Burning the Midnight Oil Could Literally Be Killing You

Burning the Midnight Oil Could Literally Be Killing You

Burning the Midnight Oil Could Literally Be Killing You

Burning the Midnight Oil Could Literally Be Killing You

For some of us, getting up at the crack of dawn is easy… it’s in our nature. We like an earlier bedtime and getting an early start on the next day. But for others, time spent sleeping is time that could be spent doing hundreds of other things—socializing, studying, catching up on the latest Netflix series, or just enjoying nightlife. Of the two chronotypes, though, one is at increased risk of health problems… and it’s not the morning people.

Sure, it may feel like you’re just being a hard worker by staying up until 4am studying for that next phlebotomy exam, but new research suggests that making those late nights a habit could do some serious damage to your body.

The study followed 430,000 individuals, tracking their sleeping patterns against their overall health, and the results were stunning. Not only did the night owls have a higher risk of developing diabetes, psychological disorders, gastrointestinal issues, and neurological disorders, but overall, those burning the midnight oil are ten percent more likely to die early than those who are early to bed, early to rise.

(It’s probably also worth mentioning that the late-night cramming sessions don’t actually do you any favors.)

“What we think might be happening is, there’s a problem for the night owl who’s trying to live in the morning lark world,” says Kristen Knutson, who lead the study. “This mismatch between their internal clock and their external world could lead to problems for their health over the long run, especially if their schedule is irregular.”

The issue, researchers believe, comes down to our biological clocks—the mechanism that regulates our body over a 24-hour period. Our “clocks” are programmed to respond to light—sleep when it’s dark, rise when it’s light—and when we knock that clock out of sync (sleeping during the day, for example), our bodies suffer consequences.

“It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use,” explains Knutson. “There [is] a whole variety of unhealthy behaviors related to being up late in the dark by yourself.”

The problem is, not all of us can be morning people. Science suggests that our genetics determine whether we’re morning larks or night owls. And for many nurses, night shifts determine whether we’re awake or asleep during normal rhythms. Fortunately, there’s hope.

Even if work or genetics keeps someone up past a “normal” bedtime, Knutson suggests that these people can still benefit from a regular bedtime and plenty of sleep, plus a deliberate focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle—getting plenty of exercise, eating right, and not abusing alcohol or drugs.

Researchers also stressed the need to find a job that fits your natural rhythm. If you’re a natural night owl, then the hospital night shift could be a great fit for you—provided you’re still able to get enough sleep during the day.

But where possible, Knutson continues, night owls should begin making the gradual transition to better sleeping habits.

“I want to emphasize the gradual aspect. You can’t suddenly tonight just go to bed three hours earlier. It’s not going to work,” Knutson said. “You also need to really avoid light at night, including your smartphone and your tablets,” she added. “That not only makes it hard to fall asleep; it’s also a signal to your clock to start being later again.”

For nurses, getting enough sleep can be a particularly difficult challenge. Nurses face long work shifts, odd hours, and just because it’s 2am doesn’t mean people stop having medical emergencies. And for those working night shifts, it can be very tempting to give up sleep during the day in favor of spending more time with family, doing chores, getting out of the house, or even doing extra work on the side.

The important thing is to make sure that you’re not just taking care of your patients and family—you’re also taking care of yourself. Don’t sacrifice sleep, and keep to as regular a rhythm as you can. That regular shuteye doesn’t just go a long way towards a healthier life, we now know it can mean a longer life as well.

Interested in beginning your own career in nursing? Contact Unitek College today for more information on our nursing, medical assistant, or dental assistant programs.

“New” Organ Could Mean Faster Detection of Cancer

“New” Organ Could Mean Faster Detection of Cancer

“New” Organ Could Mean Faster Detection of Cancer

“New” Organ Could Mean Faster Detection of Cancer

Scientists have just discovered something about your body—yes, your body. Just when we thought medical science had a comprehensive grasp of the human body’s organs, a new breakthrough throws a monkey wrench in the system. Not only have we been completely overlooking an organ, we’ve been overlooking an organ that may be one of the biggest in our body.

Yes, even with all our modern medical technology, we’ve been completely unaware of a part of our bodies.

Researchers call the newcomer the “interstitium”—a series of fluid-filled compartments in our connective tissue. More specifically, it’s “an open, fluid-filled space supported by a lattice made of thick collagen bundles,” according to Neil Theise, author of the study. The organ works like bubble wrap, insulating our other organs and providing them with a cushion for shock absorption.

As it turns out, we’ve been looking right at the interstitium this whole time, we just didn’t know it. Imagine blowing bubbles—as long as the bubble is active and floating, you can see it. But the second you touch it, it pops and becomes something else entirely. The interstitium is similar—while it’s active in the body, it can be seen. But the moment the cells are removed and go through the “fixing” process (removing fluids) for a microscope, the compartments collapse and appear to be solid tissue.

In other words, the only way to find the interstitium is to know exactly what you’re looking for… which is hard to do when no one knew it existed.

“Just taking a bite of tissue from this space allows the fluid in the space to drain and the supporting collagen bundles to collapse like the floors of a collapsing building,” explained Theise.

The discovery could mean big changes within the medical community, particularly for those researching and battling cancer. The presence of a “directional flow” between tissue instead of a solid wall means a “potential conduit for movement of injurious agents,” according to the study results. Essentially, the interstitium (an interstate for fluids to travel around the body) could also be the passage cancers use to move and spread. It’s a scary thought, but now that we know it exists, we can begin to study it.

“Once they get in, it’s like they’re on a water slide,” says Theise. “We have a new window on the mechanism of tumor spread.”

And on the odder side of the discovery, the existence of the interstitium may eventually explain a few other medical mysteries—such as the “healing jolt” of acupuncture.

“There’s something new here,” Theise concludes. “No one’s ever seen it before, but it’s been there the whole time.”

All in all, this just goes to show why medicine and healthcare fascinates us so much… we never know just how the human body is going to surprise us next.

For more information on beginning your career in health care, contact Unitek College today for more information on our nursing and medical assistant programs.

Hospitals offering more perks to entice more nurses

Hospitals offering more perks to entice more nurses

Hospitals offering more perks to entice more nurses

Hospitals offering more perks to entice more nurses

Even with a few recent downswings, the U.S. economy is booming… so why aren’t hospitals happy about it?

It all comes down to nurses.

During tougher economic times when a family’s personal finances might be more of a struggle, nurses tend to stay put in their jobs. They keep their shifts, work extra hours, and may even push retirement back a few years. That paycheck, after all, is vital to making ends meet.

But when the economy is stronger and family finances aren’t strained, suddenly the idea of retirement or fewer work hours becomes a lot sweeter and a lot more doable. That means fewer nurses filling shifts on top of an preexisting shortage of nurses nationwide. In other words, the higher that stock market arrow climbs, the harder hospitals start thinking about finding ways to entice you.

Many hospitals are turning to pricey perks and incentives, as CNN Money reports. Some of these include five figure signing bonuses, free housing, and in some rare cases, programs may even pay for your kids to go to college.

“These are some of the grandiose examples we’ve heard from our members,” says Seun Ross, director of nursing practice and work environment at the American Nurses Association. “Who knows what employers will come up with next?”

Other incentives include perks such as bonuses for continued education and specialized training to help career advancement—for example, training nurses for intensive care units or emergency medicine. One hospital in Ohio even offers a Knowledge Bonus for new hires who already possess certain job skills.

Of course, when you’re fresh from graduation and looking for that first nursing job, signing bonuses tend to grab the attention first, and there are plenty of opportunities for signing bonuses available nationwide. But a handful of cash can sometimes distract from a less than perfect working environment.

“We’ve never offered nurses a sign-on bonus,” says Kathy Franz, director of human resources at Washington’s Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. “Sign-on bonuses typically keep nurses in their jobs for two years. Our goal is to attract candidates who want to work here for other reasons.”

Instead, Franz’s hospital offers lifestyle perks, such as flexible scheduling, onsite childcare, tuition reimbursement, and better opportunities for advancement. And the approach is working… the hospital constantly has a “steady stream” of applicants.

“All it takes is for one nurse to tell her friend that where she works is a great place for these reasons and applications will come in,” says Seun Ross.

So remember, as you begin your job search, make sure not to miss out on the perks available. But keep in mind that not all job benefits can be quantified on the front of a check.

Happy hunting!

For information on beginning your career in nursing or as a medical assistant, contact Unitek College today.

Nurse Runs Marathon for Children’s Heart Health

Nurse Runs Marathon for Children’s Heart Health

Nurse Runs Marathon for Children’s Heart Health

Nurse Runs Marathon for Children’s Heart Health

There were plenty of noteworthy stories this week in the world of medicine, such as the development of a new drug that could treat peanut allergies, and a study that says red wine may protect your oral health. But one particular story stood out, highlighting the lengths to which many nurses go for the causes near and dear to them.

Nurse Colby George of Massachusetts isn’t a marathon runner. At least, not yet. This year, however, she plans to make the 26.2 mile journey at the annual Boston Marathon—not for the prestige, but for her patients.

In 2013, a six-year old boy named Joseph Middlemiss died unexpectedly from cardiomyopathy—a disease of the heart muscle. “Joey’s infectious laugh, and curly-lashed blue eyes were never happier than the day his baby brother was born. His special heart held a wisdom and empathy far beyond his 6 years”, reads the homepage of the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation Inc. The non-profit foundation was created by Joey’s parents shortly after the young boy’s death, and raises funds to help with research and awareness of childhood heart issues.

Nurse George’s husband, Justin, was a first responder when Joey died, and ran the Boston Marathon last year for the foundation. But this year, Nurse George (herself a recipient of one of the Big Heart Foundation’s “Acts of Kindness”) couldn’t remain on the sidelines any longer.

“To run the marathon is just something that I’d like to accomplish because I didn’t think I’d ever be able to run a marathon,” George, 39, explains. “But to do it for their foundation — to raise awareness for their foundation — is really the main reason why I want to do it.”

And this year, it turns out, the decision to run is particularly timely. Five years after the death of their oldest son Joey, the Middlemiss family spent time back in the hospital as their four-year old son Jack underwent a heart transplant. Jack, also born with cardiomyopathy, made it through the surgery successfully, but the close call makes Nurse George’s decision to run seem all the more potent.

“Out of something awful, a beautiful friendship has evolved,” Joey’s mother, Kate Middlemiss, said Friday of the family’s bond with Nurse George and her husband. “It’s a connection that we will always have with them.”

According to the Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Registry, one in every 100,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. The majority of diagnosed children are under 12 months followed by children 12 to 18 years old. Pediatric cardiomyopathy is considered a rare disorder, and can be present at birth or have new onset at any age—with or without symptoms.

Colby begins her 26.2 mile run on Monday, April 16th (Patriot’s Day), and she hopes to raise at least $6,000 dollars this year for the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation. You can follow her fundraising efforts (or make a donation) at this link.

No one wants to wind up in a hospital bed, but even through those sometimes tragic  circumstances, bonds between nurses and patients so often transcend distance, disease, and all other obstacles. And in cases like Nurse George and the Middlemiss family, sometimes those connections can have a ripple effect that touches more lives than either thought possible.

Best of luck in the race, Colby! We’ll be cheering for you.

For more information on a nursing program in California, or starting your own career as a nurse or medical assistant, contact Unitek College today for class enrollment information, convenient scheduling, and to find a campus near you.

The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

A wide range of patients with a wide range of health problem walk through the doors of your hospital or clinic every day, and of that wide range of health problems, it’s amazing how many may be traced back to stress. High amounts of stress have been found to cause heart issues, digestive issues, breathing problems, headaches, immune system deficiencies, and other health problems. In other words, we know that stress in our adult patients is far from healthy… but how bad is stress for child patients?

“Very bad”, according to the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) in San Francisco. And the long-term effects can range from asthma to heart disease and even to cancer.  Simply put, heavy amounts of stress on a young life can lead to that life being cut short.

“It can tip a child’s developmental trajectory and affect physiology,” explains Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and founder of the CYW. It can trigger chronic inflammation and hormonal changes that can last a lifetime. It can alter the way DNA is read and how cells replicate, and it can dramatically increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes — even Alzheimer’s.”

Dr. Harris goes on to explain that childhood stressors such as divorce, abuse, or death of a loved one “literally gets under our skin, changing people in ways that can endure in their bodies for decades.”

Stress by itself can actually be a good thing for both children and adults… if it occurs in small doses. Stress can help keep us awake, focused, and activates the “fight-or-flight” response when we encounter a dangerous situation. But in order to accomplish these things, stress activates so many of our bodies’ systems simultaneously (immune, hormonal, respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, and more)—and keeping all those systems perpetually revved up and ready for action eventually starts to wear the body down.

And just imagine what that kind of wear-and-tear does to a body that’s still developing.

But unlike many of the health problems that can be caused by stress, stress itself can be dealt with before it becomes a life-threatening issue… if caught in time. Dr. Harris shares the story of one patient, a 3-year-old girl, who scored a seven on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, a very high score for a patient so young. The patient simply wasn’t growing (“itty bitty”, in the words of Dr. Harris). But after identifying stress as a contributing cause and prescribing child-parent stress therapy, her patient was back to a healthy place on the growth curve within six months.

As a nurse, you also have the unique opportunity to help temporarily reduce stress in your young patients. A trip to the clinic, doctor’s office, dentist’s office, or hospital is almost never without an element of fear for most children, but there are a few simple tips you can use to help make the experience a positive one.

  1. Positive Reinforcement – Pay attention to what’s going well and use praise to reinforce that behavior. Are they doing a good job of listening or holding still? Let them know!
  2. Take a Deep Breath – Or more accurately, take several deep breaths. Show your patient some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to help calm their nerves.
  3. Explain Everything – Dr. Greg Psaltis (a pediatric dentist) suggests providing “a running commentary to the child so that nothing comes as a surprise. By telling the patients (in simple, understandable words) what is happening, they can anticipate the next instrument, sensation, or procedure with minimal anxiety.”
  4. Don’t Forget The Parents – Very little upsets a child faster than seeing their parents upset, so be sure to share some of your focus with the adults in the room. Keeping them calm will in turn help keep their children calm.

Of course, these tips and tricks work primarily for the medical or dental visit itself—they aren’t designed to deal with the bigger psychological stressors that may be a factor at home. But it’s always possible that stress-management techniques learned in one place (your workplace) can be applied in others (their home or school). And as always, if you believe stress may be impacting the health of your young patients, address the possibility with your supervisor first.

“This is a public health crisis,” says Dr. Harris. “So guess what? Schools, you need help! Doctors’ offices, you’re part of the solution! If you’re in early childhood, you’re part of the solution. If you’re in juvenile justice, you’re part of the solution. We all need to be part of the solution. If we each take off our little piece, it’s nuts how far we’ll be able to go, together as a society, in terms of solving this problem.”

If you’d like more information on beginning your career as a nurse, medical assistant, or dental assistant, Unitek College can help! Contact us today for more information.

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

If you’re looking for a state in which to begin your nursing career, or you’re already a nurse and looking for a move, it’s hard to beat California. Frequently ranked as one of the top (if not the top) states in nurse salaries, it should come as no surprise that nurses from all over the country are eyeing jobs in the Golden State… even if they don’t plan to live there. One survey found that of all the out-of-state nurses crossing the border into California for jobs, a whopping 84% still planned on leading active lives in their former state. That’s a lot of commutes.

But one commuter in particular takes the cake when it comes to job dedication. Tom Fowkes is a nurse who lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he has no intention of moving… despite the fact that his full-time job is in Oakland, California. That’s a commute of over 2,600 miles… one way!

“I can’t believe I’ve been doing it for 9 years,” Fowkes told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It seems like 4 or 5. It’s changed my life. I spend more time with my son. And when I’m home and I don’t work, we can do things because I have money now.”

So just how beneficial is it for nurses like Fowkes to make the long commute? With the high cost of travel, it may seem like the cost would outweigh the benefits, but that’s not always the case, and certainly wasn’t with Fowkes.

“These are the highest paid nursing jobs on the planet,” he says, referring to his job at Kaiser. “I make more than some doctors do back home.” And for a nurse who was previously working three jobs just to make ends meet, that pay difference has been life-changing. Not only is he working just the one job, but he’s found more time to spend with his family… and was even able to afford to splurge on a new swimming pool.

And nurses like Fowkes are becoming more and more common. In fact, Fowkes estimates that 10% of the workers on his floor commute from other states.

Of course, travel from coast to coast isn’t always the case for commuting nurses. Nurses such as Ann Inman of Las Vegas still fly to work each week, but it’s a much shorter jump.

“It’s very intense for me, especially because I don’t like to fly,” Inman told the LA Times. “But I can make more money here than anyplace else, and I’m kind of getting used to it.”

And money isn’t the only benefit. Job satisfaction ratings among California nurses are on the rise, earning a 4.21 on a scale of 1 to 5, a 10-year high. The study also found that California RN’s were “more ethnically diverse, better educated, better paid and more satisfied with their work than in previous years.”

So if you’re already a nurse and looking to make a move, there’s a lot to be said for California. And if you’re someone who’s hoping to become a nurse, we also have seven campuses here in California to help make that a reality.