This Nurse of the Week clearly understands the value of companion animals in healing.
Jennifer Smith is an RN at the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rome, New York. She works in the Center’s adult day health care program, where adults in need of supervision can enjoy socializing while receiving medical care while living at home instead of being isolated in a facility.
While Smith enjoys all of her patients, she formed a special bond with 60-year-old John Burley. When her patient shared photos of Boomer, his amazing dog (of course he was amazing!), Smith, who has a 13-year-old dog of her own, was an attentive audience. Burley and Boomer had lived together for most of Boomer’s 12 years, and when Burley had to move from Arkansas to Rome, New York, leaving the rest of his family behind, his furry housemate became his go-to for warmth, joy, and emotional support. Man, dog, and nurse all jogged along together for a while, and all was well.
Then, one day, dog and man were parted.
Burley came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized for that and other lung problems. As he lived alone and had no one nearby to look after Boomer, the city stepped in. With Boomer’s person unavailable for an indefinite time, the good boy – a good, 12-year-old boy-dog – was sent to a shelter. Burley, isolated in the hospital and sick with worry as well as pneumonia, turned to another vital source of support, his nurse. And his nurse came through for him.
During the frantic call, it transpired that Burley didn’t even know what shelter Boomer had been taken to, but a determined Smith looked up local shelters, made a few calls, and traced him to a Humane Society pound. She recalled, “I was a little panicked because I didn’t know how long he had been in the shelter or if he had already been adopted to another family. It’s Christmas time and people get animals.” Having been with her 13-year-old dog since she was a puppy, Smith said, “I fully understand the panic. It made my heart sad for him and Boomer.”
The next day, she devoted her lunch break to the Boomer Quest. As soon as she saw that the amazing dog was safe, Smith phoned her patient to relieve his mind. But she couldn’t imagine having to tell her patient that Boomer was caged and in the hands of fate. Applying the golden rule, Smith actually adopted the terrier mix and brought him to her home. Before long, Boomer became a welcome house guest and formed a companionable relationship with Smith’s 13-year-old. She dismissed the adoption decision, remarking, “It’s one less worry that John has, and he needs to focus on getting better and taking care of himself and know Boomer is in good hands.”
Burley is now at the day health care center again after recovering from his illness, and Smith brings Boomer to work with her. She considers the dog important to her patient’s healing process and has prescribed visits between man and dog twice a day during her shifts. Most important to Smith? “The focus is on John getting better and taking it one day at a time.” Part of making that happen, as she sees it, is that “I made a promise to John to take care of Boomer. I will take care of him as long as he needs me to. John knows that.”
As for Burley, although he suffers from speech problems, those present easily understood when he stated, “I love Jennifer.” As for Smith, she says that seeing man and Boomer reunited is the “only Christmas gift I need right now.”
For more details on this story, click here or here.
Governor Kathy Hochul today, at a breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York, announced a State University of New York and City University of New York Scholarship Program called the Nurses For Our Future Scholarship that will cover tuition for 1,000 new healthcare workers to get RNs at SUNY and CUNY. The program comes in an effort to help address the shortage in healthcare and the lack of workers in hospitals around the state.
“Just a year ago, we were celebrating our healthcare workers as the heroes they are, and the pandemic has shown us that we cannot afford a labor shortage in the healthcare industry,” Governor Hochul said. “I’m proud to announce our new Nurses For Our Future Scholarship as an important step to train more nurses and bring them into our healthcare system. SUNY and CUNY scholarships move us toward a more prosperous and equal New York, by working to make sure every New Yorker has access to training programs, one-, two-, and four-year degrees, community college; SUNY and CUNY should be the pathway to the middle class.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, hospitals have been facing a labor shortage and a massive influx of patients. This scholarship program is designed to recruit and retrain nursing and health care professionals to serve in NYSRNs which are most in need. There are currently more than 9,300 openings for Registered Nurses in New York State. The Nurses For Our Future Scholarship will mean 1,000 more students can enter a nursing program in either SUNY or CUNY. Students will be able to complete their programs with a flexible schedule, either part-time or full-time.
This effort will incentivize New York State residents active in the health care field to upskill their career path and advance their education through the SUNY or CUNY system.
In addition, the New York State Department of Labor will help market these new opportunities to existing and unemployed workers, including opportunities available through regional SUNY Educational Opportunity Centers for entry-level nurse certifications in high demand including Certified Nursing Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse and Nursing Home Aide.
Job Search Assistance
The New York State Job Bank features nearly 220,000 jobs available today in New York State and users can search by keyword, zip code and browse by job title and company name. By using the JobZone job search and career development tool, individuals can plan their future, organize their job search, develop resumes and explore careers.
The Department of Labor also hosts daily live virtual workshops and webinars on relevant topics for job seekers in all industries, like resume writing, job search and interviewing techniques. The agency partners with hundreds of businesses to host Virtual Career Fairs where job seekers can engage with businesses in a job fair setting, browse their available jobs and connect directly with businesses hiring to ask questions, all without leaving home.
For those looking to work part-time, the state has a part-time hiring opportunities job bank listing nearly 30,000 part-time jobs available now in New York State sorted by location, job title and company that can also be searched by keyword.
Businesses can use the Department of Labor to access millions of potential job seekers through no-cost programs and services. They can post jobs on the NYS Job Bank through direct indexing from an existing website or post with staff assistance and can get direct access to the NYS Talent Bank with millions of qualified job seekers to meet their hiring needs. They can also sign up to take part in upcoming career fairs or learn about available tax credits and other hiring incentives.
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said, “With more than 70 nursing programs spanning every degree from LPN to BSN and that are found in every corner of New York State as well as online, SUNY stands ready to meet the growing demand for nurses who are the heartbeat of healthcare. We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership by offering this scholarship incentive to those aspiring to join this noble calling, and for including the option to attend college part time or full time, giving our students the flexibility to manage their education and life responsibilities. SUNY, the largest comprehensive system of higher education, is ready to meet the challenge.”
CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said, “The pandemic has put a sharp focus on the need to increase treatment capacity across our health care system, and expanding the pipeline of diverse, skilled registered nurses is a key component of that proposition. This timely scholarship program will allow more New Yorkers to enroll in CUNY’s quality nursing programs and build rewarding, well-paying careers in a field in which they are greatly needed. CUNY is committed to training the next generation of nursing professionals, and we thank Governor Hochul for her continued support.”
New York State Nurses Association Executive Director Pat Kane, RN, said, “Nobody has put more on the line than those of us on the front line during this pandemic, and Governor Hochul’s visionary investment in helping us rebuild our nursing ranks is exactly the kind of support we need to keep delivering the care New Yorkers rely on. Because the best care is also culturally responsive care, these 1,000 scholarships present an enormous opportunity for us to continue to recruit from all communities around the state, and by seeding them at SUNY and CUNY, they also strengthen our public higher education institutions, making it clear that Governor Hochul is prioritizing our healthcare workers and our young people – exactly the type of priorities we need to bring New York back.
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said, “Adequate staffing is critical to health care access and quality. The COVID pandemic shined a light on existing worker shortages, and demand will only increase as our population ages. I commend Governor Hochul for this important initiative and look forward to further programs to train the health care workers we need.”
Healthcare Association of New York State President Bea Grause, RN, JD said, “It is critically important that we bolster our healthcare workforce pipeline as quickly as possible. I thank Governor Hochul for taking this much-needed action to remove financial barriers that could prevent potential nurses of the future from getting the education and training they desire. Today’s action is a step toward making sure we have the caregivers New York’s communities will greatly need in the years to come.”
Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske said, “Governor Hochul is a staunch health care workforce advocate who understands that the hospital community’s staffing challenges require bold action. This much-needed scholarship program to cover tuition costs for 1,000 new registered nurses will help alleviate nurse staffing shortages and ensure a reliable pipeline of well-trained nurses. We are grateful for Governor Hochul’s leadership and vision on this important issue.”
This announcement follows the recent opening of Binghamton University’s Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences, affirming Governor Hochul’s dedication to expanding healthcare education and New York State’s nursing workforce. SUNY colleges and universities across New York offer more than 70 fully accredited nursing degree undergraduate and graduate programs, offering 17 different credentials in nursing from home health aide to doctoral and advanced certificates. SUNY students graduate prepared to enter the healthcare field following rigorous course work online or in the classroom, combined with required hands-on real-world experience. CUNY graduates 1,800 students each year from over 50 nursing advanced credit-bearing certificate and degree programs, including LPN, Associate, Bachelor, Master and Doctoral programs (DNP and Ph.D.) at 14 CUNY institutions, including nursing programs at both senior and community colleges. CUNY’s nursing programs are united in their commitment to expanding opportunity and advancement in the health-care field, and to training the next generation of nursing professionals to provide high-quality and equitable health care, particularly for the most vulnerable and underserved populations
After studying neuroscience and immunohistochemistry at UCLA, Starks apparently realized that she was a definite Type N and decided to become a nurse. Already bursting at the seams with undergraduate degrees, she flew to the East Coast to pursue her studies in nursing. In New York, she went for an accelerated bachelor’s degree program for non-nurses (APNN) at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. Upon graduation, Strong Memorial Hospital snapped her up before she had a chance to go west again and installed her in the adult operating room, where she now works as a skilled vascular surgery nurse and preceptor.
However, Starks does not spend all of her time lollygagging about the OR or burying her nose in a textbook; she wants to effect change and has already created a place for herself among the new generation of upcoming nurse leaders. She is an active member in her local National Black Nurses Association chapter, the Rochester Black Nurses Association (RBNA), a founding member of the local chapter, and the chapter’s first vice president.
But that isn’t all. Stark is paying it forward as the founder and chair of the RBNA mentoring program in partnership with the URSON’s APNN program, where she and other Black nurses mentor nursing students of color. In true Type N fashion, she also manages to make time to participate as a member of the NPA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee.
After she earns her degree, Starks plans to work as an FNP in primary care. Her passion is caring for those with chronic diseases, especially African American patients. She plans to continue her advocacy for Black patients and students through her continued work in RBNA and other organizations and mentoring programs.
Unlike many students during the pandemic, Starks has been very fortunate with regard to clinicals, and told a reporter that “Luckily, within my program, they didn’t stop us from doing any type of clinical rotation or any type of classes.” In her acceptance speech, the charismatic FNP-to-be graciously thanked everyone who made the award possible and declared her dedication to helping to further NPs’ scope of practice in New York State.
To see an interview with Starks at a local Rochester station, click here. Her acceptance speech is below.
*There are two NPA winners, actually, and we congratulate the Region 7 winner Margaret O’Donnell, DNP, FNP-BC, ANP-BC, FAANP, who will have a post of her own shortly.
As we say goodbye and good riddance to a Delta August filled with distressing news, the Senate passage of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (S. 610) was a bright spot in a dark month. The news is especially significant, coming as it does at a time that has been almost unbearably stressful for nurses and other health care workers.
“For far too long, the stoic culture of self-sufficiency in the health care community has driven stigmatized health issues underground.”
—Jennifer Breen Feist
On August 6, the US Senate called a brief halt to their internecine battles and unanimously passed the act. Aimed to dramatically increase support and reduce the stigma of seeking mental health assistance among health care professionals, the bill is named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, a New York City emergency room physician who cared for Covid patients at the height of the horrific NYC outbreak in 2020. Breen contracted the virus herself and committed suicide after returning to treat the sick New Yorkers who continued pouring into city hospitals (and all too often ended up housed in refrigerated morgue trucks).
Landmark Legislation Protecting the Mental Health of HCWs
This landmark legislation is the first to allocate specific funds towards grants for training students, residents, and health care professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. An ANA statement celebrated the Senate passage, calling the act “Timely and critical legislation [that] will help reduce and prevent mental and behavioral health conditions… among health care professionals, especially those who continue to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.”
“Simply put, without a healthy and whole nursing workforce, we will be unable to meet the ever-growing needs of our patients and deploy successful COVID-19 response efforts. The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is a good first step in what will be a years-long process of caring for those who have long cared for us.”
—Ernest J. Grant
ANA President Dr. Ernest J. Grant, Ph.D., RN, FAAN also praised the nation’s nurses for their role in promoting the act: “Nurse advocates sent over 6,300 emails to Congress in support of this bill. Nurses know that the damaging aftereffects of the pandemic will linger long after they have intubated their final COVID-19 patients and grieved the loss of colleagues and loved ones. Grant added, “Simply put, without a healthy and whole nursing workforce, we will be unable to meet the ever-growing needs of our patients and deploy successful COVID-19 response efforts. The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is a good first step in what will be a years-long process of caring for those who have long cared for us.”
Breen’s sister, Jennifer Breen Feist, one of the most dedicated advocates of the act, said, “For far too long, the stoic culture of self-sufficiency in the health care community has driven stigmatized health issues underground. We sincerely thank the tireless efforts of Senator Tim Kaine in shedding light on this alarming trend, and Senators Cassidy, Young, and Reed for their leadership of this cause.” Breen Feist co-founded the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation to advocate for the law and “to reduce burnout of health care professionals and safeguard their well-being and job satisfaction. We envision a world where seeking mental health services is universally viewed as a sign of strength for health care professionals.”
“Even before the pandemic, far too many health care workers suffered from work-related burnout and depression,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), lead sponsor on the bill. “Unfortunately, these mental health challenges have only been exacerbated during COVID-19, putting the well-being of our healers at risk. I’m proud to see my bipartisan Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, legislation to equip our medical professionals with resources to cope with the challenges they face, pass the Senate today and get one step closer to becoming law.”
The legislation has been passed back to the House, which will review the amended version after resuming in mid-September.
Summary of Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act
This bill establishes grants and requires other activities to improve mental and behavioral health among health care providers.
Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must award grants to hospitals, medical professional associations, and other health care entities for programs to promote mental health and resiliency among health care providers. In addition, HHS may award grants for relevant mental and behavioral health training for health care students, residents, or professionals.
Additionally, HHS must conduct a campaign to encourage health care providers to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns and disseminate best practices to prevent suicide and improve mental health and resiliency among health care providers.
HHS must also study and develop policy recommendations on
improving mental and behavioral health among health care providers,
removing barriers to accessing care and treatment, and
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.
We honored Sandra Lindsay, DHSc, MS, MBA, RN, CCRN-K, NE-BC as Nurse of the Week just last week. Did we run out of outstanding nurses? No, our in-box is still overflowing with NotW suggestions (and please keep them coming!). However, after careful consideration, we bowed in the face of overwhelming evidence indicating that Dr. Lindsay is owed a two-week reign as Nurse of the Week. The nursing student who described her as “the [American] face of the Covid-19 vaccine” was merely being accurate, and the events of this week can certainly attest to Lindsay’s iconic status. What has Dr. Sandra Lindsay been doing since last Wednesday? Well, we can only account for perhaps a few hours last Friday and today — but it is clear that she will have to add Vaccination Icon Duties to her schedule from now on.
Last Friday, US President Joe Biden brought her closer to Elvis status (Presley was a dedicated crusader for the polio vaccine in the 1950s) by presenting the Jamaican-born Lindsay with the Outstanding American by Choice Award. “She represents the very best of us all,” said Biden during a special ceremony at the White House, and “pursued her dream of becoming a nurse to allow her to do what she wanted to do most: give back to her new country.” He also shared a bit more of Lindsay’s own pandemic story. “During the height of the pandemic, she poured her heart and soul into her work… With a grandson at home — prematurely — she did what she had to do. She kept her distance and kept him safe. He is safe, but she lost an aunt and an uncle to the virus.”
Linsday responded, “I came to this country for the opportunities – not only for myself but to be able to help others. As a nurse, I do everything to care for the sickest patients and lead by example. More than 24 years after becoming a naturalized citizen, I could never have imagined where I am today, at the White House receiving high honors from the President. It’s truly a privilege to be a part of this great nation and I will continue to lead and help those in need.”
After the White House ceremony, Lindsay was also asked to surrender her vaccination card, hospital badge, and a pair of scrubs into the custody of the Smithsonian Institution. The items will be on display at the Smithsonian’s Covid-19 historical exhibit (She naturally complied with the request, being as eager as all of us to see Covid-19 become History).
Lindsay had more Icon Duty on Wednesday, July 7, as she joined the ranks of Nurse Grand Marshals. For three hours, she presided over New York City’s Hometown Heroes ticker-tape parade. Lindsay was an obvious choice to lead festivities celebrating the courage and dedication of essential/healthcare workers caring for a city that is still trying to comprehend the loss of over 33,400 lives to the virus. “It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as the grand marshal in the Hometown Heroes ticker-tape parade and represent all health care and essential workers whose heroic efforts saved lives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lindsay said. Photos of the Grand Marshal smiling and waving from the back of a plush red convertible look suitably… iconic.
Dr. Lindsay, it is a pleasure to see a nurse knock The King back into his lane and take over as the US Vaccination Icon. Thank you!