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.
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!
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.”
Student nurses don’t need anyone to tell them their lives are busy. With school, work, families, and a personal life, many student nurses are juggling more than most people. Tamar Rodney, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC, CNE | PhD-c, is a Geneva Foundation/Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholar 2016-2018 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and is no exception.
To celebrate today’s observation of National Student Nurses Day, Rodney gave some insight to what life is like for a graduate student in nursing school. As a PhD candidate in nursing, she has been through the rigors of nursing school for a while. What she knows is that her dedication and the time spent on her education is going to bring her to the place she wants to be. Along the way, says Rodney, the journey itself is pretty amazing.
“I love being a nurse, and having the opportunity to make someone’s day or life better,” she says. “I felt drawn to nursing because I admired my memories of childhood reactions to nurses. Their presence meant someone was here to help. I have always carried that image with me of bringing a sense of comfort, security, and a sense of care to someone else.”
Rodney knew going for her PhD would be hard work, but she says her patients were her inspiration and continue to be the motivation to learning as much as she can. “My journey to pursue a PhD was influenced by the day-to-day care of my patients,” she says. “I saw problems that were not addressed and felt like having concrete research would be a good way to start being able to answer those questions.”
And while continuing her education is far from easy, it has brought her a level of satisfaction and of personal and professional growth. “Graduate school is as challenging as I thought it would be,” she says, “but I also got the opportunity to think independently and explore questions that I was interested in. I could finally expand my thinking about ways to provide better care for my patients. I also saw the direct link and importance of collaborating with other healthcare providers and disseminating research for implementation at the bedside.” Eventually, she says, she would like to combine the teaching, research, and practice areas of nursing into one career.
Rodney completed her LPN and RN at Dickinson State University in Dickinson ND, and she started out her career as an LPN working in a nursing home. “I loved it,” she says, “and felt like I would get a new history lesson every day I went to work.” From there, she worked in inpatient psychiatry, primarily to learn more about mental health and how better to approach treatment and diagnosis. It was during that time that she began her MSN program at the University of Vermont.
Discovering a new passion for mental health, Rodney took advantage of certification and gained her psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certification. “I recently completed my PhD studies at The Johns Hopkins University, exploring biomarkers for PTSD in military personnel and veterans with traumatic brain injuries.” All of her studies are helping her get closer to where she wants. “My ultimate goal is to change the way we approach diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders,” she says.
Like nursing practice, a nursing career isn’t done in a vacuum. Joining a professional organization (Rodney belongs to the Graduate Nursing Student Academy) is a way to network and share resources with other student nurses. “Having completed my program I now have a large network of other young professionals with whom I can collaborate and have as supportive resources,” say Rodney.
And graduate school itself offers opportunities for growth that are unexpected, because you are finding the answers but also beginning to ask the deeper questions. “Graduate work in nursing is a unique way to advance one’s personal understanding of nursing practice, an opportunity to deliver the best care possible and advance nursing research and practice,” she says. “You can explore those questions that you have an interest in and explore innovative ways to answer it.”
Around the world, patients rely on transplant nurses to help them navigate the complicated path to a transplant.
To honor the work these nurses do, the International Transplant Nurses Society (ITNS) established Transplant Nurses Day to be held annually on the third Wednesday in April. On April 18 this year, transplant nurses around the globe will celebrate the life-saving, life-giving, and life-changing work they do.
From its Chicago, IL headquarters, the ITNS helps nurses around the world connect with others in this specialized field and offers information to remain professionally current.
Transplant nurses work with patients who are having or have had solid organ transplants, so in addition to patient care, they also must stay current with the advances in transplantation itself. Education and professional growth are topmost issues for ITNS and nurses are encouraged to remain continually engaged with learning.
Transplant nurses have particular concerns about their patients and will interact with them along the entire spectrum of their transplant care. Theses nurses can specialize in one particular area—transplant coordinator, staff nurse, or post-operative, for instance—but understanding the entire transplantation spectrum helps them offer better care.
And while Transplant Nurses Day is a highlight of the year, the society also offers awards for transplant nurses and a yearly essay contest (the winner is announced on Transplant Nurses Day). The organization helps nurses interact with other nurses in the same specialty. Hearing from and learning from others in the field helps bring a fresh perspective and a new drive to their personal and professional commitment. Celebrations and struggles are understood and tips about certification or insight into transplant patient care can be shared.
And because transplant nurses work with more than just the patient, they are also able to address issues related to the family and loved ones of transplant patients. The ITNS Foundation offers grants and scholarships for professionals who want to further knowledge in the field as well.
Help the transplant nurses in your life celebrate their success on Transplant Nurses Day!
National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 11 – 17) focuses attention squarely on one thing at the top of every nurse’s list – keeping patients safe.
Minority Nurse spoke with Patricia McGaffigan, RN, MS, CPPS, vice president, safety programs at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) about the ongoing issues around patient safety and how nurses can continue to implement positive and productive change.
While nurses provide a majority of care in inpatient settings, McGaffigan says the issue of patient safety extends to a wider setting as interprofessional teams are responsible for so many levels of care.
Because of the nurse’s role, they are especially able to impact patient care. “Nurses represent the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, in roles that range from the bedside to the boardroom,” says McGaffigan. “One specific and relatively easy way that nurses can effect change is to become educated in foundational safety science.” Nurses who aren’t trained in safety science can obtain training, and many student nurses receive the training as part of the curriculum. “Nurses are perfectly positioned to be able to identify risks and hazards in their work environments that may be mitigated before harm occurs, and this daily commitment to mindfulness about preventing harm before it happens is vital.”
As nurses, ongoing education, and maintaining and obtaining appropriate certifications help nurses provide the optimal care when they are with patients. Consistency in providing care and following a standard of care plan help patient outcomes as well.
“Nurse-sensitive indicators that reflect structure, process, and outcome are of great importance to nurses.” she says. “As a profession, we want to ensure that we have appropriate numbers of skilled nursing professionals who are able to meet the unique needs of patients and families. Process measures are focused on ensuring that we deliver the right care in a consistent and reliable manner.”
Patient harm can result when there is a lack of guidance or an absent standard to follow, says McGaffigan. For instance, harm can result when patients aren’t regularly repositioned or when oral care in ventilated patients is neglected. Other areas of particular importance include medication errors, falls, hospital-acquired infections, or complications, and other injury.
To provide the best care, nurses must also be able to care for themselves. If they are overly fatigued, do not feel supported or able to thrive in their organizations or if they are working in an organization where a culture of safety is not emphasized, patients cannot receive optimal care and nurses themselves might be at greater risk.
“Nurses are increasingly and very appropriately focused on their own physical and emotional safety, as well as cultures of safety,” she says.
The interactions that build relationships between nurses and patients are key to keeping patients safe. “Nurses are often the profession that has the most interaction with patients and families,” says McGaffigan. “We can consistently strive to identify the needs and preferences of patients and families, and also ask patients and family members what matters to them, and what they might be worried about.” McGaffigan knows this first hand. “As a former pediatric critical care nurse, one of my greatest ‘early warning systems’ was when a parent might tell me that ‘something just doesn’t feel right about my child,’” she says.
When errors do happen, a transparent process to understand what went wrong, assess the cause, and prevent future harm is essential. “Punitive cultures exacerbate reluctance to report near-misses and errors,” says McGaffigan. “Nurses can become more familiar with Surveys of Patient Safety Culture, identify areas where unit and organizational performance is stronger or weaker, and play a key role as leaders and participants in initiatives to improve scores on their survey domains.”
Patient safety continues to evolve as new medical technologies are introduced and as patient care continues to become more complex and more challenging.
“Nurses, as well as our other colleagues in healthcare, have chosen our profession because we have a core value of ensuring that our care is not only technically sound and appropriate, but is safe,” says McGaffigan. “As nursing professionals, we come to work every day to ensure nothing less than safe care. Whether we are in traditional roles at the bedside or as nursing leaders, educating our next generation of nurses, sitting on boards of directors of health care organizations, serving in formal patient safety positions, contributing to progress in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, or more, we individually and collectively embody safety as our core value.”
Those who enter the profession do so knowing they are often a patient’s greatest advocate and a crucial partner in receiving the best care. “We are committed to creating a world where patients are free from harm,” she says, “and we advocate and anchor our healthcare system to not simply regard safety as ‘one more thing that we do,’ but understand that ‘it is the one thing that must permeate and provide the foundation for all that we do.’”