Archive for the ‘professional identity’ Category

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A Lasting Gift for a Nurse’s Holiday Shifts and Lost Family Time

December 19, 2014
Illustration by Lisa Dietrich for AJN.

Illustration by Lisa Dietrich for AJN.

As we know, gifts come in many forms, and often are as valuable to the giver as to the receiver. The best ones come at times when we least expect them. Readers will find that the start of AJN‘s December Reflections essay, “A Change of Heart,” describes a frustration that may be familiar to many nurses. In this case, it’s Christmas Day, and a nurse is kept by the urgent demands of her job from spending time with family. She writes:

I’ve been a nurse for more than half of my life . . . I love my career and consider myself blessed to have found my calling. But we all experience times when our long hours and the rigorous demands of this job make us feel that we sacrifice too much of our personal and family time to care for strangers.

The author had planned to be home for Christmas dinner. But, she tells us, “we had four back-to-back emergency CABGs starting at 8 am and stretching long past my scheduled 3 pm end of shift.” The essay develops from there as the hours pass. And then we meet a patient with everything at stake. The author is not the only one in danger of missing Christmas with family, and not just this year but for all the years to come.

We are reminded again and again that nursing has its truly redeeming moments of connection, those reminders that the work you do can be the difference between life and death for a patient. So it happens in this short, engaging essay. We encourage you to click the article title above and give it a read. It’s free, and it might put the various challenges of the holidays into perspective.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor/blog editor 

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Nurses at Center Stage: AJN’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

December 12, 2014

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor/blog editor

Scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from an infected VERO E6 cell (35,000x magnification). Credit: NIAID

Filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from an infected VERO E6 cell (35,000x magnification). Credit: NIAID

It’s unsurprising that some of our top blog posts this past year were about Ebola virus disease. But it’s worth noting that our clinical editor Betsy Todd, who is also an epidemiologist, cut through the misinformation and noise about Ebola very early on—at a time when many thoughtful people still seemed ill informed about the illness and its likely spread in the U.S.

Ebola is scary in itself, but fear was also spread by media coverage, some politicians, and, for a while, a tone-deaf CDC too reliant on absolutes in its attempts to reassure the public.

While the most dire predictions have not come true here in the U.S., it’s also true that a lot of work has gone into keeping Ebola from getting a foothold. A lot of people in health care have put themselves at risk to make this happen, doing so at first in an atmosphere of radical uncertainty about possible modes of transmission (uncertainty stoked in part by successive explanations offered as to how the nurses treating Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas hospital might have become infected).

And while, relative to the situation in Africa, a lot of knowledge and resources were readily available to support nurses and physicians who treated Ebola patients, the crisis has focused much-needed attention on the quality of the personal protective equipment (PPE) hospitals have been providing to health care workers.

Meanwhile, the suffering continues in Sierra Leone and other countries. Time magazine this week made the Ebola fighters here and overseas its collective Person of the Year for 2014. (See our recent post by Debbie Wilson, a Massachusetts nurse who worked in an Ebola treatment center in Liberia this fall. She will be visiting our offices next week for lunch with the staff.) Read the rest of this entry ?

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Patient Safety, Patient Advocacy: In Pediatric Nursing, A Tricky Balance

December 3, 2014

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

CT Scan ink and watercolor on paper 2014 by jparadisi

CT Scan ink and watercolor on paper 2014 by jparadisi

I was precepting a new nurse. She’d earned a job in our PICU during her student clinical rotation. New grads weren’t routinely hired, but her competency led to her recruitment. Precepting her was a joy.

This particular shift, we were assigned one of those midafternoon admissions with the potential to keep us overtime: rule out meningitis. The preschool-aged patient had been brought to the ED after having a first-time seizure. When he reached the PICU, however, we were relieved that he presented more like a febrile seizure.

Besides a fever and runny nose, the only other remarkable characteristic about the child was his utterly charming personality. We drew his labs while starting an IV. An antibiotic infusion was started, and acetaminophen administered. Feeling better, and not the least postictal, he played with our stethoscopes.

This was many years ago. There were standards in place that accompanied certain diagnoses. ‘Rule out meningitis’ came with a CAT scan and lumbar puncture.

Both seemed excessive, given the child’s presentation, but there was the order for CAT scan. He sat upright in his crib singing, as my preceptee (we’ll call her Beverly) and I rolled the crib down to the CAT scan.

IV sedation was ordered for the CAT scan, if it proved necessary. I had some in a syringe in my pocket (that’s how we did it in those days) to enable our patient to lie still for the scan.

But he charmed the technician too, who asked me to hold the sedation. Instead, he seated the willing child on the sliding table, and allowed him to glide in and out of the tube several times, as if it were a Disneyland ride. Then he asked the child to lie on the table, and to stay very still with his arms at his sides. The boy did as told, and the CAT scan was completed without trauma or sedation.

Not surprisingly, the results of the scan were normal.

Returning to the PICU, Beverly and I transferred the monitor leads back to the wall unit. She took vitals signs and we reviewed charting the procedure. The parents came to the room.

Soon afterwards, the pediatrician returned and ordered the lumbar puncture. Beverly and I suggested that the procedure was unnecessary, given the child’s lack of symptoms, but protocol prevailed. The parents opted to leave the room.

It was a disaster. The child, who’d adopted us as his newfound friends, willingly curled on his side as Beverly and I hugged him close. But as soon as his skin was swabbed and the tip of the needle pricked his back, he went ballistic. There was no holding him still. He fought as if his life depended it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Counting Your Blessings

November 26, 2014

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

A perhaps idealized past: 'Home for Thanksgiving,' Currier and Ives lithograph/Wikimedia Commons

A perhaps idealized past: ‘Home for Thanksgiving,’ Currier and Ives lithograph/Wikimedia Commons

At the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., it’s customary to take some time to reflect on our good fortune—to give thanks for what we have. For many of us, it means being thankful for family and good health. But what about all the other people who may make a difference in how we live our lives, who make the world in which we live better or in some indirect way have had an impact on what we do, how we do it, how we feel about life or our work?

Here are some folks I’d like to thank:

  • The incredibly talented team here at AJN who are committed to fulfilling AJN’s mission to provide accurate, evidence-based content with high journalistic standards, and the publishing team that provides the resources it takes to deliver on our mission.
  • AJN’s editorial boards, contributing editors, and peer reviewers, who contribute their expertise and wisdom to keep AJN on track.
  • Organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AARP, Johnson & Johnson, the Jonas Foundation, the John Hartford Foundation, the Macy Foundation, and others who believe in the value of nursing and provide support to further the profession.
  • Carolyn Jones, the photographer and filmmaker, for her wonderful book and film project, The American Nurse, which portrays the incredible work of nurses across settings and makes it visible to the public.
  • Brave people like nurses Kaci Hickox and Debbi Wilson and physician Craig Spencer and their colleagues at Doctors without Borders/MSF and at other relief agencies who volunteer (often with considerable risk to themselves) to provide care and compassion to those who need it (read about Wilson’s experience in a Liberian Ebola-treatment center in her recent blog post).
  • Nurses who make the hard decisions and are examples to us all, like the U.S. Navy nurse who has refused to force-feed detainees at Guantanamo Bay because it violates professional ethics.
  • Nursing faculty, who pursue teaching careers because they are committed to educating the next generation of nurses.
  • Nurses who stand up for colleagues, new and old, and work to promote teamwork and unity in the workplace.
  • And the nurses who, every day, show up and do whatever it takes to meet the needs of the patients in their care.

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Widespread Support for Nurse’s Refusal to Force-Feed: Grounded in Ethical Principles

November 24, 2014

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Nasal tubes, gravity feeding bags, and the liquid nutrient Ensure used in Guantanamo force-feeding/ image via Wikimedia Commons

Nasal tubes, gravity feeding bags, liquid nutrient Ensure used in Guantanamo force-feeding/Wikimedia Commons

Last week, reports hit the news media of a nurse in the U.S. Navy facing possible discharge for refusing to participate in force-feeding a hunger-striking prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. An early discharge, two years shy of the 20-year mark, could cost him his pension and other benefits.

The nurse had initially volunteered for duty at the Guantanamo facility, but then, as we noted in a blog post examining the ethics of his decision back in July, decided he could not continue to participate in force-feeding detainees in violation of professional ethics.

In a letter to Chuck Hagel, U.S. secretary of defense, the American Nurses Association has supported the decision of the naval nurse. ANA president Pam Cipriano reaffirms that a nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient and “in addition, this commitment is present regardless of the setting in which nursing care is provided. The military setting does not change the nurse’s ethical commitments or standards.” Read the rest of this entry ?

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Always a Nurse

November 19, 2014

By Janice M. Scully. The author worked in psychiatric nursing for four years before becoming a physician. After 20 years as a physician, she retired to pursue a career as a writer. For more information, click here.

The author's parents

The author’s parents

Nurses have to be resilient and resourceful—Florence Nightingale,  of course, is the template. My mother, Betty, was a smart and practical woman, the oldest of three siblings. She attended nurses’ training in the 1940s while the Second World War raged overseas. I have a photo of her as a young woman just out of high school, dressed in her starched uniform, standing by Binghampton (NY) City Hospital, her alma mater.

According to her, the lives of young nurses back then were not unlike the lives of nuns. After lights out in the dorm, the dorm mother would walk through and shine a light on each bed, as a night nurse on a medical ward at 2 AM might do. But instead of observing for signs of life, dorm mothers were checking to be sure the young female nurses were in their beds. Sometimes they weren’t.

Although the students might not be allowed out at night, they had a great deal of responsibility during the day. Nurses did everything for the sick, even the hospital laundry. They gave bed baths and back rubs in the course of comforting the sick.

During the war, even the most inexperienced nurses had grave responsibilities. When my mother was a new graduate, with few nurses and physicians on the home front, she was placed in charge of a woman’s surgical unit, admitting the fresh post-ops almost single-handedly, taking orders, hanging blood transfusions, managing wounds. A new medication, called penicillin, was available in the hospital, but so expensive that any nurse dropping a vial accidentally, as my mother did, would get severely reprimanded.

My mother had stories. One day a woman admitted for a surgical disorder became suicidal and jumped out of a hospital window, only to return to women’s surgical in a body cast. To my mother, this was a particularly horrifying case.

Her hospital nursing career was short, as were many women’s careers in the aftermath of the war. Though she quit hospital nursing in 1946 when my father returned from the navy—feeding customers in the family restaurant they built together—in a sense, she always took care of people.

Mom ran the kitchen, Dad the bar. Salesmen would follow her around with their clipboard—and I would follow, too, listening to her ordering cans of string beans and pickle slices, cases of chicken.

She had five children within seven years. Our family lived upstairs over the restaurant and my mom balanced both worlds. It wasn’t easy, which is something I appreciate now more than I could when I was a child.

But it seems she never forgot she was a nurse. During my frequent bouts of strep throat, in soft whispers she would confer with the family doctor by phone and, before I knew it, I could hear the glass syringe and needle boiling on the stove in a little metal pan. Then she’d draw up the penicillin from a vial she kept in the refrigerator. I would cringe in my room, waiting for the shot that was sure to come in my backside. But it always made me well, ridding me of my fever and throat pain.

Mom would also give neighbors their prescribed shots of this or that, such as vitamin B12, as if running a sort of mini-clinic in the restaurant kitchen. She volunteered to help a neighbor administer a daily exercise routine prescribed for her infant with Down syndrome. My mother was always, in a sense, a public
health nurse. Read the rest of this entry ?

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As the VA Regroups and Recruits, The Words of Nurses Who Served

November 14, 2014

By Amanda Anderson, a critical care nurse and graduate student in New York City who is currently doing a graduate placement at AJN two days a week. The AJN articles linked to in this post will be free until the end of December.

Vietnam Women's Memorial, courtesy of Kay Schwebke

Vietnam Women’s Memorial, courtesy of Kay Schwebke

A scandal earlier this year about suppressed data related to long wait times for appointments tainted the credibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs. On this Veterans Day week, the new secretary of Veterans Affairs has been using incentives and promises of culture change to promote new hiring initiatives for physicians and nurses. The focus as always should be on the removal of the barriers many veterans face in obtaining timely, high quality care. Naturally, a number of these veterans are nurses themselves.

To commemorate those who have bravely cared for our country, and who deserve the best of care in return, we’ve compiled a few quotations from nurse veterans who’ve written for or been quoted in AJN about their experiences in successive conflicts through the decades. Thank you for all your service, and for what you carry daily—as nurses, veterans, and patients.

World War II
“I remember walking through cities leveled by bombs, looking at the hollow eyes and haunted faces of a devastated civilian population. Since September 11, I see those same hollow eyes and haunted faces on the nightly news.”
—Mary O’Neill Williams, RN, “A World War II Army Nurse Remembers,” as told to her daughter. Published September 2002

Korea
“The challenges and responsibilities of combat nursing far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice. Army nurses independently triaged casualties, started blood transfusions, initiated penicillin therapy, and sutured wounds. They monitored supplies and improvised when necessary. . .They often cared for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers in a standard 60-bed MASH; off duty, they provided food and nursing care to the local populace. Some managed to be innovators on the cutting edge of nursing practice. The nurses of the 11th Evacuation Hospital helped to pioneer the use of renal dialysis nursing and were among the first to support patients who had hemorrhagic fever using a first-generation artificial kidney machine.”
—Mary T. Sarnecky, DNSc, RN, CS, FNP, “Army Nurses in ‘The Forgotten War,’” November 2001

Nurse Lynne Kohl during Vietnam War. For more information, see article link to right.

Nurse Lynne Kohl during Vietnam War. For more information, see article link below.

Vietnam
“The guys loved the helicopters because, whenever the helicopter was coming in, their lives were going to be saved. . . But helicopters to the nurses meant, ‘Oh my God, how many are coming in?’. . . That’s when we had to run to the ER, get them out of the chopper, get them triaged, get them to where they needed to be. So for us, helicopters meant that people’s lives were at stake. We needed to move fast.”
—Diane Carlson Evans, RN, as told to Kay E. Schwebke, MD, MPH, in “The Vietnam Women’s Memorial: Better Late Than Never,” May 2009. (See also a collection of free podcasts on AJNonline.com that include short poems written and read aloud by nurses who served in Vietnam and an author interview about the creation of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.) Read the rest of this entry ?

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