Nurse of the Week: NICU Nurse Tara Fankhauser Crochets Halloween Costumes for Hospital’s Tiniest Patients

Nurse of the Week: NICU Nurse Tara Fankhauser Crochets Halloween Costumes for Hospital’s Tiniest Patients

Our Nurse of the Week is Tara Fankhauser, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who crochets Halloween costumes for the NICU babies in her care. This is the fourth year in a row that she’s spent months crocheting costumes for the hospital’s tiniest patients.

Fankhauser is a mom of three in addition to being a NICU nurse. She takes time every year to make the Halloween costumes herself. According to her coworker Alanna Gardner, Fankhauser uses Pinterest and the baby’s different personalities to decide on the perfect costume for them. She usually begins designing the costumes in the Spring and ends on Halloween day.

Fankhauser never repeats a costume. The costumes take anywhere from a few hours to a full day to make. The costumes are gifts; families are able to take them home as keepsakes of their child’s first Halloween. Holidays can be particularly hard for families with children in the NICU, which is why Fankhauser goes to the effort of bringing the Halloween spirit to the hospital’s tiniest patients.

Gardner tells fox5atlanta.com, “What started out as a hobby has quickly become a hospital tradition that brings joy to our families and staff.”

To learn more about Tara Fankhauser, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who crochets Halloween costumes for the hospital’s tiniest patients, visit here.

Climate Change: “Nurses are On the Move”

Climate Change: “Nurses are On the Move”

At the DC Climate Change rally: ANHE, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments at Washington DC climate rally

Just before a series of major climate change rallies were held in cities across the US, the journal Creative Nursing published a special issue on climate change. We spoke with special issue editor Katie Huffling, MS, RN, CNM and contributor/editorial board member Teddie Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN to learn more about climate change as a public health issue, and why so many nurses are attending these rallies and speaking out.

On September 20, the Washington Post interviewed them both as part of a major story on the DC climate strike. The headline was, “Why nurses, America’s most trusted professionals, are demanding ‘climate justice.’” That sounds like as good a starting point as any, so let’s begin by asking…

Why is climate change important to the mission of the health and nursing professions?

TP: In nursing we are charged to create environments for people to be the healthiest individuals and communities that they possibly can be. Climate change threatens that. It threatens our patients and communities on multiple levels. The health impacts of climate change are severe and serious, and they’re happening right now. So that why it is important for us to address this as nurses.

It’s no longer happening in some parts of the globe, or in some geographic areas; it’s happening everywhere. Unfortunately, it tends to have the greatest impact on communities that are already struggling to be healthy. If I am already challenged by being homeless, for instance, not having access to AC or heating can lead to real [health] problems, and we see people with such challenges often suffering worst and first from climate change.

And it’s important to point out that yes, the planet is warming but the impacts are very variable. Places that used to be cool are getting hot; some places that were usually dry are getting very wet. It’s the shift in patterns that has definite health consequences. In California, for instance, you might be more apt as a nurse to be aware of the impact of fires on the air quality affecting individuals and families and people who work outdoors.

But isn’t climate change a political issue? Why should nurses get actively involved?

TP: I hope we have made it very clear that climate change is not a political issue, any more than people having adequate food or clean air should be a political issue. It’s a health issue. And we need all people regardless of their political affiliation to be part of finding solutions and part of finding a healthier future for everyone.

KH: The Lancet has been publishing for the past few years an analysis of climate change and health and they are very clear that climate change is the biggest public health challenge that we face today. It’s a health issue, and the future of our children is at stake.

Are nurses already seeing health issues connected to climate change?

TP: In Minnesota, we’re seeing changes in our vectors. We see more [outbreaks of] Lyme disease and West Nile disease; we see more people affected by flooding and loss of housing and livelihoods related to flooding. Farmers can’t get their crops planted on time [owing to flooding] and they can’t get their crops harvested on time, so we’re seeing impacts in that area. Health care providers need to understand that there are things we need to be considering in order to protect our patients and teach families and to ensure that if a disaster is likely, that people have a plan. For example, we need to ask “What are you going to do when category 4 and 5 hurricanes come into your area?”

KH: One thing I would add is that no matter what type of nursing you do—whatever your patient population is—there’s some way that climate change impacts that population. For example, when you have extreme weather events, and you have renal patients, are they going to be able to get dialysis? Nurses working in that area have been real leaders in working on emergency preparedness. The same goes for oncology nurses—are your patients going to be able to get their cancer treatments in a timely fashion. There are some things when you first think of them, you don’t realize how it really does span any type of patient population.

“We need to be planning for these people.”

Teddie Potter

United Healthcare Workers East at DC Climate Change Rally.

United Healthcare Workers East at Washington DC climate rally

TP: Also, there are community nurses worrying about patients who are homebound and in need of oxygen and other things that require a steady source of electricity. We need to be planning for those people. What do you do when flood waters rise, and you can’t get out of your house because you’re wheelchair-bound? And your caregiver can’t come because they’re stuck [in the flood] where they are, and you can’t even get out of bed? All of these things have to be thought about.

KH: As an example of that, here in DC it’s gotten better because the local utilities have been addressing it, but there were lots of power outages accompanying extreme weather events during the summer. And when families with children on ventilators at home don’t have electricity for a few days, they end up having to take up an ICU bed because they’re not able to be on just a general floor.

TP: As a state that has a significant rural population, [In Minnesota] we are also concerned about people working outside who harvest and pick the crops. We’re concerned about dehydration. A while ago one of our Minnesota Vikings players died from heat exposure and dehydration at the Vikings summer training camp. This is not something that we’ve had to think about in the past. Hot and humid days can impact even young people in peak condition and we are having more and more days with high heat and humidity.

Are today’s nurses following in Florence Nightingale’s footsteps? Was she the first activist nurse?

TP: She was an activist but also a scientist. She was deeply committed to evidence-based practice and she was a brilliant statistician. She really looked at the environment as doing the healing for patients. As she said in Notes on Nursing, “medicine and surgery can remove obstructions… nature alone cures.” And she was a great believer in and taught about the importance of good food, adequate hydration, mobility, cleanly environments, and exposure to fresh air.

In the Crimean war what got her started was that they were seeing more people dying from the care they received in the hospital than from the injuries they received on the battlefield. So it was a care issue and that was what marshalled her and other women at that time to go to Turkey and set up an alternative way of caring—fresh air, clean sheets, adequate food—and people started surviving. It is deeply at the core of the nursing profession: we work with the environment to put people in a position to recover and have a quality of life. Nurses are on the move following the same principles today.

How can nurses get—and how are they getting—involved in the movement to reduce effects of climate change?

KH: I think there are a number of points of engagement. Nurses are really can-do people. When they find a problem, they want to fix it, and so when you start to learn about climate change and its effects, it is natural to immediately want to get engaged.

Healthcare workers at climate change rally in Minnesota.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals participated in Minnesota’s climate rally.

I think this is a great opportunity for nurses to get together—you know, strength in numbers—to elevate this issue and use our position as America’s most trusted profession to talk about it. Also, [it’s important to] meet with policy makers—whether it’s at the state, national, or local level—when you can speak with elected officials and help them to make that health and climate change connection. Because a lot of elected officials still don’t understand that it’s a health issue and if they want to protect the health of their constituents it’s an issue they need to be taking on.

And, it’s been very exciting to see so many nurses doing things like going to the different climate marches. It’s another way to show that nurses are leaders in the area around climate change. One of the things my organization (ANHE, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments) has been doing is we’ve created a nursing collaborative on climate change and health. This came out of a round-table we did at the White House during the Obama administration where we had around 20 nursing organizations and unions at this round table talking about what nurses can do about climate change and health. It was a really historic event. We were the first group of health professionals that they had reached out to at the time to do something like this.

After that, we decided we needed a strong collaborative effort, and that is how we created the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health. We have 11 organizations, and a couple more really large organizations about to sign on. Working together we show visible leadership among the nursing community as well as among policy makers.

Where can nurses find out more about the impact of climate change?

KH: Well, at ANHE (Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments) we have tons of resources on the website, lots of free tools for nurses to engage. We’ve got talking points, academic databases and case studies, resources for pregnant women and children, and much more.

We’re also part of the Nurses Climate Challenge, in which ANHE’s partnered with Healthcare without Harm. Basically in the Nurses Climate Challenge we have Nurse Champions that sign up on the website. The champions then go out and educate their fellow nurses and other healthcare professionals about climate change and health. They have a really robust toolkit with PowerPoints with notes and posters they can customize if they want to make a presentation at their monthly nursing meeting. Then we track each event: if someone does a presentation, they note how many attended. The first year we had a goal of 5,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals educated, but we quickly grew past that so we decided to up our goal to 50,000 nurses educated by 2022. And we just started that a few months ago, and we’re already past 10,000. It’s exponentially growing!

“It’s an amazing opportunity to prevent disease.”

Katie Huffling

I’d like to bring in another positive note: this is also the greatest opportunity that we have to impact public health. These things that we can do to affect climate change can have a widespread positive impact on health. It’s an amazing opportunity to prevent disease. And I think that that’s another core feature of nursing practice—that we want to see our patients become healthier and to not have to be treating them for these preventable illnesses. When we address climate change we can have such a positive impact on health.

TP: I’ll just add in that the dean of the Minnesota School of Nursing has appointed me the first Director of Planetary Health for the school, so that nurses can learn to apply what we do to care for the environment so that our patients and our communities will be healthier.

Nurse of the Week: ICU Nurse Mady Howard Credits Career with Helping Her Train for American Ninja Warrior

Nurse of the Week: ICU Nurse Mady Howard Credits Career with Helping Her Train for American Ninja Warrior

Our Nurse of the Week is Mady Howard, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at Intermountain Healthcare’s Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah, who says the unpredictable nature of working in the ICU helped her train to be on ‘American Ninja Warrior.’

Howard advanced to the ‘American Ninja Warrior’ finals in Las Vegas during filming in August, and competed to win the $1 million grand prize. The final four episodes aired throughout September, and although Howard didn’t win, she says she will be back for more in the future.

Her collegiate career as a gymnast helped Howard prepare physically, but she says the intensity of being an ICU nurse has prepared her mentally for the challenge of competing on a reality competition show. Contestants aren’t allowed to practice on the ninja warrior course so their first time on the course is in front of an audience as they make split-second decisions in high-pressure situations on an unfamiliar course. To Howard, it feels much like her day-to-day job in the ICU.

Howard tells modernhealthcare.com, “Life can change so quickly and it motivated me to not stand still and be grateful for every moment I have.”

Finding a passion outside of her demanding 12-hour shifts in the ICU has also helped Howard become a better healthcare provider. She finds fulfillment in the training and it makes her a more confident provider for her vulnerable patients.

To learn more about Mady Howard, an ICU nurse who says the unpredictable nature of working in the ICU helped her train to be on ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ visit here.

Nurse of the Week: ICU Nurse Cami Loritz Donates Part of Liver, Saving 8-Year-Old Boy’s Life

Nurse of the Week: ICU Nurse Cami Loritz Donates Part of Liver, Saving 8-Year-Old Boy’s Life

Our Nurse of the Week is Cami Loritz, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse from Wisconsin who donated part of her liver for a transplant that saved an 8-year-old boy’s life. Loritz is an ICU nurse at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

The boy’s mother, Ruth Auten, says she now considers Loritz a part of their family. Auten’s son, Brayden Auten, was diagnosed with an aggressive virus that was attacking his liver this past April at the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital. Brayden’s parents were devastated to learn that their son was in need of a partial liver transplant.

Desperate to find a donor, they shared Brayden’s story online. They were flooded with positive responses, but no one who reached out was a match. Then Loritz showed up, a perfect match, and Brayden’s doctors immediately moved forward with the lifesaving transplant.

Brayden was able to go home in July and is now preparing to return to school as a healthy 8-year-old. Brayden and Loritz showed off their surgery scars in a photo shoot, which shows them wearing matching shirts and wide smiles.

Brayden’s parents told People.com, “What she did was completely selfless and she saved his life, plain and simple. We can’t thank her enough. She’s a true miracle. We consider her one of us, one of our family.”

To learn more about Cami Loritz, an ICU nurse from Wisconsin who donated part of her liver for a transplant that saved an 8-year-old boy’s life, visit here.

Nurse of the Week: Seattle Nurse Karin Huster Says Battling Ebola Outbreaks in Africa Is “The Best Job in the World”

Nurse of the Week: Seattle Nurse Karin Huster Says Battling Ebola Outbreaks in Africa Is “The Best Job in the World”

Our Nurse of the Week is Karin Huster, a Seattle-based nurse and field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. Huster spends six to 12 weeks at a time away from home, helping the world’s most vulnerable populations. Most recently she was in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) helping battle Ebola outbreaks.

Even though she regularly encounters dying patients, Huster tells seattletimes.com, “It’s the best job in the world. And I don’t mean this lightly…My goal in life is nothing else but to try to improve people’s lives.”

Ebola has killed over 2,000 individuals and sickened almost 3,000 individuals in the DRC since August 2018. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency in July 2019 while Huster was on her fourth trip there.

Helping those in need has been Huster’s dream since she was a child. She grew up on Réunion Island, a French island in the Indian Ocean, and in 1991 she moved to Seattle for a job translating English to French for Microsoft. Feeling unfulfilled, she left her job at Microsoft to enroll in nursing school at the University of Washington (UW). She spent eight years as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center before going back to UW to earn her master’s degree in global health. In 2012, Huster went to Lebanon on a trip with UW to work with Syrian refugees. It was there that she found her passion for traveling to help the world’s most vulnerable populations.

To learn more about Karin Huster, a Seattle-based nurse and field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders who considers her job battling Ebola outbreaks in Africa the “best job in the world,” visit here.  

Nurse of the Week: Critical Care Nurse Kayla Miller Performs CPR on Victims of Dayton, Ohio Shooting

Nurse of the Week: Critical Care Nurse Kayla Miller Performs CPR on Victims of Dayton, Ohio Shooting

Our Nurse of the Week is Kayla Miller, a critical care nurse from Dayton, Ohio who performed CPR on victims of the shooting that occurred early on the morning of August 4. Miller was fleeing the Ned Peppers Bar after hearing gunfire ringing out when she spotted victims who had been shot. Putting her own life in danger, Miller stopped to perform CPR on the wounded victims on the sidewalk.

Miller was at the Ned Peppers Bar celebrating a friend’s 25th birthday. As she was attempting to flee the scene for her own safety, she felt compelled to stop and help in any way she could. According to Miller, chaos ensued after hundreds of people in the area heard the shots.

Miller tells NBC’s TODAY, “I look down the sidewalk and see just a row of bodies. People shot, some alive, some not. I’m grateful to be able to be alive and talk to my family and friends and tell them I’m OK, but my heart breaks for these families.”

Nine people were killed in the shooting and 27 were injured after a 24-year-old opened fire outside the Ned Peppers Bar in the city’s popular Oregon district just after one o’clock in the morning. It was the second mass shooting in the United States in less than 24 hours, following a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas the day before that left 20 people dead.

To learn more about Kayla Miller, a critical care nurse who performed CPR on victims of the Dayton, Ohio shooting on August 4, visit here.


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