Earth Day 2017: An Important Role for Nurses

By Barbara Polivka, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and Shirley B. Powers Endowed Chair in Nursing Research, University of Louisville, Kentucky

“… the symptoms or the sufferings generally considered to be inevitable and incident to the disease are very often not symptoms of the disease at all, but of something quite different—of the want of fresh air, or of light, or of warmth, or of quiet, or of cleanliness…”  -Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it is Not (1859).

 

crocus shoots, early spring / Wikimedia Commons

As we celebrate the 46th Earth Day, it’s good to look back.

  • Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in on April 22nd, 1970.
  • The first Earth Day celebration helped spur the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act.
  • Earth Day became an international celebration in 1971 when the UN Secretary General talked about it at a Peace Bell Ceremony in New York City.

A time to think about how we affect the environment and are affected by the environment.

Health Care Without Harm (https://noharm.org/) is an international organization promoting environmental health and justice. If you aren’t familiar with Health Care Without Harm I urge you to go to their website to see how health care organizations are decreasing their environmental impact. Health care facilities are:

2017-04-21T08:26:16+00:00 April 21st, 2017|environmental health, Nursing, Public health|0 Comments

AJN in April: Nurse Perceptions of Risk for Harm, Climate Change and Mental Health, More

The April issue of AJN is now live. Here are some articles we’d like to bring to your attention.

CE Feature: Original Research: Do Nurses or Electronic Assessment Tools Better Predict Risk for Harm?

In many hospitals, nurse-led “safety huddles” are used to relay patient safety information, although whether this effectively identifies patients at risk for harm has not been determined. New electronic risk assessment tools are designed to identify patients at risk for harm during hospitalization, based on specific markers in the electronic health record. The authors of this study compared the results of both methods, finding statistically significant differences in the way nurses and data mining software identify risk of harm. In many instances, factors that the software captured had been anticipated by the nurses or were already addressed in the plan of care.

CE Feature: Overactive Bladder in Women

This article provides an evidence-based review of the screening, assessment, and management of overactive bladder in women, many of whom do not seek help for the condition and try to self-manage its symptoms, which may inadvertently worsen them. Those with overactive bladder often experience related physical and psychological symptoms and report a poorer quality of life than other women. However, many […]

2017-03-27T09:34:06+00:00 March 27th, 2017|Nursing|0 Comments

Nurses Try Out Plant-Based Diet, Report Health Benefits

            If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?

Photo from Shutterstock.

This adage, sometimes attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, reminds us that the personal choices we make are important. Drugs and procedures are unlikely to ensure continuing good health, especially if we don’t first attend to the basics. And when it comes to personal choices, nothing is quite as personal as food.

Maybe this is why some nurses and physicians are so quick to dismiss decades of promising research on the effects of meatless diets. “People will never change the way they eat; it’s not worth talking about.” But as Michael Greger, a general practitioner specializing in nutrition and an advocate for plant-based diets, once said in a lecture I attended, “That attitude may be one of the true leading causes of death and disability.”

In “A Plant-Based Nutrition Program” in this month’s AJN, Joanne Evans and colleagues describe the results of a “personal experiment” in which nurses at three faculty-led community health clinics associated with George Mason University followed a plant-based diet for three weeks. Their goals were to

  • improve their nutritional expertise and understanding,
  • prepare themselves to effectively advocate for patients’ positive lifestyle changes, and
  • increase their awareness of […]
2017-04-19T17:50:13+00:00 March 22nd, 2017|Nursing, nursing research|11 Comments

Women’s History and Nursing’s History

This year’s theme of Women’s History Month, which we celebrate each March, is focused on women’s achievements in business and the labor force, but we don’t need this reason to take time out to remember the strong women who have shaped nursing. We certainly have many of them.

As I wrote in an editorial marking women’s history month in 2015:

Most people still don’t understand all that nurses have done—and continue to do—to improve health care. Most would likely recognize the name of Florence Nightingale. But I wonder if any other nurses would come to mind. I wonder how many nonnurses know that Lillian Wald developed the community health system (she founded New York City’s Henry Street Settlement), pioneered public health and school nursing, and helped establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; or that Florence Wald (no relation to Lillian) brought hospice care to the United States; or that it was Kathryn Barnard’s research that established the beneficial effects of rocking and heartbeat sounds on premature infants, which is why most neonatal ICUs and newborn nurseries contain rocking chairs.

Lillian Wald and other notable nurse pioneers, 1923 March 2015 cover showing Lillian Wald and others at Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service, 1923.

Despite gains in professionalism and education, nurses still are not well represented on governing boards—and we should be. Our proven record of innovation and creative problem-solving and our intimate knowledge […]

2017-03-29T11:15:38+00:00 March 16th, 2017|Nursing, nursing history|0 Comments

ANA’s Cipriano, AARP’s Reinhard Comment on ACA’s Undoing

President Obama signing the ACA in 2010/via Wikimedia Commons

Nurses and the Undoing of the ACA

Many in the nursing community supported the Affordable Care Act (ACA) when it was first introduced. This is understandable, given our firsthand experience of patients who didn’t seek care until they were gravely ill because they lacked health insurance. We know how disease management can change outcomes for those with chronic illness and how preventive care can make the difference between having a treatable cancer or a metastasis.

In the years since, as both supporters and detractors continued to argue over the law and its need to be improved (or scrapped, depending on your viewpoint), over 20 million people gained health insurance and access to care.

Now as Congress moves to repeal and replace the ACA with a yet-to-be-determined plan, many are concerned that major gains will be lost and once again it will be the poor and vulnerable who will suffer. (I touched on some of the concerns in my March editorial.)

To get a little more insight, I spoke with two very policy-smart nurses about what might happen and what they feel should happen.

What ANA president Pam Cipriano said:

I asked ANA president Pam Cipriano what she thought was the most critical aspect of the gains from the ACA that need to be preserved. Her answer:

“We must […]