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.
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.
Nurses can go into so many different areas in the field, cardiovascular nursing being just one of them. But as with all career choices, nurses need to have the right information to determine if this area is right for them.
We interviewed Jill Price, PhD, MSN, RN, senior director of Chamberlain University’s College of Nursing Post-Licensure programs. Price has nearly two decades of experience in Critical Care and Cardiovascular Nursing, and trained nurses at the first cardiac care center in the U.S. Virgin Islands—St. Croix—in critical care and cardiovascular care. Previously, Price worked as an advanced cardiac life support instructor and pediatric advance life support instructor.
What are the different types of nurses used in cardiovascular care? What do their jobs entail?
For nurses who don’t have any sort of critical care experience and want to go into cardiovascular nursing, I would first recommend the nurse seek out a critical care training course and then either a job in a critical care step down unit or an intensive care unit. Some hospitals require a year of medical-surgical nursing experience first before seeking a position in a critical care unit, so the nurse would need to check with the institution on what their requirements entail.
The different types of nurses who pursue cardiovascular care are those who love taking care of very sick patients with several comorbidities. These nurses are a unique group in that they like to help patients with complex medical problems, often times requiring advanced technology to maintain their heart rate. Cardiovascular nurses have advanced critical thinking skills.
If nurses want to pursue a job in cardiovascular care, what additional training or certifications do they need?
In terms of certification, I would recommend getting certified as a critical care nurse with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) organization. Additionally, they should seek out advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and advanced pediatric life support (PALS) certifications.
What are the biggest challenges of being a cardiovascular nurse?
Since cardiovascular disease—which includes heart attacks—is the leading cause of death in the United States, nurses working in cardiovascular care, inclusive of interventional cardiovascular laboratories, are on call often. This requires not only working during the week at normal scheduled hours, but also being on call after normal working hours. And when a nurse is called in, they have less than 30 minutes to drop whatever they are doing to get to the hospital and save a patient’s life. Cardiovascular nurses are dedicated and committed to their job and time away from families can be challenging for some.
What are the greatest rewards?
Resuscitating a patient back from being in full blown cardiac arrest and seeing them walk out of the hospital like they were never sick. Or witnessing a patient whose limb was blue from an arterial vascular occlusion and working to open the occlusion and save the person’s limb by witnessing the blood flow restoration in the limb.
What were some of the most important things you learned while doing that kind of work?
I learned that with new devices and drugs consistently being developed, the cardiovascular nurse must stay abreast on all the latest technology and innovation in order to advocate for the patients’ best interests and choice in health care. Also, timing is everything, from saving the heart to the brain. You have to essentially dedicate your life to this kind of nursing, and even if you make a difference in one person’s life—but there will be many—you will feel proud knowing all that dedication and rushing to their care was worth it.
If nurses are interested in becoming a cardiovascular nurse, what advice would you give them?
Be prepared to devote time away from your family in return for helping save lives. Work in telemetry or acute care settings right out of nursing school and enroll in a critical care course, with the goal of becoming a certified critical care nurse, as soon as possible.
With advance research always being conducted on how to help decrease, prevent, and treat cardiovascular disease, you will get to learn something new every day.
It’s my first day on the job as an occupational health nurse at one of the largest automobile factories in America. The Tesla Fremont factory encloses 5.5 million square feet and has around 15,000 workers on site at any one time. At the moment I’m hired, the factory is in overdrive to meet quotas and workers are pulling five twelve-hour shifts per week.
I’m overwhelmed by the factory floor. Spinning robots, automobile bodies on overhead assembly lines, herds of forklifts, and an incredible noise assaults my senses. The floors are covered with painted walkways, traffic safety barriers, and bollards to separate vehicles and pedestrians. Every 20 feet or so there is a sign on the floor stating “HEADS UP, PHONES DOWN” to encourage safety in this dangerous environment.
I’m working for a subcontractor. Tang and Company is a provider of occupational health services for 40 years serving such disparate industries as petroleum production, electrical generation, construction, and automobile manufacturing. They provide drug testing, respiratory mask fitting, employee health surveillance, safety education, and first aid services with the goal of keeping workers healthy and productive.
Most of my career has been in emergency room and ambulatory care. I feel well prepared for the clinical part of this job. I’m not so well prepared for some of the other functions. Fortunately, my employer has a well designed training program. I’m interested in the population health aspect. Mitigating the dangers in the workplace requires data. What are the injuries? How are they happening? What can be done to prevent them in the future? The benefits to the employees are obvious. Nobody wants to be injured on the job. The benefits to the employer include increased compliance with regulatory bodies and rules such as OSHA, FMLA, ADA, DOT, HIPAA, etc. The employer also enjoys decreased costs associated with insurance, lost production, potential fines, and the staggering expense of caring for the injured worker. In 2017, the cost of workplace injuries was $161.5 billion. This includes lost wages and productivity, medical cost, and administrative cost.
During my training period I’m instructed on how to perform routine workplace tests such as drug and alcohol testing, respiratory mask fitting, spirometry, and hearing tests. I work
Fast Facts about Occupational Health
- Occupational health nurses work in a variety of settings to keep workers healthy and safe.
- The typical occupational health nurse would be baccalaureate prepared and may have an advanced degree.
- This nurse might enter the field with experience in community health, emergency room, critical care, or ambulatory medicine.
- The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. offers the following certifications for this specialty of nursing: Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) and Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist (COHN-S).
- The professional organization is the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses.
- There are certifications available for ADN-prepared nurses, BSN-prepared nurses, and advanced practice nurses wishing to enter the field.
closely with EMTs, Physician Assistants, LVNs, and ancillary personnel working to keep the clinic running. The EMTs are trained to respond to workplace incidents on the factory floor. They are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to medical emergencies in the vast reaches of the factory. Typical responses I’ve seen so far are falls, cuts, and even a heart attack. They respond with a shoulder carried first aid pack, oxygen, and an AED.
Medical care beyond first aid is provided by physician assistants on site or through a video conferencing system. The range of services is pretty broad. Management of repetitive motion injuries, evaluation and treatment of traumatic injuries, and referrals for non-occupational conditions are typical. The clinic is well stocked with equipment and supplies, an EKG machine, nebulizer machines, various notions and potions for symptomatic relief of sprains, headaches, and bruises. The goal is to keep the factory moving with healthy workers.
Each day is a new and interesting experience. My nursing skills are being used productively and I’m learning about this expanding and well-paying field of nursing.