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“MacGyver” Nurses: Changing Healthcare One Innovation At A Time

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 5:27 am

When you think of someone cobbling together a life-saving, innovative solution using nothing but common, household items, you probably think about TV hero "MacGyver". But the people you should really be thinking about are nurses.

Day to day, nurses face any and every challenge possible as they man the front lines of heath care, and sometimes, the tools they need to accomplish a goal aren't just missing... they don't exist! Because of this, nurses across the country are gaining recognition as "Health Care MacGyvers"-medical professionals using their wits, creativity, and anything on hand to build their own tools.

Over the past several years, hospitals across the country have begun embracing the innate ingenuity of nurses, some going as far as providing workshops and materials to tinker, invent, and improve. Some of the tools created so far include goggles for infants in prenatal phototherapy care, IV alarms made from electronic toys, catheter restraints made with parts from Home Depot, and medication-dispensing utility belts to help nurses work hands free.

Of course, this isn't the first time health care technology has been changed based on the inventiveness of a nurse. As the people who work closest with patients on a day-to-day basis, nurses have a unique perspective on hospital life that allows them to spot problem areas that could easily be solved. Some of the ideas that have come from nurses include:

  1. Color-Safe IV lines to prevent medication errors.
  2. The No No Sleeve, which protects patients from harm by indicating arms that should not be used for medical procedures or IV lines.
  3. The ECT Gown and the GoGown, innovative new hospital gowns that provide modesty while improving defenses against infection and still allowing doctors and nurses quick access to the patient's body.
  4. The Lotus Stethoscope Holster, which helps prevent injury from medical professionals wearing stethoscopes around their necks for extended periods of time.

"We know from our research that some of the best DIY technologies being used in hospitals and clinics around the world are the inventions of nurses," says MakerNurse co-founder Jose Gomez-Marquez. "They are translating their instinct to care into a skillset to solve everyday problems and make their patients healthy."

Nurses are even beginning to be paired with engineers in some hospitals, in hopes that the combination of the nurse's experience and problem-solving ideas with the engineer's special training will produce new medical technology that can then be made available worldwide.

Remember, the world of medicine is constantly changing, and as a nurse, you'll have the opportunity to be a part of that change. So if you see something that can be improved, and the light bulb goes off over your head as to how, speak up! You may just be the mind behind the next great medical innovation.

If you'd like more information about beginning a career as a nurse, contact Unitek College here for more information.

The Real Value of a BSN Degree

Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 5:21 am

Recently, a meme began circulating around social media, one claiming that according to the Guinness World Book of Records, the BSN degree is considered the toughest college course in America, thus making it one of the most valuable. Even though that particular claim turned out to be a hoax, there is quite a lot of truth to the value of a BSN degree. In fact, you may be seeing more and more hospitals requiring them.

A few years ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report The Future of Nursing & Advancing Health, a document with many recommendations for improving our healthcare system, nursing requirements, and ways to keep our medical care competitive with the rest of the world. One of the many recommendations centered on the BSN degree. Currently, the number of nurses with BSN degrees hovered around 55%. But by the year 2020, the Institute of Medicine believes that 80% of nurses should hold the degree.

It's not difficult to understand why the Institute of Medicine places such a high value on the BSN degree.

  1. The BSN degree allows nurses to specialize in certain medicines and focuses. This means more job opportunities and better marketability as an employee.
  2. Nurses with a BSN earn significantly more on average than RN's. According to Payscale.com, BSN's may earn on average up to $30,000 more a year than the average RN salary.
  3. According to multiple studies, more nurses with BSN degrees means better patient care overall within a hospital setting.
  4. A BSN is a requirement for most nurse management positions.

Essentially, everything about the BSN degree comes down to leadership. Certification as an RN is an excellent, necessary role in the healthcare community, and the BSN degree builds on the essential skills and clinical experienced earned in the RN program. In addition to clinical skills, BSN students also learn communication, critical thinking, and other management skills-skills that allow the BSN degree holders to take charge and make positive changes in their health care settings.

While the social media meme about BSN's may have been a hoax, it wasn't wrong about the value of the degree, nor the amount of work required to land one. Fortunately, online programs such as the Unitek College RN-to-BSN program have made the transition to BSN much more manageable for working students and RN's. (In case you missed it, here's a look at what life is like as an online student.)

"The United States has the opportunity to transform its health care system, and nurses can and should play a fundamental role in this transformation," writes the Institute of Medicine. We couldn't agree more, and if there's any way we can help you become part of that transformation, just let us know.

For more information on the online RN-to-BSN program at Unitek College, click here.

Life As An Online Student

Friday, September 2, 2016 at 5:18 am

If you're a prospective student eyeing the nursing programs at Unitek College, they probably aren't hard to imagine-after all, all of us have been in a classroom setting at some point in our lives. But if you're an RN eyeing Unitek College's online RN-to-BSN program, you might have some questions on what your experience will be like.

The number one thing you'll notice (besides the absence of desks, classroom walls, and classmates within an arm's reach) is the schedule. Classroom schedules are rigid and predetermined-you know exactly what blocks of time to carve out for lectures and lab work. But if you're studying online, the responsibility of setting a schedule falls entirely on you. On one hand, creating your own schedule allows your classroom and study time to be very flexible. But on the other hand, you're constantly surrounded by the distractions of home, so you'll want to have a solid plan for getting your work done.

"The big myth is it's easier to go online, because you can do it at your own pace," says Tamara Popovich of Arizona State University. "You do have more flexibility, but it's not any easier ... It's harder, because you're on your own; you're left to your own devices." To overcome this challenge, Popovich strongly suggests setting a specific routine, making your studies a daily activity, looking ahead to future assignments, and speaking up if you feel you're falling behind.

The good news is: it's all doable. If you have what it takes to be a good student in a physical classroom, then you have what it takes to make it as an online student. Just find the schedule that works for you, and don't procrastinate.

Your day might look Kelle Howard's, a 40-year old mom and teacher who sets aside an hour or two after dinner each day (and a few extra on the weekends) to knock out her coursework. Or you could give Fara Bowler's approach a try-a 43-year old mother of four, who stays late at work one night a week to work on her studies.

The truth is, it's impossible to predict exactly what your online experience will be like, because no two experiences are the same. Online classes meld to your schedule, your natural rhythms and preferences, and around your family life and work schedule. You might hit the program hard and graduate within 12 months (assuming the maximum transfer of credits). Or you could take a slower pace and stretch your program out another year.

But while individual experiences may vary within the program, the end result (after passing all exams) is the same for all graduates-a BSN degree, a distinction that puts you in a higher salary bracket (earning $12,000 to $17,000 more than ADN's on average), qualifies you for specialized positions and more responsibility, and overall makes you much more attractive to prospective employers.

An online degree isn't a shortcut, and it does take a lot of work and sacrifice to complete. But the possible rewards at the end make it more than worth it.

If you'd like more information on the Unitek College RN-to-BSN online program, click here.

A Survival Guide for the Introvert Nurse

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 5:10 am

At first glance, the world of nursing might seem custom-built for extroverts-those people for whom being outgoing seems to come so naturally. For introverts, the field may seem daunting. After all, striking up conversations with strangers and spending the entire day working with other people aren't exactly the types of things introverts line up to do. But there are ways to not only survive as an introvert nurse, but you can use your personality type to excel.

  1. Listen.A core strength of introverts, as mentioned in this article at Forbes, is the ability to listen and empathize with the people around them. (Small talk, for the introvert, tends to be their own private purgatory.) As such, you have the unique ability to have significant conversations with both patients and co-workers. Use this to get to the root of problems, to solve miscommunications, and to make your patient the most important person in the room.
  2. Don't be afraid of the quietquiet - It's quite possible that your patient wants to avoid small talk as much as you do. If you detect this is the case, embrace the silence! "Silence creates space for things that are important in any healthcare setting. Silence allows a patient to process what you just said, and to share something they haven't shared with anyone else," advises Jennifer Doering (PhD, RN).
  3. Take your time - We've all met the co-worker or manager who speaks first and thinks second, and we know how that tends to end. As an introvert, take advantage of your natural desire to think things through before acting. "Introverted leaders tend to think deeply about a given scenario before taking action," writes Forbes. "In contemplating the intricacies of a situation first, introverts are better equipped to communicate with their team and drive positive results." However, the article also adds that to truly succeed, you also need to be ready and willing to act once a decision has been made.
  4. Don't use your personality as an excuse - Being an introvert simply means that you need down time to recharge (as opposed to extroverts who use social situations to recharge). It doesn't mean that you're antisocial, so don't let your personality type become an excuse for being sullen and distant. "Being an introvert does not equate to being gloomy or distant. Introverts are cheerful by nature, as they know how to cheer themselves up without the need to look for another person to do the job for them," writes RN Sheena Saavedra. That gives you a powerful tool when working with patients, for whom a smile and cheerful attitude can mean the world.
  5. Take time to "recharge" - Working with patients, nurses, doctors, and technicians can wear you down after a while, so be sure to take the time to recharge when needed. Don't feel bad about turning down that invitation to go out for dinner after your shift. "Know Thyself", writes Socrates, and if you know that you need a break, take a break. You'll be a better nurse, co-worker, friend, and all-around human being for it.

Finally, understand that there's nothing at all wrong with being an introvert. You "simply do things differently and have capacities and abilities that others may not recognize. You are more concerned with doing the work and solving the problems than making sure people know that you are doing the work and solving the problems," writes Doering. You bring something to the table that no one else can, so own it, trust yourself, and trust your training. You're going to do just fine.

For more information on beginning your career as a nurse, contact Unitek College by clicking here.

Surviving the Satisfaction Survey

Friday, August 19, 2016 at 5:15 am

Anyone who has read a Patient Satisfaction Survey (you can find an example here) knows they can be daunting. And if your future clinic or hospital tracks patient satisfaction this way, then as a nurse, the surveys can be even more daunting.

For many hospitals, there's a financial incentive for higher patient satisfaction scores, and so averaging those high numbers can quickly become a high priority-a priority that gets passed down to doctors, nurses, and assistants. There are arguments for and against these types of surveys-having happy patients is certainly a plus, but opponents fear that if doctors and nurses focus only on a patient's satisfaction, they may not focus enough on actually healing the patient.

But arguing about whether or not hospitals and clinics should have surveys doesn't change the fact that many do, and if you work at one of these locations, there are a few things you can do to help keep those scores on the upper half of the grading scale.

Eye Contact is a great place to start. A recent study found that strong eye contact during short visits (plus a moderate amount of social touch) makes medical professionals appear to be more empathetic-a strong positive among patients. Maintaining that eye contact builds a personal connection with your patient and lets them know that you see them and respect them as a person. Avoiding eye contact or staring at notes the entire visit comes across as cold and impersonal. However, the same study also found that prolonged eye contact over a longer visit has a negative effect, so don't think that simply staring at your patient is going to win you any bonus points. In fact, they might just request a different nurse.

Next, put yourself in the patient's shoes. An article on Forbes.com suggests that you occasionally park where your patients park, see how difficult it is to navigate the halls in crutches, or walk with a non-employee as they try and navigate the building. If you spot something that could make a patient's day even a little easier, you're taking a step in a positive direction.

Third, understand that no patient's stay will be perfect, and be prepared to handle complaints quickly and properly. "Most complainants are hoping that their concerns are acknowledged quickly, their fears allayed, apologies provided and that learning has been achieved," writes chief nurse Kay Fawcett. In other words, most patients won't expect you to move mountains-they just want to be heard and understood.

And finally, learn from your results. It's tough to get critical feedback, and you will get your share of comments written by patients or family members who are simply frustrated with their situation and are using the survey as a medium. But if your results consistently point to an area where you need improvement, don't get upset at the test... improve! No one likes reading ways that they aren't perfect, but by identifying weaknesses and turning them into strengths, we become better nurses and better people.

For more information on becoming a nurse through one of Unitek College's nursing programs, contact us here.

Avoid These Common Injuries for Nurses

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 5:24 am

So the phrase "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" might not be one you'll find in your Unitek College textbooks, but there's still something to be said for the old adage. As nurses, you will be working at full speed, sometimes on little rest, and most of that time, you'll be on your feet. Those factors add up to make nursing the third most injury plagued occupation in the country. But if you know what to watch out for, and if you take the right precautions, you may be able to avoid those painful workplace accident.

Musculoskeletal injuries are one of the most common for nurses. In fact, nurses have a 48% higher chance of having sprained wrists, backs, or ankles on the job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these injuries come while handling or moving patients (transferring someone from a wheel chair to a bed, for example). While there is no fool-proof way of handling patients, you still can turn the odds in your favor by remembering to follow Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM) guidelines at your hospital or clinic. You can also help avoid injury by staying in good physical shape, getting plenty of rest, investing in shoes with good arch support (and no-slip treads), and by remembering to always lift with your legs!

Another common injury comes from handling used needles and syringes-not only is a prick painful, but dangerous infections or diseases can be transferred. Even though a law was passed to help make handling needles safer (the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act), true safety comes from nurses being aware of the possibility of injury, the potential dangers of those injuries, and the conscious decision to move carefully while handling used equipment.

Third, medicines exist to make people better, but that doesn't mean they can't be dangerous. The CDC keeps a sample list of the many potentially hazardous medicines and chemicals you may interact with in a healthcare setting. Know everything you can about the drugs you'll be handling, pay close attention to the safe handling procedures, and you should be able to avoid any unpleasant accidents.

Finally, emotions run high for patients at medical facilities, you get all sorts of people walking through those doors, and not all of them will fully understand that you're there to help. Assault or abuse from patients is always a risk, and nurses tend to be easy targets. While 100% accuracy in predicting patient behavior is impossible, you should still trust your instincts, and always be willing to ask for help if you feel that a situation isn't safe. And if abuse of any kind does occur, report it right away. Not only will you be protecting yourself, but you'll be helping protect the next nurse (or nurses) who may have to interact with this person.

All in all, the most important thing for you to do to help avoid on-the-job injuries is to take a breath and remember your training. Chances are, whether at Unitek College or during your clinical training, you were given instructions on how to proceed safely with your job responsibilities. Things may get hectic at times, but if you keep that training and those instructions fresh in your mind, chances are you'll be just fine.

Be safe out there!

If you'd like more information on Unitek College nurse training programs, contact us here.