Nurses spend more time with patients than most other types of providers and have unique insight into patient care and the the healthcare system.

The Quandary of Scheduling Vacation Time for Nurses

Illustration by the author; all rights reserved Illustration by the author; all rights reserved

While shopping in a grocery store, I passed a display of craft brew beer that caught my eye. The sign read Hospice Beer! After a double take, I saw on closer inspection that the label actually read: Hop-Slice Beer.

I realized I was badly in need of a summer vacation. Fortunately, I already had one scheduled on the books.

Summer is a traditional time for vacations, but often not for nurses, for multiple reasons.

Paid time off benefits vary from organization to organization.

Some lump vacation hours and sick leave hours into the same bank, while others separate the two so that nurses accrue hours into each per pay period. Paid vacation time accrues slowly when it’s used for paid sick time.

Further, after accepting a new job, nurses may find that as the newbie they accrue vacation and sick leave hours at a rate lower than their colleagues hired earlier; this practice, called tiered employment, exists within many industries outside of health care, whether they’re union or not. The practice can foster division between the newly hired and existing staff within units. Newer hires accrue less benefits for the same amount of work as their peers. The practice is a double-edged sword, however. It also means it’s cheaper for employers to hire new nurses than appease those with seniority.

After twenty-five years working continuously for the same health care system, I found myself in a similar position: a structural reorganization necessitated that I be hired by another organization. After working there for a year, I returned to the first organization as an oncology nurse navigator. The transition resulted in my accruing vacation time at the same rate as a newly hired nurse, despite 25 years of previous service.

I love my work, and I was happy to return to the organization. It was my choice. But it came with a price.

How vacations are scheduled in nursing units varies too.

In some, vacation time requests are required at the beginning of the year, forcing staff to make plans while they cope with holiday plans at home, along with winter illnesses and the accompanying short staffing that occurs with it at work. For many, thinking about a summer vacation in the midst of this melee is daunting, and so they don’t schedule vacation time, leaving it to chance when they finally do request time off.  In this scenario, they risk not getting an adequate vacation at all. […]

July 25th, 2016|career, Nursing, nursing perspective|0 Comments

AJN’s Top Five Most-Emailed Articles

IMG_2151We are sometimes surprised by the articles our readers are most interested in. The articles shared most often among colleagues are not always the articles being read by the most people. Here are AJN‘s current top five most-emailed articles, many of which deal with essential practice topics such as pain management or nursing handoffs or with various workforce and educational issues:

We encourage readers to visit AJN and explore the wealth of collections, archives, podcasts, videos, and much more. Some articles, such as continuing education features and the monthly Reflections essays, are free access; some require a subscription. And of course, feel free to let us know about topics you’d like to learn more about.

Lastly, here’s a much longer list of AJN‘s most emailed articles.

July 20th, 2016|Nursing, nursing perspective|0 Comments


jen promesJennifer L. Promes is a gerontological clinical nurse specialist and Magnet Program director in Omaha, Nebraska. In this post, she describes an experience she had early in her career while working as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home’s memory support unit.

Daniel had a kind, mild-mannered disposition, but because of his advanced dementia he would sometimes become agitated and belligerent, especially at night. Most of the staff didn’t want to help him prepare for bed. I knew Daniel was much more cooperative if you distracted him by talking about his past, so one night I volunteered to help him with his personal care.

All of the residents had just finished their evening meal and were waiting patiently at their tables to be assisted back to their rooms for the night. As I approached Daniel–a short, stocky bald man in his late 80’s with thick-rimmed glasses, always dressed in a button-up flannel shirt, polyester slacks, and square-toed, diabetic shoes—I could tell he was “working on something.” He had a table knife in his hand and was prying at the seam between the two leaves of the table. He was quietly muttering something under his breath as he worked, his head nodding as he grew more tired.

Daniel would “fix” anything he could get his hands on. A farmer in his younger life, he had many years of experience with problem solving. After watching him for about a minute, I told him that he’d better get to bed so he could get up early in the morning to feed his cows. Seeming to accept my reasoning, he put the knife down.

I pushed his wheelchair into the bathroom in his room and suggested he wash his face and brush his teeth before bed. Expecting an agitated response, I was surprised when he agreed to my suggestion. I thought it would be best to continue to engage him in discussion about his farm while helping him get ready for bed. As we talked he didn’t seem to notice me helping him onto the toilet or helping him brush his dentures.

I guided him back into his wheelchair, took off his glasses, and washed his face with a warm washcloth. As I moved the washcloth over his cheeks he looked up at me and said, “That’s warm . . . that’s nice.”

In that moment I looked directly into his eyes, which were more grey than green and had pretty advanced cataracts. I had the sudden impression that I could see the dementia in his eyes. Looking past the cloudiness of his lenses deep into his eyes, I found nothing but a dark empty blankness. It was as though he didn’t see my face in front of him at all—his eyes didn’t deviate from their forward stare. An eerie feeling washed over me, as if I were standing in the presence of a ghost. […]

AJN News: A Role for Nonmedical Workers, Adult Vaccinations Revisited, Teen Pregnancy Drop, More

AJN’s monthly news section covers timely and important research and policy stories that are relevant to the nursing world. Here are some of the stories you’ll find in our current issue (news articles in AJN are free access):

A community health worker meets with a patient in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Francis Ying / KHN.

Nonmedical Workers: A Growing Asset to Communities

Outcomes improve, costs drop, and nurses’ workloads benefit when nonmedical community health workers are available to serve as liaisons between health systems and patients. Programs to train more of these workers are gaining attention in states across the country.

Revisiting the Adult Vaccination Schedule for Tetanus and Diphtheria

Results of a new study reveal that most adults remain protected from the two diseases for 30 years without booster vaccination—and call into question the potential benefits of a modified adult booster vaccination schedule.

Teen Pregnancies, Births, and Abortions Slow

Two new reports show that the birth rate among U.S. teens has dropped to its lowest point in three decades; the percentage of teen pregnancies ending in abortion also reached a historic low. Researchers attribute the downward trend to teens using birth control more often and waiting longer to have intercourse.

Rosalind LaRocque rallies outside of the Supreme Court in Washington DC. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press. Rosalind LaRocque rallies outside of the Supreme Court in Washington DC. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press.

Unions’ Right to Collect Nonmember Fees in Limbo

Due to a vacancy on the Supreme Court, a March decision on unions’ legal ability to collect fees from workers who aren’t union members resulted in a four–four split. The absence of a ruling means that the Court’s earlier ruling of the practice’s legality still stands—but a rehearing has been requested, which could drastically affect the future actions of nursing unions. […]

Is It Time to Retire the Term ‘Midlevel Practitioner’?

Rachel_Scherzer_photo_and_calloutWhat are the implications of calling advanced practice nurses “midlevel practitioners”? According to Rachel Scherzer, a nurse educator and critical care nurse, such a term pigeonholes APNs in an implied (and disproven) hierarchy of value and quality of care rather than in relation to specific competencies and expertise.

In the Viewpoint essay in the July issue of AJN, Scherzer describes some of the reasons why such terms aren’t just inaccurate, they damage the standing of the profession:

Policymakers use the term while developing health care policy, health care economists use it when reporting data and performing cost analyses, and other health care providers use it in the clinical setting. . . . This term is both diminutive and inaccurate, implying that these professionals cannot provide the same level of care as other members of the interprofessional care team. Referring to APNs as “midlevel” practitioners contributes to a general misunderstanding of their role and of the services they provide.