Students, Retirees, and School Nurses Pitch In to Fight COVID-19

Students, Retirees, and School Nurses Pitch In to Fight COVID-19

Nursing students, nursing schools, school nurses grounded after school closures, and retired nurses are all joining the fight against the rising pandemic.

Here are just a few examples to be found across the United States:

Jackson, Mississippi

Seniors at Belhaven’s School of Nursing are performing community outreach and educating the public on how to protect themselves and others from the virus. Students are teaching infection-control techniques, discussed sanitation practices with the college’s operations team, and have posted instructions in campus dorms on maintaining safe hygiene. Senior Rebecca Rylander tells Jackson’s WJTV, “There is a desperate need for healthcare workers amidst this pandemic, and I want to help fill that need.”

Long Island, New York

At nursing and medical programs in Long Island, students barred from immediate contact with patients are playing an active role behind the scenes and on the front lines. While medical students at the Renaissance School of Medicine in Stonybrook are conducting online research and serving patients via telehealth sessions, the Barbara H. Hagan School of Nursing and Health Sciences tells Newsday that they have “alumni, graduate students and faculty working in emergency rooms and testing sites, and undergraduates are working or volunteering as nursing assistants.”

Darien, Connecticut

School nurses have volunteered at Darien High School’s COVID-19 testing station. Lisa Grant, a school district nurse at Hindley School, said “We had been asking our director what we can do to help so when Darien signed up for a site, we volunteered.” Yvonne Dempsey, of Ox Ridge School was also ready to help out. Dempsey told the Darien Times, “As nurses, we put ourselves out there any way we can. I figured that’s something I can do in my free time with the schools closed.” She adds, “Testing is the key — testing and isolation as much as possible is the only way to stop the spread.”

Framingham, Massachusetts, Caldwell, New Jersey, and elsewhere

In response to calls from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing faculty at colleges, universities, and community colleges are rushing to donate supplies of everything from masks to isolation gowns, to hand sanitizer. “This is a time when we all need to come together as a community and work cooperatively to fight this pandemic for the health and safety of everyone,” MassBay Community College President David Podell told the Framingham Source. Jennifer Rhodes, DNP, a faculty member at Caldwell University’s School of Nursing and Public Health, remarked, “As a former emergency room nurse, I cannot imagine what they are experiencing on the front lines right now.”

Chapman, Nebraska

Retired nurses are also answering individual states’ call for help. Nebraska TV spoke to 61-year-old Mary Steiner, a former emergency response nurse, has volunteered for the Central Nebraska Reserve Core. As she waits to put to use her training in natural disaster and emergency preparedness, Mary remarks, “If it’s something that becomes as serious as what’s going on in New York City right now… They’re wanting all hands on deck and so regardless of what my workplace setting has been in the past I know they’re going to be able to use me.”

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Nurses Association Approve New Contract

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Nurses Association Approve New Contract

Three years after their dispute began, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) have reached an agreement and approved a new two-year contract deal. The union representing Brigham and Women’s hospital supports over 3,400 nurses who accused the hospital of putting profits ahead of patient care.

In 2016, nurses from Brigham threatened a historic one-day strike. Both sides ultimately reached a contract deal to avoid the strike the day before it was set to begin what would have been the largest walkout of nurses in state history. Prior to the strike being called off, Brigham had planned to lock out the striking nurses for four additional days by hiring temporary replacements and transferring hundreds of patients to other facilities.

The nurses union has continued to clash with other hospital executives since then, carrying out a strike at Tufts Medical Center in 2017 and pushing a controversial ballot question to regulate nurse staffing levels in hospitals in 2018, which was rejected by voters.

The new agreement shows a drastic change in attitude from all sides. Contract negotiations between Brigham and the nurses association had reached a bitter point prior to the cancelled strike in 2016. But this time around, the talks were very different and all sides can take part in celebrating a new agreement between the two organizations.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital released the following statement following the new contract deal: “The process of negotiations was collaborative and respectful as the hospital and the MNA worked to achieve our mutual goal: ensuring that nurses have a safe, supportive environment in which to provide the best care for patients.”

The new contract will take place retroactively to last October and expire in September 2020. The deal includes a 12 percent raise over two years for nurses in their first 19 years on the job and a 4.5 percent increase for nurses at the top of the wage scale. The contract also maintains pensions and other existing benefits.

To learn more about the new two-year contract deal between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Nurses Association three years after avoiding a historic strike, visit here.

Massachusetts Nurses Association Trying Again for Patient Limit Legislation

Massachusetts Nurses Association Trying Again for Patient Limit Legislation

The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) is trying a second time to establish patient limits in state legislation. This comes six months after losing a ballot question in the November 2018 state election.

As reported by the Boston Business Journal, the current legislation being reviewed now would hire an independent researcher to study issues affecting nurses, such as staffing, violence, injuries, and quality of life. The data collected by the researcher will then be used by state legislators to determine healthcare staffing needs and acute care patient limits.

“If these studies determine there is a best practice limit on the number of patients a nurse should care for at one time, that should inform future policy discussions,” MNA spokesman Joe Markman told the Boston Business Journal.

The original measure from this past election was defeated largely because of lobbying from the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), who spent $25 million to defeat the ballot. This current bill would be revisiting the same legislation, which raises points for state consideration regarding nurse staffing measures.

“The recent ballot measure raised important issues and challenges that our nurses still face today regarding their ability to give patients the quality care they need and deserve,” Massachusetts state Senator Diana DiZoglio, a sponsor of the current legislation, shared with the Boston Business Journal in an email. “While the policy prescription on the ballot was rejected by the majority of voters, we still need to remain vigilant in identifying best practices to ensure the very best patient care is afforded to all.”

MNA has been working to get nurse-to-patient ratios at all Massachusetts hospitals for several years, including a ballot measure in 2014 that was removed, after Governor Deval Patrick passed a law patient limit law. Markman said this study is necessary to convince voters, after the 2018 election.

“The hospital industry spent … million(s) misleading people about those facts and sometimes outright lying,” Markman told the Boston Business Journal. “For example, they continuously said ED wait times would increase with safe patient limits. That is just wrong and not supported by the evidence. Based on how the industry ran its campaign, it’s clear the public will benefit from additional independent studies.”

Exhaustion and Cynicism Drive Burnout

Exhaustion and Cynicism Drive Burnout

From 2014 to 2017, physician burnout increased by 5% at the Massachusetts General Hospital Physicians Organization in Boston, according to a recent analysis.

Other research indicates that nearly half of physicians nationwide are experiencing burnout symptoms, and a study published in October found burnout increases the odds of physician involvement in patient safety incidents, unprofessionalism, and lower patient satisfaction. Burnout has also been linked to negative financial effects at physician practices and other healthcare organizations.

The research published in JAMA found exhaustion and cynicism were the primary drivers of increased burnout at Mass General. The research was based on survey data collected from more than 1,700 physicians.

The survey data showed exhaustion increased from 52.9% in 2014 to 57.7% in 2017, and cynicism increased from 44.8% in 2014 to 51.1% in 2017.

The exhaustion finding was particularly troubling, the JAMA researchers wrote. “We found physicians were more vulnerable to emotional exhaustion than any of the other subscales of burnout. Physicians reporting high levels of exhaustion were more likely to reduce their clinical schedules, reduce the number of patients in their practice, leave the practice, or retire.”

The researchers noted that physician turnover has several costs including patient and clinician distress as well as the expense of replacing physicians, which can be as high as three times a doctor’s annual salary.

Primary care physicians reported higher levels of exhaustion compared to medical specialists. “These findings may be associated with the amount of time primary care physicians spend documenting on the EHR and serving as the clinicians responsible for the management of patients’ multiple complex medical and social problems,” the researchers wrote.

Burnout data points

The JAMA article has several other key data points:

  • Early-career physicians who had less than a decade of practice experience since their training were more susceptible to burnout than veteran physicians.
  • The higher burnout rate in 2017 may be linked to implementation of a new electronic health record system because average time devoted to administrative tasks increased from 23.7% in 2014 to 27.9% in 2017, and increased time spent on administrative tasks was linked to higher burnout.
  • Several favorable working conditions were associated with lower odds of burnout: workflow satisfaction, positive relationships with colleagues, time and resources for continuing medical education, opportunities to impact decision making, and having a trusted adviser.

Addressing physician burnout

The lead author of the research, Marcela del Carmen, MD, MPH, explained that the physician group has implemented several efforts to reduce burnout.

“We have allocated funding to each of our 16 clinical departments to develop and institute initiatives to mitigate burnout in their departments. We have central efforts including sponsoring social events to enhance connectivity amongst the faculty, efforts to improve our use of the electronic health record through personal- and practice-level training, and funding to support peer-to-peer coaching programs, yoga, and meditation sessions.”

Del Carmen’s research team also suggested that burnout prevention efforts could be tailored for early-career physicians, who reported relatively high dissatisfaction with department leadership, relationships with colleagues, quality of care delivery, control over work environment, and career fit.

“These findings point to potential opportunities in this vulnerable group to mitigate burnout, such as initiatives that promote community building and networking and harnessing effective leadership,” the researchers wrote.

This story was originally posted on MedPage Today.

How a Nursing Career with VA Changed a Former Combat Medic’s Life

How a Nursing Career with VA Changed a Former Combat Medic’s Life

Jeffrey Ballard, R.N. and Army Veteran, began his medical career as an emergency medical technician (EMT). After gaining experience as a paramedic and a licensed practical nurse (LPN), he became a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at a Level 1 Trauma Center. He was deployed to Afghanistan two years later as an infantry medic, where he sustained injuries in combat. Following a year and a half of surgeries and physical therapy back home, Ballard returned to emergency nursing, but his struggle with PTSD prompted his departure within a year.

Ballard received care at the Manchester VA Medical Center, and he decided to continue his nursing career there. “I wanted other Veterans to have the same comfort I experienced,” he said.

Today, Ballard has been working with the VA for nearly five years and serves in a program that helps elderly Veterans maintain their independence. Working alongside compassionate nurses and caring for combat Veterans like himself has helped Ballard rediscover his passion and flourish in his career. With his experience, he’s been able to better understand and build trust with Veterans in a way that generates comfort and healing for both parties. Recently, Ballard won the title “Red Sox Nurse Hero of 2018” and was invited to throw a game-opening pitch at the historic Fenway Park.

VA offers Veterans not only life-changing care but also life-changing careers. Join our team and discover the unique rewards that come from serving our nation’s heroes. To get started, search for opportunities near you and apply today.

This story was originally posted on VAntage Point. 

UMass Dartmouth Doctoral Nursing Student Receives Jonas Philanthropies Grant

UMass Dartmouth Doctoral Nursing Student Receives Jonas Philanthropies Grant

UMass Dartmouth Doctoral Nursing Student Receives Jonas Philanthropies Grant

A University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from Jonas Philanthropies. Christine Fournier Bell, a second-year nursing Ph.D student, received the Jonas Nurse Scholar grant for studying the effects of combined educational and behavioral intervention on pain management practices.

“Christine was chosen for this honor based on her scholarly record and her commitment to improving the care of persons with substance use disorders through nursing intervention in the acute care setting,” said UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing Dean Kimberly Christopher. “We are very proud of Christine Bell and of our Ph.D. program. This is a wonderful testament to our program.”

Bell is the second Jonas Scholar from UMass Dartmouth. In addition to receiving the grant, she will participate in the Jonas Nurse Leaders Program in Washington DC.

“I am humbled and grateful for such an honor,” Bell shared with the UMass Dartmouth Office of Public Affairs. “As a nurse who cares deeply for this population, I look forward to working alongside nurses to find new ways to provide innovative care and treatment to people living with the disease of substance use disorder. There is always hope.”

Launched in 2008, the Jonas Nurse Scholars program has awarded more than 1,000 scholars across the US. The invitation-only program supports development of doctoral nursing students to address the nationwide nursing faculty shortage.

For more information about the Jonas Scholars and Jonas Philanthropies, click here. For more information about the UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing, click here.

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