Summertime: Time to Write

karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons

July 4th has come and gone and summer still stretches out before us. For many, summer is a time to relax and take things a bit slower. Working moms and dads don’t have to deal with school projects; faculty have no or at least fewer classes to teach. It’s the perfect time to write—or at least start—that article you’ve had on your “To Do” list for the last year (or two or three).

Many budding authors tell me that the hardest part about writing is getting started, so here are suggestions from a pair of editors and writers who teach writing workshops (included, along with several other writing tips, in my 2014 editorial on the topic):

  • Set a consistent time to write, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. Make an appointment with yourself and honor it as you would an appointment with someone else. Make yourself sit down and write—and write anything to begin; you don’t need to start at the beginning or do an outline. Once you get rolling, you can always write for a longer time.
  • “Start anywhere, but start. And keep your hand moving, whether you’re using a pen or a keyboard. Whether it’s because of muscle memory or the mind–body connection, this works. Random thoughts will morph into coherent sentences, which you’ll later organize into paragraphs; before you know it, you’ll have 500 words and a good start to a short essay or an article.”


July 11th, 2016|career, narratives, Nursing|1 Comment

A Strong Case for the Professional Introduction in Nursing

nametagDo you always introduce yourself by name to your patients? Or do you simply say, “Hi, I’ll be your nurse today?”

In their Viewpoint essay in the June issue of AJN, Raeann LeBlanc and two colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing make a strong case for the professional introduction, in which “a nurse states her or his full name and role in the patient’s care.”

The authors argue that professional introductions are “a powerful way to make clear the centrality of the nurse’s role in the care of the patient.” When nurses use professional introductions, we make our knowledge and expertise more visible and help patients better understand just what it is that nurses do.

The authors also address potential safety concerns nurses may have about disclosing their full name to a patient, and they offer some reasons why the importance of professional introductions may not be taught in nursing school.


When Patients Ask About Palliative Chemotherapy

Photo © Associated Press. Photo © Associated Press.

Nurses repeatedly witness the suffering of people with advanced, metastasized cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy. These drugs often seem to diminish rather than enhance the quality of the remaining weeks of their lives.

In the first article in a new AJN series on palliative care, author Marianne Matzo points to research indicating that chemotherapy in end-stage cancer does more harm than good. So what should we do when patients ask (as in this article), “Is the chemotherapy going to help me? And if it’s not, why are they offering it?”  […]

Recent Decline in U.S. Opioid Prescriptions: Good News But Some Concerns

by frankieleon/ via flickr by frankieleon/ via flickr

It was widely reported in the past week that there have been steady declines in the number of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. for the past three years, with the declines the steepest in some of the states considered to have the worst opioid misuse crises.

This is good news, suggesting that efforts to address some problem areas like renegade pain clinics prescribing for profit, patients who go from doctor to doctor seeking opioid prescriptions, and the diversion of legitimate opioid prescriptions may be starting to bear fruit.

A balanced overview of the situation can be found in this New York Times article. The authors also acknowledge that patients in pain are now facing new hurdles to pain relief, quoting the director of one prominent medical school’s program on pain research education and policy: “The climate has definitely shifted. . . . It is now one of reluctance, fear of consequences and encumbrance with administrative hurdles. A lot of patients who are appropriate candidates for opioids have been caught up in that response.”

Much of the reporting on the opioid epidemic lumps all people who take opioids into one big statistical brew. While startling and alarming numbers about overdoses from legal and illegal opioids steal the headlines, little media and scholarly analysis focuses on the lower likelihood of opioid misuse or overdose seen in the large subset of patients who do not have a history of opioid misuse and/or mental illness, are not taking illegal opioids like heroin, and not using opioid medications that they were not prescribed.

Nurses owe it to themselves and their patients to have an informed, undogmatic understanding of opioids and their use. With this in mind, AJN has upcoming articles on opioids and their use with different patient populations, including a July CE that will take a comprehensive look at the appropriate and safe use of opioids in treating chronic pain. In the meantime, here are several recent articles of note about opioid medications.

A significant percentage of prescription opioid overdoses occur among people taking drugs for which they do not have documented prescriptions. Renee Manworren helps nurses understand and help prevent drug diversion in a recent CE article, “Nurses’ Role in Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion. […]

Nurses, Exercise, Time: Hitting a Nerve

Flickr creative commons/ Richard Masoner Flickr creative commons/ Richard Masoner

Hitting a Nerve. I received several recent emails about an editorial I wrote in the April issue of AJN, in which I discussed nurses’ health practices, including exercise, in conjunction with one of our feature articles, Original Research: An Investigation into the Health-Promoting Lifestyle Practices of RNs.”

The authors found that, for study participants,

physical activity and stress management scores were low for the entire group of RNs.”

Drawing a connection between these findings and recent research by Letvak and colleagues suggesting an association between nurses’ health and job performance, I wrote, “If the nurse caring for you or your loved one is suffering from fatigue and stress, she or he may be more apt to make an error or to sustain a workplace injury.”

Judging from the emails I received, I hit a chord. The writers stressed the difficulty of working full time and, in many cases, caring for a family as well. Often, they said, they had little energy left over for themselves. One writer, though, did say that my editorial was the ‘kick’ she needed to get back to walking! […]