operating rooms in her home state of Georgia, amputating the limbs of patients who suffered from kidney disease. The feeling of the scalpel pushing down on flesh and the sound of the bone cracking haunts her.

A Georgia native, Weston knew that the mortality rate of kidney disease is 30 to 40 percent higher in her state than the national average. But, while the numbers show that the percentage of black and white adults treated for kidney disease are roughly the same, Weston knows a different reality.

Latanya Weston is an important nursing leader, and we’re pleased to profile her as part of the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2023.

The series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.


Meet Latanya Weston, a nurse practitioner at Somatus, the nation’s leading and largest value-based kidney care company.

Talk about your career path and how you ascended to that role.

I was constantly stricken with various illnesses when I was growing up. As a high school student, I spent most of my senior year being operated on or hospitalized. Although I could maintain my overall academic achievements through these health issues, I was told I would need to repeat my first semester as I had been in the hospital too much. It was unfair to the other students. This news was incredibly disheartening. I had already mapped out a career plan and did not want to delay graduating. I made a tough decision and begged my parents to let me sit for the “General Education Development” exam. I excelled and went on to sit for the SATs. I became a college student while my friends were still in high school.

Once graduating from the surgical technology program, my career path began at Mitchell County Hospital, where I was a surgical technologist. Together our surgical team operated on many patients suffering from advanced kidney disease and renal failure. In many cases, these patients had developed peripheral arterial disease. They were on the table to have a limb amputated or were crashing into dialysis and needed to get a venous catheter implanted. Although I loved being a surgical technologist, my heart’s desire was always to become a nurse. So, in 2006, while working as a surgical technologist, I returned to school and became an operating room nurse. This allowed me to work at a bigger hospital in my hometown to gain more experience. However, the unsettling patient trends I had noticed in the county hospital were now amplified—more amputations and dialysis catheters, and again always in patients of color. So, in 2007, I again shifted my career and decided to leave my hometown for a hospital away from home. 

After more than a decade along this career path and seeing patients in severe distress day after day, I grew to feel I needed to make a change. Then, one day while I was on call for the operating room, I fell down a flight of stairs and hurt my foot. The pain was constant, and I could no longer stand on my feet in the operating room as long as I had. I had to make a change, and a part of me felt like this was a sign that I should go back to school to educate and prevent the disease processes that were landing so many patients on the operating room table. For quite a while, I had been thinking about what impact I could make if I met patients earlier in their healthcare journey before surgery was the only option. I then decided that I would become a nurse practitioner.  

What inspired you to become a nurse?

I knew I wanted to be a nurse from a very young age. My aunt was a nurse who would conduct home health visits at her patients’ houses, and from the time I was in second grade, I would beg to go with her. I enjoyed visiting patients and watching my aunt care for them. I always felt I had this same gift of caring as she did. Nursing takes a special heart and mind; everyone does not possess this attribute. 

Furthermore, I grew up in a community with significant health challenges, yet people didn’t prioritize their health. Most people don’t have primary care physicians, schedule annual check-ups, or think about preventive care. Members of my community were often struggling with obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease, and there were several dialysis centers in my neighborhood. Kidney disease impacted my family as well. My sister passed away at 33 because she could not get a kidney transplant.

I’ve lived my whole life in Georgia, where the mortality rate from chronic kidney disease is over 40% more than the national average. 

As a nurse practitioner, I finally feel I am where I was meant to be. Now I reach patients early on in their healthcare journey when their primary care physician first diagnoses them with kidney disease. Through education and support, I can change the direction of a person’s life and stop them from ending up on someone’s operating room table.

What are the most important attributes of today’s nursing leaders?

Given the changes in the healthcare industry, building trusting relationships between clinicians and consumers can often be taxing. Nursing leaders must be of great character and moral values. This includes the ability to show respect to another and communicate appropriately. One of the major complaints in the patient population is that providers do not listen. As nursing leaders, we can’t overstate the importance of being a good listener and communicating relevant information to providers. This will strengthen the patient-provider relationship and encourage more communication, improving overall patient outcomes. Nurse leaders must maintain integrity, respect, grace, and professionalism and always take the time to listen and communicate, making their relationships the building blocks to success.

What does it mean to you to be a nursing leader, and how are you making a difference?

The leader I am today is the ultimate assignment. I wanted to uncover the world of medicine and was given the great opportunity to travel as a Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner from 2016 to 2018. That experience blessed my entire being and made me realize that my mission is not only to save lives but to change them. I worked in the Pacific Northwest to combat mental illness and addiction and changed many lives. In every home or exam room I enter, the person on the other side of the door becomes my family. No matter the situation, I take their hands, and together we weather the storm one diagnosis at a time. I ensure they do not feel alone in the battle, which makes a difference in patient outcomes.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

The healthcare industry has come a long way in recognizing the impact of social determinants of health on patient health, but this is still the most significant challenge facing us today. As nurses, we see first-hand, time and again, that providing “equal” care to patients is not enough. Care plans must consider the whole person, where they live, their resources, and everything else that affects them when they leave their doctor’s office.

This is particularly true about kidney disease, which disproportionately affects Black people. Black people make up around 13% of the U.S. population but account for around a third of those with kidney failure.

In many cases, patients don’t realize they have kidney disease until the day their doctor gives them the diagnosis. Without understanding the disease process and how each element of the care plan works together to slow and control their chronic kidney disease progression, it’s very difficult for a patient to commit to making significant lifestyle changes.

We also know that socioeconomic issues are tied to kidney disease. Even if a patient has health insurance, they may still have financial concerns, making it difficult to afford medications and treatments. They may be worried about paying their rent or utility bills, which makes it difficult to focus on their physical health. In addition, they may not have a wheelchair or a ramp to get in and out of their house or transportation to their next doctor’s visit.

Shopping for kidney-friendly foods may also be a challenge, both in terms of affordability and availability. Patients may also need help adopting new meal preparation methods with no one to guide them, and they find it much easier to fall back on frozen meals.  

There are countless other barriers to care that we see in our patients every day, and as nurses, we are often the best equipped to inform the rest of the care team about what our patients need.

As a nursing leader, how are you working to overcome this challenge?

I’m now a nurse practitioner at Somatus, the country’s first value-based kidney care company. Our goal is to give whole-person, 360-degree support to kidney disease patients, providing preventive care and breaking down the barriers and challenges patients face every day. For example, when a patient is first diagnosed with kidney disease, we go to the patient’s home to do a complete evaluation, look through their cupboards, figure out where they can source nutritious food, demonstrate how to prepare meals, and even help them with administrative tasks and paperwork.

Together with my fellow Somatus care team colleagues, we work with a nephrologist and other health care providers to give patients the whole-person support they need to follow their care plan and make lifestyle changes. 

Every day I see the impact of individualized, patient-centered care. Sometimes there are significant actions like teaching a patient to monitor their blood pressure every day, but other times it’s something small, like praying with one of my patients, that makes a huge difference. This is what I love.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

Mary Eliza Mahoney is the first African American licensed nurse in the U.S., and when I think of her perseverance and tenacity, I also see myself. She worked tirelessly as a private home nurse, doing what she loved while advocating to be treated as a professional and equal. Her example shows that we can not only prolong and save lives but can also change them.    

What inspirational message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses?

When you become a nurse, whenever you walk through the door, someone on the other side waits for you to enter the room and be their guiding light. So I like to take a moment to ask myself, “I wonder who my next blessing is in that room?” every time I meet a new patient. This road is not for the weak, but the journey is incredibly rewarding as you touch and change lives day after day. I always tell people, “Nursing is not a money thing… it is a heart thing.”                                                    

GI Nurses and Associates Week Celebrates 10 Years

GI Nurses and Associates Week Celebrates 10 Years

The annual celebration of GI Nurses and Associates Week (this year from  March 19-25) marks a special milestone this year. The 2023 GI Nurses & Associates Week is the 10th anniversary of honoring nurses in this specialty and all the work they do.

Gastroenterology (GI) nurses  specialize in the gastrointestinal tract. Patients who have disorders or symptoms related to the digestive tract will seek out GI specialist teams to help them navigate what can be elusive and sometimes debilitating symptoms.

Nurses interested in this specialty will help patients in many ways. They can assist with upper and lower GI diagnostic procedures and surgeries including endoscopy and colonoscopy, stomach emptying studies, cancer surgery, and more. GI nurses frequently work with patients who have liver and pancreas problems and also with patients who have hernias.

Gastroenterology nurses are an important resource for patients who are managing GI symptoms. As a GI nurse, you’ll be well informed of how varied factors impact a person’s digestive tract.

Food and Diet

You’ll want to help patients with diet to see what might trigger or ease symptoms, what needs to be avoided, and what they might need to add to their diet to help alleviate symptoms. As a GI nurse, you’ll want to be aware of potential food sensitivities or allergies that could be causing problems as well as conditions like celiac disease in which patients can’t tolerate any gluten at all.

Exercise and Motion

Exercise helps GI symptoms in many ways by reducing inflammation, keeping the digestive tract moving, and reducing stress. Nurses in the specialty will have an idea of what to recommend to patients who might need to increase their exercise or moderate an intense exercise routine.  Some GI conditions have such severe symptoms that a regular exercise routine might be impossible, so nurses will want to understand how that problem can be balanced in a way that will work for each individual.

Sleep and Rest

Regular, high-quality sleep is good for everyone, but gastroenterology patients are particularly prone to symptom flare ups when they are short on sleep. Nurses are great motivators to help people focus on getting the proper rest to see if it helps any of their symptoms. And GI nurses offer something else that’s just as important for patients to hear–permission to slow down and get rest to help themselves heal. That message alone can be a powerful motivator for some.

Stress and Mental Health

Stress wreaks havoc on a GI system in the best circumstances, but when there’s any kind of disruption or illness, stress or mental health issues can have lasting gastroenterology effects. Having a digestive tract condition is hard enough to manage and that alone can cause stress to raise its head for many patients. Nurses are aware of this and are an important resource to help patients lower their stress levels through various methods like yoga, meditation, or through professional help that might include therapy or medication.

Education and Knowledge

Patients need to be educated and informed about their condition or about procedures that are necessary. GI nurses can listen to a patient’s fears, about nagging symptoms, and about the problems dealing with GI symptoms that can crop up at any time. With  more information at their disposal, patients can work out a careful and educated approach to living life with a GI condition.

Gastroenterology nurses work with patients on so many levels and the complexity of the work is both emotional and professional. If you are a GI nurse, take this week to celebrate all you do for your patients!

Why Diversity In Healthcare Makes a Difference When Treating Patient Pain

Why Diversity In Healthcare Makes a Difference When Treating Patient Pain

The fundamental mission of every healthcare provider is to first do no harm. Unfortunately, however, for far too long systemic inequities in the healthcare system have perpetrated and perpetuated harm. 

Both implicit and explicit biases have strongly determined healthcare processes, including informing how patient pain is understood, diagnosed, and treated. Stereotypes relating to gender, race, and ethnicity have contributed to a pattern of delayed and erroneous diagnosis and inappropriate or insufficient palliative care. And as a result, untold numbers of female and minority patients have been consigned to suffer needlessly.

But there is hope, and nurses are helping to provide it. By prioritizing workforce diversity, qualified healthcare professionals enjoy greater career opportunities, and diverse patients increasingly receive the pain control they need. This article examines the importance of diversity in the healthcare industry and its implications for improving palliative care for diverse patients.

Biases and the Treatment of Pain

Generally, healthcare providers enter the field because they genuinely want to help people. Of course, financial security and social prestige are a perk, but no matter your particular role, the work is incredibly emotionally, cognitively, and physically demanding. Nevertheless, it is a profession you enter or remain in with a sense of a higher calling and a deeper purpose.

But, no matter how well-intentioned, healthcare providers are still very much human, and as such, they are shaped, both consciously and unconsciously, by the society in which they live. And that means that systemic biases have almost inevitably seeped into the care provider’s consciousness, contributing to the formation of false and dangerous stereotypes.

Research has shown, for example, that racial stereotypes concerning African-Americans have contributed strongly to the mismanagement of Black patients’ pain. These stereotypes are generally rooted in misperceptions of biological differences between African-American and Caucasian patients. This includes the false belief that Black patients have a higher pain tolerance than whites and the false presumption that Black patients are more likely to abuse drugs.

Implicit and explicit gender biases are also ubiquitous in modern medical practice. For example, female patients complaining of pain are more likely to experience treatment delays than male patients reporting the same or similar symptoms. Women’s pain symptoms, for instance, are significantly more likely to be attributed to emotional or psychological etiologies than men’s. This increases the likelihood that their pain will go untreated or under-treated, and severe disease symptoms will go unrecognized, thus delaying treatment.

Diversity and Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Nurses are at the front lines of patient care. They provide the majority of hands-on patient care, and, in general, their interactions with patients are more frequent and substantive than those of physicians. 

For this reason, diversity in the nursing sector is particularly critical in redressing inequities in treating patients’ pain. Culturally competent patient care almost inevitably ensures that nurses derive from various ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and gender backgrounds.

More specifically, this means that nurses with high cultural competence will better understand, recognize, and respond to culturally-specific manifestations of patient pain.  

For instance, women or patients from specific cultural or religious backgrounds may feel reluctant or unable to express their symptoms, especially if these pertain to “taboo” areas. Nurses from similar backgrounds are more likely to have the cultural competence to identify and overcome these cultural taboos.

This enables them to formulate strategies that help patients express their concerns in more comfortable and culturally acceptable ways. In addition, by enhancing the dialogue with patients, nurses can provide physicians with more comprehensive and accurate case notes, increasing treatment efficacy.

Addressing Medical Anxiety

Promoting diversity in nursing doesn’t just equip healthcare teams to understand and address cultural differences among patient populations effectively. Diversity also enables healthcare teams to recognize and remediate systemic healthcare disparities’ profound and long-enduring impacts.

There is mounting evidence, for example, that minority patients are far less likely than Caucasians to be satisfied with their quality of medical care. Deficiencies in minority patient care can be linked to various factors, from the lack of healthcare access to a shortage of interpreters for patients who do not speak English.

These care deficiencies can instigate severe medical anxiety in patients, particularly for those who have experienced significant physical or emotional trauma in past medical encounters. Nurses from similar backgrounds may have also experienced such challenges in the healthcare system, whether for themselves or someone they love. And as such, they are more likely to be able to accurately anticipate or ascertain signs of medical anxiety in female and minority patients.

Equipped with such insight, diverse nurses can lend a measure of patient support and empathy that comes from understanding and experience. And, importantly, they can more effectively advocate for patients and their unique needs, particularly in treating pain.

The Takeaway

Disparities in the healthcare system have for too long led to deficiencies in palliative care for minority and female patients. By promoting diversity in the nursing profession, however, the needless suffering to which diverse patients have been subjected can finally end. 

Recognizing Certified Nurses Day on March 19

Recognizing Certified Nurses Day on March 19

The annual recognition of Certified Nurses Day on March 19 honors the nurses who go the extra step to achieve certification in their specialties. But the day also helps raise awareness in the nursing community about the importance of certification and the benefits it brings to a nursing career.

Certification is an excellent career advancing move; after all gaining more knowledge and skills in your nursing specialty is only going to help you be a better nurse. But many nurses overlook another important result of gaining certification–the confidence boost it gives you and the new peer recognition of your advanced knowledge.

Clara Beaver, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, AOCNS, and president of the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) says certification brings better patient care, but also changes a nurses relationship with patients. “The best part [of nursing] is the buildup of trust with patients,” she says, “and having certification shows you have that commitment to oncology and that you have that knowledge. You both care about it and you know about it.”

Each certification is different, so look into one that that matches your specialty area. For example, ONCC offers five certifications: Oncology Certified Nurse, Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse, Certified Breast Care Nurse, Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse, and Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. Beaver says the bone marrow and breast care certifications are newer and were industry driven as a result of many nurses specializing in oncology subspecialties.

Some nursing specialties are starting to require certification as the advanced and most current skills are required for patient care. Many Magnet hospitals require certification for some nurses as do many cancer centers.

“We’re always trying to find the value in increasing knowledge and commitment,” says Beaver. “Certification says to the community that those nurses are staying up-to-date on what’s going on and their skills may be higher.” Beaver says when she became certified it made her think about patient care differently. “I looked at my patient differently because I had increased knowledge,” she says. :I looked at the entire background and not just at the task in front of me.” With certification, Beaver says she understood more of how things worked and could explain what was going on to the patient a little more.

Nurses who are certified are proud to show their certification, says Beaver, because it is instant recognition that you’ve gone above and beyond what’s required. “I feel like certification takes you up a little higher and they become like the informal leaders. They have raised confidence.” And their success with becoming certified shows other nurses that they can also achieve the same thing.

Nurses do find one of the biggest roadblocks to certification is test anxiety. “Nothing is as bad as the NCLEX,” says Beaver with a laugh. Before each of her three certification exams, Beaver says she had to overcome major test anxiety, so she understands why it can be a deterrent. “I just had to remember this is what I do every day,” she says. “Test taking is scary.”

Before each exam, she studied the test blueprints. She also pulled all the resources that were referenced to study those as well.  That’s what the questions are based on, she says, so review all that information carefully. “Pull the statistics and the references,” she says and find out your weakest areas so you can focus on those places intensely. Reading information out loud helped Beaver retain the information, and she encourages nurses to find a method that works best for them.

When you sit for the test, Beaver suggests that you read the entire question, then read all the answers, and then go back and read the question over again. This will help you slow down and comprehend exactly what is being asked.

If paying for the exam is a barrier, see if your organization will help pay for it or if a professional organization will help.

“Certification is an important part of our job as nurses,” Beaver says. “And it’s attainable. It expands your knowledge base and your skill set. And it shows a commitment to what you are doing.”

Meet Nancy Colobong Smith, American Nephrology Nurses Association’s President-Elect 2023-24

Meet Nancy Colobong Smith, American Nephrology Nurses Association’s President-Elect 2023-24

March is National Kidney Month and Minority Nurse caught up with nephrology nurse Nancy Colobong Smith, MN, ARNP, ANP-BC, CNN to find out what it’s like to be a nurse in this specialty. She is the national president-elect 2023-24 of the American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA).

Please tell me about your role now and how your career brought you to this place.

My current role is as the Clinical Nurse Specialist and ARNP for Renal, Dialysis, and Transplant at the University of Washington Medical Center. Although I am involved in several committees and projects, my primary focus is on the inpatient kidney replacement therapy program. We have an in-house team that consists of over 100 unit-based RNs trained in HD, SLED, PD & CRRT who perform approximately 6,000 procedures a year on one campus with support from the dialysis technician team. My role includes staff training, patient education, regulatory compliance, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and research. I also am consulted regarding evidence-based practice and care planning.

Following my passion and having the support of mentors in finding my way was invaluable. I started working as a nurse technician on the dialysis and transplant unit while I was in nursing school. When I graduated from nursing school, I was hired as a staff nurse. I had mentors who believed in me as I gained knowledge and confidence. I was able to become a charge nurse, dialysis nurse, and eventually assistant nurse manager. After being an assistant manager for several years, I realized that the parts of my role I enjoyed most were providing education, mentoring, clinical care, and improving systems. At the time I was applying for Master of Nursing programs, I was encouraged by one of the nursing professors to apply for the dual acute care nurse practitioner and advanced practice specialist tracks so that I could have the most flexibility in my future career path. I have been fortunate to find a role where I can still provide patient care directly and impact care at the system level.


How did you decide on nephrology nursing?

Like many nursing students, I was fascinated with labor and delivery and pediatrics. There were no openings there so my first job as a nurse technician was on a dialysis and liver/kidney transplant unit. I had little exposure to nephrology in nursing school but once I started working with this population, I found a new passion. Instead of individuals bringing home a newborn, I was helping individuals bring home a new organ that they were learning to care for and helping them create a new life after transplant. It was inspiring, fast paced, and still a growing field. As I learned more about kidney disease, I also realized that the diseases that contribute to kidney disease, like diabetes and hypertension, run in my family and are prevalent in the community. This added another level of connection to kidney care as a way to advocate and provide the best care possible to other individuals who have these diseases in their families.


What do you especially enjoy about your specialty?

I enjoy that there are several nephrology subspecialties such as chronic kidney disease, vascular access, outpatient dialysis, home dialysis, acute dialysis, and transplant. I have been able to continue working with the kidney community throughout my career and do different kinds of nursing – bedside, clinic, administrative, research. I have the privilege of working with individuals living with kidney disease over time and can support them through different stages of their health. Kidney care is very interdisciplinary, and I enjoy collaborating with colleagues in nutrition, pharmacy, social work, and nephrology. I have also worked on committees with patient advisors which has been so fulfilling professionally and personally. Professionally, I believe the systems that we create with patient advisors are more individualized and patient centered. Personally, I have learned so much about the strength of community, the power of hope, and how essential support systems are.


Please describe some of the activities you do within a week, i.e., patient care, medical records, family interactions, working with your team.

Every day and week vary some. I provide dialysis education to ICU and medical surgical nurses, meet with patients who are having issues with their vascular access or need dialysis modality education, am consulted on potential safety issues and perform chart audits, work with interdisciplinary committees on preventing catheter-associated bloodstream infections and urinary tract infections, consult on research or quality improvement projects, plan for continuing education, cover breaks for dialysis nurses performing intraoperative hemodialysis, and guest lecture at the school of nursing. Some days I am in meetings about developing care pathways with transplant surgery, updating the electronic medical record, discussing supply chain new equipment, or in a patient plan of care conference. With any system or product that impacts kidney care, the medical director, dialysis operations manager, and I are involved.


How do you keep up with all the industry changes around patient care and technology?

I attend ANNA’s National Symposium and Fall Meeting whenever I can. The quality of the presenters is excellent, and the content is evidence-based, relevant, and up to date. I also attend local nephrology conferences, attend online seminars, read the Nephrology Nursing Journal, attend Nephrology Grand Rounds, and subscribe to online nephrology list serves including the regional ESRD Network. The list serves provide highlights on a daily or weekly basis, and have different focus such as quality, new medications, treatments innovation, guidelines, and health policy. I also follow professional organizations on social media to get a sense of what are topics of discussion in the nephrology community.


If you are certified, how did you decide to pursue that additional credential and how has it helped your performance as a nurse and your overall career?

My first certification was the Certification in Nephrology Nursing (CNN) which I earned in 2001 because I knew I wanted to be a nephrology nurse long term. It also helped that I work in a Magnet institution which supports certification with professional development time and certification pay. I was starting to feel more comfortable with my nursing knowledge and skills and saw this as an opportunity to challenge myself and build confidence. I remember feeling so proud when I earned my CNN, and have continued to maintain it. My certification motivates me to stay current and engaged in my specialty. It also lets people know I am committed to nephrology care. I recently received my 20-year CNN pin and it is very special to me.


Can you talk a bit about how joining a professional organization like ANNA has helped your nursing career?

As a newer RN, I looked to ANNA to provide me with education and learning more about caring for people with kidney disease. As my career continued, I became involved in the chapter education planning committee and eventually chapter leadership. ANNA provided complimentary volunteer leadership education and tools to support me as a new leader. These skills carried over into my work as well as I became an assistant manager. When I was in graduate school and my husband was laid off, ANNA awarded me a career mobility scholarship that allowed me to finish my Master of Nursing. I have been able to present abstract posters at ANNA National Meetings and was published in the Nephrology Nursing Journal. I began volunteering on ANNA national committees and eventually became a director with the ANNA Board of Directors. Through ANNA, I met mentors and friends who have encouraged and mentored me over the years. There are so many potential benefits of engaging with a professional nursing organization, and I hope other nurses take advantage of all the benefits that membership offers. ANNA has made my nursing career and life fuller.


What else do you enjoy outside of your work?

Outside of work, I like to spend time with my husband of 26 years, our 24-year-old son, 21-year-old daughter, and our dog. We like to try foods from all over the world, visit national parks, take walks, visit museums, go to musicals, and play board games. My husband and I both have large extended families so we like to visit them when we can. At the end of the day, my introverted side takes over. I like to read, cook, work on puzzles and do crafts like knitting, making photo books, painting, and sewing. I also like to plant things and watch them grow.


Hand Hygiene Helps Patient Safety

Hand Hygiene Helps Patient Safety

Patient safety depends on many preventative steps, and many of those steps must be followed meticulously. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America collaborated with several organizations to address hand hygiene and infection control in the recently released Strategies to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections through Hand Hygiene: 2022 Update, one in a series of expert guidance documents known collectively as the Compendium. The report, published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, reinforces how the simplest act of hand washing and proper hand hygiene can have a significant impact on patient safety.

During this year’s Patient Safety Awareness Week, Dr. Emily Sickbert-Bennett, in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC School of Medicine, and one of the authors of the report, provided Minority Nurse with additional insight about hand hygiene.

Healthcare workers know that hand washing helps keep them safe and helps prevent the spread of germs in the patient population. “Every episode of hand hygiene can interrupt the spread of germs between patients, between patients and healthcare personnel, and between the contaminated environment and patients,” says Sickbert-Bennett. “Healthcare personnel need to wash their hands dozens of times throughout their workday as they have complex interactions with very sick patients.”

Despite knowing how effective simple soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) is at preventing the spread of germs, the study found that complete hand washing guidance isn’t always followed. In an intense and rushed environment, it’s not simply forgetfulness or a lack of intent that sometimes prevents proper hand hygiene. “The biggest factor is likely time – which impacts our ability to do hand hygiene often enough and thoroughly enough,” says Sickbert-Bennett. “An important way to mitigate this is to make sure that hand hygiene supplies are easily accessible in areas where patient care is occurring.”

And education about the proper techniques for keeping hands clean is essential, particularly considering that the report cites research that shows only 7% of healthcare personnel effectively clean the entire surface of their hands with thumbs and fingertips being the most frequently missed. The report also notes the potential for bacteria being difficult to remove if providers have certain fingernail polish or applications such as acrylic nails. Guidance around the need for proper cleaning practices, even if gloves are also worn, is also noted.

“Hand hygiene programs that use reminders to reinforce the habit of hand washing at the right times have been shown to be effective,” she says. “Nurses can play an important role in hand hygiene and patient safety by reminding their colleagues to clean their hands throughout the day as they take care of patients.”

Commitment from the top levels of organizations will also move the needle in the right direction. The report notes that nurses and healthcare personnel need easy access to hand-cleaning supplies and also moisturizing lotions that are in compliance with hygiene safety standards. All that hand washing takes a toll on the skin and cracks can also lead to infection. That means plenty of access to soap and water and also wall mounted pumps containing alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead of nurses carrying hand sanitizer in bottles in their pockets.

As healthcare providers, nurses can care for themselves and their patients with increased attention to an essential tool–their hands.

Nurses and the Power of Emotional Intelligence

Nurses and the Power of Emotional Intelligence

There is no question that nurses may appear to an outside observer to be primarily task-oriented, but the reality is that an equally important aspect of nursing involves communication with all people, including colleagues and patients. 

When it comes to authentic and clear communication and the nurturing of functional, healthy relationships, this includes the ability to read, interpret, and respond to one’s emotions and the emotions of others. This skill — and this is indeed a skill that can be sharpened and strengthened over time — is called emotional intelligence (EI).

The Impact of Your EQ 

Your “emotional quotient” (EQ) is one way emotional intelligence is referred to in the literature and popular culture; it’s also commonly referred to as EI. Daniel Goleman brought the concept to the public with his seminal 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence. Over the last few decades, it has found its way into healthcare, the corporate world, academia, and other spheres.

In terms of a framework, EI is often broken down into five realms:

  • Recognizing your own emotions
  • Managing your own emotions
  • Self-motivation
  • Recognizing and understanding the emotions of others 
  • Managing relationships 

The five realms are then described in the context of four quadrants: 

  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness
  • Self-management 
  • Relationship management

Rather than being a relatively fixed number like your IQ, your EQ is a set of skills and personal attributes that can be consciously improved throughout your life and career. And when examining the five realms and four quadrants above, it’s easy to see that the highly relational aspect of nursing can benefit from a nurse focusing on their personal development in these areas.  

The Relational Nurse

Most forms of nursing are relationship-based. Picture an emergency department, a clinic, a dialysis center, a home health agency, an inpatient hospice, an ICU, or a labor and delivery unit. In the daily work of a nurse clinician, effective communication with colleagues, patients, and their families is essential. This communication can exist as the lowest common (transactional) denominator or be much more, built on a foundation of emotional and relational intelligence.

Patients don’t remember nurses whose communication is unemotional or robotic; they remember nurses who went above and beyond with their kindness, compassion, and thoughtfulness. The physical skills of the nurse hold meaning, of course (e.g., skillfully hanging a unit of blood inspires patients’ confidence in their care), but mastery of communication and relationship-building is where the rubber truly meets the road.

In relationships and communication with colleagues, nurses’ emotional intelligence also comes powerfully to bear, whether as a clinician or a leader. A nurse’s ability to maneuver within a potentially complex workplace environment is based on their ability to converse with numerous stakeholders:

  • Doctors, surgeons, and other clinicians
  • Patients and family members
  • Case managers, IT professionals, coders, third-party vendors, and administrators

The relational nurse is a conduit, bridge-builder, negotiator, mediator, and educator, and the better the nurse is prepared to serve in these roles, the more successful they will be. 

Making EI Count

It takes many players to help make these facets of nursing come alive and make their mark. Within nursing schools and on the NCLEX licensing exam, EI could play a more significant role in educating nurses about emotional intelligence. If healthcare leaders and employers chose to emphasize EI and make it a part of their orientation, ongoing training, and corporate mission and values, everyone involved would be well-served. Yet it mostly comes down to the individual nurse prioritizing their emotional intelligence and personal growth

No matter how it’s addressed, emotional intelligence has a place in healthcare, nursing, and medicine. Nursing care itself is far from having a solitary focus on manual tasks. Relationships are at the core of nursing, and EI is where nurses can genuinely choose to shine. 

Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.

Focusing on Cardiovascular Health in February

Focusing on Cardiovascular Health in February

February celebrates American Heart Month and nurses everywhere have tools at their disposal to continue adding to their vast knowledge of heart health throughout the year. Whether you’re a nurse who specializes in cardiac care, one who works in other specialties, or a nurse considering making a career move into the cardiac field, many resources will help you find more information.

Nurses talk about heart health with patients because it has an impact on so many other health conditions and on a patient’s general quality of life. A healthy heart is critical to keeping the body functioning properly, and nurses are especially interested in helping healthy hearts stay that way. That might mean sharing education and resources so healthy patients are motivated to keep their blood pressure and cholesterol in check or in increasing their movement to keep their heart muscles strong. It also might entail assisting and educating patients who have any kind of cardiovascular disease or who have a genetic predisposition to it about lifestyle habits and medications that can help them manage and control their conditions.

How does cardiac care influence your nursing practice? If you’re interested in finding out more information to help your patients or to keep your own cardiovascular health on track, you’ll find resources that benefit your professional and personal life.

Here are a few heart-focused organizations that offer valuable resources.

The Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association is a national nursing  association committed to helping prevent and manage heart health problems. This organization offers extensive clinical resources (patient education and provider focused) that are available for free. Nurses across the healthcare spectrum will likely find something within the resources they can use with their own practice and populations. From angina and hereditary conditions to an atrial fibrillation and stroke infographic to many tips sheets, nurses will find helpful information.

Nurses who work with patients living with heart failure will find the American Association of  Heart Failure Nurses to be a necessary connection. If you work with patients experiencing and managing heart failure, this professional organization will offer the kinds of resources, professional development, and networking that will simultaneously build your knowledge base while connecting you with nurses in the same specialty. Because folks living with heart failure face distinct challenges, AAHFN promotes the best care outcomes while continuing to advance nursing care progress.

The American Heart Association has many groups dedicated to cardiac health and the Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing (CVSN) is for nurses who work in the cardiovascular care field. Nurses who are interested in policies, educational change, industry advocacy, and groundbreaking research will find this organization’s wealth of information of great use. The CSVN offers guidance and resources directed toward many nursing needs–from nurses who want information to help patients improve their cardiac health to those who are looking for a mentor. It also offers clinical symposiums and potential funding resources for nurse scientists who are doing research.

If you work with patients who are impacted by cardiovascular disease, you can look to certification to help you provide the most current cardiac care. The Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (CV-BC™) is for nurses who have an RN and who want to increase their understanding of cardiovascular care. This certification is good for five years and, as with other nursing certifications, signals to the wider community that you have a commitment to your nursing practice and that you are equipped with cutting-edge knowledge of the best practices.

Cardiovascular health impacts patients on all levels–from prevention to disease management. Nurses who specialize in the field have a wide community they can learn from and share knowledge with during American Heart Month or at any time of the year.

Celebrating Black Nursing Leaders: Dr. Jamil Norman

Celebrating Black Nursing Leaders: Dr. Jamil Norman

Dr. Jamil Norman is the Tempo Academic Program Coordinator for the RN to BSN Program at Walden University and a certified nurse educator with over twenty years of experience as a registered nurse and over fifteen years in higher education.

Throughout her career, Dr. Norman has served as an agent of social change in the roles of educator, researcher, and mentor. She is a member of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Network. As a nurse researcher, Dr. Norman works to advance the body of evidence on pregnancy-related health disparities among African American women.

Dr. Norman is an important nursing leader, and we’re pleased to profile her as we celebrate Black History Month with the Black Nursing Leaders Series 2023.

In February, we’ve been highlighting healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.


Meet Dr. Jamil Norman, the Tempo Academic Program Coordinator for the RN to BSN Program at Walden University

Talk about your career path and how you ascended to that role.

So when I started, I worked as a labor and delivery nurse at the bedside. And so I worked as a labor delivery nurse for three years before I decided to get my master’s degree in nursing education. After I got my master’s degree, I started working at Grambling State University, and I taught women’s health because that was the only area I ever wanted to work or teach. I love women’s health and everything with laboring women and babies until it’s time to hand them off to somebody else. So then I taught clinical and women’s health for several years before I decided to get my PhD in nursing. And that’s kind of when I transitioned into more leadership. I was the BSN program director at an HBCU where I taught before transitioning to online teaching at Walden. Between that was having babies and I needed to be more available for my family, yet still having a career, so I transitioned into full-time on my teaching, which I call a work-life juggle, not a work-life balance. I could still advance my career and pick up my babies from school. And so it’s been wonderful. I get to do a little bit of research and also teach and have leadership in management for being the coordinator of our program.

You mentioned that you always wanted to work in women’s women’s health. Is that what inspired you to become a nurse?

I wanted to be a pediatrician until it was time to take all my biology courses. In my first semester of school, I took a micro and cellular biology class and scored a 32% on a test. I thought I was going to faint! I thought, oh, this must be a 32 out of 50. But it was an F. It was the worst grade I’d ever gotten in my education, and I quickly dropped that course and talked to family and friends to figure out if this was really what I wanted to do.

My sister is also a nurse, and when I talked to her, what I thought doctors were doing was actually what nurses were doing. So that’s when I pursued nursing, but I always knew I wanted to be in medicine. And in fact, I went from I’ll be a pediatrician to I’ll be a pediatric nurse. However, when I went through that rotation, I thought, no, this isn’t for me. And I got pulled down to the labor and delivery unit when I was a patient care tech, going through nursing school, and fell in love. I couldn’t believe that I loved it. And that was it. I was sold. It was the trifecta. And being with mom during the happy time. I love that. Women, you come into the hospital for a happy moment, right? When you’re in the hospital, you’re not feeling well, you know, something’s wrong. This is the hospital’s main area where you come in happy. And, yes, there are sad times, but most of the time, you leave happy. That was it. I was sold after that. I never wanted to do anything else at the bedside.  After going through nursing school, I was like, nurses can do so much. Nurses do just so much that I love that about the profession. You can do anything in nursing.

What are the most important attributes of today’s nursing leaders?

Number one, for me, is always going to be passion. Because if you are not passionate about what you do, especially, you know, passionate about the profession of nursing, the hard days, they’re going to make you give up, and you’re not going to want to do it. I’ve seen it, some people go into nursing for money, but they don’t last. So you have to love what you do. And then it’s just accountability. And you’ve got to be a leader. You must be able to show up for those depending on you. And then the other thing right now, which is heavier in my mind, is you have to be ethical. And just everything that’s going on with the fake nursing degrees through Florida. I was heartbroken. When I saw that news, this wasn’t very good. And we’ve got to be able to protect the public. So you must have high ethics and moral standards to be a good nurse leader. 

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

It is burnout. Burnout has always been there. But after the pandemic, it’s challenging to be a nurse. Now, you’re short-handed. Sometimes you’re not very trusting of how people care for you whenever you’re in the workplace. And so burnout has got to be the biggest challenge. We have a lot of nurses who are educated to be nurses who are not working. And it’s because, you know, I’m not sure that we’ve always created the best environment for nurses to be able to, to live and to work and do what they, you know, love to do. So definitely, for me, the number one challenge is burnout, and at the bedside, as educators, the shortage is still there. For educators, when you have large classes, it’s exhausting.

What does it mean to you to be a nursing leader, and how are you making a difference?

The biggest thing for me is to embrace some of the changes occurring in the profession. Some nurses will tell you, don’t be a nurse. And I would never be that person because I think nursing is a wonderful profession. So I’m always trying to bring others into the profession and teach them to care for themselves. There are things that you can do to make sure that you don’t get burned out. I always tell my students if they don’t like what they’re doing, then change it. Don’t be afraid to change. Don’t just stay on at that job because you’re comfortable. If you’re tired, sometimes just learning something new and being in a different environment will bring back that passion you had when you first started and help with burnout and self-care. No one gets any awards for not using their days off. I tell everybody to use all their days and vacations, take time off with the family, and put the work aside so when they come back, they’re a better person for the people they work with and those care for. 

What nursing leader inspires you the most?

I have had the pleasure of having a magnificent mentor throughout my nursing career. Her name is Dr. Afua Arhin, and I met her when I had just started as a nurse educator. She has been so impactful on me because she was the first African American nurse with a PhD that I’d ever met. She came in and taught me so much about effective leadership. She told me to get my PhD, and at that time, I was like, Are you crazy? PhD? If she told me to jump off the bridge, I’d be like, yes, we’re jumping off the bridge, and it will be fabulous. She’s just that encouraging, but she has been with me throughout my career. She helped me to go out and present at my first conference. I’d never been a presenter at a conference before. I always thought that was what somebody else did. It wasn’t what I did. And she said I have information and research to share. She just held my hand through being the educator in the classroom and developing me as a professional nurse, researcher, scholar, and presenter. And she still does that. Currently, she’s working on a Fulbright and researching in Ghana.

She has just been when there is anything I want to do professionally, and I always bounce ideas off of her. And it’s just been wonderful to have someone like that in my corner throughout these years. And the ways she’s helped me to be, she is for me to others. If she’s helping me, I’m helping to mentor students and lead them throughout their careers. So I learned how to be a mentor from having an amazing mentor.

What inspirational message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses?

My thing is always to be the change. I always tell everyone, there are many things that people will complain about, they don’t like, but they’re not doing anything about it. If you want something to change, you have to be the change. You got to get out there and make a difference, whether at the bedside, as an educator, as a researcher, or in whatever avenue you want to make an impact. So get out there and do it. Even if it seems too small, or it might even be too big, start chipping away at it, and get out there and be the change, even if it’s just for one person. I’ve helped students in courses where we’ll talk about social change. That’s our mission at Walden University. And sometimes they think they’re not doing anything. If you’re out there caring for patients, you don’t even realize it, but you are doing something. There may be something that you want to do on a bigger scale in your community. But whatever it is, figure it out, and go out there and do it. But be the change.