A Day in the Life: Spinal Cord/Multi Trauma Unit Nurse

A Day in the Life: Spinal Cord/Multi Trauma Unit Nurse

What is it like to work as a nurse with patients who have injured their spinal cords or who have multiple traumas?

Rashidat Larsah, BSN, RN, SCN I, knows firsthand from working at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute ’s Spinal Cord/Multi Trauma Unit.

We asked her about her work. What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

How did you get interested in your particular field? What drew you to it? 

Originally, I did not intend to become a rehabilitation nurse. In 2005, I graduated and obtained a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certificate from the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).

While searching for a job, I encountered Kernan Hospital, about 15 minutes from my residence. I submitted an application to work in the Stroke Unit, but the position was already filled. The manager assigned there forwarded my application to the Spinal Cord Unit manager, who granted me an interview and accepted me on her team. That is how my journey started as a rehabilitation nurse, and I have since developed a strong passion and commitment to working with spinal cord patients and families.

Explain briefly what you do. What types of patients do you serve as a spinal cord/multi trauma unit nurse? What do you provide for them?

In general, a rehabilitation nurse provides care for and assists patients in their progress toward recovery, self-care, and independence. The rehabilitation nurse works as part of a multidisciplinary team in setting realistic goals and achieving a treatment plan.

Over the past two decades, I have worked in the spinal cord unit, providing care for patients suffering from injuries related to the spinal cord and teaching and advocating for patients and families.

Did you need to get additional education for this position?

When I first started working in the spinal cord unit at what was then Kernan Hospital, I was a licensed practical nurse. After that, I successfully completed my studies to become a registered nurse.

When the opportunity to do on-the-job studies became available, I took advantage and completed a BSN degree at Notre Dame University of Maryland. I have since risen through various assignments/positions to Senior Clinical Nurse I and am now working to obtain certification as a rehabilitation nurse.

What do you like most about working in your job?

What I like most about working as a rehabilitation nurse is recognizing that the care and teaching I provide to patients and their families–plus the voice and advocacy I add–all combine to work for the healing process of the patients and their families.

One cannot help but feel fulfilled upon realizing that what may otherwise seem like a minor help given and a voice added can help patients regain and maintain their optimal health.

What are your biggest challenges?

Being a rehabilitation nurse is admittedly hard work and can present some challenges in managing the expectations of patients and their families.

However, where a nurse has the passion to care for their patients with a sense of commitment to serve others and provide care for patients with deep or long-term care needs, a rehab nurse can still find his or her work rewarding and satisfactory.

What are your greatest rewards in your work?

My greatest reward is working as part of a multidisciplinary medical team with goals to plan and follow treatment plans for patients and their families with positive patient outcomes.

Of course, a plus is when patients and their families are satisfied with my care and make extra effort to highlight my acts of service and compassion.

While it is challenging, working as a rehabilitation nurse can be rewarding and satisfying, especially when my patients come back for visits, recognize the nurses they worked with, and smile in appreciation for the care and teaching provided to them.

Mastering the Art of Creating a Sustainable Routine Beyond Nursing

Mastering the Art of Creating a Sustainable Routine Beyond Nursing

Creating a routine looks different for everyone and isn’t always what people see on social media. It certainly doesn’t have to look perfect, and most people make mistakes before finding what helps them manage their everyday lives.

You might want to eat healthier, take a walk after work , or remember to do a particular chore. Whatever it is, maintaining a dependable routine can be tricky with a busy work schedule, but not impossible.

Read on to discover tips so can develop a routine away from work.

Discover What You Want Your Routine to Look Like

Why do you want to create this routine in the first place? Writing down your motivations can help you see why a routine would be good for you. 

For example, let’s say you want to create a stretching regimen. What would it look like, and how would it help you balance out the demands you currently have? Maybe you want to start slow, sit on a couch, or get out your old yoga mat and stretch out for five minutes.

Writing down your ideal schedule can help you brainstorm ideas for being consistent without overexerting yourself. During this part, you could discover free videos on YouTube on how to stretch or find a quiet time in your day away from any distracting noises.

Everyone is different, so make your routine customizable for you.

Find Ways to Remember Your Routine

So, let’s say you decided to take five minutes to do some light stretches after work—nothing too strenuous, but enough to relieve tension in your body.

Now that you know what your routine will look like, think about how you want to remember it. You can put a reminder in your phone, either on your calendar or another app, to keep track of your goals.

A useful tip is to establish a trigger in your life to remind you of your routine. For example, if you need to remind yourself to wipe off your countertops before bed, a good trigger would be to leave a sticky note on the fridge.

To make a trigger convenient, consider automating it on your phone or device so that you’ll be reminded to start when you forget.

Do What Feels Easy But Achievable Long-Term

Starting a routine can feel tiring if we push ourselves to do it initially.

We all have busy lives, so when you start a routine, make it as easy as possible.

By simplifying the routine, you’re putting pressure on yourself to be perfect. As a result, it’ll be easier to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes, like forgetting to do our routine. After all, we’re human, and mistakes can happen when we least expect it.

Take some small steps first with what you know you can do. Over time, as the routine feels more natural to you, it will be easier to take more significant steps and do your routine more than once a week, maybe daily, if that’s your preference.

Find an Accountability Partner

If you still find starting a routine difficult, even with reminders or small steps, you may need to ask someone to be your accountability partner.

It can sound intimidating, but asking someone to keep you accountable can be a stepping stone you didn’t know you needed. It’s even better if they want to do that same routine with you!

If you prefer a more laid-back, personal routine, you can find a partner through your workplace, family, and friends. Finding a partner who is supportive but honest about your situation is important for good communication.

Make it Fun and Exciting to Do

Routines that are done for a while can become tiresome. At first, they can feel rewarding and motivating, but then weeks later, you might think, “Wait, why am I doing this again?”

Think about doing something fun and exciting during your routine. If it’s a passive activity, like cleaning or taking a walk, listen to music or a podcast series you’re interested in. This can also serve as a trigger that’ll help you become motivated in the routine.

Chances are that we’re more likely to stick to a routine when relaxed enough. So, making a routine less demanding can ease our worries about whether we’re starting to become bored with it.

Practice Self-compassion

It’s okay to do a routine poorly the first time you try it out or not have the right “system.” Nurses are busy, and sometimes perfectionism can get in the way. Be gentle with yourself and know that the perfect routine doesn’t exist—it’s more about finding what’s helpful for you to make your life easier.

WWII Navy Nurse Alice Darrow Celebrates 105th Birthday, Honored as One of the Last Links to Pearl Harbor

WWII Navy Nurse Alice Darrow Celebrates 105th Birthday, Honored as One of the Last Links to Pearl Harbor

Alice Darrow, a former Navy nurse , was honored for her love of life and patriotic commitment to our country as one of the last living links to Pearl Harbor when she celebrated her 105th birthday in Danville, California, surrounded by family, friends, and community members.

Darrow was born in 1919 in Paso Robles and enrolled in nursing school after finishing high school. She then served as a Navy nurse and worked at Peralta Hospital in Oakland when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. She is considered among the last of the ‘greatest generations in American history.’

Daily Nurse proudly names Alice Darrow Nurse of the Week in recognition of her love of life, patriotic commitment to our country, and status as one of the last living links to Pearl Harbor.

One Naval officer was blown off his boat as Japanese gunmen kept firing as Darrow (then Alice Beck) climbed aboard his rescue boat. “When the boat came by to pick him up, he was trying to pull himself up on the boat. They shot him. He got shot in the back,” Darrow says.

It wasn’t until four months later, while he was being treated for appendicitis, doctors did an x-ray and discovered a bullet in his heart. Darrow was assigned to him as his nurse.

“He asked me, ‘Ms. Becky, if I survive this, would you take liberty with me?’ Which was a shock. So, I said, ‘sure, why not?’ They didn’t think he was going to make it anyways,” says Darrow.

When Mr. Darrow died in 1991, the couple had been married for almost fifty years. Together, they raised four children in Lake County, where both parents were active in military memorial services.

Darrow credits her longevity to her secret to life. “Always have something to look forward to. It gets your body and mind ready for what’s next. And, of course, family, friends, and laughter.”

As for what’s next for Darrow, she’s looking forward to an ‘around the world’ cruise later this year with her daughter.

Nominate a Nurse of the Week! Every Wednesday, DailyNurse.com features a nurse making a difference in the lives of their patients, students, and colleagues. We encourage you to nominate a nurse who has impacted your life as the next Nurse of the Week, and we’ll feature them online and in our weekly newsletter. 

Top Nursing Certifications: More Than CPR

Top Nursing Certifications: More Than CPR

Nursing is among the most demanding and critical jobs in the healthcare industry. To provide the best care to patients, nurses must continuously enhance their skills and expand their knowledge.

While CPR is a vital credential for all healthcare professionals, there are other certifications you can obtain as a nurse to further your expertise. Today, we will look at ten certifications that can help your career.

The Importance of Obtaining Additional Certifications

We cannot overstate the value of nursing certifications

These extra credentials will open up career opportunities and help you stand out in the competitive nursing field. 

Additionally, certifications will equip you with specialized knowledge that will be helpful for your patients.

Top Certifications for Nurses

1. Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)

ACLS is a certification for those who want to treat adult patients with cardiovascular emergencies.

The training for ACLS includes advanced algorithms and covers topics such as cardiac rhythm interpretation, drug therapies, and advanced airway management.

By learning more about an ACLS flowchart and obtaining this certification, you can intervene in emergencies like cardiac arrests and strokes.

2. Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)

PALS is for those who want to provide critical care for pediatric patients. Over one-third of ICU beds are occupied by children with chronic critical diseases. So, PALS can be a helpful certification for nurses.

PALS courses cover various topics such as advanced pediatric assessments, medication administration for pediatric emergencies, life support for children, and post-resuscitation care.

Holding this certification allows you to work effectively in pediatric intensive care units.

3. Basic Life Support (BLS)

BLS is one of the fundamental nursing certifications that all healthcare professionals must have.

This certification equips you with basic first aid knowledge, such as conducting effective CPR, using an AED, and relieving choking in adults and children.

This certification and its expertise can benefit all nurses and healthcare professionals working in clinics or hospital settings.

4. Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN)

The CEN certification is helpful for nurses working in emergency departments and urgent care settings.

Training for this certification includes a deep look at trauma management, critical thinking, patient assessment and prioritization, and crisis intervention.

A CEN certification will prepare you to handle various emergencies and deliver quality care in unpredictable and fast-paced environments.

5. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

A CRNA certification allows nurses to administer anesthesia to patients during operations and oversee their care.

CRNA training covers preoperative assessment, anesthesia principles and administration techniques, post-anesthesia care, and possible complications management.

CRNAs are crucial members of surgical teams and are highly sought after for their expertise in safe anesthesia delivery.

6. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

The CNM certification is for registered nurses who want to care for women during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.

The CNM education program includes advanced training in nutrition, management of common complications, pharmacology for midwifery, women’s gynecology, and newborn care.

By obtaining a CNM certification, you can work in various healthcare settings, providing comprehensive care to pregnant women.

7. Certified Nurse Educator (CNE)

The CNE certification is for those in academia or staff development roles who want to educate the next generation of nurses.

CNE training covers advanced nursing principles, leadership and management, ethical decision-making, and interprofessional collaboration.

Nursing is one of the largest healthcare professions in the US. There are over 5 million registered nurses. With this number rising annually, holding a CNE certification as an educator is a valuable credential.

8. Certified Gerontological Nurse (CGN)

CGN is a helpful certification for nurses who want to work specifically with elderly patients. This certification equips you with the necessary information to care for older patients’ mental, physical, and psychosocial health.

CGN coursework explores care planning for the elderly, geriatric nursing principles, medication management, and end-of-life care.

With the growing population of elderly patients and the increasing demand for skilled nurses in this field, pursuing a CGN can be a worthwhile consideration.

9. Certified Diabetes Nurse (CDN)

Nurses who want to provide care specifically for patients with diabetes can get a CDN certification.

This certification covers topics such as diabetes management, nutritional assessment, glycemic control, and providing support for diabetic patients and their families.

By holding a CDN certification, you can care for diabetic patients in outpatient clinics while partaking in diabetes education programs.

10. Certified Nursing Informatics (CNI)

Nurses who want to get into the technological side of the field can opt for a CNI certification. This field is where healthcare and technology meet.

The training for CNI covers topics like healthcare information systems optimization, electronic health records management, and information security.

Obtaining a CNI certification opens the door to career opportunities as a clinical informatics specialist or systems analyst.

Expand Your Horizon With Additional Certifications

Obtaining additional certifications in nursing can significantly enhance your career prospects and allow you to take better care of your patients.

Choose a certification that aligns with your interests and continue to expand your knowledge and expertise in various nursing fields.

How Do You Deal With “Difficult” Patients? 

How Do You Deal With “Difficult” Patients? 

Nurses deal with all kinds of patients, and some interactions are more challenging than others. Some patients get labeled as “difficult”. How we think about patients is important and can significantly impact the nurse-patient relationship and quality of care. Changing our habitual thinking can be good for the nurse, the patient, and the care that’s ultimately provided.

What Exactly is a “Good Patient”? 

Dr. Joan Naidorf  is an emergency physician whose book, “Changing How We Think About Difficult Patients: A Guide for Physicians and Healthcare Professionals,” explains how we can improve our work experience by changing our attitudes toward our patients, especially the most challenging ones.

When asked what constitutes a “good patient,” Naidorf states, “When I talk to nurses about interactions with difficult patients and families, it’s useful to contrast those with the interactions that go well.”

She continues, “What characteristics are we looking for? We define ‘good’ as mature, rational thinkers who want to partner with the healthcare team to address their problems. We think good patients treat us respectfully, cooperate, and comply with our present plan. We want questions or disagreements to be presented courteously. We enjoy interacting with good patients and can experience great satisfaction.”

Where Does Our Negative Thinking About Patients Come From?

How do we form negative habits in our thinking about patients? Naidorf has an answer.

Nurses, like all humans, have a strong negativity biasIn medical care, we don’t jump to the conclusion that that leg cramp is something minor — we’re concerned about a life-threatening deep vein thrombosis.

Secondly,” Naidorf continues, “nurses pick up this negative talk during their training. In the classroom, high ideals and ethics are discussed: successful nurses are organized in their thinking and documentation; they’re determined to be empathetic and efficient.”

According to Naidorf, something happens to challenge those ideals. “In the real world, student nurses hear their mentors and colleagues speak in derogatory and mean-spirited terms. A sense of distrust and resentment can permeate the workplace as more cynical nurses harshly judge how patients dress, speak, or behave. It’s easy for inexperienced, impressionable people to think: ‘Well, this is just how it is — these must be the facts.’ But these aren’t facts — this is just a story everyone in the workplace believes.”


What are Common Thought Distortions About Patients?

Naidorf relates, “There are many unhelpful thought patterns. One common one is all-or-nothing thinking. We often think there’s only one way to get something done or think about a problem. This is a thought distortion because there aren’t just two solutions to a problem — there are dozens. Patients who challenge us can have a very different way of thinking and want to do things their way. A small shift from all-or-nothing thinking can help us find common ground with patients.”

A second is the tendency to place ourselves in the victim role,” Naidorf states. “People with a victim mentality tend to complain a lot. They also tend to blame the doctors, the supervisor, the pharmacy, or the patient. ‘Why does this always happen to me? Why did they put him in my zone? Why do I have to do another septic workup?’ Assigning blame to others and playing the victim places you in a disempowered role. A victim has no power to act or find solutions. We aren’t victims, and we have the power to solve problems and find solutions.”

Thought distortions are important to recognize, and there’s one more Naidorf highlights.

A third distortion is resisting reality, which comes up in many ways. We think to ourselves, ‘This person should’ve been wearing a helmet; that mom should’ve given the child something for fever; that guy should stop getting drunk.’ We can’t change the past, and wishing that things should be different only makes us suffer in the present.”

How Do We Change How We Think About Challenging Patients?

Nurses can do much to change how they think about ‘difficult’ patients,” says Naidorf. “They can remember that many of their thoughts are just thoughts, sentences in the mind that can be changed. Becoming aware of thoughts is the first step to changing them. We can ask ourselves better questions.”

Naidorf has more advice. “When falling into all-or-nothing thoughts, ask: ‘Could I be wrong? Are there other approaches that could work equally well?’

You can also ask, ‘What else is true here? Is that drunk man someone’s father? Does that mother love her child? Is coming to the ED the only way this family can access care?’ Small shifts in thinking can lead to more feelings of curiosity and empathy.”

Lastly, Naidorf wants nurses to truly focus on their thinking, which can lead to actual changes in behavior and practice.

One thing you can do is define what the event or circumstance is in as factual a way as possible. No adverbs or adjectives should creep into those definitions. A person with some illness or injury comes to the medical office or urgent care center, and the nurse has a thought about that person. We can choose thoughts with more intention that serve us and them better.”

And when negative thoughts arise, Naidorf has a plan.

Some negative thought will invariably pop up, but we can force ourselves to question if anything else is true. If we think the person should not have come in, we can counter that with, ‘We have all the right people, equipment, and medicines to help this person.’ With positive thoughts, nurses will take actions that further the mission of helping the patient and will get more satisfying results.”

But can we always be positive? Naidorf doesn’t expect perfection.

Sometimes we want to be disappointed or sad about what happens at work, and it’s appropriate and helps us empathize with patients. We work in places where people experience tragedy, so it would be weird to pretend to be always happy,” she reassures us. “It’s ok to feel sadness, disappointment, and frustration — temporary emotions that pass through our bodies. Feeling all the emotions is one amazing part of being a human nurse.”

Own Your Humanity — and Patients’ Humanity, Too

As Dr. Naiforf points out, nurses are human beings, and humans have feelings and flaws. We’re also capable of great empathy and kindness. Our patients are also humans; their lives can be complicated and painful, and we often encounter them at their very worst on some of the most challenging days of their lives.

No matter how stressful our work may be, when we summon our humanity, we can be more curious, thoughtful, and capable of being present without projecting negativity where it doesn’t belong. And sometimes, we’ll fail and fail again. But every day gives us a chance to start anew.

If you can change your thoughts, you can also change your experience and your patients’ experience. And that is a worthy endeavor indeed.

Meet Kate Veenstra: From Bedside Nurse to Top Spot at UM Health-West

Meet Kate Veenstra: From Bedside Nurse to Top Spot at UM Health-West

Kate Veenstra, DNP, MSN, RN, CNL, CMSRN, ACM, NEA-BC, was recently appointed as the new chief nursing officer at the University of Michigan Health-West. Her more than 18 years of experience also tells quite a story.

Veenstra started as a bedside nurse at the hospital in 2006 and has held many roles, from associate chief nursing officer to the most recent interim chief nursing officer. Throughout her career, Veenstra has been a champion for her team and patients, leading initiatives that have significantly improved care and productivity.

One of her most notable accomplishments is co-leading a clinical nurse program, which helped to reduce cardiac readmissions and hospital stays. She also participated in a clinical care team during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daily Nurse named Kate Veenstra the Nurse of the Week for her outstanding contributions. According to Dr. Ronald Grifka, president of UM Health-West, “Kate’s caring nature, innovative mindset, clinical expertise, and commitment to nursing excellence make her the ideal leader for this role.”

Veenstra is passionate about the success of nurses in West Michigan and has been involved in developing the Amy Van Andel Nursing Scholars program, which aims to remove cost barriers for those looking to start their careers in nursing. She has also played a significant role in creating a talent partnership with talent partnership with Grand Rapids Community College and the UM Health-West Foundation.

Nominate a Nurse of the Week! Every Wednesday, DailyNurse.com features a nurse making a difference in the lives of their patients, students, and colleagues. We encourage you to nominate a nurse who has impacted your life as the next Nurse of the Week, and we’ll feature them online and in our weekly newsletter.