A Nurse’s Journal: Writing Out the Storm

A Nurse’s Journal: Writing Out the Storm

The Josie King Foundation believes that nurses are leading the charge for a safer, more compassionate health care system. But they realize that in addition to the joys of healing, nurses face many emotional upheavals related to patient suffering, a complex workplace, new technologies, and fear of clinical errors. When personal pressures from everyday living are added to the already heavy load, the weight can lead to nurse stress, anxiety, depression, or burnout.

The Josie King Foundation developed the Nurse’s Journal in 2004, to help alleviate stress through expressive writing. (The journal was a response to results from a research project, Care for the Caregiver, that indicated it was sorely needed.) Created with the help of experts on the topic and specifically for nurses, it is offered by the nonprofit as a tool for self-directed writing or through facilitated journaling workshops.

The Nurse’s Journal is an attractive 61-page spiral bound notebook and is filled with helpful content such as evidence-based theories about journaling, before and after stress evaluation forms, and suggested resources to help nurses cope with work-related stress.

The majority of pages are low-content, with just short guided writing exercises to help you reflect on the stresses of your work life and personal life. For instance, the first one is titled “Guided Writing: Signs of Stress,” and includes the following prompt:

“Things to consider. Do you notice stress-related symptoms in your life? Is there a particular time of day or day of the week in which you feel more stress? Do your stress symptoms affect your job performance or your quality of life? What do you do to combat your stress?”

The page ends with a quote from the Dalai Lama about avoiding the burnout associated with witnessing great suffering.

In between the prompt and the quote, the page is empty so that a nurse is free to write out their own personal thoughts and feelings, as an antidote to workplace and life stressors.

Since launching the Nurse’s Journal in 2004, the Josie King Foundation has distributed them to more than 15,000 nurses. Many hospitals buy the journals in bulk as a gift for nurses during the winter holidays, or to mark Nurses Week, or at anytime for staff training and development purposes.In addition, they offer a companion Nurse’s Journal Guidebook for anyone who would like to facilitate journaling workshops for nurses.

For more information about the mission of the Josie King Foundation and their line of specialty journals for nurses, caregivers, and patients, visit http://josieking.org.

Palliative and Hospice Nurses Provide End-of-Life Care

Palliative and Hospice Nurses Provide End-of-Life Care

Although many people don’t like to think about death and dying, it will happen eventually. When it does, those who are fortunate enough to have hospice and palliative care nurses caring for them will understand the importance of these nurses’ roles.

Palliative and hospice care nurses provide care for those who are the end of their lives. They are there for the final transition and use an entire array of medical knowledge and tools, skills, compassion, and life experiences to help in the best ways they can. Hospice and palliative care nurses strive to make patients as comfortable as possible both physically and emotionally. As their physical body shuts down, these nurses can use a combination of medication, music, talk, touch, and companionship to make the process something the patient is comfortable with.

The Hospice & Palliative Nurses Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offer resources and education about this nursing specialty. Palliative and hospice nurses often provide education to the public as many people think of nurses as providing life-saving care and aren’t sure what end-of-life care entails. If they haven’t had interactions with hospice care, they may not comprehend all that goes into the nursing practice as someone approaches end of life.

While many find the end-of-life stage difficult to cope with, these nurses often consider it a supreme privilege to be present during someone’s last days. Nurses often develop deep connections with these patients as they try to meet their wishes and help them die with a sense of dignity and control. They also become close to families and even provide guidance and education to help families cope and to make them feel like they can take an active part in offering comfort and acceptance.

Hospice and palliative care nurses deal with grief, often very profound grief, on a daily basis. While the dying patient is coping with life coming to an end, a circle of loved ones is doing the same and trying to prepare for life after the person’s death, while also making the most of the final days. These nurses are especially skilled in managing grief and helping others learn coping skills while they still focus fully on the patient.

Hospice nurses need to take special care to make sure they are also able to cope with profound levels of grief and death in their lives so they don’t get burned out or experience compassion fatigue. Forming strong relationships with other nurses in this specialty is important as is joining professional organizations devoted to hospice and palliative care and even continuing education like certification or additional coursework or conferences. There is much to be learned from others in similar work and hearing how they cope and even what might be a red flag to take notice of. Turning to others and counseling professionals if needed can help nurses stay focused while acknowledging and honoring the challenges of providing end-of-life care on a daily basis.

This career path is one that offers great rewards and hospice nurses are often remembered as a steady presence in a chaotic time.

Reflections on Reasons for Gratitude

Reflections on Reasons for Gratitude

Thanksgiving is over, but the spirit of the holiday doesn’t have to end. In fact, the warmth and introspection can help illuminate this season as we plunge into darkness. When you count your blessings you probably list your loved ones, the roof over your head, and every cupful and plateful that nourishes you.

But do you consider your profession and how it supports you financially, and in less tangible ways? You don’t have to wait for National Nurses Week in May to celebrate your role.

At the beginning of this holiday season I wrote blog posts about gratitude for this site. At the same time I was also interviewing nurses for other blog posts and articles so I’d casually ask them what they were thankful for right now. Big, small, and in between—it was fascinating to hear their responses.

They confirm some of what I’ve learned over the years talking to nurses from different backgrounds and in varied health care environments and specialties. Almost always, I hear that nurses are grateful for some, if not most, aspects of their chosen career.

Here are some of the main reasons nurses say they’re thankful:

Nurses make a difference in someone’s life every day. When they go to bed at night they have the gratification of knowing their work matters. A lot of people in other jobs, whether blue collar, pink collar, or white collar, don’t have that satisfaction. Many of this nation’s workers are now employed in “paper shuffling” occupations that don’t seem to have intrinsic meaning.

Nurses are working in a field that’s in high demand and that pays a family wage. Kiplinger magazine recently reported that the best return on investment when it comes to a college major is nursing. Based on the average income that a graduate could anticipate and the average tuition and fees to earn a bachelor’s degree, nursing came out on top. Their next best choice for major is biomedical engineering.

Nursing has so many different specialties and paths, so as a nurse you don’t have to ever get bored. Nurses can also stick to the same specialty but switch to a different health care environment. One nurse said she was thankful that when it was too physically demanding for her to work as a floor nurse in a busy hospital she was able to transfer over to a quieter asthma clinic.

Nurses are also able to add to their skill sets or even go for advanced degrees, and often their employer will cover the tuition. That’s becoming less common as companies refuse to pay for training and development for their existing workforce.

When nurses start families and want to be home more they can often cut their hours to part-time. Or when they get to the point that they want to retire, they can sign on with a travel nursing company that will get them temporary jobs in their preferred locations.

Some semi-retired nurses hit the road in an RV, taking their homes with them. That way they’re comfortable as they travel to assignments. They can also choose to work in resort areas or to pursue outdoor activities, wintering in the mountains and summering at the beach, for snow skiing and water skiing adventures.

Finally, nurses are making a real impact on health care as doctors and administrators have become more bottom-line or left-brain oriented in their approaches. The nursing profession still holds a holistic view of patients and encourages a humane approach to care. Patients (and fellow staff) are fortunate to be surrounded by nurses, genuine people who carry so much kindness and eagerness to do good.

The more that you recognize the positives of your role as a nurse, the easier it is to put up with the negatives. Because every field has its pros and cons, periodically it’s good to examine what you’re getting out of it. That awareness and sense of gratitude is what makes for a happy and healthy nurse, which makes for a long and sustainable career.

Happy National NP Week!

Happy National NP Week!

This week, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) leads the celebration of National Nurse Practitioners (NP) Week to mark the distinctive benefits of this career path.

According to the AANP, approximately 248,000 nurse practitioners hold an NP license in the United States. The career is especially appealing as NPs generally have more autonomy than other nurses. In some states, NPs are able to practice on their own without physician oversight, and, in doing so, can provide a full spectrum of care. They assess, diagnose, treat, and make a continual care plan for patients, so they are involved in each step of the patient’s care. Because of that, NPs often form close, long-lasting relationships with those they care for. NPs are able to prescribe medications across the US and almost half hold hospital privileges as well.

Nearly 98 percent of NPs hold graduate degrees and more than 8 in 10 hold some kind of primary care certification. For all the education NPs earn, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they are rewarded with a salary that hovers around $111,000 annually. The job outlook is growing faster than average with a 31 percent growth predicted by 2026.

If you’re interested in this in-demand career path, you’ll need to obtain a master’s in nursing degree along with plenty of extra credentials like certifications. NPs often hold more than one certification and the credentials can be in related areas like neonatal care and pediatric care. You’ll need to pass an NP state licensing exam so you can be registered to practice in your state.

Many nurses find the NP role helps them make a positive impact when access to healthcare is essential and sometimes not in easy supply. NPs can make big inroads into the health of communities as they are able to care for patients in a variety of settings and situations. Nurse practitioners who want to practice autonomously need to have the extra information to know how to do that while protecting themselves and their patients.

NPs can and should connect with peers and colleagues to share the challenges of the role and talk about the satisfaction of this role. Networking will help their professional development and the information learned will often improve their patient care as well.

Today Celebrates Forensic Nurses Day

Today Celebrates Forensic Nurses Day

When patients need care as a result of a violent or abusive situation, they often rely on forensic nurses to help provide a knowledgeable and compassionate bridge between the legal and health systems.

Today celebrates Forensic Nurses Day, and there is a continued need to understand the valuable work they perform and why forensic nurses are a crucial part of any hospital team. The day wraps up a week-long recognition by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) to call attention to the work they do.

Forensic nurses have duties that overlap both nursing and legal needs. They provide the specialized healthcare and attention victims of violent acts require. With sensitivity, they help patients through immediate and long-term trauma of the physical after effects of being a victim of violence. But forensic nurses are also the best advocates for these patients in court and legal systems. As a first responder to the patient’s health needs, these nurses collect evidence in a specific way to help the legal system gather needed information and observations to prosecute.

A career in forensic nursing begins with a RN or APN and a desire to help those who have been victimized by violence, sexual assault, or neglect.  Forensic nurses work with people of all ages and demographics. As the violence can be within a family (spousal abuse, child abuse, or elder abuse) or among strangers, those requiring care could be anyone.  According to the IAFN, forensic nurses’ skills are also needed in corrections facilities, in corrections centers, and in the aftermath of mass tragedies as well.

As with other nursing specialties, certification is a good career move for this field as technology continues to move at a rapid pace. Certification is offered in specialties or in the advanced practice of forensic nursing. Many nurses with significant training in emergency care or critical care become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) to provide treatment and collect evidence of sexual assault victims.

When patients receive care from a forensic nurse, they know someone has their back and can help them take steps toward recovery and healing.

Urologic Nurses Keep Pace with Advancements

Urologic Nurses Keep Pace with Advancements

November 7 marks the final day of Urologic Nurses and Associates Week, so Minority Nurse turned to Amy Hull MSN, RNC, WHNP-BC and president of the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates (SUNA) to hear her thoughts on choosing this nursing path for a career.

Hull didn’t start her career in this specialty. She is a women’s health nurse practitioner by training, and she thought she would care for pregnant women for her entire career. About 15 years ago, while still seeking a niche in OB/GYN, a friend convinced her to try continence work, she says.

“I had no real understanding of continence issues and the real, devastating concerns incontinent patients experience,” Hull says. “However, as I stated, my friend and colleague convinced me to pursue this transition. I have not regretted that decision.”

In her practice as a urology nurse, Hull says her work can make a significant impact on her patients’ quality of life. Because patients with urologic conditions are often limited in the activities they can participate in without symptoms, the conditions can impact their physical, emotional, and mental health.

“Urologic concerns can arise during all phases of one’s life and affect men, women, and children,” she says. Hull says those in her profession offer education and care to enhance patients’ well being and sense of control over what may seem as uncontrollable issues and diagnoses.

Urologic Nurses Needed to Meet Demand

With such comprehensive care needed, Hull says urologic nurse staffing issues are pressing. “With fewer and fewer dedicated urology floors in hospitals, the hospital nursing staff are at risk of reduced education and reduced opportunities to achieve the needed skills to enable them to expertly care for their patients,” she says. “Without true, dedicated nursing education within our schools of nursing, the necessity falls to senior nurses to train new staff as well as our nursing organizations, such as SUNA.”

Luckily, Hull says the developments in the field are rapid, but nurses and associates in the field will need to continually fine-tune their skills and expand their knowledge to provide up-to-date care.

“Efforts to better understand the environment of the bladder are helping to better treat and prevent infections,” she says. “New and better surgical and non-surgical techniques are helping to provide improved outcomes for patients with such conditions as urologic cancers, pelvic organ prolapse, and incontinence.”

Getting Ahead in Urologic Nursing

Nurses interested in the career of urologic nursing should seek out mentors they can learn from. Seeking out professional development, education out of the place of work, and networking will help nurses in their careers and will keep them current.

As with other nursing specialties, Hull says urology certification is important.  The Certification Board for Urologic Nurses and Associates (CBUNA) offers certification exams for MAs and LPNs, RNs, and advanced practice providers.

“SUNA provides urology education for MAs, LPNs, RNs, and advanced practice providers, such as NPs, PAs, and CNSs,” says Hull. The organization also has 29 local chapters nationwide where urologic nurses can find additional opportunities for education, and they can attend the Annual UroLogic conference or Advanced UroLogic Conference. SUNA has also developed the Scopes and Standards for Urologic Nursing which helps to define the specialty.

Having a positive impact on her patients’ lives keeps Hull enthusiastic and she encourages other nurses to consider this specialty.