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What We Learned From Nursing Student Brandy Smith

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 10:21 am

Completing any college or post-college program is a lot of work, and for nursing students the stakes are even higher, since human lives will eventually depend on how well you learn the material. And like with anything worth having, the path to graduation presents the occasional obstacle. For some people, it's financial stresses, for others, it's figuring out how to balance family and school. But for nursing student Brandy Smith, the obstacle was much, much more sobering.

Right in the middle of her nursing school program, Brandy discovered a large lump during a self examination. Sure enough, the diagnosis came back with the dreaded word: cancer. Cancer had plagued the Smith family for years-with Brandy's mother and aunts all facing their own battles with the disease. But while the diagnosis may have seemed like a perfect excuse for Brandy to slow down and let go of her goals and aspirations, she did the opposite.

"Growing up, watching my mom, she just pushed through everything," Brandy told local news station WKYT. “She was like if it's God's will it's going to happen. So I just kind of took on her mentality."

Instead of quitting, Brandy continued her studies, despite a full chemotherapy treatment and double mastectomy. She also found time to mentor younger women throughout her battle.

"I feel like if I sat at home and dwelled on it, it would be worse so I wanted to surround myself with positive people," said Brandy.

And the really great news? Not only is Brandy still working towards graduation and a career as a nurse, but she's now been declared cancer free. She hopes to be able to use her experience in the fight against cancer in her nursing career, and has set her sights on pediatric oncology.

We've learned a lot from reading Brandy's story-namely that while we might not face her exact challenges, there's very little that can stand between us and our goals if we don't allow it. Everyone will face some type of challenge-some small, some large, and some (like Brandy's) life altering-but with the right attitude, a clear goal, and the right people around us, nothing can stand in our way.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are," writes playwright George Bernard Shaw. “I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."

So a big congratulations to Brandy Smith for both of her incredible achievements-you're going to make a wonderful nurse. And to those fighting your own individual battles on your way to building a better career, hang in there and keep moving forward. A lot of people work towards that light at the end of the tunnel, but as a nurse-you become the light at the end of the tunnel.

You've got this!

If you'd like more information on enrolling in one of Unitek College's nursing programs, contact us here for more information.

5 Technologies To Watch In 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 5:45 am

Last week we ran through a list of the medical stories of 2016 that caught our attention, but this week, we're looking forward. Whether you're preparing for a career in nursing or are already wearing the scrubs, keeping up with the rapidly changing medical technology landscape is imperative, and here are a few examples of medical tech you'll definitely want to keep an eye on this year.

Wearable Technology is one area that experts believe will play a big role in 2017. Technology like the FitBit is already seeing high usage levels, and that idea may expand to other health-related areas this year. "We're going to start to measure things like insulin, glucose – your sugar levels – through the skin," says CBS News' Dr. David Agus, "And so this is a year that we're going to see an explosion of devices to learn about ourselves."

Mobile Stroke Units are expected to find their way into more and more hospitals by the end of 2017. Because response time plays such a critical role in recovering from a stroke, hospitals are investing in mobile stroke units that allow first responders to both diagnose and treat stroke victims on scene. Preliminary use has shown very encouraging results, and it's estimated that approximately 40% of hospitals will install the units by the end of the year.

3D Surgery could find its way into more operating rooms in 2017, at least for neurologists and ophthalmologists. The technology helps specialized surgeons in these areas by letting them look up instead of hunching over for hours on end, which cuts down on fatigue, while also providing high resolution playback for medical residents studying to be "tomorrow's surgeons".

Medical Marijuana will almost certainly become more widely used in 2017, as restrictions continue to relax nationwide. Here's a breakdown of some of the bigger players in the industry and what they have in store for the year ahead. While the use of marijuana for any reason is still hotly debated, the plant appears to be here to stay, and chances are you'll start seeing it used more and more around your hospital or clinic.

Bioabsorbable Stents are expected to become a game changer in 2017. In mid-2016, the first version of the stent was approved by the FDA with more versions expected to come soon. The stent-which dissolves naturally after two years-reduces recovery time to just a few days (rather than months), and eliminates complications caused by its metal and plastic forebears. Curious as to how it works? Check this video out and see for yourself.

This list just scratches the surface of what you can expect to see coming this year, and we can't even begin to predict what we might be seeing two or three years down the line. It's an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the medical industry, whatever your role may be, and we can't wait to see where today's innovations will take us tomorrow.

If you'd like more information on beginning a career in the healthcare industry, find out how Unitek College can make that a reality by contacting us here.

The Top 7 Health Stories of 2016

Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 5:33 am

For better or worse, the year 2016 is behind us, and many are breathing a sigh of relief after a year that seemed wrought with unexpected celebrity deaths, virus scares, partisan politics, unpredictable weather, and other difficulties. But 2016 was also a busy year in the healthcare industry, and here are the top seven stories that captured our attention this year.

  1. The Zika Virus – While the outbreak began in 2015, coverage of the virus dominated much of 2016, with the World Health Organization finally declaring an end to the epidemic this past November. Because of the risk of microcephaly to babies born to infected women, fears quickly mounted as the virus slowly crept across United States borders, though at final count, only 216 cases were ever contracted locally (210 of which were contracted in Florida).
  2. Gene-Editing Breakthroughs – 2016 brought us the CRISPR-CAS9, a gene-editing tool that promises some amazing future applications. Basically, the tool uses an enzyme to allow scientists to manipulate DNA-a process that could eventually lead to leaps forward in cancer treatment and organ transplants.
  3. Opioid Epidemic – Opioid abuse continued to hit epidemic levels in the United States in 2016, with drug overdoses now killing more Americans than cars or guns.
  4. The Cancer Moonshot – Earlier this year, President Obama announced his administration's goal to create a Cancer Moonshot Task Force-an ambitious program that aims to accomplish a decade's worth of cancer research in just half that time. And in December of 2016, a bill that will fund the initiative was signed into law.
  5. Mortality Rates Are Rising – For the first time in a decade, the U.S. death rate ticked upward, lowering our overall life expectancy. Deaths due to "firearms, drug overdoses, accidental injuries, suicides, Alzheimer's disease, hypertension, and stroke" were among the main contributors, according to Fortune.
  6. The EpiPen Skyrockets In Cost – 2015 ended with Turing Pharmaceutical raising the cost of Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill, and 2016 followed suit when the Mylan NV company raised the price of EpiPens to $600 a pair (compared to $100 a pair in 2007). The decision resulted in both a backlash from consumers and the U.S. government, as well as the introduction of a new "generic" EpiPen injector.
  7. The Artificial Pancreas – A first-of-its-kind device, the artificial pancreas measures the glucose levels of patients with Type 1 diabetes and injects insulin as needed. The device won't be available until 2017, and still requires daily interaction, but the era of multiple blood sugar tests per day could be coming to an end.

While not all of the news this year was good news, each and every story can be used to illustrate the need for more hard-working, qualified healthcare workers. Whether they're helping with the next breakthrough or treating the current epidemics, nurses and medical assistants will be needed more than ever in 2017 and the years following. There's no telling what next year has in store, but with the right people in scrubs, we're sure we'll be able to handle whatever 2017 throws at us.

If you'd like more information on taking your first steps towards a career in nursing or medical assisting, contact Unitek College here.

The Rise Of The Virtual Nurse

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 6:35 am

These days, it seems like everything is going virtual-surgery training, currency, and even reality through devices such as the Oculus Rift and Playstation VR. Today, that list of virtual assets includes nurses, and the capabilities of those virtual nurses are evolving every day.

Before we go into the details of virtual nurses, we'll start by saying that these aren't-and probably never will be-replacements for floor nurses. Hospitals and clinics will always need someone who can work directly and physically with a patient. But those nurses can often get tied up with daily tasks and procedures, and that's where virtual nurses are stepping in to help.

Take patient discharges, for example-an important but time-consuming task. One company (CHI Health) is currently testing what they call a "virtual integrated care team", where one nurse can remotely handle patient discharge by calling in to the patient's room using a video monitor and microphone. Not only is the nurse able to walk the patient through the discharge instructions, but if there are any final details that need shared-information on changing a wound dressing, dietary requirements, or other instructions-the nurse can handle these responsibilities as well.

Patient monitoring is also beginning to move into the virtual realm. Ocuvera, a medical software startup, is testing 3D cameras inside patients' rooms to help predict and prevent falls. And if a patient starts to climb out of bed who shouldn't be climbing out of bed, a virtual nurse can immediately call in and gently remind him or her to stay put.

While the programs are still in the test phases, the innovation is already seeing results. One hospital saw a 22 percent drop in patient falls after installing the service, and the patients themselves are responding positively.

"To me, it streamlined a lot of things," patient Kyle Ainsworth told the Gwinnett Daily Post about the program. In the hospital for a stomach condition, Kyle was cared for by both floor nurses and a virtual nurse who "checked in with him several times a day" and walked him through his dietary restrictions and discharge paperwork.

As we mentioned before, the virtual nurse can never fully replace a nurse who's physically present, but the two can benefit each other greatly. And while it may be a few more years before programs such as CHI Health and Ocuvera are hiring full-time virtual nurses, many positions are already out there for nurses who prefer to work remotely, such as the ones offered here.

But one thing's for certain-the world of computers and the world of nursing will continue to intertwine as technology continues to leap forward, and the nurses who stay up-to-date and educated in both fields will be the ones leading their industry.

For more information on how you can begin working towards a career in nursing, contact Unitek College here.

A Nurse’s New Year’s Resolutions

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at 5:21 am

As fast as it came, the Christmas holiday is entering its final stretch, and just beyond December 25th lies January 1st-with the promise of a new year, a chance to improve our lives, and a chance to improve ourselves. But writing down those New Year's resolutions takes time, and if you're a nurse around the holidays, time is one gift you probably aren't able to give. So to help out, here are a few resolutions written specifically with nurses in mind. Feel free to claim one (or all) as your own, and let us know how they worked out for you!

Say Thank You - Nurses have one of the most underappreciated jobs in America, so we know what it's like to not get a "thank you" for our efforts. So resolve to break the cycle in 2017 by showing gratitude to everyone you can-be it your doctor, hospital staff, maintenance crew, or even just the patient who was remarkable calm and even-tempered in an emergency situation. Work "thank you" into your daily vocabulary, and watch the positive effect ripple outward.

Be Better Today Than Yesterday - RN Shelly Lopez Gray wrote a fantastic blog about the many things she's resolved to do better as a nurse in 2017 (far too many to list here), but if we had to boil it down to one thing, it would be keep moving forward. We'll never be perfect in our roles as nurses, so instead of resolving to be "the best", pick a more attainable goal and simply resolve to be "better". Be a better nurse today than you were yesterday.

Drop The "But" - Whatever your resolution (be more patient with patients, be more positive, smile more, save money, eat better), what usually prevents us from keeping it is a "but" hidden somewhere nearby. For example, we want to spend less on takeout, but that sushi place is amazing. We want to be more positive at work, but that one colleague is always complaining about something. Then, instead of resolving to accomplish the big, overarching goal, dedicate next year to eliminating that specific "but". (There's a whole article breaking down the process here.)

Resolve to Listen - So many problems come down to a lack of communication, and so many of those problems could be avoided if we were better listeners. In the chaos of a hospital or clinic, listening isn't always the easiest thing to do, but when we force ourselves to stop and focus on what's being said (or just as important, what's not being said), that's when we catch the information that might just solve a problem, open a door, or save a life.

Treat Your Goals Like Patients - In other words, be flexible. Don't expect instant success. A patient might improve, then decline, then decline again before his or her treatment succeeds, and you don't give up on them the first time they take a downward turn. If something isn't working, you take a step back, analyze, and come up with a new approach-occasionally bringing in outside help (doctor) to some additional insight. Pursue your 2017 resolutions with the same dogged determination that you pursue better health for your patients, and next year could bring some amazing results.

And of course, if you aren't currently a nurse but you've made a resolution to become one, we can definitely help with that resolution. Give Unitek College a call today and we'll be happy to answer any questions you might have about program schedules, costs, courses, and more.

Surviving the Christmas Shift

Monday, December 12, 2016 at 6:07 am

So you're stuck with the Christmas shift this year… it was bound to happen. And if it hasn't happened to you yet, just wait! With healthcare, like other emergency services, the job doesn't always cooperate with the calendar, and patients will need urgent care regardless of what the rest of your friends and family are doing that day. But don't worry, with the right mindset and a few tricks, you won't just survive the Christmas shift, you'll excel at it.

The first thing to remember is that nobody really wants to be in the hospital during the holidays. But how you respond to your shift assignment is entirely within your control.

"A lot of times the patients don't want to be there, and the staff doesn't want to be there. But you do your best to be jovial for the patients," says Sharon Broscious, program director for Nursing at South University - Richmond.

One thing that will help to keep that "Christmas spirit" is to find the positive perspectives of working on a holiday, and yes, they do exist. For one, it's a job, not an illness, which means as inconvenient as it might be, you still get to go home after your shift, while many of your patients will remain in their beds. There's also the potential of overtime pay in some cases, you get to spend holiday time with your work family, and sometimes, work can be a pleasant escape from the stress of a house full of holiday visitors.

But many will find that the escape from the Christmas shift doldrums comes not from concentrating on finding positives for you, but in finding positives for your patients. You're the one in control of their Christmas environment, and the extra miles you go to bring some holiday cheer to their stay will almost always be appreciated in ways you may never fully know. It's the season of giving, after all, so do what nurses do best and give.

Play some Christmas music, put up some decorations (after checking with your hospitals policies, of course), bring in some cookies, and find ways to get creative. Just keep in mind that not all people celebrate Christmas-some celebrate other holidays, like Hanukah or Kwanza, and some don't celebrate at all-so just like in public speaking or teaching, you need to remember your audience.

You can also help your holiday shift state of mind by making smart choices outside of work. You might not be able to control your time commitments inside your hospital, but you are very much in control of your commitments outside the hospital. If you know you have a potentially stressful Christmas shift looming, make sure not to overcommit yourself to holiday activities in the days before and after. Go into your holiday shift refreshed, and plan time to rest and relax after.

You'll also want to give your friends and family plenty of advance notice of any holiday shifts-managing expectations in advance can go a long way towards preventing hurt feelings or resentment.

One thing is for certain, though. Even though pulling the holiday shift might be disappointing, we're very glad to know that people like you are there if we need you. And we know we're not alone in that.

If you'd like more information on becoming a nurse or advancing your nurses training, you can contact Unitek College here.