From ultrasound powered by artificial intelligence to image-sharing tools on the cloud, technology advancements are improving the quality of health care at an unprecedented rate. Yet, when it comes to one of the most universal and compelling health care needs – a smooth and successful pregnancy and childbirth – we still have a long way to go.
Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. The United States accounts for the highest maternal death rate in the developed world, and the number has been steadily increasing over the last two decades. What should be a moment of joy and celebration can become an unbearable tragedy.
The operative word in these troubling statistics is “preventable.” And one of the keys to avoiding these tragedies is more closely monitoring the health of the mom and baby. The idea that you can’t manage what you don’t measure rings particularly true in pregnancy and childbirth.
Fetal and maternal health monitors provide invaluable data that can support clinicians and health care providers as they need to make quick and accurate clinical assessments throughout a pregnancy and during labor and delivery. However, these health care needs are at odds with recent trends in labor preferences.
For example, increasingly, expectant mothers want to take a more active role in their birth plans, not simply turn over the reins to the care staff. A growing trend among these patients is the desire for more mobility during labor.
The ability to get out of bed, walk around and even bathe can improve their overall comfort and experience – and may help decrease the length of labor. Not only do patients feel a sense of empowerment by choosing their birthing process, increased mobility may also decrease the length of labor.
During labor, women are often entangled in a sea of cords and monitors, significantly limiting their movement. Fortunately, expectant moms now have the option for cordless monitors that replaces the traditional, cumbersome belts, cables to support the traditional transducer system.
But as with many things, there’s still a role for “traditional” practices – including, in the case of childbirth, more movement and engagement on the part of the mother. Pairing this focus on the patient with advanced technology, we can achieve the best of both worlds: safer, smoother births with lower maternal-infant mortality.
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.
When Nathan Hansen, RN, was still in nursing school at the State College of Florida, he often used YouTube videos to help him study. While watching videos one day, he saw a story about a young man who got the call to donate bone marrow to help save someone’s life. At the time, Hansen didn’t know it, but one day, he too would get that call.
Hansen, who works in the operating room at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Florida, says that after seeing the video, he was moved. “I regularly donate blood and wanted to immediately sign up to be on the list to donate bone marrow,” recalls Hansen. “I wanted to get the call, but I didn’t really expect to.”
After signing up to be a bone marrow donor through Be the Match, the largest bone marrow donation registry, which is run by the National Marrow Donor Program, Hansen went about his life. As he said, he didn’t think he would get called. A few years later, though, Hansen’s phone rang, and he was told that he was a match for a 13-year-old boy in Washington, DC, who needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
When Be the Match contacted Hansen, they still gave him a choice. Just because he signed up to be a donor didn’t mean that he absolutely had to. But for Hansen, it was a no-brainer. “I was excited to get the call and definitely wanted to help in any way,” he says.
After going through many lab draws and physicals, Hansen headed to Washington, DC in June 2017, about four months after getting that first call—and he used his Paid Time Off to do it. “Again, this was a no-brainer,” Hansen says. Be the Match covered his travel and accommodations.
Hansen has never met the recipient whose life he saved, as this information is kept confidential. He had no pain post-op, and he says that he was only a little uncomfortable, much like you would feel with muscle soreness.
Because of his compassion, Hansen was nominated to be the New Nurse of the Year at Blake Medical Center—and he won. “I was honored even to be nominated,” he says. “So I was elated when I actually won.”
“I would absolutely do it all over again, and I think that others should sign up too,” says Hansen.
For more information on becoming a bone marrow donor, go to www.BeTheMatch.org.
Summer is here, and the time is right…for taking vacations.
Think you don’t have time? Think again. Flo Leighton, MS, RN, PMHNP-BC, a board certified mental health nurse practitioner as well as an adjunct faculty at New York University College of Nursing, has a private practice in Chelsea, New York, where she sees health care professionals, including nurses and nursing students. Leighton’s background also includes working in inpatient psychiatry and the adult ER at NYPH/ Columbia University medical center.
Leighton took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions about why nurses not only should, but also really need to take vacations.
What are the main reasons nurses should take time to take vacations?
Nurses have the type of job that requires a lot of mental clarity, physical demands, and empathy towards patients and their families. Nurses often care for a full load of patients and have to juggle many competing priorities throughout the course of their shift. Many nurses work 12-hour shifts, evening or night shifts, and may be on their feet for several hours at a time. Nurses that work in ICU, Oncology, ER, or other high-acuity areas are repeatedly exposed to stressful events. It is for these reasons nurses need to make time for themselves by taking vacations.
What justifications do many nurses use for why they can’t take time off?
Some nurses may state they cannot take time off due to financial issues, family obligations, being in school while working, having another job, or wanting to save their elective time up for a rainy day. Sometimes nurses may be prevented from taking peak time—summer or holiday—off for vacation due to staffing issues or not having seniority with highly requested weeks.
Suppose nurses don’t have the funds to go away. Is taking a staycation good enough? If so, what limits should they put on them or what tips can you give for how nurses can stay relaxed during a staycation?
A staycation is a great alternative for those who do not have the money to take a big vacation. The most important thing to keep in mind is to set limits for yourself by limiting work-related projects and correspondence while not at work. Refraining from checking work email will help facilitate being more present and connected in what you are doing in your personal time and help create a better work/life balance. It is easier to feel recharged and less burnt out at work this way.
Whether it is taking a day trip, a yoga or spin class, going for a run, lunching with family or friends, or a spa day—there are simple ways to make the most out of a staycation.
How will taking vacations or time off help nurses? What can it do for them physically and mentally?
Taking vacations can be a great tool for managing stress and preventing burnout and compassion fatigue. Nurses who struggle with stress on the job are more likely to make medication errors, not feel engaged at work, have higher turnover, and negative patient outcomes.
If they decide to take vacations, what can they do to make them less stressful?
Trying to use time off as a mental vacation in addition to a physical location change is really important. We are accustomed to multitasking and doing structured tasks with multiple deadlines. It is good to try not to plan anything that is too structured or choose a location that offers planning of activities so that you don’t have to. Allowing others to plan is a nice departure from a highly structured and stressful job as well.
Is there anything that is important for readers to know?
Nurses who repeatedly are exposed to stressful situations—deaths, cardiac arrests, violence on the job, etc.—either directly or witnessing through others are at risk to develop symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). Examples of STS may include irritability on the job, frequent call outs, higher turnover, changes in concentration, and avoidance of stressful situations on the job. If not managed properly this can develop into PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Great stress management, including taking time away from work is crucial.
It’s that time of year again—the time where we struggle to whip our bodies into beach-ready shape. While some people may be successful in this endeavor, others can be left frustrated by the absence of six-pack abs or sculpted arms. But the reality is, not everyone has the time, money, or energy to devote to countless hours at the gym, especially nurses. Sure, exercising to be physically fit has its upside, but there are more reasons to exercise than to look good.
If you feel like you’re in a fitness slump, maybe these often overlooked benefits of exercise will change your perspective and reinvigorate your workouts. Hopefully, you’ll discover a newfound love of fitness in a way that feels right to you, your body, and your exercise goals.
1. Exercise boosts your mood.
Exercise increases levels of the feel-good chemicals in your brain like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which can elevate your mood almost immediately. Additionally, research has indicated that exercise may be a useful component of treating anxiety and depression. If you find you’re feeling down, an exercise session might be just the thing you need to enhance your sense of well-being.
2. Exercise can improve sleep.
Having trouble falling asleep or struggling with insomnia? Vigorous bouts of aerobic exercise (like walking or running), in particular, have been associated with a decrease in the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, an increase in the amount of time spent sleeping, and an overall improvement in sleep quality, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Although there’s still much to learn about the connection between sleep and exercise, it’s worth giving exercise a shot if you spend more time counting sheep than you do catching some shut-eye.
3. Exercise can increase memory and alertness.
The life-saving skills that nurses perform day in and day out require alertness and a sharp memory. Researchers from the University of British Columbia discovered that consistent aerobic exercise could increase the size of the hippocampus, the location of the brain that manages your verbal memory and learning. Even though the study was performed on women ranging in age from 70 to 80 years old, it’s encouraging research that suggests exercise may improve the function and structure of our brains. At present, it’s not clear which activities are the best to bolster cognitive health, but experts agree that some exercise is better than none at all.
4. Exercise may increase your chances of living longer.
“Science shows that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers,” reports the CDC. Furthermore, exercise is one of the few lifestyle modifications you can do to increase your chances of a long, healthy life. Just how much activity do you need? The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity to reduce your chances of premature death.
Don’t have time to complete a full-length exercise session or class with your jam-packed schedule? No problem! You can still experience the benefits of it with short bursts of exercise throughout the day—so, find something you like and get moving!
While it’s possible for ticks that carry Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections to be present year-round, they’re especially active in the spring and the summer months. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and it’s a good reminder to exercise extra caution when you’re outdoors. To prevent tick bites when you’re outside, following these recommendations, according to the CDC.
1. Be cautious of your surroundings.
Wooded areas, leaf litter, and tall, overgrown grass are among the favorite hangouts for ticks. Steer clear of these areas as much as possible. If you enjoy hiking, walking, or running in wooded areas, try to stay in the middle of the paths or trails.
2. Use tick repellent.
The CDC recommends using a long-lasting tick repellent on your skin that consists of at least 20% DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. When applying the product on children, use the product as instructed.
If you’re looking for a natural alternative to chemical sprays, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, thyme, and geraniol essential oils have tick-repellent qualities and are commercially available at many stores.
3. Spray your clothes.
Planning to be outdoors for several hours to days? If so, consider pre-treating your clothes with a product containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin lasts for several washes and can also be used on outdoor gear like tents and hiking boots. Additionally, you can purchase pre-treated clothing from a variety of well-known sporting goods stores.
4. Bathe when you come indoors.
The CDC suggests bathing within two hours of coming indoors to wash off or identify any ticks that may be crawling on you.
5. Perform tick checks.
When you come in from outside, scan your body for ticks. This time of year, nymph ticks are the most active and may be small (like the size of a poppy seed) and can easily go undetected. Use a mirror so you can check your entire body, paying particular attention to the more hidden places like the belly button, behind the ears, the scalp, the armpits, the groin, and the back of the knees.
If you find a tick, promptly remove it by placing a fine-pointed pair of tweezers between the skin and the tick, and pull it straight out. You may want to save the tick to be tested and consider talking with your doctor. In highly endemic areas, your physician may choose to do a prophylactic course of antibiotics, or they may take a different approach to monitoring tick-borne diseases.
6. Check your outdoor gear.
Ticks can hitch a ride on practically any item, so be sure to carefully look over your things before bringing them into the house.
7. Inspect your pets.
Another vehicle ticks can use to move from one place to another is your pets. In addition to examining your pet’s fur, the American Kennel Club recommends looking in their ears, between their toes, under their tail, in the genital area, around their eyes, and under a collar or harness.
If you’re unsure of how to protect your pet this season, talk with your veterinarian about your options.
8. Dry your clothing using high heat.
To kill ticks that might be on your clothing, use the highest heat setting on your dryer for 10 minutes—ticks can withstand cold and medium temperatures.
Many people who contract Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections have no recollection of being bitten by one of these bloodsuckers. Although it may seem like a hassle, take tick prevention seriously because a small tick bite can cause significant health problems.