Sponsored by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), this week promotes the work WOC nurses do in their daily interactions with patients and as policy influencers on a local, national, and global scale. As nurses who care for those with incontinence (fecal or urinary), ostomies, or wounds that are non-healing, WOC nurses must rely on their ability to think critically, pivot when things change unexpectedly, and remain committed to lifelong learning for the best patient outcomes and the greatest career satisfaction.
WOC nurses fill many roles as they act as advocates for their patients, educators for patients and their loved ones, resources for their healthcare teams, and leaders in the areas of policy and protections for patients with these varied conditions. Because wound, ostomy, and continence nurses understand the conditions and the physical and emotional challenges all wounds bring, they are able to create meaningful and lasting change in the healthcare system.
Nurses can participate in all levels of advocacy to help patient outcomes and also to protect nurses in the industry. The WOCN suggests writing to a legislator, spreading awareness through social media channels, or meeting with representatives to inform them of concerns or challenges facing nurses and patients in this area. WOC nurses can also act as resources for their local communities by offering educational seminars about healthcare conditions, assistance options, and even current research and progress.
Wound care expertise is in high demand, and nurses in this specialty will treat all kinds of complex wounds from a tube to a burn to diabetic wounds to surgical wounds to pressure wounds. Nurses help patients and their healthcare teams manage the care of their wounds so the body can heal properly and prevent infection.
The patient burden for coping with wounds, which are sometimes exceptionally painful, can’t be understated. Nurses will also navigate through the emotional and psychological supports of wound management so patients will be able to have healthy outcomes where risks of infection and pain are as minimal as possible. They will work closely with patients and often form close bonds as they help treat long-term or chronic wounds and conditions.
If you’re a WOC nurse, take this week to celebrate your strong influence on your patients and to even spend some time learning something new in your field through a seminar, a new journal, or a discussion with nurses in your network or members of a professional organization.
2020 brought to light the INTRANSIGENT nurse. This year was ushered by the unforeseen- the unexpected, unpredicted, unanticipated eruption of COVID-19, which brought a seismic wave of panic, fear the world over, and brought every nation’s economy to a grinding halt. While it looks like the virus can run a government aground, due to incompetence and ineptness, rising to the occasion to save a nation are the unsung heroes in scrubs. YES – the nurses, along with other health care providers, are at the forefront of this war. Geared up to a bare minimum of PPEs, giving them a modicum of confidence in keeping themselves safe, they bravely trudge over the fear and the virus with sheer tenacity, determination, and dedication to the call of duty. Their assiduity to the crisis has left a profound and moving picture of the BEST of humanity – a picture that will be etched in our memory of memories forever.
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus which left health organizations around the globe scrambling for a cure. It is a war with the unknown and yet, unknown it may be, the nurses are in the battle armed with strength of character, sharp awareness of their ethical responsibility and a dogged resistance to give up in the face of great uncertainty of one’s own safety.
Nurses are …
Noble. Nurses are not blue-blooded by birth but has patrician ideals and aspirations – that is, to serve. Nurses are hell-bent, driven, purposeful and intentional – to do the right thing.
Undeterred. Nurses remain steadfast in the face of setbacks. They remain to be the voice of reason amidst the noise of the government who make emphatic declarations that are seemingly plausible but wrong – statements simply aired to give their actions a specious appearance of novelty and a tinge of humanity because there is none.
Regal. Geared up not in a ritzy way yet, they conduct their duty in an exalted, august manner.
Spartan. Nurses are people of great courage. They give up their security to save humanity.
Energetic campaigner for the vulnerable and the defenseless. They go on the offensive to defend the helpless. Creative, Ingenious. Resourceful.
As unforeseen as this crisis may have been, COVID-19 has not predicted 2020-2021 to be the year of the nurse either. The COVID-19 virus may seem relentless but it is no match to the unshakable spirit and intelligent mind of the INTRANSIGENT nurse. Nurses have the Midas touch… nurses act to complete humanity. To all my fellow NURSES on the frontline, I wave the flag of victory! You deserve the highest of honors! To you, my HATS OFF!
It has been over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S., and vaccines are now being distributed widely, with 304 million doses administered across the country to date. Vaccine distribution is key to ending the pandemic, but the impact of the virus continues to be felt in nearly every industry, but especially in healthcare, with nurses on the front lines as our heroes treating patients and containing the spread of the infectious disease.
Healthcare caregivers are, and have been, operating 24/7 under stressful circumstances, working to prioritize patient care and the wellbeing of all employees. While the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases is on the decline, the lasting shifts continue to be apparent in healthcare organizations as they work to recruit and hire the best healthcare talent. According to Jobvite’s 2020 Recruiter Nation report, 26% of recruiters have reported hiring is happening rapidly at healthcare organizations, whereas 37% have reported headcount and hiring have both been reduced. These inconsistencies showcase the rapidly changing needs of individual healthcare organizations. While every hospital is different, there have been several hiring trends that have come to the forefront that nurses should be aware of.
Nursing candidates can leverage these opportunities in order to stand out within pools of talent. By keeping these trends top of mind, job seekers can more easily navigate the hiring process, scoring positions in their departments and facilities of choice.
Managing increased levels of stress and burnout
The workload, and in turn stress, for all healthcare workers continues to increase – with 48% of new nurses now leaving within the second year, according to the same Jobvite report. This turnover rate has risen due to the pandemic and can be attributed to the unprecedented stress that comes with it, as well as individual health concerns with nurses at an increased risk of exposure to the virus.
Nurses must keep this in mind while looking for a job, as it is crucial that an organization communicates their expectations and workload during the hiring phase and allows nurses to better balance their already busy schedules. Nurses are often working more than 12 hours a day, multiple times a week, creating a greater need for stress management techniques and an open communication with nursing leadership. Setting realistic expectations and being able to plan, will greatly reduce stress and help manage burnout.
The Focus on patient-centric care
There is a growing need for nurses that embody compassionate, patient-centric care. One executive surveyed had shared: “I’ve never had to terminate a doctor due to his medical skills. It’s only been due to issues related to bedside manner.” This is often the case with nurses, too. Approximately 70% of hospitals named employee engagement as their top priority for patient experience, so having the right, patient-centric nurses, is critical to the success of any healthcare facility.
Unlike many other professions, nurses must be both knowledgeable, friendly, and polite in every interaction, even in the face of staffing shortages or while handling difficult patients. This can seem like competing priorities. Because these qualities are being heavily sought after by employers, nursing candidates can use this knowledge to their advantage during job interviews to highlight examples of how they embody and excel in demonstrating these patient-focused qualities.
By sharing personal anecdotes based on previous professional and life experiences during interview opportunities, nurses are able to exhibit their values and dedication to service, relating to the employer’s individual mission and goals. Connecting with employer branding can enable nurses to find organizations that share the same standards, leading to a more successful and gratifying nursing career.
Great tools that help increase hiring of underrepresented workers
Having a diversity of talent that represents everyone, regardless of an individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, age, veteran status, or other identifying factors, builds a stronger and more inclusive work environment. Employing healthcare staff, particularly nurses, that can communicate with non-English speaking patients is critical. For example, discharging a patient who cannot understand the directions on how to take their prescriptions is not only inconvenient, but also life-dangering. Having staff who share similar cultural experiences with their patients is critical in building relationships, and ultimately providing the best quality care.
Many healthcare organizations are using tools such as the complimentary Job Description Grader by Jobvite, which ensures job descriptions are engaging and inclusive. Along with the current best practices in diversity and inclusion, this tool uses AI, analytics, and benchmarking to review job descriptions and make recommendations for more inclusive language to prevent unconscious bias. Nurses seeking jobs should be sure to highlight any diverse skills and unique attributes that would allow them to attract desired employers. Other solutions, such as Bias Blocker™ from Jobvite automatically hides identifiable information from a candidate’s resume before hiring manager review. Knowing tools like these exist in the marketplace should help all nurses feel confident that leading TA teams are taking steps to reduce bias and increase the hiring of underrepresented workers.
Navigating the job search despite the 24/7 work life
Patients don’t all get sick between 9-5, and because nurses work around the clock, it makes it difficult to connect and schedule job interviews. Many healthcare workers are on their feet all day and not at a computer job searching. Nursing candidates on-the-go can utilize capabilities to text with recruiters, easily scheduling interviews and completing applications on their phones.
Fortunately, interviewing trends are adapting with the surge of video conferencing amid COVID. While nurses are primarily working on-site, many in this industry are becoming increasingly comfortable communicating via video in today’s job market. In fact, many healthcare practitioners are also communicating with patients virtually with the expansion of telehealth nationwide. Therefore, it’s important that prospective nurses are able to effectively communicate both in-person and through a screen.
Acing a remote job interview involves establishing a quiet space and professional appearance. Nurses typically wear scrubs in their day-to-day work lives, but this is often not recommended for nursing job interviews, as business professional or business casual attire is preferred. Additionally, checking connectivity beforehand and practicing maintaining eye contact can lead to a favorable interview. Nurses shouldn’t forget to ask the interviewer questions, too! Knowing details about the training program, culture, and the specific unit can be beneficial when making a decision about which employer is the best fit.
The stakes for hiring the best nurses has never been higher. By being aware of these trends, nursing candidates can better understand the industry and optimize their chances of finding the right healthcare employer and position.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on GI nursing and SGNA has resources to help nurses. While many initially thought COVID-19 was an acute respiratory virus, the year has revealed many patients presenting with severe gastrointestinal symptoms, some of which persist long after the initial recovery. GI nurses are also managing the safety concerns for themselves and their patients. And many GI procedures were delayed due to the pandemic’s impact.
Within this nursing specialty, gastrointestinal nurses can find many subsets of the field that interest them. There are opportunities for nurses to work with pediatric patients and the elderly. They can focus on cancer treatment and care or on endoscopy and surgical practices and procedures. And they are able to work with patients in inpatient and outpatient settings for conditions including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis or GERD and other digestive disorders.
As a GI nurse, you may even opt to pursue an academic or research role to help find new treatments and discoveries to help GI patients. These options allow nurses to work in an area that really interests them and where they feel they can make a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.
This week occurs during a month devoted to Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a disease that directly impacts the work GI nurses do. As colorectal cancer cases in young adults increase, GI nurses are excellent advocates for their patients to learn how to manage the diagnosis and treatment while living with the emotional and physical impacts of this disease.
Gastroenterology nurses can use many available resources during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to begin conversations with their patients. They can talk about warning signs and symptoms, family history and other risk factors, the critical timing of screening, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, but particularly those at a higher risk for colon cancer.
You’ll be an essential member of many teams that will depend on your clinical expertise in gastroenterology and your knowledge of the patient. As with any nursing specialty, gaining certification in your area of specialty will allow you to increase your knowledge and then put that into practice to offer the best patient care.
As a certified GI nurse, your leadership will be an asset to your organization as well and may inspire other nurses to follow the same path. Your certification brings you expertise that will help you work for policy change that can make life easier for GI patients, help bring improved safety for GI nurses, or raise awareness of GI disorders.
GI nurses also hold a special empathy for those in their care as they hear stories of pain and discomfort and the indignities GI patients sometimes deal with. As a caring provider, you know your nursing practice will help you develop close bonds with your GI patients. Those bonds provide the kind of meaningful connections that give GI nurses a great deal of job satisfaction.
Certified Nurses Day falls on the birthday of Margretta Madden Styles, RN, EdD, FAAN, a nurse leader and educator who is considered the driving force in nursing certification. Styles was a pioneer in drawing attention to the importance of nurse certification and what is means for high-quality nursing practices and improved patient outcomes. A 1954 Yale graduate, Styles, who was known as Gretta, eventually served as the dean of the School of Nursing for the University of California San Francisco, and gained international acclaim for her advocacy for certification to advance the nursing practice. Styles died in 2005, but her legacy continues to inspire the certified nurses in the United States to this day.
Nursing certifications improve nurses’ skill sets, expand their employment prospects, raise their salary potential, and also elevate the nursing industry as a whole. Individually, nurses who are certified are recognized for the additional time and effort they spend to gain more knowledge in their specialty. And nurses are able to obtain many certifications—they are not limited to just one. Certification helps bring you the understanding you’ll need around practices and processes in whatever area you choose. For instance you may decide to obtain certification in adult gerontology, oncology, nurse leadership, gastroenterology, med-surg, wound care, or diabetes care. The dozens upon dozens of choices available will likely meet whatever interest or specialty you’d want.
To become certified, you’ll need to be a licensed RN. Depending on the certification you are going for, other prerequisites vary by program and by state. In some instances you’ll need to have an advanced degree or a certain number of practice hours in that specialty. Each certification will cost a fee to take, and some employers will cover this fee, or part of it, if you ask. And because certification is based on the idea that having up-to-date knowledge is crucial to excellence in nursing, you’ll need to renew your certification periodically (and that also varies with the specific certification).
Lots of nurses worry that certification is a long process or that they could suffer professional backlash if they don’t pass the exam. As a nurse, you can choose to seek certification without your employer knowing your plan, so you won’t have to worry about telling your supervisor the results. On the other hand, oftentimes the encouragement you’ll receive from your colleagues can inspire you to continue on this path and get through the hard times. And lastly, when you are taking a certification exam, you’re being tests in areas that are already familiar to you.
As a nurse, certification boosts the knowledge you already have and sharpens your skills so you’ll improve your own nursing practice on a daily basis. In the larger picture, as a professional, you’ll gain specific expertise in your area of practice and thus you’ll be looked to as a leader in that area. As you gain a higher professional standing, more opportunities for additional responsibilities and leadership positions may open up for you as well.
On this year’s Certified Nurses Day, celebrate the efforts of nurses who have become certified and have improved their work and their patient outcomes each day. If you’re thinking of becoming certified but are delaying starting the process, the best time to begin is now.
Professional development is one of the most important items in your nurses’ toolkit. Learning new skills, finding out about new technology and how to use it, and discovering new evidence-based practices will make you a better nurse.
But after a year that has wreaked havoc across the world, do you really need to think about professional development during a pandemic?
Simply put, yes. But depending on your role and your current workload, you can adapt to take realistic steps.
Professional development keeps you at the top of your game. As lifelong learners, nurses are committed to continually improving their skills because their patients depend on it. There’s no way to be the best nurse possible if your thinking remains the same as it did when you first started a nursing practice. But if you’re overwhelmed and your workload just isn’t letting up, your professional development goals might look different from another nurse.
What does professional development look like now?
1. Assess the Past Year
If you’re too tapped to even consider adding professional development to your life, think ahead. The past year has been one long lesson in trial by fire and you have learned a lot, even if you don’t have a certificate for it. Think about what you did that might have sparked a curiosity to learn more. What areas do you think you did well in? What areas could use some additional skills? Did you assume roles or responsibilities you liked or some that didn’t fit so well? All of these indicators can help you think about professional development in the future.
2. Make a List
Your last year probably found you using skills you never thought you’d use on a regular basis. Maybe you assumed a leadership role because you had to or you found the leadership role you were already in morphing into something much different. Leading a unit through a pandemic is nothing like what you did before. What can you do in the next year to build on the skills you sharpened through the pandemic?
3. Take Action
Sometimes getting started is the hardest step. At some point, life will return to some semblance of normal, and you’ll want your career to be in good shape to move forward when that happens. Taking action can be a large or small undertaking, but doing something is the goal. When you think about your actionable goal, be realistic for the current time. If you are able to apply for a degree program or to take a certification, now is the time to get that plan in action. If you can’t commit to something big, remember that small actions are important.
Join a professional organization and attend one event.
Network with a nurse you admire.
Read a book or subscribe to a journal in your specialty to sharpen your expertise.
Take an online course in an area that can build up essential skills including communication, conflict resolution, targeted technology, time management, or goal setting.
Share your knowledge by teaching a class in your organization or in your community. You’ll benefit from the public speaking practice and organization skill building, and your audience will benefit from your advanced understanding of the subject matter.
Professional development is an ongoing task, and when the world of nursing is in such change, it’s even more important. But many nurses are tired and stressed, so professional development is going to look a little different than it might have a year ago. Just keep moving forward and learning, but do it with an intention that will bring your career to a better place.