Talking Magnet with ANA Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Hatmaker

Talking Magnet with ANA Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Hatmaker

The American Nurses Credentialing Center National Magnet and Pathway to Excellence Conference is taking place October 12-14 in Chicago, marking the largest and most influential gathering of nurses and healthcare stakeholders in the country.

If you can’t attend, we’ve got you covered in advance as we sat down with Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Chief Nursing Officer at the American Nurses Association (ANA) Enterpriseto discuss the ANA’s role in addressing the nurse staffing crisis and how nurses can use the Magnet model to better their careers.

What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.


American Nurses Association (ANA) Chief Nursing Officer, Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, FAAN

-Earlier this year, the ANA urged Congress to address the nurse staffing crisis and the work environment issues. Can you discuss the need for a national dialogue and ongoing collaboration between nurses, Congressional leaders, and other key stakeholders to support our nursing workforce, patients, and our nation’s health and well-being?  

The nurse staffing crisis continues to demand a national dialogue with nurse-led approaches to help ease the enduring work environment challenges that nurses face across numerous specialties and healthcare settings. We support enforceable minimum nurse-to-patient ratios that reflect key factors such as patient acuity, intensity of the unit practice setting, and nurses’ competency, among other variables. And this is just one part of a larger solution to solve this. 

We continue to work on addressing other challenges that have significantly made the nurse staffing issue worse, such as burnout, workplace violence, mandatory overtime, and barriers to full practice authority. 

Nearly 400 ANA members convened at the U.S. Capitol, representing the nation’s more than 4 million registered nurses, to petition Congress to address the national nurse staffing crisis this summer. In addition to advocating, ANA is also advancing solutions from the 2022 Nurse Staffing Think Tank 2022 in partnership with other leading organizations, which produced a series of actionable strategies that healthcare organizations could implement within 12 – 18 months.

We continue to advocate on behalf of nurses and remain a collaborative partner. Our goal is to empower nurses and position them for success. We continue calling on Congress to enact meaningful legislation and policies that improve nurse staffing and work environments. 

How can nurses use the Magnet Model to better their nursing leadership and shared decision-making?

The Magnet process fosters a collaborative culture that spurs shared decision-making. Magnet organizations are even provided with a multiyear framework for quality improvement and a structured way to engage staff in decision-making. This tool can help energize and motivate teams. In fact, team building, collaborating across disciplines, regular open community, and building staff engagement, while difficult to quantify, are often what happens during the Magnet process.

-What are some questions to ask before accepting a job at a Magnet hospital? Can you offer some tips for helping nurses choose which Magnet hospital to work in?

Each Magnet-recognized organization will have its own hiring standards, so each nurse should review those as they apply for or accept a position. But they should know that whatever role they fill, a Magnet organization will invest in them and their potential. At ANCC, we’ve created a free resource for nurses looking for select practice environments and interview questions to ask. 

Magnet Recognition means education and development through every career stage, which leads to greater autonomy at the bedside. A Magnet organization supports opportunities for nurses to pursue new skills and professional development, champions them in those pursuits, and rewards them for advancing in their profession. 

We’ll be at the 2023 ANCC National Magnet Conference® October 12-14 at the at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. Stop by booth #918. We look forward to seeing you there!

ANA Takes a Stand on COVID-19 Vaccinations

ANA Takes a Stand on COVID-19 Vaccinations

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads and numbers of those infected and being in treated in ICUs across the country keeps getting worse, it’s important for those not vaccinated to do so.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) recently spoke out and took a stand—stating that nurses should get vaccinated.

ANA President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, took the time to answer out questions about this and why it’s so important.

Why did the ANA feel the need to come out in favor of nurses getting the vaccine for COVID-19?

ANA has a longstanding history and commitment of supporting immunizations to protect nurses, health care professionals, and the public from highly communicable and deadly diseases—and COVID-19 is no different. For our nation to recover, heal, and return to a semblance of normalcy, enough individuals, nurses, and health care professionals must get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The swift development of COVID-19 vaccines and the execution of mass vaccination efforts is a significant public health victory and a scientifically proven strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the loss of more American lives. ANA continues to implore all health care professionals and the public to follow the science, adhere to the latest guidance of public health officials, and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

As we’ve seen, there are nurses and other health care workers willing to lose their jobs when they are required to get the vaccine. Why is this problematic? 

It is very disheartening to hear reports of nurses who are willing to quit their jobs rather than get the COVID-19 vaccine. There is significant clinical evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines being administered under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). To those who are apprehensive about taking a COVID-19 vaccine, I say trust the science and evidence. What is more, the pillars of patient-centered care and the nursing’s own professional standards ethically obligate nurses to model the same prevention measures that nurses recommend to their patients.

Nurses play a critical role in the monumental recovery efforts currently underway to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Our nation will only be successful in recovery efforts with a robust nursing workforce at peak health and wellness, providing safe patient care, administering COVID-19 vaccines, educating communities, and setting an example for millions of Americans.

There are nurses who don’t believe the vaccine works. What can other nurses say to them to help them understand?

It is paramount for nurses to remain knowledgeable and up-to-date on the science behind the vaccines, and the ongoing clinical studies that prove its efficacy. ANA has developed key principles to guide nurses and other health care professionals’ consideration for COVID-19 vaccines. These principles provide recommendations for access, transparency, equity, efficacy, and safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, ANA’s comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine resource page stays up-to-date on the latest clinical information and news. ANA has also created a focused video education series on COVID-19 topics, covering different aspects of this crisis and providing information that nurses can apply immediately when caring for COVID-19 patients. ANA’s COVID-19 videos are FREE for all nurses.

Has the ANA received any backlash from nurses about this stance?

We are seeing more and more nurses getting vaccinated. And based on what we’re hearing from our state associations, organizational affiliates across the country, and our most recent survey, nurses are in favor of the vaccine mandates and trust the COVID-19 safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

Tell us about the support that the ANA has received from this stance.

Nurses working across all areas of the health care system are disseminating culturally relevant information on the COVID-19 vaccines to the communities and patients that they serve. Nurses are connecting with their patients every day to have meaningful conversations and answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines. ANA applauds those nurses who are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and proactively setting an example for their patients and the public.

Is the ANA’s hope that other health care associations will follow their example? Why would this be important?

We strongly encourage other health care organizations and health systems to support of mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 for all health care professionals including nurses.

Most importantly, we urge everyone to follow the evidence and science, so our nation can continue making progress in recovering from this pandemic to restore our health care systems and communities.

National Minority Health Month Tips

National Minority Health Month Tips

During April, the nation recognizes National Minority Health Month. The COVID-19 crisis has renewed the urgency of staying as healthy as possible while simultaneously making it a little more challenging.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health released guidelines, suggestions, and encouragement for anyone looking to stay as active and healthy as possible during this pandemic. While much of the nation is under a stay-at-home order or advisory to protect the public health, routine daily activities are necessarily curbed. What we once took for granted—basics like getting out for exercise or grocery shopping (or really just about anything)—is difficult.

Nurses can’t avoid the challenges this pandemic is bringing to their physical and emotional health. The overwhelming stress about safety for their patients, themselves, and their families is taking a toll while they are working, often with less staff, what feels like endless, blurred hours. The American Nurses Association has COVID-19 nurse-specific resources and guidelines to help nurses through this time.

Even if nurses aren’t working directly with COVID-19 patients, they feel the ripple effects on the industry. Taking steps to stay as healthy as possible right now might just take a little imagination and change. Once you find some different approaches, you can share what you’ve learned with your patients.

Here are some recommendations to keep you and your family healthy right now.

Just Move

Keeping up with an exercise routine or even just making sure you’re getting any exercise is hard right now. Many gyms, casual fitness classes, and yoga studios have closed for the time being in keeping with social-distancing guidelines. That double whammy means a loss of important social contact and a loss of a routine that many people depend on to stay fit and to stay motivated. Getting outside to walk or run (with a mask if you expect to be near others) will keep you moving and help you maintain a level of fitness. Inside, you can walk up and down stairs if you have them (a tough workout if you do it for a while!) or try some of the free fitness videos that are streaming online. Use your own body weight to keep muscle tone—sets of squats, pushups, and lunges are excellent for strength. You can even do bicep curls with cans of food or milk jugs if you don’t have weights.

Focus Your Eating

We are in a stressful, scary, and unprecedented pandemic, and many of us are going to fall into eating habits that are less than healthy. Don’t judge yourself for the bag of chips you ate or the pint of ice cream that went down so easy. Some people veer too far the other way and don’t take in enough calories when they are worried. Today is a new day. Be gentle with yourself and try to think ahead when you grocery shop. If you’re trying to limit your trips, think of food that has longer storage so you won’t need to make so many trips . Frozen veggies are excellent swaps for fresh, and so are some canned veggies. Frozen fruit can be heated for a comforting treat, baked into a bread, used in smoothies, or just defrosted and used to top cereal. Healthy grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley, oats) store for a long time and make an excellent and easy-to-build-from base for meals and snacks.

 Quiet Your Brain

Reducing your stress is going to be the biggest challenge for many nurses during National Minority Health Month and for many months to come. This isn’t the time to tackle a self-improvement plan or to learn how to meditate like a pro. But it’s an excellent time to recognize that you need extra TLC. There are many apps (Calm, InSight Timer) that offer some free guided meditations. Some sessions are as short as a minute, but many fall into the 10-minute range. Other apps bring soothing nature sounds. Small, simple activities like lighting a favorite candle, reading a few easy pages of a book or a magazine, coloring with your kids, doing a puzzle, playing with your dog, calling a friend or loved one, or binge-watching a favorite series can help bring your focus to the present and may ease the ever-present worry for a while.

Staying healthy right now probably looks different from your previous routines, but that doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. Whatever you can do right now to get through this time is going to be worth it.

Making History: Q&A with ANA’s First Male President Ernest Grant

Making History: Q&A with ANA’s First Male President Ernest Grant

On January 1, 2019, Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, became president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the first man ever to hold the position. As a minority nurse trailblazer with more than 30 years of clinical and leadership experience, he was well equipped to break one of the remaining glass ceilings in nursing.

Grant, who holds a PhD in nursing, headed North Carolina’s nationally renowned Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where he started as a staff nurse in 1982. He has deep roots in the area, having earned his bachelor’s from North Carolina Central University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from UNC-Greensboro.

An internationally recognized expert on burn care and fire safety, Grant was presented with a Nurse of the Year Award in 2002 by former President George W. Bush for his work treating burn victims from the World Trade Center site of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Grant won the election by an overwhelming majority of votes from his colleagues after having served as vice president of the ANA and being an active member for decades. The organization has served nurses for 122 years, and now represents more than four million registered nurses nationwide.

Grant intends for his appointment to help unravel stereotypes about men in nursing. He plans to use his term to address some of the most pressing issues in the field, such as a looming nursing shortage that more inclusionary educational recruiting practices could alleviate.

We interviewed Dr. Ernest Grant to learn more about his historic election as ANA president and what the future holds for the association under his leadership.

ANA President Ernest Grant

ANA President Ernest Grant
Photo credit: Max Englund/UNC Health Care

What are your top priorities as far as encouraging more diversity in nursing?

Increasing gender and ethnic diversity in nursing is one of my top priorities. A nursing shortage is expected as the general population is aging, and experienced baby boomer nurses are retiring.  (Projections are that 500,000 seasoned RN’s will retire by 2022, and 1.1 million new nurses will be required to replace them.) There are ways we can avoid this [predicated shortage], which include recruiting more men into nursing and increasing diversity across the profession.

How will you encourage greater diversity in the nursing profession?

There should be more people of different backgrounds entering the profession so that it reflects society. One way to achieve this is through better access to scholarships and other educational and community resources. People of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds must know what’s available—that there are federal loans geared to nurses, for instance.

A nursing assistant may not be aware that taking courses at a community college is possible or that an employer may offer tuition assistance. But the stumbling block is not always money; it could be having young children or home responsibilities. Online training or resources in the community that pay for child care would be the solution then.

What would encourage more men to pursue the nursing profession?

Men are joining the profession. Seeing someone who resembles them in the health care system has helped empower them to become nurses. Promoting images of men in nursing needs to begin early, starting at the grade school level and letting boys see men who are nurses. “Here’s somebody who I can identify with,” they will think. Then at the high school level, it gets reemphasized by a guidance counselor or health occupation program. In those programs, they can get certified as a nursing associate, and obtain more exposure to nursing.

Currently, 9 to 13 percent of nurses are men, but when I started it was much less. (Probably it was only 3 to 4 percent.) Several things are contributing to the increased interest, including increased representation in advertising and the media. Another is men who served as medics in the military but then unfortunately don’t [immediately] qualify for any nursing jobs. There are some accelerated nursing courses nationwide for former medics. In my state, they can choose nursing school, PA school, or medical school—all are good options for our military folks.

How did you get interested in nursing and decide to make it your career?

I grew up in a very poor community, as the youngest of seven, and my father died young. It took a village. Everyone knew everybody and people made sure you studied and didn’t misbehave. They said they knew I was going to successful.

When I got into nursing—I started as an LPN—I intended to go on to medical school. I got exposed to men in nursing and was fortunate enough to have multiple mentors to go to for advice. These are still my mentors. Thanks to Dr. Gene Tranbarger and others, who paved the pathway for me. When I started my studies in the mid-70’s and early 80’s, there were many stereotypes about men in nursing, but you don’t hear them as much anymore.

People know: Men are just as capable of providing care as women. You can be masculine and still care. I’m 6’6” and very large, so a lot of people may think “this guy is going to hurt me” but I’m really a gentle giant. They would soon realize that and ask for me as their nurse.

How has being a racial minority impacted your career as a nurse?

It has impacted my career, especially in the early years. (I grew up during time when segregation was ending.) Once in a while, you may meet someone who doesn’t want you to care for them because of your sex or color or both. Now it doesn’t happen as often. You have to prove yourself to be just as competent of a nurse as your white counterpart.

Have there been other minority nurse presidents in ANA’s history?

Yes, ANA has had two African American presidents, Barbara Nichols (served 1978-1982) and Beverly Malone (served 1996-2000).

I would like to be judged by my capabilities, not by my race or gender. My leadership skills are what got me here. I’ve worked very hard to win the respect of my colleagues. Men ran before for ANA president but faced a lot of obstacles. I’m looking forward to this challenge and endeavor.

 What do you want readers to know?

Consider joining ANA and your state nurses association if you’re not already a member. As you begin your career, I want to encourage you to be more politically savvy at the legislative level. You need to be more aware of how decisions in the house or senate may hurt your ability to practice to your full license and educational level. Or it may limit your ability to treat patients—if they can’t get to us to access care [due to political efforts to replace or end the ACA]. If we’re not smart enough to advocate for our patients, then we’re doing a disservice to them.

Get out there and attend town hall meetings that your representatives are having, and volunteer to serve on their committees as a health care expert. Who else out there is more of a health care expert than a nurse? I would challenge all nurses to be more politically astute about how decisions at the state and national level affect the nursing profession.

3 Tips to Prevent Back Pain

3 Tips to Prevent Back Pain

With all the lifting, stretching, standing, pulling, pushing, running, and turning nurses do during a typical shift, it’s no wonder so many of them complain of back pain.

One of the most essential and yet often poorly treated and supported parts of the body, nurses expect a lot from their backs. But it’s also a body part that’s used for nearly every action you make. Keeping it healthy should be a top priority.

According to the American Family Physician, chronic back pain is common. About 30 percent of the adult population reported at least one day of low back pain in the past three months. But the American Nurses Association puts that number at more than 50 percent when the people reporting pain are nurses. And 12 percent of nurses report leaving the profession due to back pain.

If you’ve ever hurt your back, you know you’ll do almost anything to avoid triggering what is often a debilitating pain again. Preventing back pain isn’t always possible, but there are lots of ways you can help keep it at bay.

1. Stay Strong

If you want your back to be strong, strengthen your core muscles. The stronger your stomach and side muscles are, the more support your back will get. Exercises like yoga, strength training, swimming, boxing, and Pilates all help, but so do everyday actions. When you’re sitting or standing, keep your back as upright and straight as possible. Don’t slouch at the computer and don’t let your shoulders roll when you’re standing. Keep your back aligned as much as you can. You’ll probably feel better just from those small adjustments, too.

2. Be Aware

If you’re aware of how your back is being positioned, you’ll have more opportunity to move it in a way to prevent injury or strain. When you have to pick up a heavy weight, use your leg muscles, not your back muscles. Get help to move a patient or if that’s not possible, see if you can use an assistive device to move someone. Be aware of how you are pushing or pulling people and equipment throughout the day so you are engaging the right muscles and not putting undue strain on the wrong ones.

3. Get Help

If your pain is constant and chronic, you need an accurate diagnosis to uncover the root cause of the pain. Back pain is complex and can involve lots of other body mechanics. Once you find out the cause, there are many treatments available including physical therapy, gentle exercise, or even acupuncture. Your physician might prescribe medication or surgery as well, but hopefully you can prevent your back from deteriorating to that point.