Archive for the ‘Nursing perspective’ Category

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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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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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The Huddle: A New Mother’s Experience of Discharge Planning

July 10, 2015

By Amy M. Collins, AJN managing editor

John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr Creative Commons

By John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr Creative Commons

Three months ago, I gave birth to my first child under somewhat traumatic circumstances. After a fast and furious labor onset, I was all set to be given an epidural when I was informed the baby’s heart rate had dropped dramatically and I needed to have an emergency C-section. Thankfully, everything turned out okay, and my son was born healthy.

Nurses changed shifts every 12 hours during my four-day hospital stay, and each of them provided excellent care. They spent massive amounts of time with me, helping me to get up and walk around, showing me how to expertly swaddle my baby like a burrito, and even helping me get the hang of feeding my child.

On my last day, two nurses were assigned to get me ready for my discharge. They had tons of printed information for me on postnatal care, wound care, postpartum depression, etc. I was told by one of the nurses that we were going to now have a “mother–child huddle.” She then said to the other nurse, with what I took to be a little irony in her tone, “Are you ready for the mother–child huddle?” Curious, I asked why the emphasis on the word.

“I just think the word ‘huddle’ is silly,” she said, adopting a mock football pose. I thought about this for a moment. Sometimes at work we also use the term instead of “meeting,” and I had to admit that it often gave me football visuals or made me picture my team in a circle with our arms around each other’s shoulders. I told her this—and added that I worked at AJN and thought the topic of word choice in this particular nursing context might be of interest to our readers.

They joked that they’d like to be interviewed and featured in the journal, but then they spoke more seriously about their ambivalence in using this term.

“Huddle doesn’t mean anything in this context,” one nurse said. “What does it actually mean to the patient? We use it because we’re told to by the hospital.” She mentioned patient satisfaction surveys and I wondered to myself if the hospital might provide nurses with various scripts or terminology in order to plant specific words and concepts into patients’ heads for when it came time to fill out these surveys. Read the rest of this entry ?

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An Unending Series of Challenges: APIC Highlights the ‘New Normal’ in Infection Control

July 6, 2015

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

Panelists to the Opening Plenary, Mary Lou Manning, Michael Bell, CDC, Russell Olmsted, Trinity Health, Phillip W. Smith, Nebraska Biocontainment Unit discuss various topics pertaining to infection control.

APIC panelists (APIC president Mary Lou Manning; Michael Bell, CDC; Russell Olmsted, Trinity Health; Phillip W. Smith, Nebraska Biocontainment Unit) discuss various topics pertaining to infection control.

At the 42nd annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), held in late June in Nashville, experts from around the world shared information and insights aimed at infection preventionists but of interest to nurses in many practice settings.

APIC president Mary Lou Manning, PhD, CRNP, CIC, FAAN, opened the first plenary with the observation that to be presented with an unending series of challenges is the “new normal” in infection control and prevention. Collaboration is more important than ever in health care, she said, and “there is strength in our combined efforts.”

Cathryn Murphy, PhD, RN, CIC, in accepting APIC’s highest infection prevention award, added that trust, friendship, and passion are essential if these efforts are to succeed.

‘I’m not at Ground Zero. I’m in Dallas.’ The highlight of the opening session was a fascinating conversation with key U.S. players in the Ebola crisis. Seema Yasmin, MD, a former CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer and now a staff writer at the Dallas Morning News, described how hard it had been to convey accurate information in the midst of rising public hysteria in the U.S.

As an epidemiologist, Yasmin became an interview subject as well as reporter. She recalled that, after months of worrying about colleagues at risk in West Africa, a reporter asked her, “How does it feel to be at Ebola Ground Zero?” Her reply: “I’m not at Ground Zero. I’m in Dallas.”

Later in the conference, Dr. Yasmin reminded the audience that every disaster drill should include a “public information” component and warned that “misinformation spreads much quicker than a virus” in today’s media environment, adding that we “can’t repeat the same [accurate, informative] message often enough.”

Practice drills vs. the real thing. Philip W. Smith, MD, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, described the unit staff’s experiences in treating Ebola. UNMC’s special unit was built more than 10 years ago after the devastating SARS outbreak in Canada that left 33 dead, including several health care workers. Until Ebola cases arrived in the U.S., the unit had been used for training and occasional patient overflow. Dr. Smith emphasized that, even while the unit was not being used, their mantra was “drill, drill, drill” to ensure that staff would function expertly when this specialty care was needed.

Then, in August of 2014, “Suddenly, nine years of drills had to be translated into reality, and there was not much room for error.” He spoke of how inserting a central line while wearing three pairs of gloves, a face shield, and maximal personal protective equipment (PPE) topped by a sterile gown was a very different challenge from repeated practice runs of the same procedure.

Dr. Smith also noted that the transport of patients with Ebola—airlifting from West Africa, ambulance transport, and movement through the hospital to the unit—was “enormously complex and time-consuming.” A special incident command structure was set up just for transport, in addition to the main hospital incident command center.

A horizontal culture was also vital to their work. “There was no hierarchy,” he said. Cultivating a “classless society,” staff developed a strong sense of team under stressful conditions where they were responsible for each other’s safety.

Nonhierarchical work habits stayed with staff after the unit was closed and they returned to their regular assignments. However, when they continued to make “best practice” suggestions to coworkers, they were met with anger and pushback instead of the thanks and cooperation that had been the norm in the Biocontainment Unit. Read the rest of this entry ?

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AJN July Issue: Hepatitis Update, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Nursing’s Blind Spots, More

July 1, 2015

World_Hepatitis_Day_AJN_July_CoverOn the cover of AJN‘s July issue is the 2015 logo for World Hepatitis Day, which takes place on July 28. About 400 million people around the globe live with viral hepatitis, a disease that kills 1.4 million people every year—approximately 4,000 a day. While incidences of hepatitis A and B have declined in the United States in recent years, hepatitis C infection, formerly stable or in decline, has risen at an alarming rate. To learn more about hepatitis in the U.S.—and the role nurses can play in prevention and treatment—read our July CE, “Viral Hepatitis: New U.S. Screening Recommendations, Assessment Tools, and Treatments.”

The article reviews the epidemiology and diagnosis of viral hepatitis, new screening recommendations and innovations in assessment and treatment, and an updated action plan from the Department of Health and Human Services, in which nurses can play an important role in the coordination of care.

Some other articles of note in the June issue:

• CE feature: “Nursing Management of Patients with Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome.” An often debilitating condition, Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome (EDS) refers to a group of hereditary connective tissue disorders that has historically been misunderstood and underdiagnosed due to a lack of familiarity with its signs and symptoms. As awareness and recognition of the syndrome improve, nurses are increasingly likely to care for patients with EDS. This article gives an overview of the syndrome and provides guidance on ways to manage symptoms, recognize and prevent serious complications, and improve patients’ quality of life. Read the rest of this entry ?

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