Posts Tagged ‘Nurses’

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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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Nurses, Brittany Maynard, Methods of Hastening Dying: No Easy Options

November 5, 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.

Last weekend, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard died, in her bed, in her bedroom, with her husband and immediate family beside her. I learned of her death on Twitter, along with millions of other readers. Several weeks earlier, Maynard had publicly announced, in a YouTube video, the way she planned to end her own life: using a lethal dose of medications prescribed to her for that purpose.

Maynard, while a compelling public advocate, is not the first to choose to die this way. Compassion and Choices, the organization that worked with Maynard to publicize her choice, lobbies for the drafting and passage of “death with dignity” laws, which currently exist in some form only in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, New Mexico, and Montana. Arizona.

In Oregon, where Maynard moved in order to be able to legally end her life before she was incapacitated by the effects of terminal brain cancer, approximately 71 other people made the same choice in 2013, the most recent year of reported data—the peak of a gradual increase from the law’s inaugural year of 1998, when 16 people did so.

Illustration by Denny Bond for AJN. All rights reserved.

Illustration by Denny Bond for AJN. All rights reserved.

Much social media discussion has arisen from Maynard’s case, often influenced by strongly held religious and ethical principles. For nurses, the issue can be further complicated by our own clinical experiences with death. Some have argued that legalized aid in dying opens a door to hasty, emotionally fraught, irreversible decision making.

Yet few commentators discuss other practices associated with hastening dying that are commonly practiced in our health care system, as described in a 2009 CE article in AJN by Judith Schwarz, “Stopping Drinking and Eating” (free until December 1). These practices include “foregoing or discontinuing life-sustaining treatment, including medically provided nutrition and hydration (such as tube feeding),” “using high doses of opioids to treat intractable pain,” and “initiating palliative sedation.”

Schwarz’s article focuses on the case of 100-year-old Gertrude, whose progressive loss of hearing and vision and her inability to complete activities of daily living had convinced her that she needed a plan to end her own life while she still could. Because she lived in a state where physician-assisted death was not a legal choice, Gertrude and her family enlisted the counsel of Compassion and Choices for knowledge of further options. Through a series of home visits and consultations, Schwarz assisted Gertrude and her family as they considered their legal options and arrived at the voluntary decision to stop eating and drinking. Read the rest of this entry ?

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AJN in November: Palliative Care, Mild TBI, the Ethics of Force-Feeding Prisoners, More

October 31, 2014

AJN1114.Cover.OnlineAJN’s November issue is now available on our Web site. Here’s a selection of what not to miss.

Palliative care versus hospice. For many seriously ill, hospitalized older adults, early implementation of palliative care is critical. These patients often require medically and ethically complex treatment decisions. This month’s original research article, “Staff Nurses’ Perceptions Regarding Palliative Care for Hospitalized Older Adults,” found that staff nurses often confuse palliative and hospice care, a fact that suggests a need for increased understanding and knowledge in this area. This CE feature offers 2.5 CE credits to those who take the test that follows the article.

Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have profoundly negative effects on quality of life and can negatively affect relationships with family and caretakers. This issue’s other CE feature, “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury,” reviews the most commonly reported signs and symp­toms of mild TBI, explores the condition’s effects on both patient and family, and provides direction for devel­oping nursing interventions that promote patient and family adjustment. Earn 2 CE credits by taking the test that follows the article. To further explore the topic, listen to a podcast interview with the author (this and other podcasts are accessible via the Behind the Article page on our Web site or, in our iPad app, by tapping the icon on the first page of the article).

Medication safety. While preparing medications in complex health care environments, nurses are frequently distracted or interrupted, which can lead to medication errors. “Implementing Evidence-Based Medication Safety Interventions on a Progressive Care Unit,” an article in our Cultivating Quality column, describes how nursing staff at one facility implemented five medication safety interventions designed to decrease distractions and interruptions during medication preparation. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ebola: A Role for Nurses in Sharing the Facts

October 29, 2014

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 12.27.27 PMThe current Ebola crisis has everyone concerned over transmission, and rightly so. The public has been in a quandary as to who and what to believe. I can’t say I blame them. We should have been better prepared and anticipated that, given the situation in West Africa, we would eventually see a patient with Ebola present to a U.S. hospital ED (or clinic or urgent care center). What’s surprising is that it didn’t happen sooner.

I’d thought fears about widespread transmission of Ebola had abated after no more new cases arose from that of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas: his family, who were in the apartment with him during the time he was sick, did not contract Ebola and have since been released from quarantine; the two nurses who became ill treating Duncan have now been declared Ebola free and none of their contacts have become ill; no other nurses who provided care for him have fallen ill.

But with the onset of confirmed Ebola in a New York physician who had recently returned from caring for Ebola victims in West Africa, fears of widespread contagion resurfaced. Craig Spencer had been self-monitoring his symptoms while he went about his life; when he began to feel ill and developed a low-grade fever, he initiated a controlled transport in isolation to Bellevue Hospital.

And when nurse Kaci Hickox returned from volunteering in West Africa, she was caught in New Jersey’s new Ebola precautions and placed in mandatory quarantine in a tent outside a hospital in Newark. She protested, secured attorneys to advocate on her behalf (basing her protest on CDC recommendations that routine quarantine of nonsymptomatic health care workers is not justified), and was released to travel home to Maine, where she is now disputing Maine’s mandatory in-home quarantine and active monitoring requirement in favor of self-monitoring. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Fear of Infection, Getting Job Done: Not New to Nurses

October 27, 2014

Quarantine, isolation: medical terms heavy with accreted meanings (psychological, metaphorical). Terms we’ve been hearing a lot lately, as in the case of nurse Kaci Hickox, quarantined in a tent in New Jersey after her return from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, released today after days of public controversy.

These words have vivid histories. Epidemics of polio, influenza, and other illnesses took many lives in the U.S. during the 20th century. And nurses were always there, taking risks, applying the latest knowledge to control or cure. In the April 1940 edition of the American Journal of Nursing, a nurse wrote a short but evocative essay about her own fears of entering an isolation room to treat a child with an unnamed condition, perhaps measles or scarlet fever. Here’s a snippet.

Germs

(One wonders if she had been given the recommended personal protective equipment of the time for such infections . . .)

To read the article, free until December 1, click this link and then click through to the PDF version in the upper-right corner of the landing page.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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Addressing Nurses’ Urgent Concerns About Ebola and Protective Equipment

October 15, 2014

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor. (See also her earlier post, “Ebola: A Nurse Epidemiologist Puts the Outbreak in Perspective.”)

This is not a time to panic. It is a time to get things right.—John Nichols, blogging for the Nation, 10/12/2014

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

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

For years, nurses have tolerated increasingly cheap, poorly made protective gear—one result of health care’s “race to the bottom” cost-cutting. Now the safety of personal protective equipment (PPE) is being hotly debated as the Ebola epidemic spills over into the U.S.

If all nurses had access to impermeable gowns that extended well below the knee (and could be securely closed in back, had real cuffs, and didn’t tear easily); faceguards that completely shielded; N95 respirator masks that could be properly molded to the face; and disposable leg and shoe covers, we might not be having the same conversation. Yet how much protection can we count on from the garb we now have available, especially considering the minimal donning and doffing training given to most nurses?

While there is more to be learned about possible “outlier” modes of Ebola transmission, it’s pretty clear from past experience (including recent Ebola hospitalizations at Emory University Hospital and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where no transmission has occurred) that standard, contact, and droplet precautions will virtually always prevent Ebola virus transmission. Because of the theoretical possibility that the virus could be aerosolized during procedures like intubation or suctioning, airborne precautions are usually added. (And from what we’ve seen, they’re being followed routinely, and not used only during aerosolizing procedures.)

Many organizations, including National Nurses United, are calling for hazmat-type gear and PAPR hoods (powered air-purifying respirators, which are HEPA-filtered) for staff who care for Ebola patients. Because most nurses have not used these, this more complex gear presents new challenges, especially because of the potential for self-contamination when worn and removed by untrained staff.

Specific techniques for donning and doffing PPE are not new, but many nurses have never been taught to pay attention to these details. One has only to look at staff in a contact precautions room, only half covered by their untied gowns, to understand why resistant organisms continue to spread within hospitals. Many clinicians may not have believed that their cavalier attitude towards PPE had anything to do with the next patient’s nosocomial MRSA pneumonia. During this Ebola epidemic, though, we are quickly learning that the proper use of PPE is a matter of life and death—ours. Read the rest of this entry ?

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If You Want to Write, Do It (and Skip the ‘Weaseling Qualifiers’)

September 26, 2014
Photo by mezone, via Flickr.

Photo by mezone, via Flickr.

Are you one of those people—nurse or otherwise—who daydreams about writing (a personal essay about a formative experience, an article about a quality improvement project you took part in, a blog post about some aspect of nursing) but can’t seem to find the proper way to get started?

Since the weekend is coming and the October issue of AJN is now live on our Web site, it seems a good time to draw attention to “On Writing: Just Do It,” the editorial by Shawn Kennedy, AJN‘s editor-in-chief. Kennedy points out the one idea common to most writing advice: you have to start somewhere. You have to do it, and learn from doing it, and then keep doing it. Or, as she puts it:

One key to becoming a good writer—or a good anything—is persistence.

But the editorial also gives a range of other excellent tips from Kennedy and several experts in the field, and quotes writing advice found in AJN issues through the decades. My favorite bit is from a 1977 editorial by former AJN editor Thelma Schorr:

“[the writer] will use the active voice and not shirk his [or her] responsibility by introducing a statement with such weaseling qualifiers as ‘It is considered that…’ or ‘It is generally believed that…’”

What a great word: “weaseling.” It’s about as far as you can get from the jargon that afflicts so much academic writing. So if you’ve got some free time this weekend, take 15 minutes and see what happens. Netflix will wait.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

 

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