National GI Nurses & Associates Week takes place this year (March 22-28) in the middle of a world in upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic that has taken hold around the world has a direct and significant impact on healthcare workers around the globe.
While the industry continues to grapple with the demands placed on its workers, GI nurses continue to do their work to help those with disorders involving the entire gastrointestinal tract.
Sponsored by the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses & Associates, this week focuses on the nursing practice of gastroenterology and endoscopy and the conditions of the GI tract. Nurses in this specialty are involved in all aspects of care of GI patients. They will treat patients who have various conditions including reflux, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or cancer. Because of the broad range of conditions, GI nurses are specialists in body systems that are also related to the GI tract and how each impacts the other.
Gastroenterology nurses will meet with patients, will assist with procedures and follow up care, and offer ongoing patient support. Nurses in this role are also a primary source of education about these conditions and how they impact overall health.
Because GI conditions have significant impact on other areas of health, GI nurses work as part of a team that helps patients with life-changing adjustments. They might work with nutritionists to help patients with celiac disease learn how to adapt to the often overwhelming challenge of eliminating any wheat ingredients from their diets and other nutrition education. GI nurses will also work to help control any chronic pain that presents with gastrointestinal disorders or diseases. Patients also frequently turn to their GI nurses to help them navigate the social aspects of having a condition that can be highly disruptive to daily life, so nurses will bring in other team members while they also use their own vast knowledge of coping skills.
Nurses in the gastroenterology field frequently assist with procedures that include endoscopy to determine allergy, irritation, or disease or colonoscopies to diagnose disease or as a screening tool for colon cancer. They will be with patients through these procedures and will educate them on what to expect and normal recovery. Because GI nurses work with patients who are of all ages and also with patients who may have other complex conditions, they have to remain alert for any unexpected complications.
GI nurses rely on their critical thinking skills as well as a deep sense of empathy for their patients. GI conditions involve symptoms that sometimes bring embarrassment for patients, and GI nurses are excellent at normalizing what the body is doing.
If this career path interests you, experience in a broad specialty like med/surge nursing will be an asset for moving forward. You’ll want to gain experience with GI patients, so that is the next step. To advance your career and to ensure you are providing your patients with the best possible care, becoming certified is next. Taking the GI certification exam shows you set high standards for yourself and are willing to take on the extra work to become the best nurse you can. The additional knowledge gained with the certification process will boost your skills.
Celebrate GI nurses this week, and stay safe out there on the front lines.
We are in the first quarter of the year and none of us expected or envisioned that we would be dealing with the course of events happening now. It is almost surreal, like a scene from a movie. Many people entered the new year with the desire of having new goals, resolutions, and dreams. This was to be the year signifying “2020 Vision” seeing things more clearly. Everyone stated “this is going to be my year.” What we are going through now has been a real eye-opening experience.
Over the course of history there have been many epidemics, disasters, and social issues, which were usually contained in one region. People may have felt safe thinking, “it is not happening in my city, state or my area of the country.” These past three months, the “Coronavirus pandemic” has affected all U.S. states and multiple countries, and crossed every race, age, and socioeconomic group. This blog is not going to be filled with statistics, because we are bombarded daily from all media sources with the data. Updated information should be obtained from reliable sources such as the CDC (www.cdc.gov) or WHO (www.who.int).
This “global shutdown” has affected every aspect of human life. Freedom and things that we took for granted, such as shopping, going to the movies, dining out, visiting amusement parks, playgrounds, attending concerts, festivals, hanging out with friends and family, and most of all traveling has been brought to a screeching halt. Now families are going to have to learn how to spend more time with their families, reflecting on things to be thankful for and creating entertainment and meals at home.
For safety, government officials have issued “Stay at home” and “Lockdown” mandates, limiting travel for only essential needs. The goal is to try to decrease the spread of the virus, especially to vulnerable populations; hence a new term has been coined “social distancing.” Everyone is to keep a 6-ft distance from each other and limit gatherings of people to 10 or less. Social distancing is a physical separation and does not mean that you cannot communicate with others. The one positive note is that in this age of technology we all can stay connected to others whether they are in the same city or across the country.
Social distancing is important, but there are two populations that this may have an adverse effect on, those with mental illness and those that are in abusive relationships or families. Social distancing could cause “social isolation” and those with depression could have an increased risk of suicide. The worst thing is having individuals quarantined in the home with their abusers. If you know anyone that is in an abusive situation or has mental health issues, reach out to them, if possible.
We are not sure when this pandemic will come to an end, so during this time find ways to decrease your anxiety and stress and try not to panic. Some things that you can do is continue to exercise, keep your humor (in light of what’s going on), watch movies, create crafts and cook together, and make sure to reach out to those that may be alone.
May this pandemic not dim our vision. Stay calm, stay focused and productive.
Despite roots stretching far back into history, nursing has only been a recognized profession for a little more than a century. While the nursing industry has made great strides since that time, it primarily remains the realm of white females. Just over 9% of registered nurses (RNs) are male, and minorities only make up about 20% of the nation’s total number of RNs.
Nursing’s lack of diversity is problematic on its own, and minority nurses may find that the diversity issue is compounded when the time comes for a career change. So what happens when seasoned nurses are ready to expand their employment horizons? Some LPNs and RNs may choose to tread the path of primary care, re-enrolling in medical school and working towards a doctorate. For others, the realm of human resources may be an attractive option.
Individuals from historically underrepresented groups are a great choice for roles within health care-related human resources management and administration. That’s because minorities are more likely to bring the topics of diversity and inclusion to center stage. And when the importance of diversity is emphasized at the managerial level, everyone benefits, from patients to providers and educators.
Discrimination in the Health Care Industry
As most people of color are well aware, discrimination is still a major social issue in 2020. And this discrimination can happen everywhere, from social settings to the workplace and beyond. Although federal law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, and disability, more diversity is needed within the health care industry, especially in the field of nursing.
That’s because nurses are essentially the foundation of quality care and healing. Further, they act as liaisons to primary care physicians and specialists, often serving as the voices of their patients. Patients from all walks of life deserve to feel as though they’re represented within the field of nursing.
By fostering a more inclusive environment, human resource managers in hospitals and clinics may be able to bridge the gaps, at least where health care for minority groups is concerned. And make no mistake, there is a glaring disparity among minority populations. According to a 2014 study published in Public Health Reports, “diabetes care, maternal and child health care, adverse events, cancer screening, and access to care are just a few examples in which persistent disparities exist for minority and low-income populations.”
Human Resources, Inclusion, and Diversity
So how does human resources fit into the equation? At their core, nursing and human resource management have a lot in common. After all, providing compassionate interactions with a diverse group of individuals is a major component of both career paths. Yet where nurses typically only deal with patients and their immediate colleagues on a daily basis, HR managers must also deal with the business side of health care as well.
For example, health care HR managers must address industry trends and set the standards for ethical practices within their facility. They may oversee digital recruitment and hiring, while also keeping patient needs at the forefront of their mind and even addressing legal situations that may arise. It’s a multifaceted job that requires knowledge, patience, and discipline as well as compassion.
A nurse who is interested in becoming an HR manager in health care should prepare to be challenged. You’ll need plenty of experience under your belt, as well as strong communication, organization, and computer skills. To get an edge over the competition, you may also want to consider pursuing an advanced degree in health administration.
Prospective HR professionals should also take note that speed and accuracy are paramount to the job, as they are in the field of nursing. Computer skills are a vital component of the job, and HR managers should have a strong grasp of technology and tools such as open-source software that allows you to quickly sign forms online, from invoices to payroll and hiring documents. Even in our digital age, most health care facilities leave a significant paper trail.
Unfortunately, sometimes that paperwork can stem from an unpleasant situation, such as legal action against your health care facility. Even when great care is taken to ensure that the most vigilant professionals are employed at a facility, that fact doesn’t always guarantee a safe and inclusive work environment. Thus, even the best HR managers may end up on the receiving end of a workers’ compensation claim.
While most workers’ compensation claims involve physical injuries, a hostile work environment could indeed be grounds for a lawsuit, especially if management was aware of the problem. And although workplace stress isn’t grounds for a workers’ comp claim, work-related trauma injuries may be. If the discrimination was serious enough to be deemed traumatic, the injured worker may indeed be entitled to compensation. As an HR manager, it’s your duty to help foster a more inclusive work environment where discrimination has no place.
This becomes even more important when you yourself are one of the very minorities who is often overlooked for leadership positions such as HR management. Nursing leadership means making connections with your staff, one of the best ways to prevent discriminatory practices is by modeling inclusion and diversity in your workplace. Do this in your hiring practices, in your relationships with your employees, in your interactions with clients; it will trickle down.
Advocating for diversity is extremely important when it comes to social justice, but it can be a fine line to tread in the workplace. Within the health care industry, minorities should try to take on leadership roles, such as in management and HR, in order to help build a more inclusive environment where patients and providers alike can feel safe, respected, and represented.
Nurses looking to advance in their careers and in the quality of patient care they deliver can look to certification to provide both.
March 19 recognizes National Certified Nurses Day, and many nurses find certification provides an opportunity to gain focused, crucial knowledge and skills that make them better nurses.
Which nurses should attain certification? Any nurse who wants to gain additional training in a specialty should reach for becoming certified. Certification is available in dozens of specialties from cardiac to pediatric, and nurses aren’t restricted to only one certification. You can obtain certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner, a Certified Pediatric Nurse, a Certified Urologic Registered Nurse, a Cardiac Vascular nurse, and many others.
Why is there a day devoted to nurses who take this step? Certified nurses have shown a personal and professional commitment to their career and the nursing profession in general. They have chosen to achieve, and exceed, the highest non-degree level of expectation toward a specific area.
Should you become certified? If you’ve been in your role for a while and are ready to take on additional responsibilities, certification offers that opportunity. What if you’ve been thinking of taking a new path in nursing and switching into another area? Certification can help you by giving you opportunities to learn and gain expertise.
Certification generally requires a couple of years of nursing experience in the designated area before you can be qualified to take a certification exam. Nursing students can keep the goal in sight while they are gaining practical experience. That experience allows you to develop a solid foundation of clinical nursing practice, especially in the area of certification you want to earn.
When you’ve decided that becoming a nurse with certification is a good step for your career and for the level of care you provide to your patients, you’ll need to map out a preparation plan. You can begin by asking your colleagues who are certified what they did to prepare and any tips they might have to share. They can also be a steady source of encouragement through the process. Talk with your supervisor about your plans to take the certification exam, too.
Nurses who want to earn certification credentials generally start preparing for the exam months in advance. There are study guides available to help. And, despite the anxiety that taking a test like this can sometimes trigger, preparation will be a big help in your final score.
If you’ve already achieved advanced credentials in a specialty or a subspecialty, you’ve shown a dedication to your profession that is public, recognized, and respected. Generally, certification can help nurses who want to assume greater responsibility, greater leadership, and, often, a salary boost.
National Certified Nurses Day honors nurses who have met this additional, and rigorous, challenge. It also inspires nurses who haven’t achieved certification yet to take that next step—whether it is deciding to take the leap, applying for a certification exam, or beginning to study for the test.
To all certified nurses—your work is appreciated by patients and colleagues around the globe.
When patients have surgery or other procedures in which they have to receive anesthesia, a team works together to ensure the patient’s safety and best care. One of these team members is the perianesthesia nurse.
Terry Clifford, MSN, RN, CPAN, CAPA, FASPAN, has worked in this field since 1991 and took time to answer our questions about it.
As a perianesthesia nurse, what does your job entail? What do you do on a daily basis?
Within the scope of perianesthesia nursing, there are a number of opportunities to serve. From 1991 until 2015, I worked as a clinical bedside nurse in the PACU (post anesthesia care unit). Throughout that time, I often worked as the clinical resource nurse for the unit, not only caring for patients emerging from anesthesia, but helping to coordinate resources within the unit to ensure safe patient ratios, appropriate breaks for staff, etc.
Today, I am the perioperative nurse manager responsible for leadership of 60+ staff members working between the preoperative clinic, the ambulatory surgery unit, and the post anesthesia care units. My current role in perianesthesia nursing includes oversight of unit-based budgets and productivity, staff education and guidance, and active participation in surgical services activities geared at optimization of services and providing quality care.
Why did you choose this field of nursing?
After graduating from nursing school in 1981, I was fortunate to have many opportunities to work in a wide variety of subspecialties, from med-surg, to cardiac rehab, to care coordination, to house supervisor. Upon graduating from a master’s program in 1991, I happened upon a clinical position in the PACU and never left.
It’s an amazing privilege to be able to help guide a patient and family through experiences that can seem frightening, during a time when they are most vulnerable and often fearful. There have been such wonderful advances in the science of anesthesia and pain management that being on the cutting edge of change is always exciting.
What’s the most surprising thing about your job that other nurses wouldn’t expect?
I think one of the interesting things about perianesthesia care is that while we can be confident that we have provided incredible support to safely and competently guide a patient through a surgical or procedural experience, many times the patient does not remember anything. This was disappointing to some nurses who highly value the nurse-patient relationship, but I believe that even in the fog of anesthesia, and the fact that the patient may or may not remember, we do an amazing job of keeping the patient experience a positive one.
What would you say to someone considering this type of nursing work?
I highly encourage staff to pursue their passion—if this is an area of interest, by all means, find a way in!
I think that perianesthesia nursing is the best kept secret in this profession. Every day, I am grateful for the privilege it offers as far as providing safe, respectful care to patients as well as providing safe, respectful leadership to staff.
While the nation continues to grapple with the growing COVID-19 pandemic, one fact is particularly worrisome. Older adults who contract the virus are dying at much higher percentages than younger people.
Minority Nurse turned to experts with the Gerontologic Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA) to understand the risks associated with COVID-19 and how nurses can work to protect their patients and themselves.
“The effects of aging have a major influence in the response to a respiratory virus or bacteria,” says Michelle Moccia, DNP, ANP-BC, CCRN, GS-C, and GAPNA’s past president. “As one ages the immune system is less responsive to a virus or bacteria with an inflammatory response to fight off the virus and/or tolerate the complications from the virus. The elderly have limited cardiopulmonary reserve thus a compromise in airway and breathing can lead to the inability to breathe thus predisposing individual to complications such as pneumonia.”
And as the medical community gains more understanding about this particular virus, other factors are emerging, says Deborah Dunn, EdD, MSN, GNP-BC, ACNS-BC, GS-C, and GAPNA’s president. “Some experts have theorized that in addition to the pneumonia burden there may be an increased or exaggerated lung inflammatory response to COVID 19 in older adults – leading to the severe respiratory distress and failure seen in older adults.”
What can people in those specific age categories do? “It is best for older adults to avoid crowds,” says Moccia, noting the oft-heard advice about washing hands, staying home if you’re sick, and avoiding others who are ill holds true. And Dunn notes that if a loved one is in a facility and the facility restricts visitors, it’s going to be important to keep up communication with loved ones to keep anxiety and social isolation at bay.
“Prevention and control of the spread of COVID-19 rests on halting transmission,” says Dunn. “Nurses know that in the healthcare setting they play a key role in stopping transmission by frequent handwashing, avoiding droplet contact, and early identification, triage, treatment, and quarantine of persons who may have infection.”
Both Dunn and Moccia say nurses should be especially careful to wash their hands before and after entering a patient’s room, wearing gloves when contact with bodily fluids/blood/secretions may occur, practicing needle precautions, and wearing protective equipment if they are in contact with a patient who has or is suspected to have COVID-19.
As patient advocates, nurses can educate patients and their families. Nurses can help patients with personal hygiene like washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, and disposing of used tissues, says Dunn. Protecting their health while giving them some control also helps with the uncertainty and anxiety people are feeling right now.
“Families with older adults in care settings such as assisted living facilities or nursing homes want to know that their loved ones are being cared for and having their needs met,” says Dunn. “Nurses working in these facilities should facilitate communication about the measures being taken to protect patients from infection, why adherence to the measures is needed, and reassure families about the status of their loved ones health.”
As nurses work through this unprecedented outbreak, they can keep updated with the CDC website about COVID-19. Nurses who work with infectious and contagious illnesses know that staying current with continuing education can be life saving—for them and for their patients. “Nurses in acute care settings and other healthcare setting where they may care for patients with contagious conditions that require face masks during care should be fitted for the N-95 mask and be trained in the proper wearing of the mask,” says Dunn.
As COVID-19 works its way around the globe, the medical community is working hard to prevent the spread, educate the public, and even offer some hope.
“I’m sure we will see a lot more information from infectious disease experts,” says Dunn, “as they are studying COVID-19 underlying physiologic mechanisms closely and develop targeted treatments.”