The Indian Nurses Association of Illinois: Taking Matters to Heart

The Indian Nurses Association of Illinois: Taking Matters to Heart

Quite often a nurse will ask me how to become engaged in the health policy arena. I frequently advise nurses to get involved with their professional organizations as a start. Many nursing organizations have an advocacy and legislative agenda and are oftentimes engaged in advocating on behalf of patients and the profession. Here, we share a conversation with Aney Abraham, DNP, RN, NE-BC, who is a founding member and current president of the Indian Nurses Association of Illinois (INAI). Abraham discusses the origins of her organization and current issues they are addressing.

With regard to legislative issues, Abraham highlights a piece of legislation that was introduced during the 115th Congressional Session. The proposed legislation “H.R. 3592 South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act of 2017” aims to address the high rate of cardiovascular disease in the South Asian community. And while the proposed legislation did not gain much traction during the 115th Congressional Session, the INAI is hopeful that the original sponsors of the proposed legislation will reintroduce it and continue to seek funding to support research focused on finding solutions to the high rate of cardiovascular disease in this population. This targeted approach to improving the health and well-being of this population takes into consideration cultural factors that may influence health status and calls for early intervention and treatment through education and awareness.

As president of the Indian Nurses Association of Illinois (INAI), can you share with me a bit about the INAI, its origins, its mission, and membership?

Aney AbrahamThe Indian Nurses Association of Illinois was established in 2002. I was a nurse with about 18 years of experience at this time and among one of the few nurses that thought of this idea of forming a professional organization for nurses of Indian origin. There were many reasons for starting this organization. The first and foremost was that Indian nurses who immigrated to the U.S. faced many challenges as they transitioned in the United States.

At a Glance:
South Asians and Heart Disease

  • South Asians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States.
  • Family origins mostly from: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
  • High cardiovascular prevalence not readily known due to lack of data.
  • Research examining heart disease in Asians in general lacks subgroup analyses.
  • Possible contributing factors include early onset of diabetes, cholesterol abnormalities, westernized diets, and lifestyle.

Source: American Heart Association

For a more detailed discussion of heart disease in South Asian populations, please see the American Heart Association’s Scientific Statement.

Foreign nurses become minorities overnight having little or no orientation to the country or health care facility that they worked for. We realized that many nurses were eagerly anticipating the birth of this organization and thus successfully established the organization in 2002.

The mission of INAI is to identify and meet the professional, cultural, and social needs of nurses of Indian origin. In addition to our mission, our purpose is to ensure that we provide representation and interact with other professional organizations as well as promote cultural awareness by communicating the uniqueness and diversity of the Indian culture.

What do you believe are the top nursing issues impacting our profession today?

Job safety is important to all professions; nurses are not exempt from working in unsafe environments. One of the top nursing issues impacting our profession is workplace violence. Every day, our nurses are impacted by violence perpetrated by patients, their family members, and visitors. Incidents that may start small can spiral out of control within minutes. Even though nurses are very familiar with incidents of violence, research seems to suggest that workplace violence is increasing. We certainly hear about these incidents through TV, print media, and reports from nurses.

The second issue that is impacting our nurses is stress and burnout. Nurses are on the front lines providing direct nursing care, advocating for patients’ medical needs, comforting patients/families, and working with a multidisciplinary team to ensure that patients receive safe high-quality patient care. Stress and busyness can easily escalate with the demands that are placed on nurses daily.

As nurse leaders and professional organizations, we need to work on finding ways to address awareness and ways to mitigate these issues that are facing our profession.

What are some of the top policy or regulatory issues impacting the Indian nursing community?

One of the issues impacting nurses of Indian origin is abusive employment practices. To address this, in 2008 the ANA released the Voluntary Code of Ethical Conduct for the Recruitment of Foreign-Educated Nurses to the United States. The code addresses minimum fair labor standards, civil rights, age discrimination, equal pay, and family/medical leave.

Another issue impacting Indian nurses (majority of which are of South Asian descent) is that they suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes too frequently and too early in life. Compared to other ethnic groups, South Asians are four times more likely to have heart disease, experience heart attacks 10 years earlier in average, and have a 50% higher mortality rate from heart disease. To address this, in 2017 Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7) proposed H.R. 3592 “South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act of 2017.” This is a very specific piece of legislation targeting Asian Americans.

What is the overall purpose of this legislation, and why is it important to you as a nursing organization and to the Asian community at large?

Representatives Pramila Jaypal and Joe Wilson co-sponsored this bill to raise awareness of the alarming rate at which the South Asian community is developing heart disease.

The overall purposes of this legislation are to:1) promote heart healthy eating among Asians; 2) conduct research to understand why South Asians are at an increased risk for developing heart disease and; 3) develop educational tools about heart disease for South Asians.

This legislation is important to us as a nursing organization and to the Asian community at large. The members of the Indian Nurses Association spend a tremendous amount of time offering free community services in the Indian community. Our advanced practice nurses spend time on the weekends visiting the various churches conducting health fairs, offering lectures, and educating the community on the dangers of heart disease and diabetes. Legislation that supports research will enhance our ability to learn more about the root causes of the high risk for the Asian community and prepare us to share lifesaving information with the community at large.

Are there any updates on this given this did not pass out of committee?

We will continue to monitor where this is going as the original sponsors are committed to raising awareness and supporting research in this area.

What are some of the ways that your organization has engaged in community education regarding Asian American cardiovascular disease?

Every year we host a minimum of three community health fairs and lectures in the Indian community. Our members, many of which are advanced practice nurses, have the skills, expertise, and knowledge to effectively lead these health fairs. In addition to the health fairs, we offer free BLS and ACLS certification.

How does INAI prepare its members to be influential advocates in the policymaking arena?

INAI invites public officials and elected officials to speak at our meetings and conferences. For example, some of our guests in the past have included, at that time, Senator Barak Obama before he went on to become President of the United States and Dr. Ann Kalayil, Bureau Chief, Cook County Bureau of Asset Management. Dr. Kalyil was the former President of the South Asian American Policy and Research Institute.

Additionally, members stay informed through educational seminars and educational offerings posted on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. We also stay abreast of issues by following the legislative agenda of the American Nurses Association.

Are there other policy issues that are a part of your health policy agenda?

Many of our members are advanced practice nurses. Thus, we support the policy agenda of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS). Their priorities—including nursing workforce issues, health care reform, and health information technology—resonate with our legislative priorities.

The Indian Nurses Association is an organization of about 200 members. We can be more impactful when we combine our voices with other nursing organizations to enhance our policy advocacy on behalf of patients and the profession.

If you had to offer advice on why nurses should be engaged in advocacy and policy advocacy on behalf of patients and the profession, what would you say?

Nurses instinctively advocate for their patients. Equally important is for nurses to engage in legislative and political advocacy. This is needed to advance the profession and patient care. It is important for the voice of the nurse to be heard when any new legislation or bill is being introduced. An example of a recent bill is SB2151, a bill sponsored by Senator Hastings. This bill is about the Nurse Practice Act language surrounding delegation. Specifically, nurse delegation in community-based settings is of concern. Nursing has to provide the definition of what nursing practice entails, how nursing interventions and tasks can be delegated, and in what care settings the delegation can occur.

Nurses can stay informed on legislation that impacts their practice and profession by following nursing forums like @ANAnurses [and] @RN Action.

To stay engaged or not engaged in policy advocacy is a decision each nursing professional has to make, and he or she must always err on the side of staying actively engaged on behalf of the patients and those they serve.

Celebrate National Nurses Week

Celebrate National Nurses Week

The annual celebration of National Nurses Week from May 6-12 highlights and honors the incredible life-saving work nurses do all year round.

As a nurse, this week deserves your attention. There are many ways you can celebrate loudly or ways you can reflect quietly (or both!). Nurses worked hard to get this week recognized—efforts began in 1953 and slowly incorporated a national day of recognition for nurses. In 1993, the week was made official by the American Nurses Association board of directors. It was first officially celebrated in 1994.

The ANA has chosen “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate” as this year’s theme to call attention to the 4 million registered nurses in this country.

Here are a few ideas to keep your feelings of nursing pride going this week:

Revel in the Celebration

This is a big week for nurses around the nation, and it’s a time when you feel solidarity with nurses around the world. Whether or not your organization makes a big occasion out of this week, it’s a good thing to do for yourself. Seek out ways to join in the conversation. Go out to lunch with your colleagues. If you are a manager, order some goodies for your busy staff to have throughout their shifts. Share the week with your family and friends and talk about what your day is like and why you chose nursing.

Check Out What Others Have to Say

Follow Twitter conversations at #NursesWeek. Comment on the Facebook sites of some of the organizations you belong to. Raise awareness as you mark the week. Show your nursing pride and start conversations where you can. Send a letter to the editor about current news relating to nurses—positive or negative.

Learn More

Nurses never stop learning and this week offers additional opportunities to boost your knowledge in recognition of National Nurses Week. Dial into a webinar offered by the American Nurses Association. You can register for Nurses4Us: Elevating the Profession which will be held May 8 at 1 pm EDT. The webinar, which offers one contact hour, includes a Twitter chat, so follow along or add to the conversation at #NursesWeekLive.

Reflect on Your Nursing Career

Take time this week to think about why you chose nursing as a career. What started you on that path and how has your direction changed? Are you happy with the changes or would you like to get something else from your career? What can you continue doing to gain career satisfaction? What else can you do to improve your nursing skills?

Sometimes reflecting deeply about how your career has made a difference in your life and the lives of others is a morale booster that’s needed in a career where you never slow down.

Happy National Nurses Week!

Is a Case Manager Role Right for You?

Is a Case Manager Role Right for You?

A case manager oversees patients and patient care with a holistic view, and that makes it an excellent role for nurses. As a case manager, nurses advocate for patients as they establish care plans and coordinate care for cases that are often complex.

October 7 to 13, marks National Case Management Week and gives nurses a chance to learn about and explore this career path. A case manager role offers opportunities to make a difference in patient care, especially for patients and families who work with many caregivers.

According to the American Case Management Association (ACMA), case managers work with various physicians, nurses, caregivers, social workers, community resources, and patients to ensure access to needed services and resources. Then, they coordinate those resources to give the patients the best care options that also help meet the patient’s needs and desires.

A patient with several conditions, who relies on physical and occupational therapists, has home health care on certain days, takes multiple medications, and who is recovering from surgery is going to need a specialized care plan. This is where case managers are able to offer expert coordination. They keep an eye on each of the moving parts of the care plan.

With a nursing background, a case manager is able to watch for medical changes and anticipate potential care needs. The nursing expertise is valuable as a case manager, as nurses know how hospital and healthcare systems operate and also what patients need from providers. They are able to notice gaps in care that can make a difference in healthcare outcomes.

ACMA identified the following five core areas of a case manager’s role.

  • Education
  • Care coordination
  • Compliance
  • Transition management
  • Utilization management

Each area overlaps with others and involves many partners to succeed. The role is independent, but requires teamwork and collaboration for successful outcomes. Case managers take a broad view of the patient’s needs to ensure the patient and the patient’s family is fully informed. They explain the patient’s condition, the care needs that are presented, how they will be put into place, any additional screening or testing, and then a continuum of follow-up care to make sure the patient is receiving needed care.

Nurses in a case manager role gain immense career satisfaction from helping patients navigate the sometimes overwhelming healthcare system. Families are often grateful for the expertise case managers provide. Because they are so familiar with the healthcare system, they often know approaches or solutions families might not have access to. But case managers’ knowledge extends past the immediate healthcare system. They are able to help with emotional or mental health supports, home assistance, community resources, any necessary transition to facility assistance, and even spiritual resources.

Certification for case managers is highly recommended after at least one year of work in the field. If you are looking for a way to help patients and families in varied healthcare situations, a case manager role is an excellent way to do that.

Four Ways Emergency Nurses Get Empowered

Four Ways Emergency Nurses Get Empowered

For this year’s Emergency Nurses Week, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) focuses on nurses being “EmpowerED” and what that means for each nurse.

As an emergency nurse, being empowered in your role and in your career can look different for each nurse. During Emergency Nurses Week (October 7-13) condsider some ways you feel “EmpowerED.”

1. Education

Some nurses want to learn more about particular conditions or situations they see routinely. A busy urban ED will see fairly different visits from an ED in a farming community. Learning how to best treat patients with the more common injuries and conditions can help your performance and care. Sometimes, it’s just being continually prepared for the things you never expect to see. If something is going to happen, it will happen in the ED and you won’t have notice. Learning how to stay agile and use your critical thinking skills in high-pressure situations is essential.

2. Teamwork

Other nurses might find working on teamwork skills is an important way to feel empowered in their careers and their daily roles. In an emergency department, teamwork truly is life-or-death. Teams that work seamlessly will have more potential for better results. They will also have more resources to lean on when they lose a patient or when injuries are overwhelming. Like any skill, teamwork takes practice, study, and repetition. If you feel your collaborative skills could use a boost, learning more will only make you a better nurse.

3. Leadership

For other emergency nurses, becoming empowered might mean taking on more leadership responsibilities and roles. As you become more familiar with the workings of your own department, you might find you have ideas to make the department work better and be more effective. Maybe you have already implemented some actions that have turned out with positive results. Becoming empowered for you might encompass making a difference in your department and which can have an immediate and long-lasting impact on patient care.

4. Advocacy

Emergency nurses aren’t always in the unit. They can become powerful and persistent advocates for nurses and patients. They can speak out on issues like nurse bullying, violence in the workplace, safety concerns, and push to make changes for the better. Emergency nurses can take action and connect with government officials. They can use their voices to let them know of issues that could improve patient outcomes like improved hygiene processes, more detailed paperwork processing, increased medication checks, or training new nurses on staff.

If you’re an emergency nurse, what makes you feel empowered?

September 23 to 29 Marks Nursing Professional Development Week

September 23 to 29 Marks Nursing Professional Development Week

Of all the specialty nursing practices, a nursing professional development (NPD) practitioner is one that allows nurses to help other nurses advance while also retaining the bedside work that’s so important.

This week is Nursing Professional Development Week, and the timing offers a chance to recognize what these practitioners do and how it helps advance the nursing profession.

Nursing professional development practitioners have a range of duties, says Mary Harper PhD, RN-BC, and the Association for Nursing Professional Development’s director of nursing professional development. Whether they are assisting nurses at bedside with a procedure or on-boarding new nurses in an organization, the work they do has the common goal of improved patient care.

The career offers a role that Harper explains has the following seven distinct responsibilities:

  • partner for practice transitions
  • learning facilitator
  • change agent
  • mentor
  • leadership
  • champion of scientific inquiry
  • advocate for the the nursing professional development practitioner practice

NPD practitioners are hands-on when it comes to helping new nurses adjust to a job, training a unit on better practices, or advancing the skills of a nurse transitioning to a management role. Their role within an organization (sometimes called a clinical nurse educator or learning consultant and generally operating out of the organization’s education department), is one that continually advances how things are done.

The nursing professional development practitioner also has an outward facing role as well. They are in charge of developing cooperative relationships with academics and with members of other professional community organizations. They research evidence-based practices and quality improvement to ensure the best possible care and treatment for patients.

Harper says sometimes nurses assume the role would remove them from direct patient care, but she says that’s not the case. There are many times when the nursing professional development practitioner works with staff at a patient’s bedside to help them improve practices. They still have the direct interaction while also having a chance to work with nursing staff as well. Even more important is that they are teaching skills that will directly, and often very quickly, help patients.

Growth within nurses leads to organizational change,” she says. “We really influence these things. Our goal is always that the patients receive optimal care.”

If you are interested in a career as a nursing professional development practitioner, becoming a preceptor is the best first step, says Harper. Many in the field have an MSN degree with a focus in education. While that isn’t required, working toward that goal will equip you with the skills you’ll use frequently. Dual certification as a NPD practitioner and in another specialty can only help you.

Just because a nurse has excellent skills, doesn’t mean those skills are what’s necessary for a NPD role. “You can be a very competent nurse, and you are thrust into this role where you don’t know how to do a needs assessment or measure the outcome of what you have done,” she says. “We find it’s really important for NPD practitioners to have change management and leadership to fulfill that role.” Training for the role boosts both your nursing skills and your leadership skills.

You can also reach out to your organization’s education department and ask to get involved, says Harper. For example, if you find some of the staff is having trouble starting an IV and you are the best nurse at starting an IV on the floor, you can offer to help put together a training plan for improving the process. “It’s a great way to get recognized,” Harper says.

This is a distinct specialty with its own specialty skills,” she says. This week, celebrate the nurses who are in this varied and busy role.

Nursing Assistants Provide Care and Companionship

Nursing Assistants Provide Care and Companionship

For 41 years, nursing assistants have celebrated National Nursing Assistants Week during June. Career Nursing Assistants Day on June 14 kicks off the week of honoring the nursing assistants who care for elderly or disabled patients, especially in long-term care facilities, hospice care, home care, or nursing homes.

According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, nursing assistants are a vital connection to patients as they help them with the basic care and activities of daily living. They help patients feel cared for and comfortable, while also providing the essential hands-on care that keeps patients healthy. While helping patients do things like bathe, eat, or gain movement, they are also able to form trusting relationships. Nursing assistants spend so much time with patients they are able to get to know them and learn about their lives.

When patients are away from the comforts of their home or far away from family and friends, nursing assistant s give a companionship so necessary for feeling better. They provide a gentle care from which patients and residents feel respect and a sense of belonging. When nursing assistants greet them by name and ask about their health or their physical ailments, they are taking an assessment of how the patient is doing on a basic physical level. Those are assessments that are essential to the medical team that oversees the patient.

But because of their close proximity to people, nursing assistants are also able to ask about the favorite foods of patients or residents, their upbringing, how they celebrated milestones, and family and friends who were once or are still close to them. They may get to know the visitors who come often and are able to hear and share stories with them. With that kind of knowledge, nursing assistants have many topics of conversation they can use to engage patients. Their familiar presence becomes reassuring and comforting as a patient’s moods may go up or down or as their physical discomfort increases or decreases.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for this role will continue to rise at a faster-than-average rate. Those looking to get into this career field will find plenty of opportunity to offer compassionate and skilled care to populations that needs it most. The median salary of $27,500 annually will fluctuate with location and demand, and you’ll need to pass a competency exam. Like other jobs in the medical or care field, the work can by both physically and emotionally demanding, but the rewards of caring for patients and making a difference in their lives is great.

Help celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week by noting and thanking nursing assistants for the tremendous work they do.

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