Archive for the ‘professional identity’ Category

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What Advice Would You Give a New Nursing Student? Our Readers Respond…

April 9, 2014

KarenRoushBy Karen Roush, MSN, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

My daughter Kim is starting nursing school next month, so last week I asked AJN’s Facebook followers for the best piece of advice I could give her. The response was overwhelming: over 600 people offered wisdom, encouragement, and tips for success. I went through and read them all and the following is an attempt to synthesize the advice.

Of course, with so many responses, there were many valuable pieces of advice I had to leave out, from the practical to the profound, such as:

sit in the front of class, stick to your principles, invest in good shoes, choose clinicals that push you out of your comfort zone, be early for everything, celebrate the small victories, get a really good stethoscope up front, believe in yourself, pick the hardest patient you can at clinical, audiorecord the lectures, be truthful and committed to your work, eat healthy, get to know your instructors, coffee and chocolate!

And finally: look into the eyes of your patients and be sure they know you care. Every patient, every time.

(Oh, and not to leave out the lighthearted—Don’t hold your nose in clinicals. The teachers frown on that.)

Below are five areas of advice that stood out:

1) “Take a good picture of your friends and family and put it on your desk, because that’s all you’ll be seeing of them for the next two years.” There were many variations on the idea that nursing school “takes 100% dedication.” You need to warn your family and friends that they won’t be seeing you for a while, get rid of your TV, sleep when you can, learn good time management, and be prepared to spend Saturday nights with your books . . .

2) “Study, study, study, and study some more.” Respect the quantity and degree of difficulty of the material you will have to learn. There were a lot of ideas about how to optimize your studying—chief among them was to get in a study group and to study NCLEX questions from the beginning. Others were to read ahead, not procrastinate, use flashcards, attend practice and review sessions, and have a study partner or buddy system. Having a study buddy, though, is only a small part of the importance of friendships with your fellow students . . . Read the rest of this entry ?

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Don’t Write Off Community College to Start a Nursing Career

March 26, 2014

By Karen Roush, MSN, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

KarenRoushMy daughter is about to start her nursing career. She’s got all her prereqs out of the way and she’s waiting to hear from the half-dozen colleges she applied to. Among them is the community college where I started my career 35 years ago. That’s right—a community college that confers an associate degree.

I hope she gets in.

Community colleges are seen by many as the bottom of the ladder of desired schools of nursing. Not only do they offer only a two-year degree, but they’re not seen as being as selective as four-year colleges and they don’t have the big name professors.

But community colleges can and do produce great nurses. Programs are rigorous, so a more liberal admission standard at the onset doesn’t necessarily change the caliber of student who graduates at the end. And once they graduate, they must meet the same standards as students from four-year schools to attain licensure as an RN—everyone takes the same NCLEX. At the time of my graduation, my school had a 98% pass rate, one of the highest in the country.

Community colleges even have some advantages over a lot of four-year programs. They may not have the big names—but really, how many of those big name professors actually teach full courses? At community colleges, teaching is the focus. Community colleges are affordable; students don’t leave burdened with astronomical debt to start a career that, while setting them down firmly, and often permanently, in the middle class, can also saddle them with a burden of debt on top of all the expected financial struggles. And in many places, community colleges are truly embedded in their community; this can provide a level of support and open up opportunities for students that is not possible at larger detached universities.

I agree that all nurses should have a BSN, eventually. There is a lot of evidence that it improves patient outcomes. But the two-year community college can be a great place to start—two years of reasonably priced education that gives you a solid base of skills and knowledge to practice while you continue to take courses toward a bachelor degree. I remember when I returned to school for my bachelor’s: the wonderful sense of discovery that I was not just a nurse but a professional, and part of a profession with its own history and body of knowledge.

We need more nurses. All the experts agree that there is a shortage just waiting for the rest of the Baby Boomer nurses to hang up their stethoscopes. An education that starts at a community college can take a nurse far. I know mine has, from acute care staff nurse to long-term care educator, from oncology to urgent care to the IV team. Here in the U.S. and in India and Africa. As a nurse scholar at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, and as an NP in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.

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Three Nurses and a Doctor Go Sailing – Some Notes on Communication Style

March 24, 2014

Julianna Paradisi, RN, OCN, writes a monthly post for this blog and works as an infusion nurse in outpatient oncology.

Untitled from the series, Pareidolia. Charcoal and graphite on paper, 12" x 9," by julianna paradisi

Untitled from the series, Pareidolia. Charcoal and graphite on paper,
12″ x 9,” by julianna paradisi

There’s an old joke about the personality differences among nurses of different specialties. It goes like this:

A medical–surgical nurse, an ICU nurse, an ER nurse, and a doctor go sailing. The doctor stands at the bow of the boat and shouts to the nurses, “Trim the sail!”

The med–surg nurse asks, “How do you want it?”

The ICU nurse replies, “I’ll trim, okay. But I’m doing it my way.”

The ER nurse shouts back at the doctor, “Trim the sail yourself!”

ICU style. The joke is a generalization, of course. However, I was a pediatric intensive care nurse once upon a time, and I have to admit that the ICU nurse characterization resonates with my own experience. Like the nurse in the joke, I always have an opinion, and rarely mind sharing it. In the ICU, if another nurse, a physician, a pharmacist, or respiratory therapist didn’t agree, conversation ensued. My colleague, equally opinionated, would state her or his position. Data was consulted, and then, more often than not, consensus occurred.

And I often learned something from sharing information. It made me a better nurse. I learned to dig in on a position only if patient safety or my license was at risk. Everything else was pretty much negotiable, face-to-face. From this perspective, our ICU team was similar to a marriage—it would have been unrealistic to expect there would never be disagreement within our team. In fact, if there was never disagreement, someone probably wasn’t being honest about her or his feelings—an approach that can lead to passive-aggressive behavior.

I don’t know if it’s because I no longer work in ICU, or if nursing culture in general has changed, but lately I’ve noticed some confusion about the difference between open, honest communication and bullying. There’s a difference. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Some Florida Inspiration for Nurse Admins and Execs

March 17, 2014

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Zander

Zander

A pep talk on being open to possibility. While it was cold late last week in Orlando, Florida (ok, maybe not so bad at 64 degrees and sunny blue skies, but cold by their standards) the audience at the opening session of the annual meeting of the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) was definitely warmed up after listening to the engaging keynote speaker, Benjamin Zander.

Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. You may be thinking he was probably a bit stuffy and formal, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Zander is, at 75, a dynamo, strolling up and down aisles, exhorting the audience to be likewise expressive, waving arms, smiling and connecting.

His message was to be open to the notion that everything is subject to change depending on how one frames it. He challenged the 1500 listeners to “stand in the realm of possibility.” His message is that everything—the rules, perceptions, games we play—are invented and can be changed. He maintains that every situation can be dealt with three ways: resignation, anger, or recognizing the possibility. Read the rest of this entry ?

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When the Preceptor’s Attitude Is a New Nurse’s Biggest Challenge

March 12, 2014

FirstPreceptorIllustrationHere’s the start of “My First Preceptor,” the Reflections essay in the March issue of AJN.

“Manage your day,” she told me, not for the first time, as if it had been my fault that one patient crashed yesterday just as my second one returned from surgery with a new set of orders. I could not be in two places at once, keeping track of two critical patients, making sure each one received the care she needed at the moment she needed it.

A new critical care nurse has a lot to worry about. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, even when you’re actually doing a pretty good job. A preceptor can play a crucial role in helping a new nurse find her or his footing. As one might expect, however, some good nurses are not good preceptors. In this essay, the author describes her struggles to deal with the time pressures of her new job, along with her preceptor’s constant admonitions and disapproval.

This fraught nurse–preceptor relationship reaches a crisis point against a backdrop of life and death struggles. I won’t try to summarize what happens in the essay, since different readers may interpret it differently, depending on experience and temperament. But it’s definitely worth a read.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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Preventing Delirium, The Luxury of Time, Things We Get Right, More: Nursing Blog Roundup

March 7, 2014

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Here are a few recent posts of interest at various nursing blogs:

karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons

karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons

In the throes of nursing school: An intriguing little pastiche of a poem (does it qualify as a ‘found word’ poem?) can be found at a newish blog, adrienne, {student} nurse, in a short post called anatomy of a bath. In another post, she makes the following observations: “In nursing school, you are not driving the train…You absolutely must keep telling yourself that there is nothing wrong with you.”

Preventing delirium in the ICU: At the INQRI blog (the blog of the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Institute), a post summarizes some recent research on implementing a “bundle” of practices to increase mobility and reduce sedation in the ICU, all in order to prevent patient delirium, which is known to have many short- and long-term negative effects.

The luxury of time. At Love and Ladybits, the author gets a tantalizing glimpse of the quality of care she’d be able to provide if she had more time to spend with each patient. Of course, this “alternative reality” can’t last, but perhaps it can serve as a touchstone of sorts during more hectic times.

The past is present. At Head Nurse, there’s a somewhat rueful post about an unexpected encounter, years later, with the author’s least favorite nursing professor (“Everybody has one of those instructors–the ones whose classes make you yearn for the sweet release of death, or at least a nice case of vascular dementia”). Read the rest of this entry ?

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Acknowledging Nightingale’s Pervasive Influence on Medicine as We Know It

March 4, 2014

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Florence Nightingale in Crimean War, from Wikipedia Commons

Florence Nightingale in Crimean War, from Wikipedia Commons

There’s a very good article about Florence Nightingale in the New York Times right now (“Florence Nightingale’s Wisdom”)—and it’s by a physician.

The author, Victoria Sweet, writes that Nightingale was the last person she wanted to know about or identify with when she was in medical school. Then she gradually began to realize Nightingale’s extraordinary influence on modern medicine as it’s now practiced. As Sweet point out,

So much of what she fought for we take for granted today — our beautiful hospitals, the honored nursing profession, data-driven research.

It’s a good piece, and though you may already know some of what it covers, it’s well worth reading. For those who want to learn more about Nightingale, let me point out a series of short posts we ran back in the summer of 2010 on this blog. In Florence’s Footsteps: Notes from a Journey, written by Susan Hassmiller, senior advisor for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, detailed the stages of a trip she took that summer as she retraced Nightingale’s steps through England and all the way to the Crimea, all the while contemplating her legacy.

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NPR Syndrome

February 21, 2014

Julianna Paradisi, RN, OCN, writes a monthly post for this blog and works as an infusion nurse in outpatient oncology.

calligraphy, 36" x 24," mixed media on vellum, 2007,  by julianna paradisi

calligraphy, 36″ x 24,” mixed media on vellum, 2007, by julianna paradisi

Compassion fatigue is a syndrome commonly known to nurses and other professionals involved in patient care. It is the result of constant exposure to traumatic events occurring to others. Its effects on the psyche of nurses are widely studied, recognized as a factor in burnout and self-medication, and sometimes result in nurses leaving the profession.

My clinical practicum as a nursing student, nearly 30 years ago, was in oncology. There I saw patients succumb to cancer. Many were young adults. One left behind a grieving husband, and an infant. It was heartbreaking. I asked my preceptor, a skilled, compassionate, and uncannily jolly nurse, how did she avoid burnout? I did not know about compassion fatigue yet.

She wisely replied, “You need to develop a happy, fulfilling personal life outside of nursing. You have to shut it off when you leave the hospital.” It was good advice.

I took it to heart, and over the years developed a happy, fulfilling personal life. However, turning it off when leaving the hospital is more of a challenge lately. In a similar way that an opportunistic, secondary infection makes the flu lethal, the rapid influx of news by way of our digital culture is a secondary infiltration into our lives, making it difficult for sensitive souls to “shut it off” after leaving the hospital. For lack of a better term, I’ve dubbed this digital age barrage “NPR Syndrome.”

Before going further, I want to state that NPR (National Public Radio) is a respected source of news. As more and more broadcast news reports are indistinguishable from infomercials, NPR plays an important role in bringing serious news from around the world to our attention. I coined the term “NPR Syndrome” simply because I was listening to NPR when it occurred to me how challenging it is to escape compassion fatigue outside of the hospital.

The amount of suffering in the world is overwhelming to nurses.

There is not enough time to volunteer for all of the projects close to our hearts. There is not enough cash in our wallets to hand out to every homeless person we meet, or fill the shelves of food banks. There are not enough blankets to donate to shelters for the cold and displaced. Resources for brave souls traveling to developing countries to provide vaccinations and drinking water are too few. And then there are the refugees of war we see in flight every night on the evening news. It feels like we are using a Band-Aid to stop the flow of a bleeding artery.

The result is that many nurses feel guilty over having happy, fulfilled personal lives, lives that sustain us to go back to our jobs providing skilled and compassionate nursing care to our patients, where we again encounter compassion fatigue.

A lot of nurses have stopped reading, listening to, or watching the news altogether, and at over three million strong in the United States, this is a lot of political power gone to waste through being uninformed. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Nursing Blog Links, Late Winter Edition: Emotions in Primary Colors

February 18, 2014

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor/blog editor

by doortoriver, via Flickr

by doortoriver, via Flickr

Nurses seem to have hope on their minds as the daylight grows longer and stronger and the winter ever so slowly winds down. There’s a good post at According to Kateri about hope and letting go of the past.

Which reminds me: sort of along these lines, we recently had a good post here at Off the Charts about hope and patient prognosis.

Theresa Brown’s latest at Opinionator, a New York Times blog, is about the communication gap between clinician and patients and the need to find ways to bridge this, for everyone’s sake.

There’s a post at Not Nurse Ratched about another of the more basic emotions: anger. Or, more specifically, anger related to workplace issues that are slowly driving you nuts. Not that any nurses can relate to that . . .

If you’re up for it, here’s a pretty profound post from Hospice Diary about someone who is very articulate about the meaning of his own dying process.

And here’s a kind of funny one at Nursing Notes of Discord about the questions a new nurse asks in the course of a day.

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A Physician Finally Gets Nursing

February 14, 2014

RelmanArticleCaptureBy Shawn Kennedy, editor-in-chief

Earlier this month, the New York Review of Books published an article by a patient who described his hospital stay following a life-threatening accident. This was no ordinary patient—the author, Arnold Relman, is a noted physician, emeritus professor of medicine at Harvard, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, and along with his wife Marcia Angell, well known as a critic of the “medical–industrial complex.” His account is very detailed and gives a good example of how it can look when the system works (and when one has access to it).

His understanding of his condition and treatment, his knowledge of the system, and also his relative prominence as an individual, all undoubtedly helped him avoid some pitfalls and make a remarkable full recovery. However, as a number of others have pointed out recently, one comment in his account was surprising.

In reflecting on his hospitalization and recovery, he wrote, “I had never before understood how much good nursing care contributes to patients’ safety and comfort, especially when they are very sick or disabled. This is a lesson all physicians and hospital administrators should learn. When nursing is not optimal, patient care is never good.” After all his years in medicine, he only realized the value of nursing as a 90-year-old trauma patient.

This week, Lawrence Altman, another physician and author, wrote an excellent post for Well, the New York Times health care blog, examining why that might have happened. Altman, attributing a good part of physicians’ attitudes toward nurses (and other health care professionals) to how they have been educated, says that clinical medical education focuses on and values the interpretation of technology—the numbers as indicators of a patient’s progress, as in vital signs, monitor strips, ventilator settings, lab results, medication dosages. But personalized care is left to nurses, Altman argues, and physicians just don’t give it much attention.

Altman recognizes that nurses are sentinels, vigilant watchers who first note potential life-threatening problems, and he urges us to work toward a greater focus on interprofessional teamwork and education. I hope all who work in health care read his article, especially medical and hospital administrators.

While it’s always gratifying to hear that influential people support nursing’s value, the fact that Relman’s insight occurred so late in his life also makes me angry. How can a leading physician, an advocate for a better medical system, an educator of the next generation of physicians, go through most of his career and not realize nursing’s worth? One would hope that working alongside nurses during years of practice would have changed any misperceptions he might have had as a new physician. Read the rest of this entry ?

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