This is part of a regular series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlighta nurse who performs ear piercings.
While many people have gotten their ears pierced at a kiosk at the mall, others are getting theirs done by nurses. Samantha Alvarado, RN, Clinical Nurse Manager at Rowan, took time to answer our questions about her experience. (While Alvarado works at this full-time, it can be a side gig for many nurses.)
How did you get interested in performing ear piercing on the side? How long have you been doing it?
I have always had a keen interest in piercing ears. For several years, I worked in a pediatrician’s office, and we were receiving requests daily for ear piercings. One of the physicians in the practice knew I did piercings, and we had so many requests by parents, he asked if I would manage the program. Remember, your choice was limited to your pediatrician or [a place] at the mall.
How often do you work piercing ears—part-time? If so, how many hours/days a week do you work? Where do you go to do it?
I work full-time, mostly out of our Upper East Side Location, which opened last August. We are always booked with a line for walk-ins. In addition, we also do in-home piercings and “piercing parties.” I travel Coast to Coast to onboard and train all of our nurses in-person to make sure we provide the best and most consistent experience.
How did you get into this type of work? Why do you enjoy it?
For as long as I can remember, I have always been curious about ear piercing. I used to pierce my friends’ ears in high school. When I became a Registered Nurse, I liked to do piercings on the side, as it’s one of the more happy and festive occasions where needles are involved.
I’ve always felt it to be a unique opportunity for people to express and celebrate their individuality. Specific to Rowan, I became involved pretty much from the beginning when we were a company of about four people. A friend introduced me to the founder, Louisa Serene Schneider, and after speaking with her for five minutes I felt so aligned with her vision. Her enthusiasm and her prioritization of “safety and celebration” really hit home for me.
Currently we employ hundreds of nurses nationwide.
If nurses are interested in getting involved in this kind of work, what would you suggest they do? Are Rowan places only located in certain states?
We are always looking to hire Licensed Practical Nurses. The business has grown considerably over the last year due to Covid. In addition to the stand-alone locations on the Upper East side, and Westport outpost (coming this summer) we have studios across the country in local Target stores.
As an alternative option, we have the capability to send nurses pretty much anywhere to do in-home piercings. Nurses who are interested in learning more about our processes can go directly to heyrowan.com to learn more about the job and apply on our website. In addition to the multiple Target locations we are already in, we anticipate having around 200 locations across the United States this summer. And we are hiring.
What do you get out of it beside the money?
I’d say the satisfaction of knowing that I am providing people with a safe and memorable ear-piercing experience.
Is there anything that is important for our readers to know?
We are opening multiple new locations in California and are looking to hire hundreds of Licensed Practical Nurses.
The BCEN 2021 Distinguished CEN Award winner is Heidi Cote, BSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, Clinical Nurse III and Clinical Nurse Coordinator, Maine Medical Center, Portland, Maine. Cote was in the spotlight, along with all of BCEN’s 2021 nurse and organizational award winners, during BCEN’s virtual Certibration event on Thursday, July 22.
“Heidi Cote represents the best of certified emergency nursing practice. Every shift and every day, she raises the standard of care through her own bedside practice, her role as a nurse educator, and her commitment to helping her colleagues achieve the highest levels of clinical and professional excellence through CEN certification,” said BCEN CEO Janie Schumaker, MBA, BSN, RN, CEN, CENP, CPHQ, FABC.
The CEN is one of the oldest and most widely held nursing specialty certifications. Nurses who earn the CEN designation have demonstrated advanced knowledge, expertise and clinical judgment across the entire body of emergency nursing knowledge for patients of all ages.
Heidi Cote on EMS and ED Nurses: “EMS and ED nurses can work together to really understand the patient and where they are coming from. Sometimes when patients come in, the nursing staff does not always understand — and certainly cannot see — the environment that the patients come from.
So, at the handoff, I make sure to ask about the living situation and the environment the patient came from. Knowing that kind of information helps me as a nurse to make sure my patients get the additional resources they need…“
“Heidi represents emergency nursing to our public in such a positive light, and we couldn’t be more proud of her,” said Maine Medical Center Director of Emergency Services Faye Collins, DNP, RN, NEA-BC. “I can honestly say that in my 30 years of nursing, I have never had the privilege of knowing someone so uniquely appropriate and deserving of this award. Heidi is an amazing certified nurse, and a role model for all of us.”
When asked what receiving the BCEN Distinguished CEN Award means to her, Cote said, “There is no other kind of nursing I would rather do, and I’m greatly honored to be selected given the many hard-working and deserving emergency nurses out there. I did not earn this on my own. I have several mentors and colleagues and my leadership who have helped me along the way and given me avenues to succeed.”
“Having my CEN makes a difference because it shows that I keep up with current, evidence-based practices in emergency nursing,” Cote added. “I firmly believe having this certification makes me a safer and more effective bedside nurse.”
This year’s BCEN National Certification Champion honoree will be announced on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. BCEN’s 2021 Distinguished CFRN (flight) and Distinguished TCRN (trauma) recipients were announced earlier this year.
There are a lot more places that people would rather be on any day than in a hospital. Except for employees, most people are at hospitals because they are ill or visiting someone who is sick. That alone can result in feelings of hopelessness there isn’t much the average person can do. Hospitals are scary; the care seems cold and non-personalized, and communication is normally terrible. Discover how hospitals can use strategies to make patients feel more comfortable despite them being hospitalized to recover from illness or surgeries.
Despite so many people being fearful of them, hospitals do a lot of good work in the communities they serve. Through education and preventative opportunities, many live daily lives without the need for prolonged stays in hospitals. However, for those who have illnesses that force them to go to hospitals, strategies that they can use to make patients more comfortable are:
1. Professionally touch patients
Although touch can be misperceived, it is one of the best ways to build trust, compassion, care, and comfort between patients and doctors. Touch is vital in the treatment and done correctly, a skillful doctor can make their patient feel comfortable enough to welcome it. Touch also leaves patients feeling more human. Before their procedure is the best time to touch patients when they can see the doctor in clothes instead of scrubs and the surgical LED headlight intact. Touch also:
Offers the patient a sense of encouragement.
Builds a more personal relationship between the doctor and the patient.
Leaves the patient feeling reassured.
Gives the patient a sense of genuine support and care.
2. Increase inpatient activity
Many patients in hospitals are not bedridden, incapacitated, or disabled. Many are there overnight for observation or tests. Instead of being confined to bed during that time, having an activity room and designing activities based on age groups will give patients something to do besides lying in bed. Some activities can include cards, puzzles, or charades. They can also include music, dancing, and arts and craft activities. Being busy helps keep patients’ minds off of their tests and helps make time go faster.
3. Minimize bureaucracy
The stress of dealing with hospitalizations need not get compounded by bureaucracy. There are multiple ways to avoid endless stacks of paper when you are in the middle of being admitted into the hospital. Some things that hospitals can do to make patients more comfortable and avoid the unnecessary bureaucracy when checking in are:
Make sure paperwork is complete in advance.
Give patients a pre-op checklist.
Has the patient’s ID bracelet been printed in advance?
4. Provide access for overnight guests
One of the scariest things about staying in a hospital is being away from your loved ones. Although hospitals are not equipped to facilitate entire families, having a husband or wife to sleep next to their spouse comfortably is essential to making patients feel more at ease. When they can’t be with their spouse, many cannot rest and go into surgery or test sleep deprivation. In addition, to support, a spouse is there to assure their spouse, get information about the procedure from the doctors and nurses, and ask questions that the patient may not have thought to ask.
5. Make the hospital room homier
Last but certainly not least, hospitals can make patients feel more comfortable by making everything about the patient’s stay and care feel more like home. Although a hospital is a rigorous and professional atmosphere, a hospital room with a window with curtains, a spare bed for a spouse with a blanket, a side table, and television are the beginnings of making a patient feel more at home. In addition, hospitals can also:
Dim the lights.
Adjust the temperature to the patient’s liking.
Add essential oils to a diffuser.
Allow patients to bring a picture from home.
Allow patients to wear gowns from home.
Have music playing.
Offer more food options.
Although most times patients are in the hospital to recover, there are strategies that hospitals can use to make patients feel more comfortable. Five of the top strategies are above, and if incorporated by the hospital, patients will feel a lot less anxiety about having to stay.
If the nursing shortage is bad now, chances are it’s going to get much worse.
“Hospitals were having difficulty finding nurses to fill positions before the pandemic,” notes Kendra McMillan, MPH, RN, Senior Policy Advisor for Nursing Practice and Work Environment at the American Nurses Association (ANA). “In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 175,900 RN openings were projected each year through 2029, when we factor in nurses leaving the workforce for reasons such as retirement.Unfortunately, the pandemic’s demand on the healthcare system has further exacerbated a long-standing projection that has burdened our nursing workforce.”
Doctors and nurses are overworked, thanks to chronic staffing shortages made worse by a pandemic that drove thousands from the field, writes The New York Times. On the West Coast, “the nursing shortage affecting the whole nation is impacting the Northwest region as well,” according to an article in The Bulletin (headquartered in Bend, OR), quoting a Kaiser spokeswoman.
“Finding experienced nurses has always been a challenge in Southern California,” according to Cherie Fox, RN, MSN, CCRN-K, Executive Director Acute Care Services, Providence Mission Hospital, Mission Viejo, California. “Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing nurses retire, move out of the area, and reduce hours, all of which has amplified our staffing challenge just a bit.” Fox led the initial team that opened the COVID ICU and telemetry units during the pandemic. She recently coauthored a paper in Critical Care Nurse detailing Providence Mission Hospital’s COVID response.
And a recent study found that nurses are reporting large declines in their mental health. More alarming, nurses, especially those who are younger, are feeling less committed to the profession.
Multiple factors, coupled with the pandemic, are influencing the nursing shortage, according to McMillan. These include burnout, work environment stress, workplace violence, an aging workforce that is retiring, and an aging population with comorbidities.
To address the growing crisis, hospitals are pursuing multiple solutions, including hiring travel nurses. “I’ve talked to several emergency departments across the country that are having those issues where they’re having to have temporary nurses come in to the emergency department,” says Ron Kraus, MSN, RN, EMT, CEN, TCRN, ACNS-BC, Emergency Nurses Association president and Emergency Department Clinical Nurse Specialist at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.
Providence Mission Hospital has also made use of travel nurses and offers a referral bonus to current caregivers. Fox notes that nurses are taking time off while others are getting ready for vacations. “While the time off is needed and approved, it does add further to dependence on traveling nurses.”
“Hiring bonuses, tuition reimbursement, and loan repayment are examples of incentives offered to nurses to boost recruitment and retention efforts,” notes the ANA’s McMillan. But, she adds, hiring bonuses don’t support efforts to retain nurses who are already employed in the organization.
“Nurses are facing longer shifts and are working more consecutive shifts to meet the persistent demands on our healthcare system” notes McMillan. The nurses who remain are burned out physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
The ENA, notes Kraus, is focusing on helping hospitals create a healthy work environment. Having a healthy work environment that empowers nurses, while supporting their needs, helps to overcome fatigue and moral distress, notes Fox.
Calling it an “amazing profession,” Kraus would encourage individuals to enter the profession. For a lot of us, it was very trying, but it’s a calling,” he says.
Darius Fulghum—like so many of our male Nurses of the Week—seems to enjoy complaining about the toughness of a BSN program. “Getting my degree is probably the hardest thing I’ve done,” he told Sky Sports, in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of 2019. “I’m going to the Olympics, and I’m still saying it was hard.”
Covid-19 collided with the 6”1” 201-lb boxer’s Olympic dreams, but he’s now making a splash as a promising pro. His BSN, though, still ranks as one of his proudest achievements.
The Texas-born Fulghum was already an outstanding wrestler when he decided to major in nursing at Prairie View A&M University. How did he end up in a program as academically demanding as a BSN? “I started getting serious about my health and being fascinated by the human body and learning about it, and that’s how I got more into science;” nursing seemed to follow naturally. His father (a graduate of Florida A&M; most of the family are HBCU alums) was the one who first suggested nursing. Fulghum says: “My dad was the one who pushed me into it. When I was in high school, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go, but he said they really need men, and it’s a good profession. It’s never stagnant. You always have something to do. The fact that you can help people is the most rewarding thing.”
As a military brat, Darius was well-prepared for the demands of nursing as well as athletics. Of his father, he told the Prairie View A&M blog, “He is the most disciplined guy I know and he made sure that we learned.” And somehow, Darius not only kept up with his BSN studies, he also trained so effectively that he won the Golden Gloves in 2018, the year before he graduated.
In 2019, when Fulghum graduated and passed his NCLEX, he had expected to store his pin in mothballs when he aced his Olympic trials and trained in preparation for Tokyo. When Covid hit, it was a painful blow (no pun intended, and we promise to make no facetious references to knocking people down and being able to patch them up afterwards).
As a boxer, though, Fulgham has had plenty of experience with making himself get up after being knocked down. Will he exchange his boxing gear for hospital PPE at some point? He’s not sure. But, if anyone is ever in need of medical assistance at a Darius Fulghum match, they will be in good hands and we might see him as a Nurse of the Week again one day.
For more on Fulghum, PVAMU, and his story, see the below video or see this article.
Jasmine De Moya, 17, has dreamed for years of working in the medical field, and she yearned to spend time with older people, missing her grandparents, who live in the Dominican Republic. A program sponsored by the New Jewish Home health system in New York City that combines volunteering and free training for entry-level health jobs, career coaching and assistance on her college prep is helping make her hopes come alive.
Over the past three years, Jasmine has learned a lot about caring for older people, from the importance of speaking slowly and being gentle with frail residents who may have hearing or comprehension problems to how to brush their teeth or bathe them.
“We practiced first with mannequins, so when we actually [worked on residents] I was in shock,” she said. “Cleaning a body and their private areas, I never expected I would do that. But then I got used to it.”
Last summer, Jasmine completed a certified nursing assistant training course. She has also researched and applied for colleges and student loans with help from an organization that the geriatrics career development program provides to volunteers like her. After graduating from high school last month, Jasmine will start nursing school at Lehman College in the Bronx in the fall. She’ll be the first in her family to attend college.
Since it launched in 2006, the geriatrics career development program has helped more than 700 high school students from 10 underserved schools in New York City get hands-on experience with geriatric care at the New Jewish Home in Manhattan and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Gardens senior living facility in the Bronx. Ninety-nine percent of program participants graduate from high school, and more than 150 have gone on to college.
The advantages of the program are also evident for the New Jewish Home, which operates two nursing homes, senior housing and assisted living facilities and a home care business in the New York City area. By familiarizing young people with geriatric care careers, the system aims to address its growing need for workers as the tide of baby boomers enter their later years.
Six of the top 10 fastest-growing jobs in the decade leading up to 2029 are projected to be in health care, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, including home health and personal care aides.
“One of our biggest challenges is that there aren’t enough people who want to work in this industry,” said Dr. Jeffrey Farber, president and CEO of the New Jewish Home system. “People don’t want to work with older adults.”
The New Jewish Home began its career development program for teens 15 years ago with the idea of training and hiring them as nursing assistants, Farber said.
But it has become more than that. Working a few afternoons a week for three years with older adults, students gain insights into aging and develop relationships with residents, some of whom are assigned as mentors. It also gives students assistance with figuring out career goals and putting the pieces in place to get there.
“I think the students would be successful without us, but we provide the structure and resources to help them succeed,” said John Cruz, senior director of workforce initiatives at the New Jewish Home, who oversees the program.
Students generally must devote two afternoons after school every week and several weeks during the summer, said Cruz. The program curriculum, developed with Columbia University Teachers College, initially teaches students basics about patient privacy, Medicare/Medicaid and overcoming stereotypes about older people. By the time they’re seniors in high school, students can train as certified nursing assistants and work as paid interns supporting the residents on the days they spend at the facility.
As part of the program, students may also become certified in other jobs, including patient care technician, phlebotomist, EKG technician, and medical coding and billing staff.
The pandemic, however, changed things. The New Jewish Home in Manhattan was hit hard, with dozens of covid deaths at the 514-bed facility.
Since volunteers weren’t permitted inside the facility, the home instead hired many of them as part-time employees so they could continue to help seniors. This also gave students a chance to complete the clinical training portion of their certified nursing assistant coursework.
In addition to the program for high school students, the health system created a program in 2014 for people ages 18 to 24 who are unemployed and out of school, training them to become certified home health aides and nursing assistants. Nearly 200 have completed the program and the New Jewish Home has hired three-quarters of them, at a starting wage of $15 to $19 an hour.
Both programs are supported primarily by grants from foundations.
In February, the state announced that nursing homes could accept visitors again, following federal guidelines. But many nursing home residents still rely on virtual visits, and during the spring Jasmine spent her time helping them connect with their families and other loved ones by iPad or phone.
The isolation was hard on the residents, and students provided sorely missed company. Asked how the students helped her, resident Dominga Marquez, 78, said, “Just talk.”
“We are lonely,” said Marquez. “I have a lot of friends that used to come every week to visit but, with the pandemic, nobody came.”
Kennedy Johnson, 17, said helping seniors experience virtual visits with their families during the pandemic made him realize how much he takes for granted.
“With the pandemic and doing the virtual calls, seeing how these families don’t get to interact with their loved ones every day, that really opened my eyes,” he said.
Working at the New Jewish Home was the first time Kennedy had ever been in a nursing home or seen the kinds of work that staff members do.
In the fall, he will start at Morehouse College in Atlanta and plans to major in political science. His goal: “I want to be a health care attorney so I can represent people … like this.”
Published courtesy of KHN (Kaiser Health News) a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.