Bipartisan House Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Passes Initial Committee Vote

Bipartisan House Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Passes Initial Committee Vote

Cannabis and politics are at an intriguing crossroads as we creep ever closer to the next election year. Politicians must decide how to position themselves on the hot-button issue of cannabis legalization. Many potential legalization bills have been proposed in the House of Representatives but very few have ever made it out of committee. National legalization bills have a history of facing intense scrutiny in the houses of Congress. There are a number of reasons for this but the vast differences in political opinions of members of Congress makes compromise on any bill, let alone one about a hot button issue like cannabis legalization, very difficult.

However, on Wednesday, November 20th, a new bill that would decriminalize cannabis nationally, allow states to make their own laws on full-scale legalization, and create the potential for expunging criminal records related to cannabis arrests passed in the House Judiciary Committee.

Chances of the Bill Passing

Though it is tough to envision a cannabis bill actually seeing the light of day, there is hope for this most recent iteration. The bill already has 50 co-sponsors, bipartisan support from notable pro-cannabis legalization Republicans like Matt Gaetz of Florida, and passed the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 24-10. It is always encouraging when Republicans and Democrats can agree on legislation, especially when it comes to a potential cannabis legalization bill. Recently, the House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act with bipartisan support. The bill allows for cannabis businesses to bank safely and discreetly. Its passage shows the willingness of Congressional Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass a cannabis bill.

The House cannabis bill is undoubtedly an exciting moment for those in the legalization movement. As promising as the bill seems, it is unlikely that it will be passed without major changes. It may pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but will face an intense battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. As unlikely as the bill’s passage is, those investing in the cannabis industry seem to believe the bill has a chance to become a part of American law soon.

Impact On The Cannabis Industry

As news of the forwarding of the house cannabis bill was announced, cannabis company stocks soared. The three biggest cannabis stocks, Canopy Growth, Tilray Inc., and Aurora Cannabis all saw prices rise between 8% and 15% on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Investor excitement is palpable, but some experts warn about the long term future for the House cannabis bill. Alan Brochstein, managing partner at New Cannabis Ventures, cautioned that the bill is, “such an early step in a long process that there are no near-term implications for cannabis stocks.”

The merits of the House cannabis bill will likely debated for the next few months. Changes will be made and votes will be cast before anything is set in stone. Whether or not this iteration of a legalization bill becomes law is unknown, but the fact that some politicians continue to fight for cannabis legalization is tremendously promising.

Nurse of the Week: US Marine Veteran Tori Levine Aims to Become Nurse Anesthetist for Doctors Without Borders

Nurse of the Week: US Marine Veteran Tori Levine Aims to Become Nurse Anesthetist for Doctors Without Borders

Our Nurse of the Week is Tori Levine, 22, a US Marine veteran and current nursing student at Stony Brook University who wants to become a nurse anesthetist for Doctors Without Borders.

Levine is from Dix Hills, NY, and says she knew she wanted to enlist in the military when she was nine years old. When her senior year in high school rolled around, Levine decided to defer college to enroll in the Marine Corps. She soon found herself serving as a collateral duty inspector for combat jets while deployed to the Middle East.

Levine tells, “I had trouble sleeping thinking about the maintenance I oversaw and imagining the worst possible cases: ‘What if something wasn’t connected right? What if the wire we repaired doesn’t hold? What if someone gets hurt? Did I make sure all of the tools were accounted for?’ With time I was able to gain confidence in myself and quit second-guessing when I know I had triple-checked it multiple times.”

Her military training eventually taught her discipline and provided her with mental jet fuel: “Being a nurse also appealed to me but I never thought I could do that because I struggled in the sciences. The military made me realize that what they say about mind over matter is true. I know now I can do it.”

After finishing her undergraduate degree, Levine eventually wants to become a nurse anesthetist and work for Doctors Without Borders. She feels she is aptly equipped to provide care and training to victims of war in the Middle East once she’s received the proper nursing training. She’s also trying to learn Russian and French, the two languages required to be accepted into Doctors Without Borders.

To learn more about Tori Levine, a US Marine veteran and current nursing student at Stony Brook University who wants to become a nurse anesthetist for Doctors Without Borders, visit here.

Nurses and Bullying: How to Protect Yourself and Your Co-workers

Nurses and Bullying: How to Protect Yourself and Your Co-workers

As a resolution for the new year, prepare to take a stand against bullying. Sadly, new nurses are often lost to the profession for the most disturbing of reasons: workplace bullying. Even the greenest nursing student soon hears the phrase, “nurses eat their young,” which was first used by nursing professor Judith Meissner in 1986. As Katherine Colduvell, RN, BSN, BA, CBC notes on, “[the saying] refers to the bullying and harassment of new nurses, and those four simple words can cause a great deal of anxiety for new graduates. In fact, researchers propose that at least 85% of nurses have been bullied at some point in their nursing career.”

Why Nursing is a Fertile Ground for Bullying

Even before entering the workplace, nurses face bullying as students. After they enter the profession, new nurses have to confront the stresses involved in dealing with patients, being slighted by doctors, exhausting shifts, and even the miseries of sore feet. However, instead of banding together and enjoying a network of support from more experienced nurses, they often find themselves belittled, whispered about, harshly blamed even when not at fault, and subjected to openly abusive language.

Why is bullying so common among nurses? One frequently cited reason is based in oppression theory. In this theory, nurses are oppressed by their lack of empowerment within the healthcare system. Subject to being treated as inferiors by doctors, management, and even some patients, nurses often feel powerless against their oppressors and are likelier to take out their sense of oppression on members of their own group. Bystanders, meanwhile, are afraid to speak out for fear that they, too, will become the objects of bullying. In addition, nurses may have already encountered bullying in school from faculty and classmates who view one another as competitors rather than as colleagues.

Riding the Bullying Cycle

In Fast Facts on Combating Nurse Bullying, Incivility, and Workplace Violence, author Maggie Ciocco, MS, RN, BC shows that oppression leads to a vicious cycle, and “Not only are student nurses victims of bullying, but they themselves become bullies as well. This impact must be addressed, because they are our future in the health care system, and the lives of patients depend on the student nurse becoming a just and moral citizen.”

According to Renee Thompson, RN, who frequently speaks and writes on nurse bullying, patient care suffers as a result of the bullying cycle: “If I withhold information from you and it causes you to make a mistake with a patient, or if I yell at you or criticize you in front of a patient, it’s potentially harmful to patient care,” she said. “When you’re being treated in a way that is making you feel badly, it stops the flow of information. When we’re not freely communicating with members of the healthcare team, it ultimately affects outcomes.”

Protecting Yourself from Bullying

The question is, how can a nurse avoid being drawn into a bullying situation in the first place?

An ounce of prevention: research healthcare organizations before you apply (after all, nurses are in demand; an organization is applying for your acceptance as much as you are for theirs). Do they have strong official policies governing bullying in the workplace? A caring, respectful culture? What do other nurses say about the environment there?

Bear yourself with confidence. Bullies tend to pick on easy targets. If you have faith in yourself and take pride in your work, you will make a much less attractive object to those seeking vulnerabilities.

Be more than just a bystander. Even if you are not the object of bullying, being around it can affect the way you feel about yourself and your work. Being a bystander—simply witnessing acts of bullying—can create feelings of guilt, depression, disillusionment, and even trauma. Calmly stand up for the dignity of other nurses who are being maltreated. You will like yourself a lot better than you would if you instead pretended to ignore the bullying or merely stood in silence. Have a sense of humor, be positive, and try not to allow your emotions to rule your response. Like a grounded self-confidence, these are traits that can prevent you from becoming a target and can contribute to your ability to defend others who are being harassed.

Counteracting a Bullying Situation

As Maggie Ciocco advises, if you do find yourself or a co-worker on the wrong end of a bully, don’t fly off the handle. Your best options are to direct collegiality and pro-social responses to the behavior you are encountering:

  • Ignore the behavior—If the behavior is completely out of character for the person, you could just ask him or her a friendly question unrelated to what he or she just said. Polite, respectful conversation disarms a co-worker who has given way to stress and temper as much as it does a bona fide bully.
  • Be calm, confident and in-control when contradicting a bully (you don’t want to get dragged into a fight). Without being overly defensive, simply express disagreement—such as saying “That’s not the way it happened”—and introduce your side of the story.

You can also use what Ciocco describes as “therapeutic communication for bullies”:

  • Speak to how you will address the situation or help him or her to deal with the situation. “I’m going to ____. Is that okay with you?” or “Would you rather that I ______?”
  • If what you are saying is ignored, repeat what you will do to assist the bully, indicating that the bully needs to choose how the assistance will take place.
  • If the bully does not respond appropriately, this conversation at least puts him/her on notice that you will not tolerate being bullied. End the conversation by saying something like “why don’t we talk about this at/after such and such, when we have more time”—and leave the area.

Utilize Calm and Self-Respect to Gain a Position of Control

As suggests, “A good trick for enhancing your effectiveness is to choose the time and place for your confrontation with the bully. When you are attacked, calmly ask to meet with him later to discuss the matter. That will give you time to think through your response.” In the National Student Nurses’ Association’s study Nurse to Nurse Horizontal Violence, Recognizing it and preventing it, J.E. Hurley notes that “Five nurses in one study who spoke out against horizontal violence reported positive outcomes from ‘standing up for myself’”

In the end, it is likely that one of the most important qualities that should govern your actions is respect. Showing respect for yourself and your colleagues can help you to avoid bullies, to counteract bullying against yourself and others, and help prevent you from becoming a bully yourself.

University of Nebraska Medical Center Receives $1.36 Million Grant to Enhance Nursing Care for Veterans

University of Nebraska Medical Center Receives $1.36 Million Grant to Enhance Nursing Care for Veterans

The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Nursing recently received a grant designed to improve the health, wellbeing, and care of veterans. The grant is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration, covering three years of funding focused on recruiting more military veterans into the college’s bachelor’s degree in nursing program. The grant also aims to educate nursing students and practicing nurses on the unique health needs of veterans and active military members. 

Dr. Louise LaFramboise, PhD, grant project director and associate professor of the UNMC College of Nursing, tells, “Military veterans and those who continue to serve have unique healthcare needs. Some of those needs are due to exposures, experiences, and injuries while serving. They’ve done so much for us. This grant is about making their health a priority and addressing their unique needs.”

The grant began on July 1, 2019, and is focused on primary care nursing for chronic disease prevention and management, including mental health and substance use disorders. Grant objectives include partnering with University of Nebraska campuses to develop early admission programs, developing a statewide pool of registered nurses and nursing faculty interested in learning more about caring for veterans through a continuing education program, and more, 

UNMC’s early admission program will give student veterans enrolled in undergraduate colleges or universities who meet and maintain requirements a guaranteed spot in the UNMC College of Nursing. Those eligible are military veterans and those currently serving in the military. 

To learn more about UNMC’s $1.36 million grant to enhance nursing care for veterans, visit here

Columbia Nursing Hosts Nursing Leaders for First National LGBTQ Health Summit

Columbia Nursing Hosts Nursing Leaders for First National LGBTQ Health Summit

The Columbia University School of Nursing recently hosted the first National Nursing LGBTQ Health Summit, drawing deans and other leaders from top nursing schools, representatives of nursing organizations including the American Academy of Nursing and American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the National Institutes of health. The summit was conceived by the Nursing LGBTQ Summit Advisory Board with a focus on advancing nursing’s progress in addressing LGBTQ health issues.

The Summit was the first step toward creating a national health action plan to raise awareness of and improve LGBTQ health. Participants were tasked with mapping out an action plan, and discussing and brainstorming strategies for bringing attention to LGBTQ health within the nursing profession and around nursing education, research, and practice.

Keynote speaker Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, dean of Rutgers University’s School of Public Health, tells, “One in five LGBTQ people do not seek health care because they fear discrimination… Moreover, the interaction between discrimination and other minority stressors—race and ethnicity, poverty, geography, lack of insurance—further drives LGBTQ health disparities.”

Participants identified a need to reduce disparities and improve the health of people who are LGBTQ, which will require support from nursing leadership to increase LGBTQ-specific content in nursing curricula and in faculty development programs, policy development, and nursing research.

Lorraine Frazier, PhD, Dean, Columbia University School of Nursing tells, “We’re here because we share a commitment to health equity, diversity, and the needs of the LGBTQ community and to looking at how we can advance education, clinical programs, research, and policy.”

Nurse leaders ended the summit with a call to action for the nursing community to prioritize LGBTQ health through innovations in education, research, and practice and to advance LGBTQ health policy. Following the summit, attendees will devise a national LGBTQ health action plan focused on the dynamic intersections among nursing education, research, and practice, as well as a forum allowing participants to network and plan future collaborations. 

To learn more about the first national LGBTQ health summit hosted by Columbia Nursing, visit here.

Minnesota Grants Medical Cannabis Access for Chronic Pain

Minnesota Grants Medical Cannabis Access for Chronic Pain

The state of Minnesota is making headlines this December, not for its freezing temperatures or a new record snowfall, but for increasing medical cannabis access. Clinical cannabis got its start in the state when former governor Mark Dayton signed the first Minnesota medical cannabis bill into law in 2014. Many criticized the bill for being far too restrictive as it listed only 9 qualifying conditions and stipulates a lengthy patient registration process. However, as of December 3rd, 2019, the state added macular degeneration and the much more generally outlined chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions. Minnesota can now expect to see more registered medical cannabis patients thanks to the expanded list of qualifying conditions.

Making Medical Marijuana More Accessible

Though many American states have taken steps to legalize clinical cannabis, a number of potential patients still do not have access. In most cases, state regulations prevent people with certain conditions from using medical cannabis. If the state regulatory body does not list a medical condition as qualifying, then people suffering from that condition may not use cannabis for medicinal reasons, even if a medical professional recommends it as a potential treatment. The stringent nature of qualifying condition lists make Minnesota’s addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition a massive win for medical cannabis advocates.

Chronic pain is a very generally defined medical condition. Any number of ailments can cause it and is usually up to the patient to define. For these reasons, acquiring a recommendation for medical cannabis can be far easier than it is for other conditions. There is little doubt that Minnesota’s clinical cannabis patient registry will expand greatly in the coming months thanks to the addition of chronic pain and macular degeneration. According to the Boston Globe, “As of October, nearly 18,000 patients were certified for the state’s medical marijuana program.” That number is bound to increase as more conditions make the list.

The Future of Medical Cannabis in Minnesota

Many consider Minnesota as having one of the more severely restrictive medical cannabis programs. Though Minnesota’s list of qualifying conditions is still small, it is encouraging that the state continues to implement updates. Lawmakers must work with patients and advocates to continue to pursue the creation of a fair and easily accessible medical cannabis program. If the state continues to update its list of qualifying conditions, it can at least begin to change the narrative.

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