Nursing Considerations for Post-Hurricane Hazards

NASA satellite image of Hurricane Irma at peak intensity, Sept. 6, over Virgin Islands

On Sunday, September 10, many of the residents of coastal towns around the state of Florida sought shelter from Hurricane Irma in shelters, and in their homes when shelters reached capacity. Hurricane Harvey relief efforts were still fresh in the minds of the public—and in fact still underway—even as Florida prepared for a projected direct hit of Hurricane Irma and Georgia and South Carolina braced for storm surges and tropical storms.

By Tuesday, the weather system had dissipated and flood waters covered the areas hit by Hurricane Irma, creating environments that present many hazards, some known and others unknown. As other parts of the Southeast feel relief, with restored electricity and Internet and cell phone service restored, some towns that didn’t fare so well are still recovering from the devastation. Recovery may be hampered as we receive news of additional severe storms developing in the Atlantic.

For Florida residents in certain areas, the storm is far from over. Those most vulnerable for health problems in this post-hurricane period include persons with chronic conditions, children, older adults, those living in poverty and those newly impoverished by the hurricane, relief workers and first responders, undocumented immigrants, and the temporary […]

2017-09-18T07:50:13+00:00 September 18th, 2017|Nursing, Public health|0 Comments

How Long Should Routine Health Screening Continue in Older Adults?

Photo by Johner Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Communicating to older patients that routine screening tests are no longer recommended can prove difficult. Recent research, however, offers guidance on how nurses and other clinicians should approach such conversations.

As we report in a September news article, a study focused on cancer screening found that older adults unlikely to benefit from certain tests were receptive to recommendations to stop screening, with a caveat: they preferred that life expectancy not be a part of the conversation.

The study’s accompanying editorial notes that broaching the topic of life expectancy can turn a discussion about maintaining health into an unexpected discussion about the end of life, which “may be a shock in the primary care setting at a routine visit.” The authors of the study recommend changing the language used in these conversations—for example, saying “This test would not help you live longer” instead of referring to “life expectancy.” […]

2017-09-06T09:21:09+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Nursing, patient engagement|1 Comment

A Nurse Takes a Stand—and Gets Arrested

image via Wikimedia Commons / Jacklee

Douglas P. Olsen, PhD, RN, associate professor, College of Nursing, Michigan State University, writes about ethical issues for AJN.

On July 26, Alex Wubbels, charge nurse at the University of Utah Hospital burn unit in Salt Lake City, showed extraordinary ethical courage that will serve as an example for my students for a long time to come. She refused a police detective access to an unconscious patient so he could draw a blood sample, citing clear violation of hospital regulations, which require patient consent, a court warrant, or that the patient is under arrest. After a short, tense discussion, she was roughly handcuffed and put in a police vehicle by the detective. I recommend watching the video of the incident, although parts of it are quite disturbing. According to various analyses reported in the media, the hospital and Wubbels were legally correct and the detective’s view of her legal obligations was wrong.

All treatment, even the most minimally invasive, can be refused by a patient and therefore requires the patient’s informed consent. There are limited exceptions under which treatment can be provided without patient consent. These include:

  • When the patient lacks decision-making capacity
  • When the patient is dangerous and has a mental disorder
  • An emergency […]
2017-09-02T09:55:06+00:00 September 2nd, 2017|Ethics, Nursing|11 Comments

Becoming a Family Caregiver

Photo by Judith E. Bell, via Flickr.

For me, the saga began six years ago, when I offered to help a family member with some spring cleaning. I knew his place was a mess, but attributed this, stereotypically, to a single man’s lack of interest in housekeeping.

When I dove into the work, I was first puzzled and then fearful at what I found: hundreds of pieces of unopened mail, years old, randomly stacked around the apartment; threatening letters from the Internal Revenue Service; correspondence from the city about a tax lien on his condominium. This, in the home of a man who, as an actor and writer, memorized scripts in two languages, had served on the national board of his union, and could solve complicated math problems without using a calculator. Clearly, something was wrong well beyond the state of his apartment.

In AJN’s September original research article, “The Experience of Transitioning to a Caregiving Role for a Family Member with Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Dementia,” Kathleen Czekanski notes that “caregivers often assume the role of caregiving before they quite realize they are doing so.” In this qualitative study, Czekanski set out to gain an understanding of the caregiver’s experience in taking […]

2017-09-01T08:54:00+00:00 September 1st, 2017|nursing research|0 Comments

The Health Impacts of Hurricane Harvey—What Nurses Need to Know

Geocolor imagery of Hurricane Harvey on verge of making landfall. Image created by the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere.

As Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, continues to affect a large area of southern Texas and other parts of the South, the full impact on human health has yet to be determined. But it’s clear the flooding has caused a historical crisis in Houston and surrounding areas—and that nurses and other health professionals will be in great demand in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Short- and Long-Term Health Concerns

The short- and long-term health consequences people are facing as they escape rising water levels are detailed in the Washington Post. Although drowning is the most immediate and dangerous threat during a flood, those seeking safety are also endangered by sharp objects and even wild animals caught up in floodwaters. Mold and its impact on human health will be a concern in the coming weeks and months, as water-damaged buildings are reoccupied.

In the meantime, health authorities are worried about the spread of infectious diseases. As sewage contaminates the floodwaters and people crowd into shelters, they may be more susceptible to the development of skin, gastrointestinal, and respiratory infections. A prolonged lack of power, and thus air conditioning during the […]