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AJN in August: Oral Histories of African Nurses, Opioid Abuse, Misplaced Enteral Tubes, More

August 3, 2015

AJN0815.Cover.OnlineOn this month’s cover, a community nurse practices health education with residents of a small fishing village in rural Uganda. Former AJN clinical managing editor Karen Roush took the photo in a small community center made of dried mud bricks, wood, and straw.

According to Roush, nurses wrote the lessons out on poster-sized sheets of white paper and tacked them to the mud wall as they addressed topics like personal hygiene, sanitation, food safety, communication, and prevention of infectious diseases. The reality of nursing in Africa is explored this month in “‘I Am a Nurse’: Oral Histories of African Nurses,” original research that shares African nurse leaders’ stories so we may better understand nursing from their perspective.

Some other articles of note in the August issue:

CE feature: A major source of diverted opioid prescription medications is from friends and family members with legitimate prescriptions.  “Nurses’ Role in Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion” describes three potential interventions in which nurses play a critical role to help prevent opioid diversion.

From our Safety Monitor column: More than 1.2 million enteral feeding tubes are placed annually in the United States. While the practice is usually safe, serious complications can occur. “Misplacements of Enteral Feeding Tubes Increase After Hospitals Switch Brands,” a report from the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, reviews cases of misplaced tubes and offers guidance for how nurses can prevent such errors in their own practice.

Clinical feature: It is no surprise that physical activity comes with numerous physical and mental benefits, nor that a majority of Americans do not get enough exercise. “The Evolution of Physical Activity Promotion” updates nurses on physical activity guidelines and provides tips for encouraging patients to improve their physical activity. This feature also highlights the importance of decreasing one’s amount of sedentary and sitting time, even in physically active people. Read the rest of this entry »

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Medicare Turns 50: Familiar Opposition in 1965, Essential and Continuing to Evolve Now

July 30, 2015
President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

On this date in 1965, exactly 50 years ago, Medicare (part of the Social Security Amendments of 1965) was signed into law by President Johnson. The debate over government-sponsored health insurance is not new, and opposition to the creation of Medicare was similar to the opposition to the Affordable Care Act and driven by many of the same organizations and arguments.

According to a timeline at SocialSecurity.gov, Congressional hearings on the topic occurred as early as 1916, with the American Medical Association (AMA) first voicing support for a proposed state health insurance program and then, in 1920, reversing its position. A government health insurance program was a key initiative of President Harry Truman, but, as with the Clinton health initiative several decades later, it didn’t go anywhere because of strong opposition from the AMA and others.

AJN covered the topic in an article in the May 1958 issue after a health insurance bill was introduced in 1957. Yet again, one of the staunchest opponents was the AMA. In the September 1958 issue, “at the request of the American Medical Association,” AJN published an article by the AMA’s general manager explaining the AMA’s opposition. Then (as in recent years we continue to see from opponents of both Medicare and the ACA), the alternative plans proposed by the AMA and others were weak and lacked comprehensiveness. By contrast to the AMA’s position, in 1958 the American Nurses Association (ANA) formally expressed support for federal health insurance for older Americans.

Medicare continues to evolve in numerous ways, and will face unprecedented challenges in the coming years as the number of seniors continues to increase. Medicare has its flaws and waste and inefficiencies, and some of the quality measures it uses to decide compensation rates for hospitals are controversial with nurses and others. There is always room for improvement, always negotiation among competing parties, never enough money.

But some very positive news came out this week about steep reductions in Medicare patients’ mortality and hospitalization rates and in costs for hospitalized “fee-for-service” Medicare patients.

So it’s complicated, as might be expected. But where would be without Medicare? It might not be pretty.—By Shawn Kennedy, editor-in-chief, and Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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Evidence-Based Practice and the Curiosity of Nurses

July 27, 2015

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

karen eliot/flickr

by karen eliot/via flickr

In a series of articles in AJN, evidence-based practice (EBP) is defined as problem solving that “integrates the best evidence from well-designed studies and patient care data, and combines it with patient preferences and values and nurse expertise.”

We recently asked AJN’s Facebook fans to weigh in on the meaning of EBP for them. Some skeptics regarded it as simply the latest buzzword in health care, discussed “only when Joint Commission is in the building.” One comment noted that “evidence” can be misused to justify overtreatment and generate more profits. Another lamented that EBP serves to highlight the disconnect between education and practice—that is, between what we’re taught (usually, based on evidence) and what we do (often the result of limited resources).

There’s probably some truth in these observations. But at baseline, isn’t EBP simply about doing our best for patients by basing our clinical practice on the best evidence we can find? AJN has published some great examples of staff nurses who asked questions, set out to answer them, and ended up changing practice.

  • In a June 2013 article, nurses describe how they devised a nurse-directed protocol that resulted in fewer catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs).
  • A 2014 article relates how oncology nurses discovered the lack of evidence for the notion that blood can only be transfused through large-bore needles. These nurses were able to make transfusions safer and more comfortable for their patients. Read the rest of this entry »
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An Oncology Nurse’s Heart: Helping Dying Patients Find Their Own Paths Home

July 24, 2015

Julianna Paradisi, RN, OCN, is an oncology nurse navigator and writes a monthly post for this blog.

Heart Break = Heartache  graphite, charcoal, water color, adhesive strip by julianna paradisi

Heart Break = Heartache
graphite, charcoal, watercolor, adhesive strip, by julianna paradisi

The disadvantage of building a nursing career in oncology is that a fair number of patients die. Despite great advances in treatment, not every patient can be saved. Oncology care providers struggle to balance maintaining hope with telling patients the truth.

Sometimes, telling the truth causes anger, and patients criticize providers for “giving up on me.” In a health care climate that measures a provider’s performance in positive customer satisfaction surveys, paradoxes abound for those working in oncology.

Providers may also be criticized for delivering care that is futile. “Don’t chemo a patient to death” and “A cancer patient should not die in an ICU” are common mantras of merit.

Maybe because I live in Oregon, a state with a Death with Dignity law, or maybe it’s the pioneer spirit of Oregonians, but I don’t meet a lot of patients choosing futile care to prolong the inevitable. In fact, many patients I meet dictate how much treatment they will accept. They grieve when they learn they have incurable cancer, and most choose palliative treatment to reduce symptoms, preserving quality of life as long as possible.

But they also ask questions: “How will I know when to stop treatment?” or “What will the end look like?” Their courage in facing death amazes me. It often brings me to tears, too.

One advantage of building a nursing career in oncology is that I feel no compulsion to hide my tears from a patient during these discussions. In the context of compassionate presence, tears represent emotional authenticity, theirs and mine.

While nurses may sometimes grieve with patients, they can also offer them therapeutic support.

I have developed a few tricks so I don’t let dying patients down during the moments they need me most. My favorite is to ask a patient what he or she does—or, if they’re retired, did—for a living. As I listen to the story, I picture what they looked like in a business suit, wielding a hammer, baking a cake, or writing a novel. I picture her at the head of a classroom, teaching children to read. In my mind I say, “I see you,” and they become their authentic self, not the person cancer tries to reduce to a recliner chair. Read the rest of this entry »

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Heatstroke in Older Adults: A Short Step from Heat Exhaustion

July 22, 2015
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illness

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illness

Older adults tend to be more vulnerable than younger adults in a number of ways, one of which is in their reaction to intense heat.

Given the increase in extreme weather events in recent years, an article that we published a few years back, “Heatstroke in Older Adults” (free until September 1), is as timely now as ever. A high percentage of heat-related deaths in the U.S. occur among people who are 65 or older. Here are some of the reasons:

Older adults’ normal temperature-regulating processes may be impaired by illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease or by medications such as vasoconstrictors or diuretics, leaving them more vulnerable to heat exhaustion, which can progress to heatstroke, a far more dangerous condition. Those who are immobilized or suffer from disorientation secondary to dementia may fail to recognize dangerous symptoms or to drink appropriate types and amounts of fluids or move to a cooler location. Isolation, which is also frequently associated with heat injury, is common among older adults, particularly in cities, which are more susceptible to extreme heat waves because they create ‘heat islands,’ where surface and air temperatures are as much as 10°F higher than those in surrounding areas.

This short article gives nurses essential information on:

  • the differences in symptoms and treatment between heat exhaustion and heatstroke
  • the two types of heatstroke (exertional and classic)
  • the various risk factors for heat exhaustion and heatstroke in older adults
  • prevention strategies and public health resources

We hope you find the article helpful.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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Working a Shift with Theresa Brown

July 20, 2015

bookBy Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Many of you may be familiar with Theresa Brown, nurse and author of Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between, as well as a blogger for the New York Times. Brown also writes a quarterly column for AJN called What I’m Reading (her latest column, which will be free until August 15, is in the July issue). Her new book, The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients Lives, will come out in September, and I was able to read a prepublication copy. (You can pre-order it.)

I don’t usually write book reviews. I think of most books like food: what one person finds delicious may be less savory to another. But I’m making an exception because this book is an accurate and well-written portrayal of nursing (at last!).

Anyone who wants to know what it’s like to be a nurse in a hospital today should read this book. Patients, families, and non-nurse colleagues tend to see nurses as ever-present yet often in the background, quietly moving from room to room, attending to patients, and distributing medications or charting at computers. But what they don’t understand about what nurses do is what Brown so deftly describes—the cognitive multitasking and constant reordering of priorities that occur in the course of one shift as Brown manages the needs of four very different patients (she was working in a stem cell transplant unit at the time); completes admissions and discharges; and communicates with families, colleagues, and administrators. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hepatitis A, B, and C: The Latest on Screening, Epidemiology, Prevention, Treatments

July 16, 2015
One of several posters created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to raise awareness that millions of Americans of all ages, races, and ethnicities have hepatitis C—and many don’t know it. Posters are available to order or download for printing at www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/media/posters.htm. Poster © Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of several CDC posters intended to raise awareness that millions of Americans of all ages, races, and ethnicities have hepatitis C—and many don’t know it. Posters are available to order or download for printing at http://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/media/posters.htm. Poster © Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s crucial that nurses in all health care settings stay informed about the changing landscape of viral hepatitis in the United States. Hepatitis affects the lives of millions, too many of whom are unaware that they have been infected.

Right now, there’s good news and bad news about hepatitis in the U.S. While the incidences of hepatitis A and B in the United States have declined significantly in the past 15 years, the incidence of hepatitis C virus infection, formerly stable or in decline, has increased by 75% since 2010. Suboptimal past therapies, insufficient provider awareness, and low screening rates have hindered efforts to improve diagnosis, management, and treatment of viral hepatitis.

The authors of a CE feature in the July issue of AJN, Viral Hepatitis: New U.S. Screening Recommendations, Assessment Tools, and Treatments,” are thoroughly versed in the subject. Corinna Dan is viral hepatitis policy advisor, Michelle Moses-Eisenstein is a public health analyst, and Ronald O. Valdiserri is director, all in the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Their article succinctly and clearly covers

  • the epidemiology, natural history, and diagnosis of viral hepatitis.
  • new screening recommendations, assessment tools, and treatments.
  • the HHS action plan, focusing on the role of nurses in prevention and treatment.

Read the rest of this entry »

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