Celebrate Forensic Nurses Day Today

Celebrate Forensic Nurses Day Today

If you’re a nursing student equally fascinated by both medical and legal issues, forensic nursing might be just the career path for you.

Today is Forensic Nurses Day, falling at the end of Forensic Nurses Week (November 11-15). This observation gives nurses an opportunity to consider this distinctive area of their profession. Forensic nurses treat people medically but they are also responsible for uncovering the sources of injury, illness, or even death. The week is sponsored by the International Association of Forensic Nurses, the leading professional association for this nursing specialty.

Forensic nurses can practice in various settings and with roles that vary significantly. This is a good career choice for nurses who like to switch up their roles while still relying on a base set of expertise and skills. Nurses in this role have a passion and for helping people who are victims of violence. They balance their medical treatment with a deeply compassionate nursing approach to help a patient in the midst of a trauma, all while pulling together pieces of what happened to help find out more.

Because of the patient population they serve, forensic nurses work closely with the judicial system. Nurses in this role may care for patients who have suffered sexual violence, partner violence, elder abuse, child abuse, or another kind of injury that is often, but not always, intentional. Some forensic nurses work in the corrections system.

While they treat patients, they are often collecting evidence to help the legal system’s potential prosecution of the person or persons who hurt them. They may work with police officers to gather evidence or with prosecutors to relay information about the injuries.

Nurses who deal with trauma have to have a deep well of compassion and a steely focus to help the patient while trying to uncover as much information as possible. They rely on excellent nursing knowledge and skills to work with patients who come to them while processing a traumatic event or long-term trauma and often scared. But they also must develop a delicate expertise in injury—particularly the cause of it, where it is, and how long it has been present.

Forensic nurses can specialize in particular areas as well – focusing on elderly populations, psychiatric cases, or children. Still others may become specialists in situations where a person died as the result of violent acts, and they help the investigation with their medical knowledge. Nurses who become trained to assist victims of sexual assault and violence can become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) nurse.

Forensic nurses work in the world of trauma so they need the emotional, physical, and spiritual resources to support their own reactions to seeing so much intentional injury. The stories and cases can overwhelm even the most seasoned nurse at times. Coping skills are a forensic nurse’s magic cape, so being able to recognize, accept, and mitigate job stress are essential.

While they deal with people who have been hurt, forensic nurses have a front-line view of the issues surrounding violence and work as advocates for violence prevention. They may even be expected to appear in court to relay information about a specific case.

Forensic nurses are allies to patients who are hurt both physically and mentally. They deserve a shout out of thanks this week for all they do.

Perioperative Nurses Use Complex Skills

Perioperative Nurses Use Complex Skills

With millions of surgeries taking place annually across the nation, a career as a perioperative nurse is one that is both secure and exciting. This week’s recognition of Perioperative Nurses Week (November 10-16) lets people know about the critical work these nurses do throughout a surgical process.

Perioperative nurses serve the vital role of helping patients before and after surgery to ensure they are safe, informed, and comfortable. These nurses also take on the role of being the patient’s advocate when they are in surgery and unable to speak for themselves.

Organizations such as the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) are excellent resources of information and education in this career. Perioperative nurses depend on a variety of medical, critical thinking, social, and analytical skills every time they report to work. No day is every the same as the one before, and perioperative nurses know even routine surgery isn’t always routine.

With this responsibility, perioperative nurses are experts at understanding how a human body reacts under surgery and how human emotions can be unpredictable pre- and post-surgery.

Patients see perioperative nurses before they go into the OR. All the talk that goes on isn’t just idle chit chat, as perioperative nurses have specific expertise in chatting with patients to find out more about them. They are naturally interested in learning more about the patient, but they are also looking for information they can use when the patient is coming out of anesthesia.

People can become confused, agitated, happy, or sad when they are waking up from surgery, and an experienced perioperative nurse knows just how to guide the situation so the patient feels safe, is medically stable, and can get reoriented. Nurses will use the information they gained pre-op to talk to the patient. Maybe the person likes golf or talked about family or mentioned a quilting habit. Bringing up those familiar and happy associations helps patients enormously and also makes a nurse’s job easier. Managing a patient who is calmer makes their recovery easier, faster, and safer.

Many people don’t know the nurse who cares for them before and after surgery is also present by their side during surgery. During Perioperative Nurses Week, nurses can make a point to let people know of the complexities of this role.

They are patient advocates, but they are also a core part of the surgical team as well. Nurses in the surgical suite must be experts at preventing problems and spotting any issues immediately. With their attention fully on the patient, they are in charge of noticing if a patient is reacting poorly to any part of the process. They keep track of the monitors to see blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart activity, but they have to continually assess the patient visually. They will notice any change in the patient’s physical body—from breathing patterns to skin color changes—that could indicate a problem.

The perioperative nurse relies on a toolbox that holds a little bit of everything—an  intense focus, up-to-date medical skills, keen attention to the patient, social ease, and compassion—to help patients through surgery.

If you’re a perioperative nurse, take some time this week to celebrate the care you give your patients, the teamwork you contribute, and the way your work elevates the entire nursing profession.

 

 

A Nurse Practitioner Keeps Communities Healthy

A Nurse Practitioner Keeps Communities Healthy

Operating with the highest level of autonomy, nurse practitioners are lifelines for many patients.

This week’s designation as National Nurse Practitioner Week (November 10-16) is an excellent time to examine the roles nurse practitioners (NPs) play in the nation’s healthcare system.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a leading professional organization for NPs and also leads advocacy for issues relating to NPs. A nurse practitioner has achieved an educational path that brings them to Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (ARPN) designation. That gives them essential nursing knowledge and combines it with the ability to use it in a more comprehensive manner than a registered nurse (the first step to becoming an NP).

One of the biggest challenges facing NPs today is achieving full-practice authority (FPA) in all states. Because NPs have wide-ranging responsibilities that include examining and treating patients, diagnosing illness, and prescribing medications, they often work at the level of a physician. In some states, a nurse practitioner is not mandated to work under the supervision of a physician or required to have a physician sign off on some of their treatments. In states that don’t recognize the full practice authority of an NP, that additional layer of physician sign-off is required.

A nurse practitioner is able to “hang a shingle” and operate as a solo practice in any location. Many NPs choose to do so in remote areas where practicing physicians are hard to find or in urban areas where transportation to a medical office is a barrier to care. They are a vital cog in the healthcare wheel. They often assume many of the responsibilities of a primary care physician, developing relationships and providing preventive and long-term care. They see and treat patients with chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes and work in conjunction with a specialized care team as well.

If upping your career to a nurse practitioner level interests you, there are steps to get started. NPs require a master’s in nursing (with a focus on the population you intend to serve) and achieving a PhD in nursing is desirable for this role. After becoming a registered nurse, completing the BSN and MSN, you’ll need to earn your state-level advanced practice nursing license.

While NP authority is determined on the state level, there is progress toward achieving a national model. For now, some states participate in the APRN Contract, which allows a nurse holding an APRN license to essentially have authority to practice in several states. Not all states are part of the ARPN, so you’ll need to check to see where your own practice location, or intended location, fits in.

Career outlooks for NPs are stable. As the number of family practice physicians decline and the population increases, NPs are there to help patients on a high level. They are also able to work with communities that may not have had reliable medical care in years. The freedom to develop deep and lasting multigenerational relationships with patients and families is a routinely cited reason for working in this busy role.

If you’re an NP, National Nurse Practitioner Week is a good reminder to let people know of the training and skill set required of nurses in this area of nursing. And it’s a good time to give yourself a pat on the back for all you do.

Urology Nurses Treat Patients with Care

Urology Nurses Treat Patients with Care

Urology nurses are the nurses who care for patients with a range of conditions and diseases that impact the urologic system.

This week highlights the care these nurses give with Urology Nurses and Associates Week running from November 1-7. Sponsored by the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates (SUNA), the week offers a time to recognize this particular area of nursing while also calling attention to urologic conditions.

According to the American Medical Association, urology covers conditions of the urinary tract, the reproductive tract of males, urinary tract infections, cancer, incontinence, reconstructive urology, urogynecology, stones in the urinary tract, and some aspects of male and female infertility.

Urology nurses may treat adult or pediatric cases and may see cases from the routine to the exceedingly complex. They are called on to help men and women who present with sexual dysfunction or to help those with congenital conditions. They may assist with surgical procedures or with continual care of chronic conditions.

As a urology nurse, education is an important job responsibility. Nurses are a patient’s first resource for managing, coping with, and treating a condition. Patients turn to nurses to find out how to prevent a urinary tract infection, how to manage a catheter, or what kind of recovery they face after urologic surgery.

Within this role of educator, nurses can help patients manage expectation of healing, understand any prescriptions, or activity restrictions, and understand what is happening to their bodies. Urology nurses can help patients’ families learn how to help with the care and healing process as well. Minority nurses in the field are especially important as the more they understand the culture of a patient, including dietary traditions, the better they can help them heal.

Urology nurses are also the best ambassadors for this area of nursing. The Urology Nurses and Associates Week is a good time to celebrate with colleagues, and it’s also an opportunity to learn more and help educate others about what you do. You can send a photo of your team to the local paper with a short explanation of your success or how you care for people.

You can also take your voice public. Think of ways you can work in your community or on a wider platform to promote better policies to protect nurses and patients. Become a member of a professional nursing organization in your specialty, like SUNA, and volunteer your time to make an impact in whatever way you can.

Any nurse is committed to lifelong learning, so seek out ways to learn more. Become certified in urology nursing if you have not already. Take courses or sign up for webinars with your healthcare organization to refresh your knowledge on any area of nursing. Decide to become the go-to person in your unit on treating a specific condition and learn all you can to make that a reality. Take on leadership roles within your local nursing association chapter so you can develop agendas that keep urology nursing at the forefront of healthcare priorities.

And be sure to take a moment and think of how your hard work changes the lives of the patients in your care. Urologic issues often hold a certain level of embarrassment for some patients, so the compassionate and empathetic care urology nurses give is meaningful and will be remembered.

Nurses Find Success in Growing Field of Medical Cannabis Nursing

Nurses Find Success in Growing Field of Medical Cannabis Nursing

Fame Conway, RN, has seen firsthand how medical cannabis can be a game changer when it comes to fighting chronic illness. Decades of suffering from chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders made it challenging for Conway to juggle her busy life as an operating room (OR) nurse and mother of two.

Then in 2016, a devastating car accident killed Conway’s son and left her with a femur fracture and an uncertain future.

“After the accident, I suffered from intense pain and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” Conway says. “I wasn’t sure if I would ever walk again.”

During her long recovery, Conway began researching the medical uses of cannabis. She was intrigued by research showing how it could ease symptoms ranging from chronic pain to nausea and she felt the knowledge could also benefit her clients.

A member of the Cannabis Nurses Network (CNN), Conway is one of many nurses across the country who is increasing her knowledge of cannabis and its use in modern medicine. As of June 2019, eleven states and Washington, D.C.., have legalized it for recreational use for adults over 21, and 33 states have legalized medical cannabis. Yet regardless of whether a state has enacted legislation, it is estimated that several million Americans currently use cannabis and that it’s a topic that interests many patients.

Conway took online courses through the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA), where she learned about the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors that affect appetite, mood, memory, pain, and other physiological functions. Graduates of ACNA’s courses are deemed competent in cannabis nursing.

“The ECS isn’t covered in most nursing programs, but it’s important for nurses to achieve a better understanding of ECS, how it works and how, and why cannabis can be a safe and effective medication,” Conway says.

After adopting a holistic lifestyle that included a plant-based diet and cannabis products when needed to combat pain and PTSD, Conway found she was able to reverse her chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases in a natural way.

“I learned that whole plant nutrition supplemented with cannabinoids has the ability to regenerate health and restore wellness,” Conway explains. “I’m now able to enjoy an inflammation-free life without taking medication, and I no longer suffer from pain, anxiety, psoriasis, and insomnia.”

Knowing she wanted to help others suffering from autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation, Conway launched GraceandFame.com, and has created an online health program. She also advises clients on how to adopt a plant-based diet and find the right cannabis product to safely and effectively treat their individual health condition.

 

Helping Women Through Life’s Different Stages

A midwife for over 20 years, Sakina O’Uhuru, CNM, RN, co-founded Black Ash Cannabis in Fort Lee, New Jersey last year after seeing the benefits of CBD oil, which is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil such as hemp seed or coconut.

“CBD oil has been shown to relieve pain, reduce anxiety and depression, and alleviate cancer-related symptoms such as nausea and pain,” O’Uhuru says. “It also helps to reduce symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia.”

After seeing the positive effects of CBD oil, O’Uhuru decided to integrate it into her practice. She now sells a CBD oil, derived from hemp plants, that is legal in all 50 states.

“I had clients who were inquiring about the benefits of cannabis and I wanted to be able to answer their questions and address their health needs,” says O’Uhuru, who proceeded to take online cannabis education classes and join the CNN prior to launching Black Ash Cannabis. “I think it’s important for nurses to be able to answer questions about medical cannabis, proper dosing, and the different methods that can be used to administer cannabis that include smoking, edibles, and tincture forms (that work sublingually by applying a drop under your tongue).”

O’Uhuru has worked as a midwife for over 20 years and is the author of Journey to Birth: The Story of a Midwife’s Journey and a Reflection of the Heroic Women She Served Along the Way.

“I work with women of all ages, through childbearing age to menopause,” O’Uhuru says. “I see my training as a cannabis nurse as another part of the cornucopia of services I offer my clients.”

 

Resources for the Canna-Curious


The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) is currently the only professional nursing organization working towards being recognized by the American Nurses Association as a certifiable nursing sub-specialty. In conjunction with The Medical Cannabis Institute, ACNA offers an online course for nurses, as well as resources for nurses who want to learn more about medical cannabis and how it can be safely and effectively used to manage a patient’s health condition.

Patients Out of Time is a non-profit educational charity dedicated to educating health care professionals and the general public about the therapeutic use of cannabis and the ECS system. They hold an annual conference and offer educational resources and information on their site.

The Cannabis Nurses Network was formed in 2015 and offers professional development courses networking, professional recognition, and legal and medical advocacy.

Cansoom offers nurses and other medical professionals classes to become medical cannabis consultants. Founded by Lolita Korneagay, MBA, BSN, RN, Cansoom courses equip nurses with the knowledge they need to assist patients in consuming cannabis safely and effectively.

Cannabis Education Comes Full Circle

Vanessa Cruz, LPN, of Pueblo, Colorado, has always embraced traditional alternatives in health care. As a master herbalist and end-of-life doula, Cruz thought adding cannabis nurse to her extensive resume was a natural progression.

“I’ve been a nurse for over 15 years and have worked in hospice, home care, and in a hospital setting,” Cruz says. “In home care, I encountered a lot of patients who had heard about medical cannabis and had a lot of questions about whether it might benefit their health condition.”

Cruz took over 30 hours of continuing education courses through the ACNA and discovered that medical cannabis had the potential to treat a number of health conditions. She also joined the CNN to network with other nurses who had an interest in the field.

“As an end-of-life doula, I’ve found many patients who prefer medical cannabis over morphine because it can combat their pain with fewer side effects,” Cruz says. “It also helps patients who are terminally-ill and may be experiencing anxiety or nausea as a side effect of cancer treatments.”

While opioids can produce side effects such as constipation and nausea, and prolonged use can lead to addiction in some cases, Cruz says patients view cannabis as a more holistic alternative. She now offers paid consultations to clients through her business, Traditional Holistic Care.

“I meet with patients who are seeking direction on state-approved medical diagnoses for medical cannabis and have questions on how to obtain a medical cannabis card, and the right product and dosage for their medical condition,” Cruz says. “I’ve seen the potential cannabis has in treating seizure disorders [and] muscle spasms, such as those associated with multiple sclerosis.”

As it continues to grow in popularity, Cruz encourages all nurses to gain an understanding of the field and expand their knowledge of what it means to be a cannabis nurse.

“At some point, all nurses are going to encounter a patient who is using cannabis,” Cruz says. “It’s important for them to be able to determine if there are any potential cannabis-prescription drug interactions [and] how they can answer a patient’s questions and ensure the safe use of cannabis.”

 

Helping Patients Become Cannabis Confident

In Honolulu, Hawaii, Me Fuimaono-Poe, FNP-BC, serves as owner of the Malie Cannabis Clinic, a medical practice that provides marijuana education evaluations, education, and electronic approval for medical marijuana cards.

“We see patients with a wide variety of qualifying conditions, with the most common being pain,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “My youngest patient is about three months old and my oldest patient is 103.”

Fuimaono-Poe first became interested in cannabis after meeting Dennis Peron in 1997 at the first Cannabis Buyers Club in San Francisco. Peron, an American activist and businessman, was an early leader in the fight to legalize cannabis.

Her interest led her to take online classes through the ACNA and the CNN.

“I also attended several cannabis conferences throughout the United States so I can stay up on the latest research,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “There’s currently no certification for a cannabis nurse, but we’re working to change that. The ACNA has been actively involved in getting cannabis nursing to be seen as a nursing sub-specialty in the same way as diabetes, oncology, and critical care.”

In 2016, Fuimaono-Poe, who had previously worked in both a hospital and family medical practice, opened the Malie Cannabis Clinic, dedicated to educating patients about medical marijuana. She notes that even in states where medical cannabis isn’t yet legal, patients have questions about how cannabis might have the potential to help their specific health condition.

And since many dispensaries don’t have nurses on staff, nurses can counsel patients on potential drug interactions and how cannabis used in liquid form or through vaping, might be used as an effective replacement for opioids.

“We educate patients at every appointment on topics such as dosing information based on symptoms and side effects,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “If patients are prepared for the possibility of side effects, I feel like it decreases their fear around using cannabis.”

While acknowledging that on the whole medical cannabis is a safe and effective option, Fuimaono-Poe and her staff tell patients there’s a small risk of side effects.

“If medical marijuana patients stand up too quickly, they can get dizzy, so we let them know that that’s a possibility, and advise them to get up slowly,” she says. “Dry mouth can also be a side effect, so it’s important to stay hydrated and use an over-the-counter product dry mouth product such as Biotene if it becomes worse.”

Fuimaono-Poe believes all nurses should have a working knowledge of cannabis therapeutics.

“Nurses are educators, advocates, and caregivers, which make them a natural fit in the cannabis space,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “Some nurses work in dispensaries, some as health education consultants, and others actually cultivate cannabis.”

Looking to the future, Fuimaono-Poe says her hope is that cannabis nursing will soon become a sub-specialty and that one day in the near future there will be at least one cannabis nurse in every medical setting.

“I see cannabis nurses working in a position similar to a diabetes education nurse and helping to train both other staff members and patients on how to use cannabis safely and effectively,” she says. “Nurses are great at taking complex information and explaining it in terms that all patients can understand.”

Medical-Surgical Nurses Promote Broad Skills

Medical-Surgical Nurses Promote Broad Skills

Each year the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) celebrates med-surg nurses with Medical-Surgical Nurses Week.

This year, Medical-Surgical Nurses Week runs from November 1-7 and helps bring attention to this broad and complex nursing specialty.

According to AMSN, medical surgical nurses are a vital part of a healthcare team, juggling many different duties with top-notch patient care, including the following:

  • Being advocates and activists for their patients and patient care protocols
  • Using evidence-based practices to inform the patient care they give
  • Educating the public, patients, and families on healthcare and the nursing profession
  • Researching for healthcare improvements
  • Supporting others in the nursing profession and acting as mentors and proponents within the med-surg specialty
  • Working for the best patient care practices by encouraging and promoting certification and high standards in nursing

Med-surg nurses work primarily in a hospital setting and care for patients who have been admitted for illness, are recovering from surgery, or are receiving treatment for ongoing chronic conditions that require hospital care. Med-surg nurses are registered nurses, and they work with adult, not pediatric, patients.

Nurses in this specialty are trained to recognize, diagnose, treat, and manage a variety of conditions as the patient population and their health conditions are diverse. Nurses in this role are treating many patients at once, helping their team coordinate and provide the proper care, monitoring medications, and watching for changes that could indicate an improvement or decline.

These nurses also work with families of the patient to help them understand what’s going on, the treatment plans, what will happen after the patient goes home, and what they can do to help.

These nurses also help patients who do not have strong support systems, so they are able to receive necessary care when they go home using various community, government, and local resources to pull together a plan of care.

Because they do not focus on one specialty, med-surg nurses have vast knowledge about what could present for a patient. One patient who arrives with sepsis from a wound could progress to pneumonia. Or a patient who comes in complaining of a sore shoulder could be having heart troubles. Med-surge nurses are alert to these changes and watch for red flags for all their patients.

Med-surg nursing is the largest nursing specialty in the nation, with the AMSN estimating approximately 650,000 med-surg nurses in the United States. Most nursing students will complete at least one med-surg clinical as it offers a broad application of all the skills nursing students are learning.

If students choose to move into a med-surg career, they will want to obtain certification, which can be as a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) or as an RN-BC.

Medical-surgical nurses are the engine of many healthcare and hospital settings. Celebrating the hard work they do is a welcome recognition for their efforts.