Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Stick Like A Pro: Tips For Mastering The Art Of Venipuncture

Taking a blood sample or starting an IV usually isn’t the highlight of a medical worker’s day… and it’s definitely not a favorite moment for the patient, especially if multiple sticks or other complications are involved. But phlebotomy and venipuncture are necessary, and mastering them can make the experience better for both patient and lab tech.

For starters? Remember that there’s no such thing as normal when it comes to sticking a vein.

“Anybody who expects just routine draws is quickly disappointed,” says Dennis Ernst, director of the Center for Phlebotomy Education in Corydon, Ind. “Because you have five or six categories of patients who present challenges—and you never know who’s going to walk in the door.”

The best rules to remember, of course, are the ones you learned in your medical training, and you should always defer to those techniques or to your administration for proper procedure. But here are a few tips and tricks that can help keep the sample process “flowing smoothly”.

Take A Deep Breath – Not you (though you can if you’d like), but the patient. By asking the patient to take a deep breath just before the stick, it both keeps them occupied and keeps them distracted. Being given something to do helps a person feel more in control of the situation—and this works as the needle is being removed, also.

Anchors Away – Stretching the skin by “anchoring” the vein doesn’t just help you stick the vein on the first try, it also helps make the stick less painful. Remember, your thumb goes below the venipuncture site, and give yourself plenty of room so you don’t accidentally jab your own fingers.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings – Finding the vein and choosing your venipuncture site is perhaps the most difficult part of phlebotomy, especially if your patient’s veins are small, fragile, or non-elastic, and much of selecting the vein comes down to feeling. Not gut feeling, literal feeling.

There’s an old joke about how the first thing lab nurses notice when meeting a new person is how good their arms veins are, and that joke isn’t far from reality. Some patients are gifts from the gods, with veins thick and visible. But others are more of a challenge.

To that end, feeling for the vein (not slapping, despite what you see in movies) will always be the most reliable approach. Palpate for that “spongy firmness”, and feel above and below your target area for a better idea of direction.

The Invisible Vein  – Still can’t find a place to stick? Dr. Jabr of Florence, Oregon suggests “to obviate the need for multiple inconvenient and painful attempts at securing the needle, apply a warm pad to the target vein for a few minutes. This helps dilate the vein and makes it more visible and accessible.”

Another trick (from the venipuncture site AimVein.com) is to bend the arm upward if the veins are hiding. This sometimes makes them easier to spot.

Less Than Thirty – You’ve probably heard this a hundred times in your nurses training, but it never hurts to hear again. The World Health Organization guidelines suggest keeping the angle of insertion at 30 degrees or less (15 is ideal) to avoid passing through the vein.

Label Immediately – There’s nothing worse than getting a great stick, drawing a great sample, then forgetting to label it right away. Actually, there is something worse… and that’s mixing up samples because they weren’t labeled at the bedside. For your sake and the patient’s sake, label all sample immediately, even if things are going a mile a minute.

Know When To Quit – Just can’t get that blood sample? Veins just aren’t cooperating? Considering a third or fourth attempt? Here’s something else to consider—getting help. Don’t think of it as failure or defeat, think of it as making the best decision for your patient. Getting a fresh set of eyes on the situation might be all that’s needed to finally draw a good sample, and knowing when to seek help is the mark of a pro.

There’s A Body Attached To That Arm – At the end of the day, though, everything really comes down to how safe and peaceful you make your patient feel. So treat each and every one as if they were a friend or relative, and remember that just because you see needles and blood samples many times a day, this is a fairly rare experience for them. They will often be nervous. Some may faint. Some may be nervous because they’re afraid they’ll faint. It’s up to you to coach them through it and make the experience as positive as possible. The better it goes, the better the chances of that person seeking medical attention in the future, and that’s always a great takeaway.

“Compassion is not antiquated,” writes Dr Larry Dossey. “It remains a crucial factor in healing and will never go out of style. It is always available for any healthcare professional who is wise enough to claim it.”

Interested in beginning your own career as a nurse or medical assistant? Unitek College can help! Contact us today for more information on our many available programs.

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

One of the greatest benefits of a life spent helping others is that when you run into trouble, you almost always have a support team already assembled. Such was the case for Hernando County nurse Debra Dolby, who found a source of strength in her uniformed co-workers.

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

Officers Rally Behind Nurse Battling Cancer

A nurse at the Hernando County detention center since 2006 (and a member of the Navy and Marine Corps before that), Nurse Dolby has worked side by side with county deputies for over a decade. So last year when Debra was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer, her co-workers quickly found ways to help… and one of those ways is now getting national attention.

“She’s just a fun person that gets down to business and calls them like she sees them,” Programs Deputy William Ingersoll said, a perspective most of her co-workers share. So when cancer treatment cost Debra her hair, staging a demonstration of support was a “no brainer”.

Many of the deputies already sported shaved heads (or were bald naturally), and the ones who weren’t quickly grabbed a razor and shaved. Soon, Debra was surrounded by a smiling pack of bald-headed friends, all smiling for a photo that now serves as motivation for her.

“It’s how you get your strength and your courage, and this is a badge of courage, ” Nurse Dolby said of the support she’s found in her team. “Being bald is hard for a woman, not hard for a man, but it’s how you get your power.”

“We wanted to demonstrate that we’re part of the same team, part of the same unit, and we wanted to show a little solidarity,” Classification Sgt. Dan Carriveau said of Nurse Dolby.

And ever the helper herself, Debra is already looking for ways that her battle today can help someone tomorrow.

“There’s a lot of diseases that people need motivation for, and if I can give them just a little bit, share my story, then I’m happy,” she said.

If you’d like to see the photo (and other support from the Hernando County deputies), you can see it on their Facebook page here.

As of today, Debra’s doctors have given her a 40% chance of beating the disease, a number Debra refuses to take negatively.

“I said what’s my chances of surviving this? He said 40% and I said who says I’m not in the 40%, ” she said, adding that her motivation for survival isn’t for her sake… it’s for the sake of those who depend on her. “They need me so it’s not about me. It’s about them.”

We love stories of nurses who change lives through their dedication, passion, and skill—nurses such as Evelyn Sotomayor, whose unrelenting care helped save a patient and inspired her to become a doctor herself. But just as much, we love stories of a community that recognizes the value of the nurses who help them, and who come together when it’s the nurse who needs help.

If you’d like to explore your own options in the world of nursing, Unitek College is here to help. Contact us here for more information.

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

Memorial Day 2018: Nurses On The Front Lines

This past weekend, the nation paused to honor the military men and women who died in the line of duty. And we’d like to continue that theme of remembrance this week by focusing on some of the heroes in scrubs who also served on those front lines. These were the nurses who carried bandages in place of rifles, yet still put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of their country and their brothers and sisters in arms.

Here are a few of their stories.

Colonel Ruby Bradley

Colonel Bradley was already a military nurse when America entered World War II and was based in the Philippines when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Soon, the Japanese army was sweeping through the islands, and Nurse Bradley, another nurse, and a doctor hid in the hills after their base was evacuated. Unfortunately, the three were betrayed by two of the locals, and Nurse Bradley soon found herself a captive in a Japanese POW camp.

But rather than allowing this to end her story, Nurse Bradley chose this moment as the beginning. She began treating prisoners with any useful medicine or instrument she could get her hands on, earning her the nickname “Angel in Fatigues”. In a short time, Bradley set up a small pharmacy, a clinic, and a smuggling operation by which she and a doctor brought morphine and other medicines into camp.

In the 37 months that Bradley was a captive, she performed over 230 major operations and delivered 13 babies, all while using anything and everything on hand as instruments.

“Three days after [smuggling morphine into camp], we had an appendectomy,” Nurse Bradley recalled during a 1983 interview. “The Japanese thought it was wonderful that we could do all this without any instruments.”

Nurse Bradley was eventually rescued, but her story didn’t end there. She went on to serve as a combat medic in the Korean War, eventually becoming the Army’s most highly decorated nurse.

Lieutenant Reba Whittle

Nurse Whittle served as a flight nurse in the European theater of World War II, and like Nurse Bradley, fought her battle from behind the walls of a POW camp. When her plane was shot down over Aachen, Germany, Nurse Bradley became the only female POW in Europe during World War II. Her situation was so rare that the Germans themselves were confused as to how to treat her.

Eventually, she was allowed to attend to prisoners within the camp—falling back on her flight school nursing training where she learned to treat injury and illness in the absence of a physician. But when she wasn’t treating soldiers, she was kept in an isolated cell.

After the war ended and Nurse Whittle returned home, she began a second battle—one against the United States government for recognition as a veteran and POW. Because of her gender and the rarity of her situation, she was denied benefits and recognition, something she fought until her dying day.

It was a battle Nurse Whittle eventually won, earning recognition (posthumously) of World War II POW in 1992.

Lieutenant Elsie S. Ott

Nurse Ott was another flight nurse who served during World War II, treating evacuees as they flew from India to Washington, D.C. While this may seem run of the mill today, the use of airplanes to evacuate the wounded (and to bring in fresh troops) was considered experimental.

Nurse Ott was chosen as flight nurse for the first evacuation flight and within 24 hours was onboard, despite the fact that she had yet to board an aircraft in her life. But Nurse Ott took to the skies like a natural, treating soldiers for a wide assortment of maladies as the plane completed its six-day flight to the states.

But Nurse Ott didn’t just treat her patients during the flight. She also kept a detailed list of the endeavor, noting the equipment and changes needed to improve the process for both the injured and the medical personnel. She eventually returned to India with the 803rd Evacuation Squad, and by 1946, she had been promoted to captain.

Her bravery and commitment lead to Nurse Ott becoming the first woman to receive the U.S. Air Medal.

 

If you’re interested in beginning your own career in nursing, Unitek College is the place to start. Contact us today for more information.

Patient Reunites With Nurse 38 Years Later

Patient Reunites With Nurse 38 Years Later

Patient Reunites With Nurse 38 Years Later

Patient Reunites With Nurse 38 Years Later

Amazing things happen in the world of medicine every day, like this month’s breakthrough that allows doctors to use AI to recreate human cells for disease study. But the real magic in the industry comes from the connections formed between patient and caregiver. Nurses care for hundreds of patients each year, sometimes as just a passing helper, and sometimes as an embodiment of hope and kindness that patients carry away with them for the rest of their lives.

Many times, those patients and those nurses never see each other again. But in some cases, reunions do happen… even if that reunion is almost forty years later.

For Amanda Scarpinati, that special nurse was a woman she met in 1977 as a three-month old baby. Already suffering from an illness (possibly pneumonia), Amanda was lying on a couch when she rolled over—falling off the furniture and onto the scalding hot surface of a boiling steam vaporizer.

The damage was instant and intense. She was rushed to the hospital, where multiple surgeries and grafts followed. Her struggle didn’t end there, with years of reconstructive surgeries and school bullying still to survive. But in those years, Amanda found strength and comfort in something unusual… a magazine photo from her first appearance at the hospital.

In the photo, a young nurse cradles the heavily bandaged Amanda, who appears remarkably calm in her arms.

“It’s the nurses who are there comforting you, and here I am, this tiny infant, she’s just staring at me and smiling and I wasn’t crying in any of those pictures, so that says a lot,” says Amanda. “Growing up as a child, disfigured by the burns, I was bullied and picked on, tormented. I’d look at those pictures and talk to her, even though I didn’t know who she was. I took comfort looking at this woman who seemed so sincere caring for me.”

Twenty years later, Amanda has recovered beautifully from the scars and surgeries, though her journey and the mystery nurse remained constantly on her mind. Finally, on a whim, Amanda decided to do something about it—posting the photo online and asking for help in tracking down the identity of the woman.

The post exploded—quickly going viral and spreading through the nursing community nationwide. It wasn’t long until another nurse from that same hospital, Angela Leary, recognized a familiar face.

“I said oh my God, that’s Sue Berger,” said Leary. “Connecting the dots was easy and I was happy to do it.”

And once the dots were connected, it didn’t take long for the reunion to finally happen. (You can watch the tearful moment unfold in this video from NBC news).

Nurse Berger, despite the passage of nearly four decades, remembered the moment she held Amanda. She’d held on to the same photos, and had even spoken of the moment with family and friends.

“She [Amanda] was very peaceful,” Nurse Berger said. “Usually when babies come out of surgery, they’re sleeping or crying. She was just so calm and trusting. It was amazing.”

“I don’t know how many nurses would be lucky enough to have something like this happen, to have someone remember you all that time,” she continued. “I feel privileged to be the one to represent all the nurses who cared for her over the years. This is to me what nursing means. It’s caring. It’s our gift.”

If you’d like to begin your own career in nursing, contact Unitek College to find out how you can start today!

7 Unhealthy Habits All Nurses Should Avoid

7 Unhealthy Habits All Nurses Should Avoid

7 Unhealthy Habits All Nurses Should Avoid

7 Unhealthy Habits All Nurses Should Avoid

Nurses help people get healthy (thank you, Captain Obvious). But for a career field dedicated to health, a lot of medical professionals struggle with some unhealthy habits… and patients are taking note.

“Whether we believe patients should or should not view nurses as role models for a healthy lifestyle, the simple truth is that many patients do expect nurses to guide by example,” said Tamara Walker, RN, a pediatric nurse in Edmond, Okla., and host of Ask MomRN, a family and parenting internet radio show.

“Patients are more likely to listen to and follow the instructions of a nurse who is modeling the health habits and behaviors they need to develop themselves,” Walker continued. “They are also more likely to tune out the nurse who takes a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach.

So what are some of these unhealthy habits, and how should nurses avoid them? Here are seven of the biggest trouble makers.

#1 – Eating Anything and Everything. We get it, a shift at the hospital or clinic can be hectic, and sometimes fitting in a meal is little more than an afterthought. This often means scarfing down a quick bite from the vending machine or relying on fast food, and this has led to an astounding 54% of nurses being overweight (according to this 2008 study).

Solution: Go for the brown bag. Bringing your own lunch or dinner can help you plan ahead and avoid temptation.

#2 – Smoking. Doctors and nurses see the negative results of smoking in their patients almost every day, so you’d think the folks in scrubs would be the last to light up… but not so. The good news is that the number of nurses who smoke has steadily been dropping (down to just 7% overall in 2011, though a whopping 25% of LPN’s still smoke).

Solution: Patches, gum, exercise, accountability partners… whatever helps kick the habit, go for it.

#3 – Ignoring the Back. Lower back pain causes more disability worldwide than 300 other conditions, and nurses aren’t exempt. The stress of working on your feet for long shifts can cause a lot of wear and tear on the spine and back muscles, and moving heavier patients can easily lead to injury.

Solution: Invest in good shoes for the daily grind, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when moving a patient whose weight might be out of your comfort zone. And if you start to feel pain, don’t ignore it.

#4 – Not Washing Your Hands. Shortcuts help get everything done during a chaotic day, but some shortcuts just aren’t worth taking. Not washing your hands is one of them. Not only could you get yourself sick, you could spread germs to other patients.

Solution: No quick solution here, folks. Make it a habit to wash up, despite the extra minutes spent.

#5 – Speeding To Work. Your shift starts in five minutes and you’re ten minutes away. What do you do? If your answer is anything other than “be five minutes late”, you’re probably guilty of the speeding habit. Even when your motives are pure—rushing to the aid of a patient in an emergency—speeding puts you and others on the road at risk. Speeding can also lead to you getting to work even later, as one doctor learned when he was pulled over going nearly double the speed limit on the way to surgery.  

Solution: You may not be able to plan for emergencies, but in all other cases, avoid “time optimism”—the belief that you can get more done in a short amount of time than you actually can. Give yourself plenty of time, even if it means leaving one or two items unchecked on your to-do list.

#6 – Driving Yourself To Exhaustion. A recent survey found that when asked about work shifts, over 25% of nurses said they worked 12+ hour shifts regularly. Some (single parents in particular) were putting in 50 to 60-hour weeks as the norm. Nurses may be superheroes, but even superheroes need to take a break once in a while. Ignore the need for sleep and nurses face fatigue, health risks, and a greater chance of making mistakes.

Solution: Nurses can’t always avoid long shifts, but do your best to avoid long shifts on consecutive days. And workaholics, beware of that need to take every shift or overtime hour offered… take breaks, get sleep, stay healthy.

#7 – Unwinding With One Too Many. It’s been a long day, you want to unwind, so you pour yourself a glass of wine or a shot of bourbon and kick back. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing with a drink at the end of the day, but make that more than a few drinks and you’re asking for trouble. The American Nurses Association claims that 1 in 10 nurses struggle with addiction issues,  and leaning heavily on any substance to cope with work stress is a recipe for trouble. Failure to break that habit could lead to losing career, health, and even your life.

Solution: Everything (legal) in moderation, friends. And brush up on the definitions of “heavy drinking” and the risks associated by clicking here.

Remember, the healthier you are and the better your habits, the better you’ll be able to take care of your patients, your family, and the countless others who will depend on you in days to come.

For more information on beginning your career as a nurse, contact Unitek College today!

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.