Nursing Assistants in Nursing Homes: Partners in Quality Improvement

“NAs know where the quality gaps lie.”

I loved working in a skilled nursing facility—the long-term relationships with residents and their families, the chance to really hone in on nursing basics, the opportunity to learn about life from people who had seen it all.

But what finally drove me away from this work was the mediocre quality of care in two different “homes” where I was on staff. I was angry and frustrated, and even after several years in nursing, still too inexperienced to understand what I could have done to make things better.

Including nursing assistants in QI projects: ‘crucial to success.’

Today, care is slowly changing. Nursing homes are now required to post on the web certain data about their patient outcomes (, and to implement quality improvement (QI) initiatives. But have we regarded QI projects as the province of RNs and administrators only? In this month’s AJN, Kathleen Abrahamson and colleagues make the following observation:

“…nearly all changes driven by QI in work processes, schedules, approaches to care, or documentation will either affect or be carried out by nursing assistants. Thus, including NAs in QI efforts is crucial to their success.”

The truth of this statement is so clear, it might be called a “no-brainer.” As the authors point out, NAs have the most frequent […]

Avoiding the Chaos of Unit Transfers

Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Johansen Laurel, U.S. Navy.

Patient transfers between units can be less than orderly, resulting in miscommunication and frustration. Most ICU nurses have a war story (or two) that quickly comes to mind if asked about a memorable admission to their unit from the OR or recovery unit. I recall one instance, when I was a clinical nurse specialist covering critical care, in which I received a frantic call at 11:30 am from the ICU nurse manager.

Apparently, the ICU had been told they would receive a patient from recovery at about 2 pm. With this in mind, the ICU had arranged to transfer a patient out to a med-surg unit just after noon. The ICU manager had worked out the transfer time with the med-surg nurse manager to allow the med-surg RN to return from lunch before the transfer, and also to give the ICU nurse a chance to have lunch and prepare the equipment in the ICU slot for the new patient after it was cleaned by housekeeping.

But as it happened, the recovery nurse manager called the ICU at 11:30 am to say her unit needed the bed and the new patient would be transferred to the ICU in 15 minutes instead of […]

Low Physical Activity Among Chinese American Immigrants with Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes

“…compared with the general population, people who have or are at risk for type 2 diabetes are significantly less likely to engage in regular physical activity.”

On this month’s cover, group practices tai chi during snowfall in Shenyang, China. ©Photo Reuters/Stringer.

We all know that physical activity is important for maintaining health—for everyone. It’s especially important to prevent or manage prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

AJN’s February research feature, “Physical Activity Among Chinese American Immigrants with Prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes,” takes a special look at the issue among Chinese American immigrants. Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans, so researchers wanted to investigate what this population’s knowledge of and barriers to physical activity might be.

Recruiting from a community health center in New York City, researchers conducted interviews with 100 foreign-born Chinese American adults having a diagnosis of prediabetes or type 2 diabete

According to the study authors:

“Chinese American immigrants with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes tend to be sedentary and are less likely to perform moderate or vigorous physical activity than the general population . . . .The findings also highlight some of the barriers to such activity and suggest a need for greater involvement by nurses.”


How to Identify and Avoid Predatory Journals

Photo by Alice Rosen, via Flickr.

I remember receiving my first “accept” letter for a novel I was working on many years ago. In my excitement, I didn’t stop to think that it was strange that, before the editor began working with me, I would have to pay a large sum of money to get the manuscript into shape. When my euphoria died down and my skepticism shot up, I decided to submit a fake query to the same publisher, highlighting a novel that could never possibly get published. Imagine my dismay when I received the exact same acceptance letter.

So in a way, predatory publishing is not an entirely new concept. And in fact, many more or less legitimate self-publishing options for books, fiction or otherwise, still exist. But with the increasing dominance of the Web and the rise of the open access movement—established to help spread publicly funded research—a more invidious and widely pervasive form of predatory publishing has taken hold in scholarly publishing. And the stakes are far higher. While my novel probably wasn’t going to affect anyone’s life, articles published by unscrupulous publishers—especially medical and nursing literature—have a lot more power to cause damage.

Flawed, unreliable content.

Since predatory journals often forego rigorous peer review, exploit authors, fabricate their own […]

Simple Intervention Decreases Oral Mucositis from Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

A painful effect of cancer treatment.

Nurse Cindy Dawson provides patient education on oral care kit used in a nurse-led intervention to reduce oral mucositis severity in adults treated for head and neck cancer. Photo courtesy of Kay Klein.

Years ago, when I worked with patients being treated for head and neck cancer who had been admitted for one reason or another, I felt helpless in the face of their extremely uncomfortable oral mucositis. None of our topical concoctions seemed to bring much relief to these patients, who had often endured disfiguring surgery as well.

While there is as yet no perfect solution to this uncomfortable side effect from the radiation or chemotherapy used to treat head and neck cancers, a group of oncology staff nurses and their colleagues have demonstrated that a consistent, standardized approach to oral care for these patients may significantly alleviate the pain of this almost universal treatment effect.

Consistent, standardized oral care.

After reviewing the literature on oral care, Cullen and colleagues enhanced their usual patient teaching with oncology radiation center outpatients, worked with staff in all disciplines to ensure that their oral care messages were consistent, and assembled a specific oral care kit (containing such items as non-irritating toothpaste, lip salve, […]