Celebrate Nurses 365 Days

Celebrate Nurses 365 Days

We just recently celebrated National Nurses Week and everyone has returned back to their normal work routine. During Nurses Week many received breakfast, lunch, cookies, candy, pens, t-shirts, and other trinkets from their nurse managers or facility. Unfortunately, many nurses did not receive anything. Now that the week is over, does that mean that all of the celebration and appreciation is over?

It is sad that nurses have spent years going to school to obtain degrees and certifications and spend more time with their patients than their own families. Nurses work 365 days out of the year, yet they are only celebrated for seven days. Nurses focus on taking care of patients, being caregivers, nurturers, teachers, and counselors; in addition to providing treatments, performing procedures, and administrating medications. Sometimes they are yelled at by patients, families, doctors, and often by their own colleagues.

Nurses endure a lot of stress on a day-to-day basis. This is not to say that all days are bad; because there are plenty of days when you feel happy and proud to be a nurse. Although money would be welcomed by every nurse, sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. A thank you from a patient when you take the time for a brief moment just to sit and talk with them, from a family member who notices the care that you give their loved one, from a doctor who is notified by you regarding a critical lab value or assessment on a patient, or by your colleagues when they noticed you doing a task well.

Oftentimes nurses take care of others, but forget about themselves or their fellow nurses. There is no rule that says nurses should only be celebrated for one week. Nurses should be appreciated every day. Nurses should find ways to celebrate each other. You do not have to wait for one designated time of the year or wait for management to give recognition.

Although most nurses would welcome a monetary gift, sometimes the simple things are more valuable. Every nurse should start a “Nurse Appreciation” project. This can be done daily and is not limited to your unit. Make it a point to recognize a nurse daily. If you notice great customer service or patient care, let that nurse know immediately. If they help others or volunteer for special projects without being asked, show your appreciation. Create a “Nurse Spotlight” bulletin board, many people like to see their name in print and it shows other staff and patients the positive aspects of the unit. This project could also boost the morale of the unit, thereby increasing nurse satisfaction, which would have a positive effect on patient care.

Thank you all for your compassion, knowledge, and expertise. Let’s make a change and have “Nurses Year” and celebrate each other for 365 days.

5 Ways to Improve Cultural Competence in Nursing Care

5 Ways to Improve Cultural Competence in Nursing Care

Nowadays, nurses are increasingly working with patients from different cultural backgrounds. This brings opportunities and challenges for nurses to deliver culturally competent services. Whether working at a hospital, in a nursing home, or within a school, nurses must have the ability to identify differences in others. It is expected that nurses understand patients’ differences in demographics, beliefs, norms, practices, and desires for medical care and take their perspectives into account when caring for them. Cultural competence is an important component of excellence in health care delivery and can contribute to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities.

Here are 5 ways to help you provide culturally competent nursing care.

1. Perform a cultural competence self-assessment.

Determining your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working with people who come from different cultures is probably one of the most important ways to help improve your cultural competence. Several organizations offer free cultural competence self-assessment tools and you can choose one that appropriate to your work.

2. Obtain a certificate in cultural competence.

You can increase your cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills through culturally competent training, a workshop, or a seminar. Journal articles, textbooks, and the internet also offer great information that can help you improve cultural competence.

3. Improve communication and language barriers.

The values, beliefs, and worldview of a particular cultural group are rooted within their language use; therefore, language is the key to accessing a culture. It is best if you can speak its language or find a translator (an individual providing language assistance) to help communicate with limited English proficiency patients. You also can use pictures, gestures, or written summaries to improve communication with your patients and reduce language barriers.

4. Directly engage in cross-cultural interactions with patients.

Understanding that each patient is a unique person can help nurses effectively interact with patients. Nurses need to have the ability to explore patients’ beliefs, values, and needs in order to build effective relationships with them.

5. Participate in online chats and networks.

Online networking and social media can have a great influence on improving nurses’ perceived cultural competency and cultural awareness and keeping them up-to-date on cultural competency issues.

Reducing Colorectal Cancer Risks with the Mediterranean Diet

Reducing Colorectal Cancer Risks with the Mediterranean Diet

According to the American Cancer Society, minorities get colorectal cancer (CRC) more often than other groups. A diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains may reduce the risk for CRC.  Diet? Which diet? This is where confusion sets in and where nurses can help.  Previous studies have shown that just recommending an increase in fruits, vegetables and whole grains does not work. Nurses can give an evidence-based specific recommendation on the type of diet that is low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet that is low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been shown can reduce the risk for CRC by up to 14%.

What is the Mediterranean diet? According to Oldways Preservation and Trust, it includes:

  • Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans
  • Herbs, spices, nuts
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil
  • Fish and seafood are typically eaten at least twice a week
  • Dairy foods like yogurt and traditional cheeses
  • Eggs and poultry (chicken, duck)
  • Red meat (beef, lamb, pork, mutton, goat) and sweets are rarely eaten
  • Water and red wine (in moderation, for those who drink)

Many of the foods that comprise the Mediterranean diet are mainstays of the diets of other cultures. For example, kale, greens, and collards that can be part of an African American diet are part of the Mediterranean diet. Chickpeas, polenta, and chilies that can be part of a Hispanic diet are part of the Mediterranean diet. Having foods that are already part of your patient’s diet may make the transition to the Mediterranean diet a bit easier.

Another benefit of the Mediterranean diet is that is also a heart healthy diet. The diet has been shown to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is “bad” cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is also associated with a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, and a reduced risk of breast cancer among women who used extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts in their diet.

Finally, a foundation of the Mediterranean diet is activity and social connections. Enjoying meals and being active with friends and family are important to staying healthy and fully recouping the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is a great way to reduce colorectal cancer risk while improving heart health. As a nurse, knowing about the Mediterranean diet, its benefits, and how it is similar to your patient’s current diet can be a way to increase the likelihood that you can help your patient get on the path to great health.

Could Your Patient Have a Food Allergy?

Could Your Patient Have a Food Allergy?

Springtime is allergy season. No matter were you live, the changing seasons bring new outdoor and indoor allergens for people with seasonal allergies to cope with.

But while people sniffle and wipe watery, itchy eyes, there’s another allergy that isn’t always as visible, but incredibly serious. Life-threatening food allergies affect millions of people, are increasing, and can develop at any point in a person’s life. Severe reactions send about 200,000 people to the emergency room each year in the United States.

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), this week (May 13-19) is designated as National Food Allergy Awareness Week. Foods including milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and crustacean shellfish are the culprits behind the majority of food allergies in the United States, but many people have allergies to other foods. While some reactions are immediate and obvious, others are more subtle. As a nurse on the front-lines of patient care, it’s important to consider food allergies when presented with new and undiagnosed symptoms.

According to FARE, common symptoms of allergic reactions to food include:

  • Itchy mouth
  • Hives
  • Nausea/vomiting/stomach pain
  • Nasal congestion or stuffiness
  • An odd taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Throat tightening
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Turning blue
  • Weak pulse
  • Anaphylaxis

Taken alone, each of these symptoms could be attributed to many other illnesses or reactions. But as each exposure to a potential allergen can cause a more severe reaction, it’s prudent to make sure you consider food allergy for patients presenting with these symptoms.

If you or the patient suspect food might be triggering the symptoms, help guide them to proper allergy testing and tips on how to avoid the allergen. Instruct them to call 911 if they suspect an allergic reaction to food as the reaction can be unexpectedly sudden and severe. Help determine an appropriate care plan for the immediate future to keep the patient aware and as safe as possible.

Becoming more aware of food allergies and what reactions might look like is another tool in your nursing toolbox that could help save a life.

3 Tips for Communicating with Patients’ Families

3 Tips for Communicating with Patients’ Families

As a nurse, you already know communicating with patients and their families is one of the most important parts of your job. You are likely often busy with many tasks and may be looking after multiple patients, but taking the extra moment to connect can be vital to patient care, or in some cases, a matter of life and death.

Loved ones, such as spouses, parents, and children, may have questions, concerns, or information they need to share with you. Here are some tips that can help you navigate those emotionally challenging situations.

1. Listen.

Many people think of communication as talking. But listening is as important, or arguably, more important. Listening isn’t just being quiet when the other person talks. Really listening requires being fully present. Try to avoid distractions (we know it’s almost impossible for a nurse, but even for a few seconds). Don’t interrupt. Slow down, and take a moment to understand what the patient’s loved ones are saying. Take in not only the words, but also the visual cues from their facial expressions or body language. 

After the family member has finished speaking, summarize it. Repeating their communication back to them in your own words is a great way to let them know you understand what they are saying. It also helps you solidify that information in your own memory.

Don’t forget to ask follow up questions.  According to Harvard Business Review, “asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to want additional information.”

2. Pay attention to nonverbal communication.

Words are only one part of what you may be saying. Nonverbal communication, such as body language and tone of voice, are just as important. A famous study by Albert Mehrabian concluded that non-verbal communication may account for 93% of what a listener takes away from an interaction.

A more recent study that examined patient relationships with General Practitioners suggested nonverbal communication is especially important in the medical profession. “Nonverbal communication is an important factor by which patients spontaneously describe and evaluate their interactions with a GP. Family GPs should be trained to better understand and monitor their own nonverbal behaviors towards patients.”

In this study, tone of voice was perceived as the most important aspect of nonverbal communication by patients. When interacting with a patient’s family members, it may be helpful to use a kind, warm tone of voice and to steer clear of sounding angry or nervous.

Eye contact was perceived as the second most important nonverbal cue. Patients interpreted lack of eye contact as a lack of care or attention, and perceived eye contact as caring and involvement.

While this particular study looked at patients rather than patient families, these principles are likely to be helpful for communicating with anyone in a high-stress medical situation.

3. Make sure you are being HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, protects patient privacy and information. All nurses should be familiar with the details of this law, as violating it may harm patients or potentially cause a lawsuit. Patients generally must consent for their information to be released, even to the police. In some circumstances, family members may want medical information you are not legally able to give.

You can usually give medical information to family members involved in treatment or payment for treatment, provided the patient does not object. If you have any sense that the patient objects to their medical information being shared with a family member, it’s best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, ask.

Neuroscience Nursing Requires Complex and Compassionate Care

Neuroscience Nursing Requires Complex and Compassionate Care

Every year, National Neuroscience Nurses Week is celebrated in the third week of May. The week honors nurses who dedicate themselves to this field and to the patients and families impacted by everything from severe head trauma to stroke.

Neuroscience nurses focus on the brain and the injuries and diseases that impact this essential and highly complex organ. With the rapid-fire developments in the field and the distinctive ways each person’s brain responds to any kind of disruption, neuroscience nurses’ skills are always evolving.

The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, which has local chapters throughout the country, helps nurses with professional development, networking, and staying current with the latest trends and technology in the field. As a professional organization, it offers information on how nurses can obtain Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN) certification or a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN) certification.

Neuroscience nurses care for patients who are vulnerable and who sometimes have injuries or diseases that have an uncertain prognosis. They may care for patients who have newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis, advanced Parkinson’s, encephalitis, or have recently suffered a mild or severe stroke. They may treat those who have been in a serious car accident and suffered a head injury or someone who has a neurological injury from a fall. They might also plan out care and treatment for patients with epilepsy or recovering from meningitis.

While caring for the patient, they must help families cope with the uncertainty or the potentially long recovery, and they also must guide them in the care they will need to provide to increase the prognosis for each patient. The patients might need occupational, speech, or physical therapy to relearn how to do many activities of daily living, and nurses will work with those teams as well.

Because of the variety of needs for neuroscience nurses, the field has potential job openings in many settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and trauma units. An aging population also increases the demand for neuroscience nurses as various illnesses and conditions impact an aging brain.

Neuroscience nurses must have excellent critical thinking skills as each patient will respond differently to therapies and treatments. They also have many ways of helping and engaging both patients and families to improve outcomes.

Thank a neuroscience nurse in your life this week!

5 Ways for New Nurses to Keep Their Emotions in Check

5 Ways for New Nurses to Keep Their Emotions in Check

Working in health care can be emotionally demanding and stressful. Not only do nurses normalize their own emotional reactions to practice, but they also ease the fear and distress of their patients. Research shows that early career nurses are likely to react more negatively to the emotional demands of practice and are at higher risk of stress, emotional exhaustion, and burnout.

Emotional health is an important part of life. It allows us to work productively and cope with our daily job stress. Here are 5 tips to help new nurses manage the emotional demands of the job.

1. Take care of your physical health.

This is probably one of the most important ways to take care of both your body and mind. Your physical health can greatly affect your emotional health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. Improving your physical health can positively impact your emotions on a large scale.

2. Focus on mastering your skills.

It is important that you focus on improving your ability to perform all nursing care and administrative skills independently. These skills will increase your confidence at work and promote satisfaction within your new role.

3. Practice resilience.

Resilience is the ability to overcome challenges quickly and effectively in order to move forward in life. Try to build positive beliefs in your abilities. Becoming more confident in your own abilities, including your ability to respond to and deal with new job environment, is a great way to build resilience for the future. Being resilient will increase your ability to perform under pressure and can affect the way that you view life and its challenges.

4. Practice deep breathing exercises.

Deep breathing exercises have been proven as an effective coping skill. They can help relieve emotional stress and anxiety on the job, improve your mood, and allow you to not to hold onto things that are out of your control.

5. Find a mentor or an experienced nurse who is a positive role model.

Having someone you can reach out to for guidance will help you properly manage the demands of your work and hopefully help you avoid burnout. Recognizing your emotions and expressing them properly can reduce emotional tension and emotional problems.

Opportunities for Nurses During National Nurses Week

Opportunities for Nurses During National Nurses Week

This week is National Nurses Week. Several businesses across the country are honoring nurses this week with deals and discounts. Nurses have been recognized as the most trusted profession for the past 16 years. As nurses, we play vital roles in disease prevention, health promotion, and treatments, which deserve to be celebrated. It’s important that we raise public awareness of our contributions to society.

There are many things nurses can do to help celebrate National Nurses Week. Here are just three examples:

1. Recognize yourself and others by, for example, a word of “thank you” or a message of gratitude.

Show your appreciation and support for the works nurses do. Importantly, take a moment to think about all the work you have done to help your patients during your years as a nurse.

2. Maintain and advance the standard of the nursing profession.

Improve your nursing knowledge by signing up for a continuing education course or a conference during National Nurses Week.

3. Improve positive relationships between senior and less experienced nurses.

Take this opportunity to build positive relationships between nurse supervisors and junior and senior nurses. Help clarify role expectations and promote an open exchange of opinions and ideas, and encourage junior nurses to achieve high-quality benchmarks.

Happy National Nurses Week to all nurses!

How will you be celebrating this week? Let us know in the comments.

Are You Mentoring Someone?

Are You Mentoring Someone?

One of my greatest pleasures in life is being a mentor to the next generation of nurses (not all of them, obviously!). I’ve learned over the years that the mentor/mentee relationship should be taken seriously. Mentoring relationships have often grown organically in my career. Though they are informal in nature, they provide a touchstone, an outlet, and a path for success to the mentee.

One thing you have heard in this career is that nurses eat their young. I’m not convinced that this is unique to the profession. Look around you and you’ll see someone in need of a helping hand in their life, and I’ll bet you have something to offer.

Here are 10 ways you can make the most out of your mentoring relationship.

1. Start by taking inventory of yourself.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a nurse? With experience can come bad habits, corner cutting, and sloppiness. You don’t want to pass those on as wisdom. Conversely, I’ve gained deeper insight into the process of nursing, how to work within a system to promote change, how to put patient safety and outcome at the top of my priority list. These are the things I want to share.

2. Model the behavior you want to see.

I hate to say it but anyone can talk the talk. Oddly enough, I found that hand washing is a great silent instructional tool to model the correct behavior. There are plenty of nurses modeling bad behavior, but it only takes one person to do the right thing for it to catch on.

3. Be quick with praise.

The new nurse often works in a vacuum of praise. They are just expected to always be correct. I point out the correct behavior when I see it. That moment of reinforcement will last a lifetime. I’ll bet you can think of a time when someone praised you.

4. Don’t let a bad habit take root. 

Gentle correction like, “You are doing great. I can see why you did it that way, but let me show you the right way… and here’s why.” The trick is to give constructive criticism in a way that works to change behavior without humiliating the receiver. One humiliation can sour a relationship. I never give correction in front of other people. I just don’t do it. Gentle correction in private is the way to go.

5. Be willing to learn.

Medicine requires a lifelong commitment to learning—and not just doing CE’s to renew your license every few years. Every day I find some new facet of my practice where I don’t know something. How does this medicine work? What is the natural course of this disease? What is the meaning of this lab value? Modeling to my mentee that I’m a learner encourages him/her to be a learner as well.

6. Be comfortable enough to share your mistakes.

We’ve all made them. I let my bad experience be a learning tool for my mentees.

7. Show the wonder of medicine.

Enthusiasm, excitement…these things can die if not frequently watered and fed. We have so much pressure on us as nurses that we can forget to see that caring for another human is a wonderful experience. The human body is an awesome machine for carrying around our mind. Even in great states of stress or disability, it can surprise us with its tenacity. It can also surprise us with its fragility.

8. Invest time in your mentee.

Time is all we have on this good earth. It’s my most valuable gift and when it comes to mentoring, I give it freely. Someday, one of these young nurses is going to be caring for me, and I want the compassion that I have for my patients and my craft to be reflected in the next generation of nurses.

9. Have fun.

If you aren’t laughing, you aren’t alive. Caring for the sick and injured at the bedside is tough cookies. Having a ready joke, seeing humor in difficulty, smiling…these are valuable coping tools that I use daily.

10. Finally, be compassionate.

It’s our most valuable asset. Having compassion for our fellow humans sharing this journey of life helps give us meaning. Compassion leads to love, and kindness, a desire to understand the plight of others, to intercede in tough circumstances, to be a good servant to mankind. That’s what we should want to pass on to the next nurse.

Don’t let a mentoring opportunity pass you by. You’ll find, like I did, that being a mentor is fun, rewarding, and a two-way street. I get 10 times as much as I give.

Celebrate National School Nurse Day Today

Celebrate National School Nurse Day Today

Today’s celebration of National School Nurse Day is recognition that school nurses are an integral and essential part of any school community. And while a school nurse’s mission has remained steady over the years, the job responsibilities and job duties have not.

Doreen Crowe, MEd, BSN, RN, is on the board of directors for the National Association of School Nurses and is the Director of Nursing Services for the Wilmington Public Schools in Massachusetts, says the role of today’s school nurse has changed over the years.

School nursing is a special role that involves managing the health and wellness needs of school-aged children,” she says. “Many children attending school have chronic and acute health conditions. It’s my job to insure these students are receiving necessary support to be in school, safe and ready to learn.”

Children and teens require support to have a good day at school and that can mean a school nurse is there to oversee all kinds of care. “It involves providing care coordination, leadership, standards of practice, quality improvement, and community/public health,” says Crowe, who has been in her role for 16 years. “The ultimate goal is connecting school health with academic success.”

When each day is different, Crowe says planning and time management become both crucial and one of the biggest challenges. “You never know what each day will bring,” she says. “During a typical day, the school nurse can be seen multi-tasking. One minute, she’s assessing a student for illness complaints. Then she’s seeing a student with a scraped knee from recess, followed by a student who recently lost a parent to substance use.”

And the landscape of who is bringing up kids is changing. “It’s also becoming more typical for grandparents to be raising their grandchildren,” she says. Dealing with multiple caregivers and different generations of caregivers becomes a masterpiece of coordination and communication. And when a school nurse is informed of and sensitive to any changes or challenges in a home environment, he or she can help the child with proper resources and support.

School nurses today are more likely to have access to data to determine the types of care they are providing, the number of children who go home early, or how many children with mental health diagnosis is changing. Using this kind of solid information can inform their practices, but can also offer the district administration insight into what a school nurse is dealing with on a regular basis.

And while roles change and responsibilities become more complex, school nurses come to school ready to offer care, comfort, medical services and guidance, and even a spare set of clothes when needed. “The school nurse is always ready for an emergency,” says Crowe, “and is prepared for multiple scenarios.”