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Paired Glucose Testing With Telehealth Support to Empower Type 2 Diabetes Patients

February 13, 2015

Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

bloodglucosetestingType 2 diabetes is challenging for those trying to meet blood glucose target ranges, often requiring one or more daily medications, increases in exercise, changes in eating habits, and self-monitoring of glucose level. Those who are willing and able to learn about factors affecting their glucose level and to make small daily efforts in one or more areas have the potential to radically improve their sense of control over their diabetes.

This month’s Diabetes Under Control column, “Better Type 2 Diabetes Self-Management Using Paired Testing and Remote Monitoring” (free until April 1), presents a successful story of patient engagement in diabetes self-management. It describes the case of a participant in a clinical trial who, with clinician support, incorporated paired glucose testing (self-testing before and after meals) and telehealth (remote patient monitoring, or RPM).

The article is easy to follow and gives a series of biweekly updates on the patient’s progress. Before the study starts, she’s not very engaged in self-management. For example, she’s only testing her own glucose level three to four times a month. To get a sense of how much more empowered she’s come to feel by week 12 of the protocol, consider this brief excerpt: Read the rest of this entry »

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Measles 101: The Basics for Nurses

February 11, 2015

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

Measles rash/CDC

Measles rash/CDC

While debates about measles vaccination swirl around the current U.S. measles outbreak, most U.S. nurses have never actually seen the disease itself, and right now we are a lot more likely to encounter a case of measles than of Ebola virus disease. Here, then, is a measles primer.

Symptoms. Measles is an upper-respiratory infection with initial symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose, red and teary eyes, and (just before the rash appears) “Koplik spots” (tiny blue/white spots) on a reddened buccal mucosa. The maculopapular rash emerges a few days after these first symptoms appear (about 14 days after exposure), beginning at the hairline and slowly working its way down the rest of the body.

Infected people who are severely immunosuppressed may not have any rash at all. “Modified” measles, with a longer incubation period and sparse rash, can occur in infants who are partially protected by maternal antibodies and in people who receive immune globulin after exposure to measles.

Transmission. The virus spreads via respiratory droplets and aerosols, from the time symptoms begin until three to four days after the rash appears. (People who are immunosuppressed can shed virus and remain contagious for several weeks.) Measles is highly contagious, and more than 90% of exposed, nonimmune people will contract the disease. There is no known asymptomatic carrier state, and no nonhuman animal is known to carry or spread the virus. The virus survives for less than two hours in the air or on surfaces, and is rapidly inactivated by heat, light, acids, and disinfectants.

Isolation. When measles is suspected, airborne isolation is necessary. If negative pressure is not available, the patient should be placed in a room with the door closed. Only immune staff wearing N-95 masks should enter the room.

Diagnosis. The usual test for measles is serologic testing for immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody; a positive test confirms the diagnosis. IgM is often evident as soon as the rash appears, and can be detected for about a month. A negative IgM test on a specimen taken within 72 hours of rash onset may be a false negative; the test should be repeated. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Nursing Conference Focused on Quality and Safety, and a Big ‘What If?’

February 9, 2015

2015ANAQualityConferenceBanner600x100
By Maureen ‘Shawn’ Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

“What would quality in hospitals look like if health care institutions were as single-minded about serving clients as the Disney organization?”

Last week I attended the 2015 American Nurses Association Quality Conference in Orlando. The conference, which had its origins in the annual National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) conference, drew close to 1,000 attendees. Here’s a quick overview of hot topics and the keynote speech by the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, plus a note on an issue crucial to health care quality that I wish I’d heard more about during the conference.

Most sessions presented quality improvement (QI) projects and many were well done. There were some topics I hadn’t seen covered all that much, such as reducing the discomfort of needlesticks, enhancing postop bowel recovery, and promoting sleep. But projects aimed at preventing central line infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), and pressure ulcers ruled the sessions. These of course are among the hospital-associated conditions that might cause a hospital to be financially penalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The ANA also had a couple of sessions on preventing CAUTIs by means of a tool it developed in the Partnership for Patients initiative of the CMS to reduce health care–associated infections.

The keynote by Robert McDonald, the fairly new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, touted the services and resources available for the 9 million veterans who access care through the VA system. He surprised me and—if the murmuring I heard around me was any indication—a lot of others when he reported that patients in the VA system rated their care higher than did patients at general hospitals. The comment from an attendee: “Well, I guess it’s good once you get an appointment.”

He said the VA was “using the crisis of last year to move forward” and acknowledged that improving access was a priority, noting that the VA has hired 1,578 nurses since last year.

What if? It seemed appropriate that a meeting focused on quality took place at a venue known for its high quality customer focus. What would quality in hospitals look like if health care institutions were as single-minded about serving clients as the Disney organization? I’m not talking about the superficial attempts some hospitals implement, like valet parking or blazer-wearing patient service representatives. Read the rest of this entry »

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System Barriers to RN Activation of Rapid Response Teams: New Evidence

February 6, 2015

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Rapid response teams (RRTs) in acute care facilities are there to decrease mortality from preventable complications. But there is evidence that RRT systems “aren’t working as designed, particularly with regard to problems in the activation stage,” according to nurse researcher Jane Saucedo Braaten.

Figure 1. Five Domains of Cognitive Work Analysis and Corresponding Study Questions

Figure 1. Five Domains of Cognitive Work Analysis and Corresponding Study Questions (click image to enlarge)

Interested in how hospital system factors influence RNs’ activation behavior, Braaten decided to investigate further. She reports on her findings in this month’s CE–Original Research feature, “Hospital System Barriers to Rapid Response Team Activation: A Cognitive Work Analysis.” Here’s a summary.

Purpose: To use cognitive work analysis to describe factors within the hospital system that shape medical–surgical nurses’ RRT activation behavior.
Methods:
Cognitive work analysis offers a framework for the study of complex sociotechnical systems and was used as the organizing element of the study. Data were obtained from interviews with 12 medical–surgical nurses and document review.
Results: Many system factors affected participants’ activation decisions. Systemic constraints, especially in cases of subtle or gradual clinical changes, included a lack of adequate information, the availability of multiple strategies, the need to justify RRT activation, a scarcity of human resources, and informal hierarchical norms in the hospital culture. The most profound constraint was the need to justify the call. Justification was based on the objective or subjective nature of clinical changes, whether the nurse expected to be able to “handle” these changes, the presence or absence of a physician, and whether there was an expectation of support from the RRT team. The need for justification led to delays in RRT activation.
Conclusions: Although it’s generally thought that RRTs are activated without hesitation, this study found the opposite was true. All of the aforementioned constraints increase the cognitive processing load on the nurse. The value of the RRT could be increased by modifying these constraints—in particular, by lifting the need to justify calls, improving protocols, and broadening the range of culturally acceptable triggers—and by involving the RRT earlier in patient cases through discussion, consultation, and collaboration.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Enough Rants: On Fostering Meaningful Dialogue

February 4, 2015

Karen Roush PhD, RN, is an assistant professor of nursing at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, and founder of the Scholar’s Voice, which works to strengthen the voice of nursing through writing mentorship for nurses.

Angry woman, Ranting

By Amancay Maahs/Flickr

“Patients are never satisfied!” “Only bedside nurses really understand nursing!” “Management always takes advantage of you!”

These are examples of the types of statements I’ve heard recently, whether talking with other nurses or reading blogs or other social media. Often presented as contributions to discussion, in reality they are rants—more interested in eliciting rote agreement than in true dialogue. This has got me thinking about how we create dialogue, especially about topics that stir an emotional response—particularly when anger is front and center. I’m a firm believer that:

  • creating dialogue is necessary and transformative
  • strong emotions are often the impetus for needed change

But we can’t allow emotions to dominate. When they do, our discussion is no longer a dialogue; it’s a rant. And rants are not productive for creating change. They eat up the energy that could otherwise be directed to positive action.

So, how do we do create dialogue about the issues that get our backs up? Here are my thoughts:

  • First, we need to separate our emotions (anger and frustration, for example) from the facts of the issue. We can present our perspective and opinion, but with a thoughtful and reasoned argument. Bracketing your feelings can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Gathering and examining information and thinking in terms of actions can help. What is known about this issue? What do you think are the underlying factors contributing to this problem? What approaches have been tried to address them? What do you think may be worth a try? What does the research tell us? What can nurses do? What have you done to work toward resolving it?
  • Second, we need to take a good honest look at ourselves, our beliefs, and our presumptions. We need to be willing to consider other views or ways of interacting with what the world presents us. A dialogue is not one-sided, it is not didactic, and it is not finished. Real dialogue offers others a space for continued discussion. It evolves. It invokes questions. That only happens when we are open to reconsidering or modulating our views or beliefs or integrating others’ ideas with our own.
  • Third, we need to avoid generalizations. Whenever we use words like all, never, only, or always, we’re approaching rant territory. Our experience is our experience; it is not necessarily evidence of what happens in general. It can be a jumping-off point for a discussion that offers insight. But we need to put it in the context of other experiences and of what is known (the evidence) if it is to contribute to a dialogue in a meaningful way.
  • Fourth, we must be respectful of others. Stay focused on ideas and opinions and issues. Never make it personal.
  • Finally, a dialogue is not a competition to prove who is right; it is more of an exploration. When viewed as such, we can listen to others from a position of openness, rather than one of attack.

Read the rest of this entry »

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A Little Levity to Ease the Family Caregiver’s Burden

February 2, 2015
Illustration by Hana Cisarova for AJN/All right reserved.

Illustration by Hana Cisarova for AJN/All right reserved.

According to the CDC, almost 21% of households in the U.S. are affected by family caregiving responsibilities. The pressures and costs of this unpaid labor of love have been well documented.

This month’s Reflections essay, “Swabbing Tubby,” is written from the family caregiver perspective rather than that of a nurse. It’s about the wife and two adult daughters of an ailing older man as they are coached in one of the skills they will need to care for him at home.

It’s a tough situation, but one in this case leavened by the ability of these three women to laugh a little at the more absurd aspects of their predicament. Here’s the beginning:

In retrospect, I can’t help feeling sorry for the earnest young woman who tried so hard to show my mother, my sister, and myself how to hook up our brand-new, at-home, IV feeding device. She was all of 25, with the freshly scrubbed look of a young schoolgirl. Her youthful perkiness was no match for the trio of exhausted, crabby women who faced her across the empty hospital bed. Dad was down in X-ray having yet another CT scan, and the three of us were awaiting instructions on do-it-yourself intravenous feeding.

It’s not that they don’t take what they’re doing seriously or appreciate the training they are being given, or care for their suffering husband or father. But nurses know as well as anyone that resilience in the face of round-the-clock responsibility for another’s health and comfort demands more than just strong will—humor can be a crucial tool of those with real staying power. Read the rest of this entry »

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So You’re a Nurse With a Story to Tell…

January 30, 2015

Madeleine Mysko, MA, RN, coordinator of AJN’s monthly Reflections column, is a poet, novelist, and graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars who has taught creative writing in Baltimore for many years.

karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons

karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons

Whenever I meet someone new who happens to be a nurse—in both clinical and social settings—I wait for the right moment to mention my work at AJN on the Reflections column. It’s not only that I’m proud of the column. It’s also that I’m forever on the lookout for that next submission—for a fresh, compelling story I just know is destined to shine (accompanied by a fabulous professional illustration) on the inside back page of AJN.

“I imagine you have a story or two to tell,” I’ll say to a nurse I’ve just met—which is the same thing I say, whenever I have the chance, to nurses I’ve known for years. I mean it sincerely; given the vantage point on humanity that our profession affords, I actually do believe that every nurse is carrying around material for a terrific story.

The response I usually get (along with a wry smile, the raising of eyebrows, or a short laugh) is, “Oh yes. I have stories.”

But then—even as I’m mentioning the Reflections author guidelines, even as I say warmly that we’re eager to read—I can sense the backing away.

“Sure,” the nurse will say. “I’ll check it out . . . but the thing is, I’m not exactly a writer.”

Photo by mezone, via Flickr.

Photo by mezone, via Flickr.

How to explain it?—how to explain that we aren’t so much looking for nurses who are good writers as we’re looking for essays well written by good nurses.

If you’re still with me in this scenario (and especially if you’re someone not exactly inclined to sit down before breakfast on your day off and pen a gem of an essay) maybe you could let me know what you think of this pitch: Read the rest of this entry »

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