Nurse of the Week: Emma Strong, University of Georgia Nursing Student, Helps Victims of Vehicle Crash

Nurse of the Week: Emma Strong, University of Georgia Nursing Student, Helps Victims of Vehicle Crash

Our Nurse of the Week is Emma Strong, a University of Georgia (UGA) nursing student who pulled over to help the victims of a vehicle crash. Strong was assisted by two others, Vicki Bishop and Michael Derricotte, and all three citizens of Athens, GA were later recognized for their lifesaving efforts.

After two vehicles engaged in a head-on collision that resulted in one of the vehicles catching fire and a child who had stopped breathing, Strong and the others knew they had witnessed a very serious accident. Bishop, a nurse, began performing CPR on the child until emergency services arrived while Derricotte, a husband and father, pulled the injured driver out of the inflamed vehicle. Strong jumped in to help jam open a car door to rescue the people inside.

Strong is also CPR certified and recalls that the main thing running through her mind at the scene was thankfulness for her CPR training. She tells, “I knew that they needed my help, so I brushed my fear aside and sprang into action.”

Following the incident, Strong, Bishop, and Derricotte were all recognized by the mayor and the local fire and emergency services chief. Members of a community are often the first ones to arrive at the scene of an emergency, and they deserve recognition for the lifesaving acts they perform while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

To learn more about UGA nursing student Emma Strong’s experience helping the victims of a vehicle crash, visit here.

Why Specialize in Oncology? Advice for Nursing Students

Why Specialize in Oncology? Advice for Nursing Students

Oncology is a challenging but rewarding nursing specialty. With May being designated as Oncology Nursing Month, it’s a good time for nursing students to learn more about becoming an oncology nurse and connect with oncologists who have made the great big specialty leap.

Is Being an Oncology Nurse Right for You?

All nurses should be compassionate, precise, and resilient. That said, oncology is a particularly challenging subset of nursing due to the nature of the disease. As an oncology nurse, your days may include monitoring a patient’s physical condition, handling medication, and administering chemotherapy and other treatments.

Alene Nitzky, a certified oncology nurse and author of Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts The Course for Cancer Survivorship Care, emphasizes that the work can be very demanding. “Make sure you are really driven to do this work and that you have a true passion because it is extremely physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding,” she says.

Since oncology can be so emotionally exhausting, it’s important to practice good self-care. Stepping back and focusing on rest and rejuvenation will help you return to the job with even more sensitivity, empathy, and emotional resilience. Nurses of all sorts need to be able to dig deep emotionally, physically, and mentally to persevere through tough shifts.

A small mistake in medication dosage or timing can have devastating effects for an oncology patient, so attention to detail is important. Good oncology nurses will notice even small changes in their patients’ charts and are the first line of defense if something is amiss.

Diving into the world of oncology nursing also means that you’ll have to be comfortable with end-of-life issues, including grief and loss. Oncology nurses have to hone the psychosocial side of their role in addition to the highly technical aspects of monitoring their patients. Knowing when to listen to patients and their families versus offering consolation or advice is a key challenge for oncology nurses.

Keep in mind that pediatric oncology comes with the additional emotional challenge of helping young children and their families. A keen ability to navigate emotionally-charged groups is a must.

If you think that you have the emotional resilience, technical precision, and compassion to pursue oncology nursing, this field is incredibly rewarding.

Words of Wisdom from Oncology Nurses

If you’re thinking of pursuing a specialization in oncology nursing, you’ll want to explore the various types of positions available.

As an oncology nurse, you may find work in a variety of settings. You can get outside the hospital to work in a nursing home or health care center. This is ideal for nurses who may enjoy getting out to work in the community.

Oncology nurses can also work in the private sector or be nurse entrepreneurs to expand their horizons beyond the traditional health care setting. Nitzky adds, “Nursing students should seek opportunities to talk with oncology nurses who have left traditional health care and work in the community or public health settings, because they will give you a much more well-rounded look at the value you bring to your patients and clients.”

It’s always smart to reach out to a variety of experienced individuals in your chosen field. Track down several oncology nurses who work in traditional health care, in the community, and in public health settings. This will give you a better idea of the field you’re pursuing.

You’ll do a far better job of helping patients if you’re comfortable. Take care of yourself with good compression socks and comfortable nursing shoes.

The same goes for your mental health. Compassion fatigue or emotional burnout is a real challenge for many health care professionals. Since oncology nurses often work with very sick patients, they need to take extra care to not take work home. It’s easy to constantly think about that particularly charming patient or worry about parents who are on shaky emotional ground.

Just remember that you can’t do your best work if you’re emotionally and physically exhausted. Find ways to disengage from your patients and their families when you’re away from work and ensure that you have healthy self-care routines of diet, exercise, and rest.

The Joys and Challenges of Oncology Nursing

The oncology nurses we spoke to all named the patients as their favorite part of the job. Even when a patient’s cancer is quite advanced or a prognosis is poor, oncology nurses love making a difference in quality of life. Every day that you work with a cancer patient is another opportunity to make their lives better, which makes the job worthwhile.

When asked about the hardest part of being an oncology nurse, Nitzky said, “The most challenging part of the job is not what you’d think. It is difficult to lose patients after you’ve gotten to know them and bonded with them and their families, but the most challenging thing about the work is that you don’t have enough time to do all the things you know would make much more of a difference because you have too many administrative demands on you coming from your employer. Nursing is more about computer screens and documentation than it is about patient care, unfortunately.”

How to Become an Oncology Nurse

Becoming an oncology nurse requires extra schooling after nursing school, like any specialty. After getting an RN license, a prospective oncology nurse will need to meet specific eligibility criteria and pass an exam. The exact parameters vary state by state, but advanced certifications generally require a master’s degree or higher in nursing as well as hundreds of hours of supervised clinical practice.

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation offers a variety of certification options that you can pursue to stand out in a hiring pool and to further your knowledge of cancer care. Most certifications last for four years before they must be renewed with a recertification test or continuing education credits. To qualify, you have to spend at least one year working as an RN, work 1,000 hours in an oncology setting, and pass an exam. You can rotate into oncology units in many hospitals without extra certifications, but the knowledge gained with continuing education is worth its weight in gold to help patients further.

Checklist of Traits of a Great Oncology Nurse
  • Compassionate
  • Precise
  • Detail-oriented
  • Emotionally resilient
  • Passionate
  • Adept at reading social situations
  • Good at discerning when to listen and support
  • Competent at self-care skills
  • Comfortable with end-of-life issues, grief, and loss
Nurses of the Week: Penn Nursing Grads Fundraise Scholarship for Midwives of Color

Nurses of the Week: Penn Nursing Grads Fundraise Scholarship for Midwives of Color

Our Nurses of the Week are the student nurses of the University of Pennsylvania Nurse-Midwifery program who have created a scholarship for midwives of color. Each class of the program delivers a class gift to their professors prior to graduation like artwork or a charity donation, but the Class of 2017 decided to try something unconventional.

The students reported that their inspiration came from looking around their own classroom and realizing that only two students out of the 21 person class were students of color. Nursing graduate Kateryn Nunez, one of the two students of color in her graduating class, tells, “The point of the scholarship is to address the fact that over 95 percent of midwives in the US are white, whereas the people they care for, the majority are people of color, are poor people, are immigrants, LGBTQ.”

Midwives provide a personalized approach to childbirth for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies. This was originally a common practice among black and immigrant populations but a stigma around home births discouraged people from communities of color from going into the field. As the “natural birth” movement gained popularity in recent decades, it created a racial imbalance in the profession that still exists today.

One of the largest barriers to entry for students of color to become midwives is affordability, which is why the 2017 Penn Nurse-Midwife class decided to create their scholarship. They have raised over $11,000 through grassroots fundraising from friends and family but have a total goal of $125,000. If they reach their goal, Penn will contribute an additional $25,000.

These students hope that their efforts will send a message to other universities about the importance of their scholarship. To learn more about Penn’s Nurse-Midwife program, visit here.

Nurses of the Week: Illinois State University Nursing Students Work in Schools to Inspire Healthy Habits

Nurses of the Week: Illinois State University Nursing Students Work in Schools to Inspire Healthy Habits

Our Nurses of the Week are the undergraduate nursing students in the Illinois State University (ISU) Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) who are working their clinical hours in schools to help improve the lives of young people by inspiring healthy habits at an early age.

These clinical hours are being completed through MCN’s award winning pediatric and public health clinical experience called America’s Promise Schools Project. America’s Promise provides clinical experiences for 90 nursing seniors each fall, sending seven to eight students to each of the 23 sites in six schools districts across three counties in Central Illinois.

The community health initiative combines engagement and real-world training, allowing schools to receive help in teaching students how to live healthy lifestyles while nursing students gain clinical experience in a public health setting. The many projects that have been initiated across Central Illinois are focused around the core areas of oral health, obesity, and mental health. Past programs have included teaching mindfulness exercises to teach elementary students how to be kinder to each other and assisting rural high schools with their suicide prevention efforts.

MCN understands the importance of clinical hours for nursing students. Assistant Professor Carla Pohl, director of America’s Promise, tells, “Not only are they getting the experience in the school, but they are seeing what community nursing looks like. The project helps the students learn what the reality is. It helps them learn what the community resources are.”

America’s Promise was introduced to local schools in 2011. Last year, the program received the Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), recognizing the outstanding work of AACN schools to re-envision traditional models for nursing education and lead programmatic change.

To learn more about MCN’s America’s Promise Schools Project to inspire healthy habits for children, visit here.

Bullying of the Student Nurse: The Cycle Begins

Bullying of the Student Nurse: The Cycle Begins

What student nurses learn and what they experience, either positive or negative, during their formation as a nurse will forever become part of their character. Horizontal violence is common among students for many reasons and perpetuated because they see themselves as powerless. Unfortunately, much research on violence and bullying in nursing usually excludes student nurses in sample populations, and there have been few studies done on the correlation of horizontal violence and nurse bullying and the effect on student nurses. Not only are student nurses victims of bullying, but they themselves become bullies as well. This impact must be addressed as well, because student nurses are our future in the health care system, and the lives of patients depend on the student nurse becoming a just and moral citizen.

Student nurses compete for entrance to nursing school; this pits them against their peers. Then, once in nursing school, they are often met with an instructor who says, “Look on either side of you; that student won’t be with you when you graduate.” This introduces fear of failure and adds to an already stressful environment. The degradation of students continues throughout their clinical rotations and classroom attendance. After graduation, they then must compete for intern placement, academic honors, and job placement. This struggle does not create a colleague, but rather a competitor against whom the student must win or face failure.

Student nurses suffer from lack of sleep, lack of a social outlet, intense worry, stress, and anxiety. Unless they have developed healthy coping mechanisms, this stress is turned outward onto fellow students, faculty, and family, resulting in negative comments and behavior and angry outbursts. Students may also face bullying from several different sources, including staff nurses, clinical and classroom instructors, patients, instructors, visitors, and fellow students.

The most common type of bullying against student nurses is verbal assault, and clinical instructors have been identified as the main source of bullying behavior towards students.

Bullying behavior experienced by student nurses includes: being excluded or alienated; receiving destructive criticism; experiencing resentment; being humiliated in the presence of fellow students, staff, or patients; having their work undervalued; being treated with hostility; being blamed for patient care incidents that were the fault of the staff; being ignored by staff or the preceptor; lack of communication; being threatened with a poor evaluation that may be the result of changing clinical expectations that were not communicated; and faculty who “mentally sabotage” them by not being clear about testing or clinical expectations.

All of bullying forces converge against the student, not allowing him or her to reach full potential. Bullying has a direct effect on the confidence level of the student and causes personal and professional outcomes similar to those of bullied staff nurses. This includes feelings of decreased self-esteem, lack of autonomy, decreased self-worth, anger, fear, low morale, frustration, anxiety, increased errors, stress, apathy, burnout, guilt, worry, sleep disturbances, and symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder.

It is the professional and ethical responsibility of faculty within schools of nursing and individual nurse educators to educate their students, beginning early in the process, to recognize signs of bullying from all persons with whom they currently interact or will interact with in the future, including patients, staff, fellow students, instructors/professors, and preceptors and to suggest strategies for a solution.

Nurse educators can help change how bullying is addressed in the following ways:

  • Educate students on what bullying and horizontal and lateral violence are as well as their impact on patient care.
  • Prepare students prior to entering their clinical area for bullying behaviors they may encounter and how to manage their behavior.
  • Teach students prior to their graduation about the behaviors they may encounter at a new job and how to manage those behaviors.
  • Allow students to freely express themselves about negative interactions they have encountered and how they dealt with the behavior.
  • Acknowledge that role playing and conflict resolution should not be considered the “cure” for the bully or the victim. These strategies may actually encourage further bullying behavior if the school of nursing does not utilize other strategies to recognize and end the behavior.
  • Ensure that those who precept students are educated in how to effectively precept.
  • Teach students whom they need to inform if bullying or violence occurs. The school and health care facility policies and procedures regarding bullying reporting must be reviewed with the student. This includes witnesses to bullying.
  • Make sure that students, in turn, feel safe in reporting to their instructor, faculty, preceptor, and later on, to a unit manager. They must feel that their complaints are taken seriously and will be acted upon and are held in confidence.
  • All educators, including preceptors, should be knowledgeable in the methods to resist bullying and horizontal violence as well as to identify it.
  • Educators in every venue, classroom, or clinical area must model behavior that includes effective methods for reducing hostility.
  • Enforce a zero tolerance policy for abuse, bullying, or violence. Nurse educators should model that nothing but respect will be tolerated from any health care professional, student, patient, or visitor.
  • Teach students that violence, bullying, and verbal abuse are not a part of nursing, and enduring them is not a rite of passage!
  • Encourage all nurses to model professional behavior. What is seen by students is imitated by them. If students experience bullying and the bullying is condoned, they will become bullies and the cycle will continue.
  • Clinical instructors should be knowledgeable in not only clinical skills but also in how to effectively communicate and interact with students and staff.
  • All nursing schools and universities have a responsibility to define bullying, and to design and implement anti-bullying policies and procedures.
  • Provide students with information of outside or university support for victims of bullying.
  • Make students aware of the psychological effects of bullying and also coping mechanisms to deal with stress.
Nurses of the Week: Surgical Mission to Ecuador Becomes Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for Columbia CRNA Students

Nurses of the Week: Surgical Mission to Ecuador Becomes Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for Columbia CRNA Students

In honor of CRNA Week, our Nurses of the Week are two Columbia University nursing students who traveled to Ecuador on a surgical mission. Julian Piazzola and William Scott, both members of the Columbia Nursing Class of 2018, jumped at the opportunity to assist a surgical mission in Ecuador. As Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) students, it was the perfect opportunity to participate in a clinical rotation while also getting to travel abroad.

The students were accompanied by Michael Greco, DNP, director of Columbia’s Nurse Anesthesia Program, on the week-long health mission with Blanca’s House to bring quality medical care to countries and communities in Latin America. Their clinical experience in Ecuador included setting up an operating room to provide anesthesia for total knee replacements and head and neck cases for local citizens.

Although the clinical hours they completed in Ecuador did not count toward their hour requirements for official CRNA licensing, Piazzola and Scott say their medical mission was an invaluable opportunity to volunteer their services to patients in need. Piazzola tells

“Providing care in a remote location was extremely rewarding. I felt the impact we made on this community, and I left with such a positive feeling about the patient experience, which is integral to nursing care.”

To read Columbia Nursing’s full interview with Piazzola and Scott about their experiences volunteering on a surgical mission to Ecuador, visit here.

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