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AJN’s Spring Break with the Student Nurses in Phoenix: Sunnier Job Outlook for New Graduates?

April 17, 2015

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

PhoenixSkylineAfter a long winter in the Northeast, it was wonderful to visit Phoenix last week for the 63rd annual convention of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA).

Like other meetings, this one was packed from morning to late evening with educational sessions, exhibits, resume-writing consultation, and for some, deliberating over 60 resolutions at the House of Delegates. Keynotes addressed:

  • health care reform (Gerri Lamb).
  • progress on implementing recommendations from the Future of Nursing report (Susan Hassmiller).
  • clinical ethics and moral distress (Veronica Feeg and Cynda Rushton).
  • and, the closing speech, a charge to continue nursing’s legacy into the future (yours truly).

Concurrent sessions, most of them well attended by Starbucks-fueled students, covered nursing specialties, exam help, licensure and legal/ethical issues, and clinical topics. (Betsy Todd, AJN‘s clinical editor, who is also an epidemiologist, led a session called “Is It Safe: Protecting Ourselves and Our Patients from Infectious Diseases.”)

Changing job climate? Several students I spoke with who were graduating at the end of the semester didn’t seem to have the anxiety of previous years’ students over securing a job. Maybe this is because things are looking up in the job market for new graduate nurses, at least according to recent figures in NSNA’s annual survey of graduates.

Reporting in the January issue of Dean’s Notes, researcher Veronica Feeg, associate dean of Molloy School of Nursing, and NSNA executive director Diana J. Mancino note that, in a September 2014 survey of NSNA members who were 2014 graduates, 78% reported they had secured an RN position by six months following graduation. This is an increase over the prior two years, when results were 76% for 2013 graduates and 66% for 2012 graduates. Read the rest of this entry »

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Never Too Late: One Family Practice’s Shift to EHRs after 50 Years of Paper

April 16, 2015

Editor’s note: We hear a lot about the stress and lack of time for direct patient care that nurses (and physicians) have experienced with the movement to EMRs or EHRs. We’re in a transitional period, and in some instances the use and design of these systems has a long ways to go. But here’s a story with a positive slant, written by someone who might easily have responded very differently, given the circumstances. Change is inevitable; how we react to it throughout our lives, less so. 

By Marilyn Kiesling Howard, ARNP

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

I am a nurse practitioner and my husband of 60 years is a family practitioner. We still work full time in our Gulf Breeze, Florida, practice. About five years ago, we first learned that our paper records were becoming archaic and that Medicare was planning to penalize providers who didn’t switch to the use of electronic health records (EHRs) by a certain date.

It was terrible news—we had 50 years of work in the paper chart genre, and were unsure about how to make the transition. Some who were in our position took the pending requirements as an opportunity to retire, but we weren’t ready for that.

Embracing a predigital innovation. In the 1960s, we started a small family practice in Indiana. As we requested our patients’ records from the files of their most recent physicians, it was not unusual to receive an index card that had the date neatly stamped on the left edge, with a handwritten note on the same line. (Needless to say, we’d already gone upscale, with a folder for each patient and a piece of white note paper.)

We quickly found that the medical record was our link to the prospective health of our patients, so we explored how we might make our records more useful. Joe read about a clinic in Bangor, Maine, where physicians were implementing the problem-oriented medical record (POMR) developed by Dr. Larry Weed, so we flew there to learn about this innovation. Dr. Bjorn and Dr. Cross were still developing their application of the model; their favorite medical secretary was a ‘bored bright housewife,’ and the entire clinic had an aura of excitement and discovery.

When we returned home, we quickly converted our folders to a proper chart with the ‘problem list’ fastened on the left and the progress notes on the right, using the new methodology. As we treated our new patients, we dutifully produced the ‘subjective, objective, assessment, and plan’ (SOAP) model we’d also imported from Maine.

This method sufficed for all the years between the first enlightenment and our leap in May 2011 into the world of pixels. It’s a challenge to get up and running with an EHR system. It was as if we were starting a new office with 2,000 patients to enroll. We had to had to translate and enter all of their old information into the new charting system. Two of our staff did not have computer knowledge and could not type. We went to half production, and our lost revenue was felt for months afterwards. (‘Meaningful use’ rules reimbursed us for about one-half of what the transition cost us.)

We’d decided on a cloud-based system because it was easy to access and the records would be safely stored on a server in Maine, an extra plus due to our propensity for hurricanes in the Florida Panhandle. The program was extremely user friendly. Given our level of expertise, this was a necessity. We took lessons online; the training included a live operator who was willing to stay on the line until the information was understood and applied. The company that runs the system keeps us compliant with meaningful use requirements and lets us know of impending changes.

We have, since we started using it at our clinic, found the EHR so far superior to our handwritten method that it would be impossible for us to return to the scribbled messes, as we see our old charts now. We still refer to them to garner important items such as consults, colonoscopies, surgeries, etc. Those reports are then neatly bar-coded into the EHR. It is no longer necessary to weed, retire, or store the charts. We did not abstract the old charts, simply moved important reports from them. We keep them in our office for quick historical reference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Recent End-of-Life Care Links of Note, by Nurses and Others

April 13, 2015
nature's own tightrope/marie and alistair knock/flickr creative commons

nature’s own tightrope/marie and alistair knock/flickr creative commons

By Amanda Anderson, a critical care nurse and graduate student in New York City currently doing a graduate placement at AJN.

End-of-life care and decision making have been getting a lot of attention lately. The Institute of Medicine released a new report earlier this year, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life (available for free download as a PDF).

Nurses who write often write about end-of-life matters. A couple of recent examples:

On the Nurse Manifest Web site, a look at the realities and challenges of futile care in America. Here’s a quote:

“I am currently teaching a thanatology (study of death and dying) course for nurses that I designed . . . to support students to go deeply in their reflective process around death and dying, to explore the holistic needs of the dying, and to delve into the body of evidence around the science and politics of death and dying.”

Or read another nurse blogger’s less abstract take on the tricky emotional territory nurses face when a patient dies.

Elsewhere on the Web
Vox reporter Sarah Kliff collects five strong end-of-life essays that recently appeared in various sources.

And here’s something very practical that might catch on: according to a recent NPR story, a Honolulu hospital offers patients and their family members instructive videos on the sometimes gruesome realities of some end-of-life treatment options. Starting with the no-sugar-coating-it statement, “You’re being shown this video because you have an illness that cannot be cured,” these videos explain intubation, CPR, and the different care options available.

I really liked this piece because the physician admitted that he was ill prepared to talk to a patient running out of options who he had never met before. Then he remembered the counsel of other professionals to give patient-specific care (“What are your goals for your care?”).

And some recent coverage in AJN or on this blog
Joy Jacobson’s short end-of-life and palliative care overview from 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bedpans and Learning: Nursing Basics Still Matter

April 8, 2015

By Amanda Anderson, a critical care nurse and graduate student in New York City currently doing a graduate placement at AJN.

Photo by Morrissey, via Flickr.

Photo by Morrissey, via Flickr.

There I was, orienting to a busy medical ICU, perplexed over a bedpan. You’d think, since I was just graduating from nursing school, that bedpans would be my area of expertise. Critical thinking and vent strategies came easy; how could I possible admit I had no idea how to give a bedpan to a patient?

Frightening, to graduate from nursing school and a competitive externship program without this competency. Somehow, though, every unit I’d experienced offered patient care assistants, or patients who didn’t need this age-old tool. I’d certainly helped patients to the bathroom and cleaned incontinent ones. Despite the barrage of clinical learning, the basics of offering the pink plastic tool hadn’t sunk in.

Paralyzed, I stood with it in my hand, looking at my intubated, awake patient. I’d had the wherewithal to ask the family to step out, but couldn’t figure out which end went first. The horror of my preceptor finding it backwards would end me. Did the pointed end go towards the patient’s back? The larger end toward the feet for better coverage? Why couldn’t I remember?

Somehow, I managed to decide, and with heart racing, I urged the patient: “Turn to the side!” We both grimaced: I grasped the bedpan with one hand and his right hip with the other, while he reached towards the opposite side rail. His body, heavy with fluid, resisted my timid and inexperienced grasp, and he rolled back onto his back, without bedpan.

My preceptor, just passing by, or discreetly watching from her secret post behind the curtain, arrived just as I was about to start my second try. From the opposite side of the bed, she pulled his body towards her and I placed the bedpan where I thought it should go, praying to the ghost of Florence Nightingale that I’d positioned it right.

If it hadn’t already been so, this experience made it clear to my preceptor that, while I was confident in my nursing knowledge, my skills weren’t up to snuff. Instead of choosing a final clinical placement in a med-surg unit or intensive care, I had opted to spend my senior year working in public health. When I decided that I wanted bedside experience before specializing, I figured I’d just pick up what I missed on orientation.

For some reason, understanding when to intubate a patient came easily, but giving a bed bath? Terrifying. In our unit, we had no patient care assistants, and my preceptor’s goal was to teach me how to perform all patient care without any help. “I don’t want you to do everything by yourself all the time; I just want you to know how to do everything by yourself.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Breathing Training May Ease Depression in Dialysis Patients: Study Findings

April 7, 2015

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

It’s estimated that depression afflicts between 25% and 50% of people who have chronic kidney disease. And depression has been associated with numerous adverse outcomes in this population, including poor sleep, reduced quality of life, and higher rates of hospitalization and death. Researchers Siou-Hung Tsai and colleagues wanted to know whether teaching patients a basic relaxation technique—deep, slow breathing—could alleviate depressive symptoms.

To learn more, they developed a four-week intervention and conducted a trial. The intervention included instruction by a dialysis nurse trained in deep breathing techniques, additional audio device–guided instruction, and guided exercises. The authors report on their findings in this month’s CE–Original Research feature, “The Efficacy of a Nurse-Led Breathing Training Program in Reducing Depressive Symptoms in Patients on Hemodialysis.” Here’s a brief summary.

Objectives: The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to examine the efficacy of a nurse-led, in-center breathing training program in reducing depressive symptoms and improving sleep quality and health-related quality of life in patients on maintenance hemodialysis.
Methods: Fifty-seven patients on hemodialysis were randomly assigned either to an eight-session breathing training group or to a control group. The Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and the Medical Outcome Studies 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) were used to assess self-reported depressive symptoms, sleep quality, and health-related quality of life, respectively.
Results: The intervention group exhibited significantly greater decreases in BDI-II scores than did the control group. No significant differences in PSQI change scores were observed between the groups. SF-36 change scores for both the domain of role limitation due to emotional problems and the mental component summary were significantly higher in the intervention group than in the control group.
Conclusion: This intervention significantly alleviated depressive symptoms, reduced perceived role limitation due to emotional problems, and improved the overall mental health component of quality of life in patients on maintenance hemodialysis.

Pointing to the intervention’s simple design and ease of implementation, the authors note that it offers nurses “a novel way to relieve depression in and offer psychological support to a vulnerable population.” For more details, read the article, which is free online.

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Have You Fallen Prey to a Predatory Publisher?

April 6, 2015

Predatory publishers promise prompt, easy publication. The hidden charges come later, as well as the realization that the journal has no real standing or quality control. Not only is this bad for potential authors, it’s bad for knowledge, flooding the market with inferior information made to superficially resemble the information you need.

Imagine this scenario: You receive an email from a seemingly respectable journal inviting you to submit a paper for publication. You’ve wanted to publish on this topic for some time, and this journal promises you a quick review and publication within a few months. As a new author, you are thrilled . . . that is, until you get charged an outrageous processing fee upon turning the article in. You’ve just fallen victim to a predatory publisher.

Unfortunately, this scenario is becoming all too common. These journals are often difficult to spot, with their professional-looking Web sites and names that sound legitimate, if a little vague. In fact, just recently at AJN, we stumbled across a Web site featuring a journal that looked a lot like ours and had a very similar name. (Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, has been tracking predatory publishers since 2009 and maintains a list of them on his Web site, Scholarly Open Access.)

shawnkennedyIn our April issue, editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy tackles this topic in her editorial, “Predatory Publishing Is No Joke.” As Kennedy explains, predatory publishers “take advantage of the relatively new open access model in publishing,” in which authors “pay the publisher a fee in order to make their article freely available or ‘open’ to all.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Morgellons: Whatever the Cause, the Suffering Is Real

April 2, 2015
Image, magnified 60 times, depicts fiber-embedded skin removed from a facial lesion of a 3-year-old boy who the Morgellons Research Foundation says has Morgellons.

Image, provided by Morgellons Research Foundation to AJN in 2008, described as depicting fiber-embedded skin removed from facial lesion of 3-year-old boy with Morgellons (magnified 60x).

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

As you may have read, Joni Mitchell was recently found unconscious in her home and is now in the hospital. She has attributed her health issues to a syndrome called Morgellons—a condition in which sufferers experience what they describe as fibers emerging from their skin, along with intense itching, sores that won’t heal, and a host of nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue and concentration problems.

Whether it’s a clinically verifiable illness or, as some have argued, a manifestation of a psychological condition known as “delusional parasitosis,” Morgellons is plenty real to those who experience it.

We covered this controversial illness several years back in an article called “AKA ‘Morgellons.'” I interviewed two nurses and several others about their experiences. One of the nurses (see this sidebar) was convinced she had caught the condition from a patient. I also spoke with Michele Pearson, MD, the lead investigator of a then-pending CDC study to look into the disease, which had been announced in response to an extensive patient advocacy campaign. As she put it at the time:

“It’s a complex condition . . . It may be multifactorial. What we now know is through self-report or anecdotal. There’s nothing systematic.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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