This month we celebrate family caregivers. The 2018 theme for National Family Caregivers Month is Supercharge Your Caregiving. President Clinton signed the first Presidential Proclamation in 1997 and every president since that time has followed his lead by issuing an annual proclamation to recognize caregivers each November, for an entire month. For this year, President Donald J. Trump says “We recognize the challenges of caregiving and celebrate the joys of bringing support and comfort to a loved one. We express our gratitude to them for the work they do daily to ensure their loved ones are able to live in their homes and communities.”
Nurses play an important role in patient care including caregivers, and this role of care will expand with the increasing number of patients needing this care. Nurses are also well-suited to assess, educate, and support family caregivers who care for their loved ones, as well as contribute to evidence-based nursing practice to improve the quality of care for family caregivers. Nurses serve as clinicians, educators, counselors, and researchers who provide support and conduct research that addresses family caregivers’ ability to care for their loved ones.
Demands on caregivers are currently growing as the health care environment changes. Additionally, the number of people with dementia and multiple chronic conditions is rising. Family caregivers can be overwhelmed by multiple responsibilities and seek guidance for taking on the responsibilities of caring and planning for a loved one. Nurses are well positioned to help family caregivers to become more confident and competent providers as they engage in the health care process. Nurses are also an excellent resource for families who need support, guidance, and encouragement. Nurses can connect family caregivers with key resources to simplify the care planning process.
Here are some useful resources to help family caregivers address and cope with the challenges of caring for a loved one.
1. Caregiver Action Network
The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is the leading family caregiver organization to improve the quality of life for Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, diseases, or the frailties of old age. CAN is a nonprofit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.
This is the leading online destination for family caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. It offers helpful content, advice from leading experts, a supportive community of caregivers, and a comprehensive directory of eldercare services.
3. National Transitions of Care Coalition
The National Transitions of Care Coalition (NTOCC) is a nonprofit organization addressing the issues and concerns related to transitions of care. The NTOCC provides tools to help health care professionals, patients, and caregivers establish safer transitions; and resources for practitioners and policymakers to improve transitions throughout the health care system. Most of these resources are available free of charge.
Nurses, on a daily basis, deal with various levels of stress both internal and external in caring for their patients and family members. Stressful events can cause our cortisol (stress hormone) levels to rise. Elevated cortisol levels increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease and interfere with learning, memory, and lower immune function.
There are several ways to de-stress and get a boost of endorphins. Eating for good health is one way that nurses can reduce the impact of stressors on the body and promote their health while working a shift schedule. There are certain foods with essential nutrients and vitamins that can help reduce stress.
Here are seven of the best foods to consume regularly to help combat your stress.
Chocolate is not only delicious but also has stress-reducing effects. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating dark chocolate with 70% cocoa or higher (contains more polyphenols and flavonoids) can lower levels of cortisol.
Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are high in vitamin C, which can reduce the production of excess stress hormones. Also, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice without added sugar can lower stress hormones and help elevate mood.
Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and peanuts contain selenium, a mineral that can help elevate mood. In addition, nuts contain magnesium, B and E vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, which all work to help strengthen the immune system during times of stress.
4. Green Tea
Green tea contains rich L-theanine, an amino acid that helps enhance mood, promote relaxation, and lower levels of cortisol. Green tea also contains epigallocatechin gallate, an antioxidant that promotes brain health and lowers anxiety.
Oatmeal is a warming comfort food that helps to maintain blood sugar levels and increase the calm-inducing hormone serotonin circulating. Oats also contain Vitamin B6, an anti-stress vitamin, and melatonin, a hormone that supports healthful relaxation and sleep.
Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin. In addition, milk is high in antioxidants, vitamins B2 and B12, as well as protein and calcium. The protein in milk has a calming effect by lowering blood pressure. It is wise to have a cup of low-fat milk an hour or two before you turn in for the night. Having a scoop of ice cream containing milk product with none or less sugar occasionally is a good way to calm yourself.
7. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like spinach are rich in magnesium, the mineral that helps regulate cortisol levels and promotes health and feelings of well-being.
Eating these healthy foods is a positive step you can take every day to help your body combat stress.
Digital technology thus far is pervading and influencing nursing practices. Every nurse today is expected to be able to use knowledge, information, and digital technology to maximize their nursing care and improve efficient ways of working in the health care system. More than 50% of nurses reported using digital technology in their everyday nursing practice. The Future of Healthcare 2022 Hospital Vision Study shows that the use of mobile devices is expected to grow up to 40% for all hospitals across the countries by 2020, and 97% of nurses will use mobile devices at the bedside by 2022.
The culture for nursing care used to be a direct patient contact and care; however, the advancement of digital technology has changed the nursing and medical fields and made patient care more efficient. Both patients and care providers are now able to communicate remotely and access personal health information, lab results, and treatments at any time from their computer or smartphone.
Digital technology has changed the way nurses communicate and collaborate with patients and other health professionals. Nurses are able to schedule and record activities in real-time faster and with more accuracy. As a result, patients who have timely access to health care services can reduce the need for hospital admission and healthcare costs. Digital technology in health care is affordable and deeply engages patients in their treatment and recovery. It also brings opportunity for nurses to provide exceptional levels of care and improve their patients’ quality of life.
Digital technology will continue to evolve and nurses need to keep up with and be ready to utilize that technology and tools to deliver quality nursing care. Here are some tips to help you prepare yourself for improving your digital skills.
1. Be open-minded and change your perspective.
It is important that you see the advantages of digital technology at work and allow yourself to focus on the potential opportunities and positive aspects of technology rather than being inconvenienced.
2. Spend more time to explore and learn.
Write down the topics or skills you want to learn and set a goal. This will help you create a learning plan for yourself that fits both with where you are now and where you want to be next.
3. Talk to your expert colleagues and ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is a sign of being open-minded and motivated to learn. Holding back on asking questions is a missed opportunity.
4. Be patient.
Learning a new technology or new skill can be frustrating and can take time. Be patient and give yourself plenty of breaks to digest and process new information. It is always possible to learn new technologies and skills. All it takes is openness to the experience and willingness to put in the necessary time to acquire new skills.
While nurses need to know how to care for patients who have hepatitis, they must know about hepatitis transmission and take action to protect themselves from hepatitis at work as well. There are several types, including hepatitis A (HAV), B (HBV), C (HCV), D (HDV), and E (HEV). Nurses have a higher exposure to hepatitis—particularly HBV—due to their line of work.
Recent research shows that some (but not all) nurses have knowledge about the mode of transmission as well as an effective prevention strategy. With World Hepatitis Day approaching (July 28), it’s a good time for all nurses to take action to educate and protect themselves. Since hepatitis can cause serious harm to the liver and is the most important etiology of liver cancer, the importance of timely prevention among nurses cannot be overemphasized.
Here are a few of the most important things to know about hepatitis when working as a nurse:
Mode of Transmission
- HAV is usually caused by consuming contaminated food or water, fecal-oral pathway, and oral-anal sexual contact.
- HBV is caused by contact with contaminated blood or other body fluids. The factors found to be significantly related with blood-borne hepatitis are needle-stick injury, attempted recapping of needles, or use of hollow-bore needles.
- HCV is the most common cause of chronic viral hepatitis in the United States and is caused by contact with contaminated blood or other body fluids.
- HDV is also caused by contact with contaminated blood or other body fluids.
- HEV is caused by consuming contaminated food or water and fecal-oral pathway like HAV.
When caring for a patient with hepatitis, preventing transmission to yourself and other patients is of the utmost importance. Here are four key prevention strategies you can to take:
1. Practice universal precautions at all times.
This approach to infection control recommends that you to treat all blood and bodily fluids as if they were infected and avoid direct contact. Always wear gloves if you need to draw blood or perform wound care. If the blood or body fluid spills onto the floor or another surface, it is important to have it cleaned immediately as the virus can survive in dried blood for up to 4 days. Make sure to dispose all items properly before coming into contact with other patients.
2. Practice good personal hygiene.
Practice good personal hygiene through hand washing, as good sanitation can help prevent a hepatitis infection. Always wash hands and use hand sanitizing gel before and after providing care to each patient.
3. Get vaccinated.
Both HAV and HBV can be prevented through a combination vaccine.
4. Follow your hospital’s protocol when caring for patients.
Make sure to refresh or update yourself about the hospital policies and guidelines when you care for infected patients or have potential contact with their blood or bodily fluids.
July is National Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month and this presents an opportunity for nurses to educate patients to protect themselves from the harmful effects of UV rays. UV rays not only cause skin damage, but also skin cancer and cataracts. There are three types of UV rays. UVC is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not pose any threat. UVA and UVB radiation, however, have long- and short-term negative effects on the immune system, skin, and vision. The main source of UV rays is sunlight, although they can come from man-made sources such as diagnostic X-rays, tanning beds and booths, and phototherapy. Approximately 90-95% of the UV rays from sunlight is UVA, with the remaining 5-10% being UVB.
Summer is here, which means it’s the perfect time to get more physically active and enjoy being outside. Here are four tips to share with patients to help them avoid damage from UV rays.
1. Avoid overexposure to sunlight.
Avoid being outside for long periods in the sun and heat, especially during the peak hours of strongest UV rays, during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm. Overexposure to sunlight is known as the underlying cause for harmful effects on the skin, eyes, and DNA.
2. Apply broad spectrum protection sunscreen before stepping outside.
A sunscreen with SPF 30 can block out 96% of UV rays, while a sunscreen with SPF 50 can block out 98%. Unfortunately, there is no sunscreen that can provide 100% UV protection. Remember to apply a sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply after two hours because most sunscreens can last for about two hours on the skin.
3. Wear sunglasses that can filter at least 98% of UVA and UVB rays.
Sunglasses with UV coating, or polycarbonate lenses which have built-in UV coverage, can help prevent UV rays. Photochromic lenses are also a good choice. UV rays can cause a development of cataracts, macular degeneration, and retina damage. It is wise to cover skin with loose-fitting clothing and wear a wide-brimmed hat (3-inch or 4-inch brim all around) when out in the sun.
4. Avoid or limit the use of artificial UV light.
Research has shown the risk of malignant melanoma is much higher in people who use tanning beds. The risk of melanoma increases by 75% when indoor tanning devices are used before the age of 30. Avoid using tanning devices to lower the risk of having melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.