Ask anyone about a memorable experience they had as a patient and they will invariably describe an interpersonal one:
“The team was nasty. They rolled their eyes when I asked for anything, talked about their vacations while putting in my IV as if I wasn’t there and in pain, and chatted loudly near my room at all hours of the night.”
“My nurses were the best. They always gave a report to each other in front of me, including me in the plan, they checked on me often, and patiently answered my questions.”
In both of these examples, the concern of the patient is less about the skill level with which the injury or disease was managed, but rather the care team’s ability to communicate effectively and considerately with the patient. Furthermore, evidence suggests patients who have a good rapport with clinicians do better overall. And it doesn’t end with the patient. Effective communication among members of the care team is just as essential to the patient’s well-being as direct interaction with the patient themselves.
Communication and Outcomes
A fundamental feature of quality patient care is bedside manner. Although this implies the inpatient setting, it includes all interpersonal engagement with patients. Practicing empathy and establishing trust are two benefits of effective communication that not only makes the experience more pleasant for the patient and the team, but also it improves clinical outcomes.
It’s not difficult to understand why. A patient with less stress is physiologically better off. A patient who trusts their providers may be more candid about sensitive and pertinent health history information, such as recreational drug use and sexual behaviors. Similarly, a transparent interprofessional care team may be more willing to admit mistakes or ask questions without fear of ridicule.
Guidelines for Effective Communication
Although the specialized skills of all clinical professionals are essential, the importance of effective communication with and about the patient cannot be overlooked. Consider the following guidelines for effective communication:
- Greet patients and colleagues.
- Inform the patient before touching them or undertaking tasks.
- When in doubt, ask.
- Reserve casual conversation for breaks and non-clinical areas.
- Act with integrity: treat patients as if their loved ones are around.
Such simple considerations can have a tremendous impact on the patient encounter, in addition to making it a more pleasant and fulfilling experience for everyone.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that technology has become the driving force behind every industry and health care is no exception. Clinical informatics is a thriving field for all types of clinical professionals who have expertise in information technology. For nurses, it presents the opportunity to improve patient care by participating in the evolution of health care on a systematic level.
Most nurse informaticists have nursing experience and an advanced degree, either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), with a focus on clinical informatics. Most nursing schools offer these types of degrees today.
The Role of Nurse Informaticist
More rigorous experience and education requirements are warranted for nurse informaticists because often they fill leadership and consultant roles. For example, a nurse informaticist may be part of nursing administration within a hospital, serving as a liaison between staff nursing and the executive team. In this instance, the nurse informaticist serves as a resource for both: educating nurses on effective and efficient use of electronic health records (EHR) and other relevant technology, and translating any issues or insight into a pertinent context for leadership, some of whom may be non-clinical.
Some nurse informaticists find themselves working in the business and technology sectors, completely removed from the clinical setting. In such cases, nurse informaticists are often considered consultants, whereby they serve as clinical experts advising and overseeing the development of new technology relevant to nursing. For instance, companies that develop EHRs hire nurse informaticists to analyze if the implementation and evolution of their technology are feasible in the real world of nursing. Because health care technology is in a state of constant progression, these nurse informaticists often find themselves with permanent positions within these sectors.
Indirect patient care
One consideration for every nurse interested in informatics to consider is the cessation of direct patient care. Although nurse informaticists in clinical settings may interact with patients, there are few if any informatics positions that include typical nursing tasks. Instead, the nurse informaticist’s prior experience as a nurse serves as a boon to implementing positive changes in care that benefit nurses and patients alike. In this way, the nurse informaticist can be considered a provider of indirect patient care, as they are empowered to improve patient care on a greater scale than they otherwise could as bedside nurses, especially as technology has an increased role.
One way to stand out as a leader in your organization is to make a positive change in your unit. It may not be easy, but changes can make a drastic impact on patient care and staff satisfaction. If you are thinking about making a move into leadership in the future, bringing about change is a great way to set yourself up for job advancement.
First, you need a problem to fix. Identify an issue that is creating problems for staff or patients alike. It really should not be too hard to find an issue. What are staff or patients complaining about? What practice doesn’t make sense because it is overly complicated and inefficient? Brainstorm some solutions to consider.
Next, share some well thought out ideas with your manager or member of your leadership team. Create a SBAR (situation, background, action, recommendation) to give them that will outline the problem and what you’re going to do about it. If you have an idea that your manager supports, you could get dedicated paid time to work on the issue.
Once you garner support from your manager or another leader, you must take a deep dive into the problem so you can determine potential solutions. You’d be surprised that many fixes or solutions are cost-effective meaning they require little to no money to implement a change. After developing a potential solution, you will want to clearly articulate the potential impact this change would have. In other words, you have to understand why this change is important. This will help you gain buy-in from staff when implementing that change.
Lastly, you want to do a pilot test or test the change. This is the do or die time for the proposed solution. You will create data and implement that change to see if your solution solved the problem or not. Were patients more satisfied with their care? Did a process take less time? Did fewer errors occur? If the data didn’t change, you will have to go back to the drawing board and determine a more effective solution. If you made a drastic impact, then you should make the change permanent.
When you go through the process and make a permanent change, add this to your resume and CV! These are great experiences to reference in job interviews. The difference you make for your team and workplace will set yourself apart and can also benefit your day to day work as well as your future opportunities.
Congratulations! You did it; you sweated through your years of nursing school, passed the NCLEX, and have earned your well-deserved title of registered nurse. Now that the dust has settled and real life is about to begin, you will need to decide which career path within nursing you would like to pursue, and there are plenty to choose from!
We all know that some specialties pay better than others, but as nurses we also know that although we are usually working to support ourselves and our families, money is still not everything. It is so important to work at a job that we truly love, and feel a degree of satisfaction that will help you thrive in your environment.
So, how do you decide which field suits you best, which one you will enjoy, feel accomplished, and truly make a difference?
Some nurses take their career path with a specific dream in mind, often knowing exactly what type of work they want to do in the nursing field, either based on a role model they always looked up to or a fascination and interest in a particular area of nursing. Like the little girl who always idolized her school nurse and always dreamt that one day she would spend her days tending to little children’s boo-boos that occur in the school setting. But most people are not so clear on exactly what they want to do with their nursing degree.
Although the most common nursing career is found within the walls of the hospital, there are still plenty of opportunities for nursing jobs in other settings. “They also have to think about opportunities outside of the hospital,” says nursing career coach Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, referring to nurses on a quest for the perfect nursing career. Did you know that there are over 100 nursing job opportunities out there that require an RN degree? The locations can vary from nursing care facilities, prisons, hospitals, military bases, schools, doctors’ offices, to administrative positions such as working for an insurance company, or as a legal nurse. There is truly a job type to match the personality and needs of every nurse out there!
Know Your Strengths
The first thing you need to do is figure out what your strengths are in order to know which field you will perform best in. You will need to look for a job within an environment that is in sync with your personality and temperament. Do you thrive on challenges and adrenaline? If the answer is yes, then it may be a good idea to look for a job in the emergency room or as a trauma nurse. If you are slower paced, methodical and detail oriental, a research nurse may be the ideal career for you.
Another question to ask yourself is “what role I would like to play in my job? Am I a natural leader? Or would I rather be the one taking the order and following what others dictate to me?” This will help you decide if an administrative position is best for you, or it would you be better for you to deal directly with patients.
One more thing to keep in mind is that different positions come with different levels of pressure and responsibility. Often higher salary positions are more demanding and require you to give more of yourself. You have to honestly ask yourself if you feel that you are up to the task, and are ready to deal with the constant pressures that come along with this kind of role.
Although some people are very in touch with their inner selves and know exactly what they want, not everyone is so self-aware, and that is totally okay as well. There are many online resources for nurses to help them discover which specialty suits them best based on a list of questions. But it is still highly recommended to do some inner homework by asking yourself the above questions to truly find the job where you will thrive.
Assess Your Options
Once you figure out where your interests lie, you will have to go to the next step; seeing the available options within your location area. Not only does the physical location matter, but the hours and working conditions are important as well. Do you have children at home who need you to be home at a certain time? Make sure to discuss all your needs with your potential employer to avoid any miscommunications and unpleasant situations from occurring later down the line.
Get Acquainted with the Job
It is also a good idea to intern or do some shadowing in a job setting that interests you. That way you can see if you actually enjoy the work, not just envision yourself liking the job. You should also talk to those in that particular field and hear them out about the general work, and ask them any specific questions that you might have.
Also, keep in mind that if there is no available job in the specific department that you want, it still may be a good idea to take a job in another department since it is easier to later be transferred to your desired department within the facility than get hired as an outsider.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are not married to your job. It may be good idea to just start out as a general nurse without a specialty, just to “get your feet wet”, and get a feel of what you enjoy and in which area you excel in. Also, as time goes on you may feel that you are ready for a change, and that is totally normal. You may want to change your field of nursing work, and many even continue their education for a specific specialty after being a nurse for years.
The bottom line is, it is important to be passionate about your work and love what you do. As the famous saying goes, “love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life.” When you truly love what you do, you feel accomplished and you are actualizing your potential and using your talents and strengths in the best possible way. And what could be better than that?
Are you saving for retirement? Here’s your guide to getting on track with securing your financial future.
Saving for retirement can often feel so daunting that you push it to the back of your mind. When trying to manage your career and other personal finance goals such as buying a house and paying down debt, retirement planning and investing often takes a back seat. You know you should ask your HR department about the 401(k) plan your company offers, but you never get around to it. But it’s worth the effort now so that you are well-prepared for the future.
The truth is many Americans are not saving for their golden years. According to a 2018 survey by Northwestern Mutual, one in five Americans has nothing saved for retirement. And 78% of Americans are “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about affording a comfortable retirement. One in three Baby Boomers (33%), the generation closest to retirement age, have between $0-$25,000 in retirement savings.
Generations X and Y are often saddled with student loan debt and stagnant wages, making it a struggle to save.
While these are scary facts, the good news is that once you take the time to educate yourself on the basics of retirement planning and you take a few smart steps to invest, you can largely put retirement investing in the back of your mind and not feel guilty that you aren’t taking necessary action.
Jane Bryant Quinn, author of How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide, says many people don’t want to think about retirement planning. She also says that making projections and calculating retirement budgets can be a pain but is important to do.
“You have to add up your savings, estimate what you’ll get from Social Security, make an investment plan, estimate how much income your investments will provide, and estimate your retirement expenses,” says Bryant Quinn.
To help figure all of this out, Bryant Quinn says to create budgets. “If you’re married, make three estimated budgets—one for you as a couple, one for you if your mate dies first, one for your mate if you die first. For example, married couples get two Social Security checks (one for each). When one of you dies, the survivor will get the larger check but lose the other one. So, you have to plan for all circumstances,” she says.
Daniel Burke, CFP, ChFC, president of Burke Financial Group, LLC, says nurses spend their entire working careers caring for the needs of others, but often by doing this, they tend to neglect important planning components for themselves.
Are you ready to take action? Below are answers to the most common questions about retirement planning and investing to get you started on the road to a secure future.
What Are My Retirement Dreams?
Start with finding your why. What motivates you when you dream about your retirement? Do you want to spend a year traveling around the country in an RV? Do you want to move to a new city? Do you want to spend more time on hobbies such as gardening, crafts, or learning to speak Spanish? Or perhaps you want more time to devote to friends and family or a cause close to your heart.
Identifying the life you’d like to retire to can serve as a strong motivator as you start down the path of savings. It’s much easier to devote 15% of your income to your retirement account versus spending that money on something fleeting when you can envision the life you’re saving for.
How Do I Get Started?
“Benefits through the employer are a great place to start as nurses begin planning for themselves and their families,” says Burke.
Educate yourself on the retirement benefits offered by your employer. If your employer offers a 401(k) or 403(b) option with a matching benefit, sign up for the match immediately. If you are not taking advantage of your employer’s match, you are literally leaving free money on the table.
If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) option, then open a Roth IRA through a brokerage such as Fidelity or Vanguard. Contributions made to a Roth are after-tax contributions, but your money and earnings grow tax-free (meaning you will not pay taxes on any returns you earn from your investments).
What If I Haven’t Been Saving?
If you haven’t been saving anything for retirement, it’s important not to beat yourself up. You can’t go back and change the past, but you can commit to saving going forward.
Bryant Quinn offers the following advice, depending on your age.
New Grads: “Start a savings account, to have a little cash on hand. Put a little into your employer’s retirement plan, despite your student loan. If you change jobs, don’t cash out the amount you saved, take it with you to a new job,” says Bryant Quinn.
Mid-Career: Higher earning years means higher savings. “In your retirement plan, chose funds that lean heavily to stock market investments. It doesn’t matter if stocks go down. Throughout history, they have always come back,” says Bryant Quinn. “You have the time to wait. It’s your best shot at a nest egg. Keep contributing to your plan, even if your kids are in college (or at least try to).”
Near Retirement: Time to plan. “Keep investing in stock-owning mutual funds,” says Bryant Quinn. “You will probably live another 30 years (or more—my mom made it to 103). Over such a long period of time, stocks always go up.”
How Much Should I Save?
If you’re starting from scratch, a good starting point is to invest enough to get any company match offered by your employer. This is essentially free money and everyone should take advantage of it. For instance, if your company offers a 5% 401(k) match, you should invest no less than 5%. But that’s just a starting point.
Another strategy that Bryant Quinn suggests is to simply start by taking at least 5% out of every paycheck and putting it into your 401(k) or 403(b). “If you’re already contributing, increase the amount. What will happen when you get a slightly smaller net paycheck? Nothing will happen. We all tend to spend whatever money we have in our checking accounts. If there’s less in your account, you’ll spend less—even without a budget,” she says. “You’ll make small adjustments without realizing it. It’s the only magic I know in personal finance.”
If your company does not offer a 401(k) program or a match, you can open a Roth IRA through a brokerage service on your own.
“If you have no plan [at work], Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) can be purchased at low-cost no-load mutual fund groups such as Vanguard. They’re available at banks, too, but usually with higher fees. Always choose low-cost investments,” says Bryant Quinn.
Once you start gaining some confidence in your knowledge and are eager to save more Bryant Quinn suggests utilizing financial resources, such as online retirement calculators and budgeting tools to estimate retirement living expenses.
Overall, determine a percentage goal that works for you and challenge yourself to increase it incrementally (e.g., every six months or annually). You can also boost your savings effortlessly by automatically investing any annual or performance raises you receive. If you were living on what you made before you got a raise, just keep living off of that amount and invest the extra income.
Do I Need A Financial Planner?
If all of this sounds complicated and you would like a helping hand, consider working with a financial advisor. But choose wisely as many financial advisors get paid by selling you on specific mutual funds, often with high fees. These fees will eat away at your nest egg.
Your best bet is to hire an independent advisor who is fee-only or paid directly by you by the hour. Your company may provide consultations with an advisor from the administrator of your 401(k)/403(b) plan, but it’s important to remember that their loyalty is first and foremost with their employer, not you.
What Is the Biggest Mistake I Could Make?
“Not saving enough,” says Bryant Quinn. “You can save money, even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.”