Recognizing Transplant Nurses’ Work

Recognizing Transplant Nurses’ Work

This week honors transplant nurses around the world as they continue to set a high standard of excellence and work in a constantly changing nursing specialty. The International Transplant Nurses Society, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, marks this year’s Transplant Nurses Week from April 25 to May 2.

Transplant nurses work with patients, their families and caregivers, and all the relevant healthcare teams as a patient progresses through the different stages of solid organ transplant (preparation, transplant, recovery, and maintenance) as a recipient or a donor. Transplant nurses also work on teams where a deceased patient is an organ donor, and they work quickly and respectfully for this lifesaving match to have the most potential for success.

Although transplant nurses may not directly care for COVID patients in their daily routines, the pandemic has nonetheless impacted this area of nursing in untold ways.

  • People who live with a transplanted organ are often immunocomprimised because of the medications they take to prevent rejection of the transplant and that has posed complications for their risk for contracting the virus.
  • The pandemic interrupted transplant plans leading to early slight decreases which had a domino effect for those waiting for organs.
  • The virus has sickened people to the point of organ failure some of whom then receive a transplant go onto a waiting list.
  • A patient’s vaccination status has impacted some planned transplants.

All of those recent developments influence the daily work of transplant nurses and those they care for. As advocates for their patients, transplant nurses are equipped to offer the highest quality, evidence-based care. They may take advantage of professional development and certification to keep their skills current.

Transplant nurses also know that they are ambassadors for organ transplant and donation. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, spreading the word about organ donation will make a difference in how many lives are saved. The more people who understand the process of a live donation or who take a few moments to register as an organ donor when they renew their license, for instance, can save more lives every year.

Nurses in their specialty know every bit of accurate information around the process helps more people understand the life-saving potential and possibly become a donor. Nurses can help spread the word in casual interactions with family and friends, or they can advocate in the larger community. They can offer formal information sessions in their hometowns, to professional organizations, or to legislators and other government officials who can help move forward transplant-related or transplant-beneficial legislation.

If you’re a nursing student considering transplant nursing as a career choice, be sure to spend some time with transplant nurses and their patients. Understand the complexity of the transplant process, the commitment to lifelong learning, and the intense emotional highs and lows of working with the families who are involved in some way. The rewards of this nursing specialty are significant and provide a lasting and meaningful career.

Vanessa Maxwell Celebrates WOC Nurse Week

Vanessa Maxwell Celebrates WOC Nurse Week

Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) Nurse Week runs from April 17 to 23 this year and celebrates this nursing specialty and the nurses who dedicate their talents to this area of care. To find out more about what makes this career path so rewarding, Minority Nurse heard from Vanessa Maxwell MSN, RN, CWON, PLNC and owner of Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC. Maxwell has been a WOC nurse for nearly 12 of her 19-year-long nursing career and says she wouldn’t change anything. She’s also a nurse entrepreneur who found a patient need that she’s able to help fill with her business.

 

Please tell me a little about your background and how you decided to become a WOC nurse. 

I am a first-generation college student. My parents both completed high school but did not attend college. I started out with my associate’s degree in nursing, returning to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Nursing a year later and then returning to graduate school to complete my Master’s of Science in Nursing in 2014. I have been a nurse for 19 years, and I have spent my entire nursing career working for one healthcare organization in the Memphis, TN area in various nursing departments.

I started as a new graduate nurse working med-surg/ telemetry and oncology and staying in this area of nursing for four years. I went on to work in the emergency department (ED) observation unit/float pool where I worked for three years, floating to various nursing units in the hospital. One day, my assignment was to assist the CWON (Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse) with tasks in the wound ostomy department, so that she could concentrate her time on evaluation of the patients. Prior to floating to the Wound Care department, I was always inquisitive about wounds wanting to know the science of wound healing, why a particular treatment over another type of treatment, how the wound would heal, dressing choices and why a particular dressing was chosen, how to stage the wounds properly, the mechanism of action of the treatment.

It was not until I was hired in the role of Wound Ostomy RN that I learned my true love was ostomy care. Wound ostomy, continence, and foot and nail care all can be performed by the same nurse, and we can seek certification for all or any of the combination. A position came open in the Wound Ostomy department and the rest is history. I have been a CWON ostomy for almost 12 years now and I still love this role.

 

When did you discover WOC nursing and what about this specialty appeals to you?

I discovered WOC nursing when I started as a nurse extern. I externed on a post-surgical unit and there was a patient with an extended length of stay. This patient had a large pressure ulcer and the nurses caring for her would allow me to perform her wound care. I had no problem with the nurses allowing me to change their patient’s dressing; I enjoyed it. I was able to pack the patient’s wound and apply a nice cover dressing. I was able to see the wound was get smaller; even though I was not able to truly understand what was taking place as I do now. With wound care, either you like it (in my case love it) or you don’t. I have not noticed an in between. In this specialty, I love to teach my patients and their family members about the disease processes that caused their wounds and to teach them treatment and preventative measures.

 

You’ve expanded your nursing career to begin your own business. How did you decide to make the leap as a nurse entrepreneur?

I saw a huge need in the wound ostomy field of nursing with gaps in several aspects of nursing in the nursing home, skilled-nursing facilities, home healthcare, acute care, and even with nurses (including Advanced Practice Nursing). I can further elaborate… Bedside nurses still have problems with staging pressure injuries and implementing proper preventative measures. Some nurses also lack a solid knowledge of understanding the care they can provide to their patients that is within their scope, without having to rely on the wound ostomy nurse. That is important in that, we do not want a moist wound to become dry and that is considered a worsening wound. With all the co-morbidities against a patient (malnutrition, vascular disease, and diabetes), we certainly do not want a wound to worsen.

 

What market need does Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC fill for patients who need WOC care?

I offer wound and ostomy care in the patient’s home in collaboration with the patient’s physician. Since COVID the nursing and healthcare industry, like any other industry, has been hit tremendously. The nursing shortage is at crisis level. Skilled-facilities and home-healthcare have had to turn patients away due to lack of staffing. A lot of these patients have nowhere else to turn. I offer wound and ostomy care services at Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC. I am private pay; however, my prices do match the fact that the patient is being billed and not a third-party payer. I also can contract with facilities to provide evidence-based education to their staff to ensure they are provided the best treatment and prevention for their patients.

 

How has Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa LLC helped you expand your nursing and business skills?

Being the owner of Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC, I have had to dive into business courses and work with a business coach to ensure that I am running a successful business that can stand up to my standards, as well as my clients and potential clients. I want to provide a professional service that people want to refer client to my business and to also utilize my services in the future. I am always working on ways to improve my business. I attend workshops and webinars to further develop my nursing and business skills. I have added another certification since starting Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa. I am a Professional Legal Nurse Consultant (PLNC) and provide legal nursing services to attorneys. I utilize my wound and ostomy knowledge with the training I have received as a PLNC to assist the attorney with the facts needed for a case.

 

What kinds of benefits does your business provide to patients and how does that impact your approach to patient care?

Whether I am training staff to properly provide wound or ostomy care to their patients or providing services to my clients in their home setting, they can find comfort in knowing that I am a very knowledgeable CWON who is constantly educating herself to ensure I am keeping up with the current evidence to provide optimal outcomes to my clients. I provide individualized care tailored to my client for evaluation, treatment, and follow-up. I also communicate with my patient’s physician after my visit and provide recommendations. Collaborating with the patient’s physician allows prompt intervention and we can keep the patient at home and out of the hospital. This became very evident during COVID and even now when ER wait times are high and inpatient beds are scarce.

 

What has helped you most in your nursing career as a WOC nurse?

 I would say mentors, certification, support of loved ones, professional associations have all been beneficial in my nursing career. When I started in nursing as a new graduate, there were many that encouraged me and even celebrated me when I became a CWON. When I started my own consulting business, I had many that celebrated with me. Instead of having mentors, I have become a mentor encouraging others to choose nursing as a career and to also go into wound ostomy nursing, as well as entrepreneurship. I belong to several professional organizations and the network and support is great. But, no matter what I have the support of my mother she rallies behind me and assists me in whatever way she can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet David Nguyen an RN at Boston Medical Center

Meet David Nguyen an RN at Boston Medical Center

Minority Nurse recently caught up with David Nguyen, an early career nurse in Boston who decided when he was young that a career in nursing was his path. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Nguyen jumped full time into a role at Boston Medical Center where he enjoys working on a diverse team that provides care for a diverse population.

Committed to making a change in nursing, Nguyen is a member of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the American Association for Men in Nursing. He’s also a Sigma Eta Omega /Nurse Leader.

Please tell me a little about your background and your current job.

I am a first-generation Vietnamese American college graduate. I aspire to leverage diversity as a tool to enhance understanding and compassion in the medical field. My goal as a nurse is to increase access to care, lessen patient stigma, and provide exceptional care. More specifically, my aim is to provide quality care to underserved populations, which includes people experiencing homelessness, intimate partner violence, immigrants, and people with substance-abuse disorders. Serving these vulnerable populations is important to me because they are often stigmatized and have negative health outcomes associated with social determinants of health.

I am currently a registered nurse at Boston Medical Center in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. I chose to work at Boston Medical Center because I’ve witnessed how the nurses and interprofessional staff execute skillful care on a daily basis to all of their patients without regard to their race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and culture, directly impacting social determinates of health for all patients.

When did you realize nursing was the right career choice for you?

Early exposure to state-of-the-art care made nursing a sound career choice for me. At a young age, I was constantly in and out of a hospital for a physical ailment. I experienced doctors and nurses working diligently to provide the best care they could for me as a child in a low-income, non-English-speaking family. I aspired to be like them as they advanced the healing of people and promoted good health and well-being. Later on in my life, my grandmother was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and I became keener on medical professionals, specifically doctors and nurses. When I joined my grandmother during her chemotherapy treatments, I noticed how doctors reported diagnostics, while nurses served an essential role in helping the patient maintain good vigor and health. Ultimately, by observing the compassion and care of the nurses, I was inspired to choose nursing as a profession.

How did you decide on a specialty area of nursing and why are you drawn to that area?

I decided on my specialty area of critical care in my senior year of nursing school when I did my role transition nursing preceptorship clinical in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Boston Medical Center. I am drawn to critical care because of the team aspect of working with many interprofessionals, providing care for the patients and families during a vulnerable time. Critical care has taught me the importance of advocating for and honoring patients and families.

How has the transition from nursing school to full-time nurse been? What helped you along the way?

My transition from nursing school to becoming a nurse has been smooth so far. I strongly feel that the University of Massachusetts Lowell nursing professors prepared me for real world experiences and nursing skills. As a new graduate at Boston Medical Center in MICU, I have many resources and support systems in place, which include my nurse educator, nurse managers, and nursing preceptor. Working with these professionals, who are knowledgeable and experienced, is helpful to my growth as a critical care nurse.

When we talk about diversity in nursing, it also includes male nurses because nursing is a profession dominated by women. How has your experience been being a male nurse? What do you bring to your patient care approach that you think is especially valuable?

At Boston Medical Center, I have felt welcomed as a male nurse presence since I work in a very diverse and supportive unit in the hospital. Knowing a second language has also been an asset as I can translate and converse with my Vietnamese patients. Sharing the language with Vietnamese patients helps me establish a sense of community and ensure that my patients feel comfortable and trust my care. Lastly, serving as a male nurse is important to my patients since it brings representation and changes to the nursing profession.

Have you had mentors or is there a particular person who has helped you in your nursing journey? Why is that important for a new nurse?

I had many mentors who have helped me in my nursing journey. One of my mentors in nursing school was my nursing professor advisor, who taught me the importance of resilience in achieving my degree as a nurse. Currently in my work environment, my mentors include my nurse educator, nurse preceptor, experienced ICU nurses, previous new grads nurses, and doctors. They helped me develop my critical thinking, nursing skills, and understanding as a new grad in the MICU. As a new nurse, I feel it is important to have a well-structured new grad nursing program,in which they provide support and resources both in and out of the hospital.

Do you think the profession could use more male nurses?

I think the nursing profession could always use more male nurses because nurses provide care indiscriminately; there should be more diversity among staff members to represent the patients. Staff diversity and inclusion enables us to connect with and provide appropriate care for all patients.

What are your plans for the future?

My plan for the future is to become a nurse leader in the nursing profession. As a male nurse, I am working towards overcoming gender barriers and minority barriers with the goal of bringing diversity to the health care team.

Wrapping UP GI Nurses and Associates Week

Wrapping UP GI Nurses and Associates Week

As GI Nurses and Associates Week wraps up, gastroenterology nurses nationwide have been able to enjoy a week of celebration and reflection on this nursing specialty.

The Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) sponsors this week as a way to champion GI nurses and associates everywhere. After a particularly challenging couple of years in the nursing industry, GI nurses are celebrating their pride in their career choice and the hard work of all their peers.

Minority Nurse caught up with Jay Lardizabal MAN, BSN, RN, CGRN to talk a little about his career as a GI nurse and what it means to him. As a member of SGNA and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Lardizabal has spent time volunteering his skills with both organizations.

Lardizabal came to nursing in a roundabout way, and his path to becoming a GI nurse emerged because he paid attention to his intuition and his interests. “Coming from a Filipino family, I became a nurse because my mom somewhat pushed me to it,” he says. “Now that I am a nurse, I am happy that she did. I am truly grateful for that–a good reminder that mothers always know best!”

As Lardizabal spent time in the industry, he realized that the GI specialty was something that appealed to his interests and his skills. “I came to GI as a registry RN in 2009,” he says. “Back then, I had no clue as to what GI nurses were doing but I always knew I was happier in the GI department, so I stayed. It’s been 13 years now, and I am still chugging.”

Crediting a continual professional development pursuit, Lardizabal says that while GI nurses have to master the intricacies of the GI tract and all the related systems, being open to lifelong learning expands all the opportunities GI nurses have.

“My professional growth could be attributed to my department and my colleagues,” he says. “I am fortunate to have been one of the nurses sent by my department to attend national conferences like SGNA. That is pivotal in my understanding of what GI nursing all is about.”

Staying current with all the developments in GI treatments is essential, says Lardizabal, and professional development opportunities, whether from conferences, seminars, or courses, helps keep GI nurses current. “The most challenging part of GI is catching up with the speed of how GI technology is evolving,” he says. “It is not a bad thing; it actually benefits the patients.”

Nurses who work in GI are also excellent ambassadors to help spread awareness of their specialty and how much they help patients. “A lot of people do not realize that GI is not only about EGD and colonoscopies,” he says. Explaining what the specialty involves helps remind Lardizabal of why the specialty is so exciting. “When I show students around my department, I can’t help but be amused by how their eyes grow big when they hear about what we do in our lab,” he says. “EGD and colonoscopies are just the tip of the iceberg!”

But it’s the patient interactions and relationships that matter most to GI nurses, especially Lardizabal. “It is an honor to experience being trusted by patients,” he says, “and be handed control on those moments when they feel vulnerable.”

Advancing Your Nursing Career Helps Everyone

Advancing Your Nursing Career Helps Everyone

As many new and experienced nurses all know, there are plenty of things to learn to be a competent and successful nurse. There are the basics, such as administering medication and filling out charts that every nurse should have a solid understanding of. Then there are the more subtle skills that the best nurses have such as bedside manner and an ability to make visitors feel at ease.

Of course, there are also plenty of things to learn that can also help you to advance your nursing career. Taking courses that allow you to specialize as a nurse are great examples of moving your career forward. Likewise, learning how to incorporate new technologies or focusing on integrating new systems is another way to strengthen your resume.

Though you may not immediately realize it, all of the advancements you are making and all of the knowledge you are gaining help more than just you. Taking forward strides in your nursing career impacts everyone you interact with positively. From your nursing coworkers and doctors that can depend upon you for more to your patients that can sense the breadth of your knowledge, advancing your career helps everyone else.

Improving Hard Skills

Perhaps the most straightforward way to move forward with your nursing career is to focus on improving your hard skills. These are steps like refining your clinical judgment during your first year as a nurse or working towards a specialized certification that allows you to take on greater roles and responsibilities. In general, hard skills are tangible educational advancements in your career.

Hard skills can also include things that are necessarily directly tied to improving the health of patients. For instance, it could include something like learning how to use a new patient tracking software. Technologies are exploding in health care fields, and any efforts to learn the latest and greatest are sure to have a positive impact on your workflows.

The general idea of boosting hard skills is that you are becoming more confident and competent in your nursing abilities. You are learning new concepts and ideas that allow you to take on more responsibility and improve efficiency. These can be pretty obvious benefits to your career, to your supervisors, and to the patients you work with.

Boosting Soft Skills

Equally important to improving hard skills is giving your soft skills a boost as well. This can be a bit more complex than hard skills because soft skills are … well, soft. They aren’t as tangible or easily defined and the benefits, though incredibly valuable, can be more subtle and hard to tease out. However, these are the skills that could prove to make the most significant difference in patient lives.

Empathy is one of the most highly valued soft skills, especially in nursing. It is essentially the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and sympathize with their situation. For nurses, having well-developed empathy skills allows for better bedside treatment, the anticipation of needs, and a more caring demeanor when working with difficult or emotional patients and visitors.

Cultural competence is another soft skill that is important for nurses to have. Cultural competence is the idea of being able to help and treat patients from different backgrounds in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way. It is having the wherewithal to recognize that there are differences in lived experiences between different ethnicities and anticipating how these differences may play out in a healthcare setting.

Benefits for All

There are many, many benefits to be seen from advancing your nursing career. Some of them are going to seem small but will have significant lasting impacts. For instance, maybe you took a class on health insurance policy. You could find that suddenly, you’re in a better position to increase the health literacy of your patients by helping them understand what certain procedures mean and what their health insurance is likely to cover the cost of.

Or maybe improving your hard and soft skills has given you a new perspective on nursing as a whole. The knowledge could put you into a position to be an advocate for better nursing or bedside conditions in your hospital or state. You could find yourself empathizing with a greater number of concerns and becoming an advocate for nurses on a much larger scale.

Your efforts to advance your nursing career could earn you the respect of many of your colleagues and put you into a position to take on greater leadership roles. You may quickly realize that with your new skills you will qualify for a higher paying position. All of these advancements could greatly improve your reach as a nurse, allowing you to positively impact more lives.

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There is a never-ending list of new things to learn as a nurse. Working towards building on your knowledge and expanding what you already know can be a great way to improve your career. It can also be a meaningful way to benefit your hospital, coworkers, patients, and community.

“Nurse Alice” Shares What It Takes to Be a TV Health Expert

“Nurse Alice” Shares What It Takes to Be a TV Health Expert

Have you ever seen a health expert doing a spot on television and think, “Hey, I could do that?”

Then you’re in luck, because Alice Benjamin, APRN, MSN, ACNS-BC, FNP-B, CCRN, CEN, CV-BC, Chief Nursing Officer & Correspondent for Nurse.org, Clinical Nurse Specialist & Family Nurse Practitioner, and a critical-care and emergency medicine nurse with over 23 years of experience does just that. She also has her own podcast.

Benjamin gave us information about how she got into being a TV Health Expert.

Alice Benjamin, Chief Nursing Officer and Correspondent for Nurse.org, on ABC news segmentHow did you get into being a TV Health Expert? How long have you been doing it?

I have been long-term volunteer with the American Heart Association and was asked to do radio spots for them around being heart healthy. That then segued to different TV opportunities until the next thing you know it, I had become a freelance TV health expert on several shows and outlets, NBC Los Angeles being one of them. After about a year with them, they offered a paid position that required me to be exclusive to NBC locally, and I accepted the offer. I have been a TV health expert in total for about 10 years. I appear on NBC anywhere from 4-12 times a week depending on what’s going on in the news.

Explain to me briefly what you do as a TV Health Expert. Did you have to get additional training/education to do it? 

I take complex studies and medical information and translate that into simple bullet points for the audience. I use my expertise to sift through the studies to make sure it is reliable information and generalizable to the public, and if not—I explain that. I make sure that data isn’t regurgitated that isn’t helpful to public health.

I also take this opportunity to educate the public with information to help them make healthy and safe choices for themselves and families. I have taken several courses in communications and journalism to bring myself up to speed with the TV broadcast skill set. That coupled with my more than 23 years’ experience as an advanced practice nurse is what has duly prepared me to be in this role. I’ve also been a long-time community health advocate, so speaking to the general public has always been part of my wheelhouse.

What types of topics do you discuss? Do you suggest them or does someone at the station?   

Pitching topics is a shared role between myself and the producers. Sometimes they get stories before I do, and sometimes I see stories that need to be shared. I also have journalistic privileges that allow me to see studies before the public roll out so I get to help the station prepare a story for when that embargoed date comes.

What do you like most about working as a TV Health Expert?

I enjoy being able to speak to people before they become my patients. I enjoy educating and empowering people with information to help them live healthy lives. I also like to answer many viewer questions so they feel heard and provide them with some things to ask their main provider. I also love the fact that I am a nurse in this profession. There is not another nurse (that I know of) who is a regular health/medical contributor on TV.  

What are your biggest challenges as a TV Health Expert? What are your greatest rewards as one? 

My greatest reward is helping people. My biggest challenge is always having the time to do so. I still work as a nurse so making time to research, prep, and be on TV takes a lot of time and work.

If someone wanted to get into the type of side gig you’re doing, what steps would you tell them to take?

I get that question a lot and I’m always a little confused with how to answer it. I never sought out to be a TV health expert. It’s something that I fell into. It was a natural calling. And I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

My recommendation to others would be to study journalism and communications along with being a nurse. This isn’t something that you just pick up and do. It requires training and orienting for a specialty. Health media/communications is definitely a specialty.

Anything else?

Being on television as an advanced practice nurse talking to the masses about health, wellness, and medical issues has been extremely fulfilling. Some have told me that I make it look easy, but believe me it is not. As an experienced clinical nurse specialist and family nurse practitioner with lots of life experience, this has allowed me to feel comfortable with doing this. I still participate in media training provided by NBC. I am continuously learning communications, just as I am continuously learning health care as things change.

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