Gaining Ground in the Fight Against HIV

Gaining Ground in the Fight Against HIV

Gaining Ground in the Fight Against HIV

Gaining Ground in the Fight Against HIV

The battle against HIV has been a long and hard one, as researchers struggle to gain ground against the virus that currently infects over 1.1 million Americans… and over 36 million worldwide. There was a brief moment of celebration in 2011, when doctors in Mississippi announced they’d cured a baby born with HIV, but that moment was short-lived… in 2013, tests found that the child’s HIV had returned.

“It felt like a punch to the gut,” Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center told CNN. “It was extremely disappointing from both the scientific standpoint … but mainly for the sake of the child who is back on medicine and expected to stay on medicine for a very long time.”

The most promising field in HIV treatment, it seems, still lies in preventing people from becoming infected in the first place. The CDC reports that annual HIV diagnoses were slightly down last year, something they attribute to targeted HIV prevention efforts. Even with a decline, however, there are nearly 40,000 new cases a year. But that could quickly be changing.

The National Institute of Health (along with partners Johnson & Johnson and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations) announced in November the launch of a massive HIV vaccination test. Focused in South Africa (where the virus has spread particularly quickly), the vaccine is being administered to nearly 2,600 HIV-negative women. As women and young girls tend to be the most impacted by the virus in that region, researchers hope that this sampling will produce the most dramatically positive effects.

This testing comes on the heels of another vaccine (HVTN 702), launched last year at this time in South Africa, that has shown promise of slowing the virus. And a third drug (cabotegravir, an experimental drug that requires doses every two months) is being tested on HIV-positive patients in the same region. Results aren’t expected until 2022, but if all goes as planned, these tests could change the landscape of HIV treatment forever, and that is certainly worth the wait.

“No one tool is going to be enough to do the job, because every tool doesn’t work the same for every person or every country,” says Kristin Lanphear of Trillium Health. “Both of these developments take some variability out of the equation – they rely less on continued action (taking a daily medication or using condoms consistently, for example) and allow for one-time or episodic commitment to a health behavior.”

Another medical breakthrough, the “block-and-lock” treatment that has shown promise in lab tests, is also being eyed as a possible medical weapon in the near future.

Of course, with such a stigma surrounding HIV, plenty of false information and myths have begun circulating regarding the new treatments and vaccines. The HIV Vaccine Trials Network has a great FAQ page to address some of the most prevalent. You can check it out here.

Here’s hoping that very soon we’ll be able to hear the phrase “I used to have HIV” from our patients.

For more information on beginning your own career in health care, visit Unitek College for information on our available nursing, online nursing, and medical assistant programs.

Exercise Alone Won't Shed Holiday Pounds

Exercise Alone Won’t Shed Holiday Pounds… But Don’t Give It Up

Exercise Alone Won't Shed Holiday Pounds

Exercise Alone Won’t Shed Holiday Pounds

Thanksgiving may be over, but the effects of all that food are just settling in. Whether you were one of the lucky ones able to take off work to feast with family, or you took advantage of leftovers after that holiday hospital shift, if you’re like many Americans this week, your bathroom scale may be reading slightly higher than usual. You’re also probably anxious to see that number go back down before you have to buy that larger sets of scrubs. But if you think that just a few extra trips to the gym this week will do the trick, you may be disappointed.

A new study done by Bangor University in the United Kingdom claims that exercise alone rarely leads to weight loss. Of the 34 women who took part in the study, and regardless of whether the test subjects were lean, overweight, or obese, none of those involved lost weight… even after 12 circuit training exercise classes across four weeks.

In fact, for women who are overweight or obese, exercise actually lead to an increase in appetite hormones, the study claims.

“Our body system is so well regulated, that it always finds a way to compensate for a loss in energy after exercise,” says Dr. Hans-Peter Kubis, a co-author of the study. “Whether they are aware of it or not, someone undertaking more physical activity or exercise may experience increased appetite as a result, and this makes it difficult for people to achieve their goals.”

But if you think this means we should start skipping those trips to the gym, think again. Dr. Kubis stresses that while exercise alone may not directly lead to weight loss, it’s still an important part of a weight loss program… along with many other benefits.

“To be effective, exercise training for weight loss needs to be integrated into a lifestyle approach to weight loss, including exercise combined with diet.”

In other words, keep that appointment at the gym, on the running trail, or in that spin class… just make sure you combine it with healthy changes to diet as well. And that may just mean looking the other way when a co-worker brings leftover pie to the nurses’ station.

Of course, a solid (and doctor approved) exercise program can have a lot more benefits than just contributing towards weight loss, benefits such as:

·       Improving your memory – A study found that exercise right after learning can boost your memory (particularly helpful to keep in mind if you’re currently studying to become a nurse).

·       Disease prevention – Exercise has been found to prevent a variety of age-related diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes.

·       Stronger emotional health – Endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine are all released during exercise, meaning a happier you.

·       Fewer PMS symptoms – One study found that 80% of subjects had less pain, bloating, and irritation during PMS if they exercised regularly.

·       Social outlets – Exercise classes or running groups are great ways to meet new people. This not only makes the exercise easier, but it also helps prevent the negative health effects caused by loneliness.

In the words of Dr. Yoni Freedhoff (MD), “Exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily (and sadly sometimes exclusively) in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to shortchange the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise and, simultaneously, misinform them about the realities of long-term weight management.”  

So even though that extra jog this week might not completely counter that third helping of Aunt Frieda’s pecan pie last Thursday, keep that appointment with your jogging shoes anyway. And if you really want to help that bathroom scale number, get ready to pass on the eggnog  and fudge as the Christmas goodies start making their rounds.

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

Why Thanksgiving Is So Busy In Your Hospital

Why Thanksgiving Is So Busy In Your Hospital

Why Thanksgiving Is So Busy In Your Hospital

Why Thanksgiving Is So Busy In Your Hospital

Life always seems busier around the holidays, and life inside a hospital is no exception. Thanksgiving in particular can often be one of the busiest times of the year for those in the medical profession, and with good reason.

Cooking injuries are one of the top culprits, of course. Minor burns and cuts from food preparation are to be expected during the rush to create the perfect Thanksgiving feast, but the rise in popularity of fried turkey adds a whole new level of danger to the holiday.

“If a turkey fryer is used the way it’s supposed to be used by people who are not impaired by alcohol or drugs, I think they’re fine,” said Dr. Thomas Esposito, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Injuries from turkey fryers are rare, but when they happen to you or a family member, that doesn’t matter – they are very devastating.”

The high volume of holiday traffic also contributes to more visits to the ER. More cars on the road mean more chances of an accident, especially with daylight ending much earlier. Alcohol consumption and drunk driving also rises—the day before Thanksgiving has even earned the title (and hashtag) of Blackout Wednesday among younger drinkers.

But one of the most dangerous culprits at Thanksgiving is also the one that looks the most harmless, the most inviting, and will be in the majority of American homes on Thursday: the Thanksgiving meal itself… or rather, the amount of sodium packed into it.

Dr. Div Verma, a cardiologist at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, has come to expect a 25 to 30 percent increase in patients around the Thanksgiving holiday, according to NBC affiliate KPNX.

“The most common problems are usually shortness of breath, heart failure, palpitations,” Dr. Verma said. “Some people even faint from arrhythmias. If you have valvular heart disease, you’ll come in with heart failure and stuff like that.”

“Salt is the biggest culprit,” she adds. “Nobody really estimates the amount of salt they’re consuming because it is hidden. The food tastes so good, they don’t think about the salt content of the food.”

When we ingest large amounts of sodium (which is hidden literally everywhere in your holiday food, as detailed here), you throw off the internal fluid balance in your body, making it more difficult for your kidneys to remove the excess fluid in your blood stream. This strain on the blood vessels leading to the kidneys causes a spike in overall blood pressure, and for patients already dealing with heart issues or hypertension, this could spell a serious problem.

Of course, there’s no way to entirely prevent these holiday accidents from occurring. So the best you can do as a nurse to help educate your own friends and families to keep them safe this year, and mentally prepare to help those who will undoubtedly make a holiday mistake or two this week.

No one wants to be in a hospital on the holidays—least of all your patients—and this Thanksgiving, we’re especially thankful for all of the doctors and nurses putting on scrubs instead of aprons, and keeping an eye on the rest of us this week.

If you’d like information on beginning your own career in nursing, contact Unitek College here for more information about our many available programs.

Atlanta Nurse Delivers Baby In Target Store

Atlanta Nurse Delivers Baby In Target Store

Atlanta Nurse Delivers Baby In Target Store

Atlanta Nurse Delivers Baby In Target Store

Given the right information, science can often predict to the day when a new baby will arrive. But then there are those babies who couldn’t care less about due dates, and when they decide it’s time… then it’s time.

Such was the case for Tanya St. Preux, an Atlanta woman who had just decided to make a quick stop at a nearby Target store. As she moved through the aisles, she began feeling her contractions increase in frequency and intensity. She discounted the discomfort and pain at first, deciding to finish her shopping trip before getting checked out by her doctor. But as Tanya quickly realized, the contractions weren’t going away, and labor was about to begin.

Tanya’s situation could have quickly become a nightmare were it not for Caris Lockwood, a local labor and delivery nurse who just happened to be shopping with her mom at the same store that day. Lisa Bozeman (Caris’s mother) was the first to spot Tanya, and quickly noticed that the pregnant woman was in pain. Caris was soon called over, and that’s when things kicked into high gear.

“We urged her friend to go ahead and bring the car to the entrance and we were helping her to the car. Her contractions and pain were increasing as we walked with her to the car,” Lisa said. “Just when we got outside the store her water broke.”

With the hospital no longer an option, Caris took over. As they still outside the entrance to Target, she was able to quickly gather everything she needed—towels and sterile gloves. Moments later, she delivered a healthy 7 pound, 10 ounce baby boy.

“Caris was God-sent and amazing. She was sweet and caring and exceeded everyone’s expectations. She went way over far and beyond,” Tanya told Piedmont Healthcare, the hospital where Caris is employed.

And Caris wasn’t the only nurse who got involved. An emergency room nurse and an NICU nurse also happened to be shopping that day, and both quickly offered their assistance and expertise

Her story (posted to the Piedmont Healthcare Facebook page) has quickly gone viral, with over 8,000 likes and nearly 500 shares. Among the many comments were dozens from former patients, all praising Caris for her heroism and recounting the ways she’d helped them as a labor and delivery nurse.

One commenter, Natalie Crawford, writes “Caris is one of the best nurses and people I have ever met! She is a pleasure to work with and truly loves all her patients. If anyone is going to deliver a baby in a parking lot she’s the one to do it!”

Another (Liz Johnson) shares “Caris was one of my AMAZING Labor and delivery nurses and Piedmont and I couldn’t agree more!”

So a big congratulations to Tanya on the birth of a healthy son, and a big thank you to Caris Lockwood (and the two nurses who assisted) for being ready, willing, and able the moment your help was needed. If you’d like information on beginning your own health care training, contact Unitek College today for more details on our many nursing programs and medical assistant programs.

Paging Doctor Kermit

Paging Doctor Kermit: A Frog May Hold Key To Universal Flu Vaccine

Paging Doctor Kermit

A Frog May Hold Key To Universal Flu Vaccine

We’re now halfway through October, and while we still have a few weeks to go until Halloween kicks off the holiday season, we’re already well into flu season. Flu season (October through May in the United States, with peaks in December and February) tends to bring significant spikes of influenza cases nationwide, as kids go back to school, people spend more time indoors, the cold helps preserve viruses, and people get less Vitamin D from the sun.

Currently, the best defense against the influenza virus is inoculation, and health officials recommend everyone get their shots before the end of October—particularly those more vulnerable to the illness, such as children under 5, adults over 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical issues. This year, some are predicting an especially nasty flu season.

“But influenza is unpredictable,” says Colorado epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. “It could be an indicator that it is going to be a more severe season. But it could change.”

Unfortunately, the flu vaccine isn’t always effective. While health officials do their best to predict which strain of influenza will impact the country, the result is still an educated guess. In 2014, for example, the flu vaccine protected against the wrong strain, leaving millions vulnerable to the actual virus.

But while flu vaccines are currently the best defense, a potentially better one is currently being researched. And you’ll never guess where scientists found it.

Researchers at Emory University discovered that the non-toxic mucus collected from the backs of a South Indian frog contains an element that causes certain germs to literally explode—while allowing other cells and viruses to pass by.

“We tested it against viruses that came from the 1930s until the current ones, and it kills all of the H1s. It doesn’t touch H3. It’s very, very specific,” explains Emory’s Joshy Jacob, who led the study.

The secret ingredient is an element dubbed urumin, a peptide that targets hemagglutinin (HA), a protein that allows the influenza virus to attach itself to human cells. Without the protein, the virus can’t attach and dies off, and so far, urumin has knocked back every H1NX flu virus it’s gone up against. As for why the germs explode after exposure, researchers are still working on theories—the leading theory being that urumin releases an electrostatic force after binding that destroys the outer shell of the germ.

While urumin doesn’t destroy all types of flu virus, researchers are still optimistic and hope to study urumin in order to develop a universal cure. The tests are currently being done on mice, with ferrets next in line. Then, should those tests go well, humans will be next.

(And if you’re a little grossed out by the idea of taking a medicine distilled from frog mucus, just be thankful you aren’t living in ancient Russia, when people first discovered the medicinal benefits of frogs by dropping them milk jugs helped keep the milk from going bad.)

For this flu season, though, don’t expect any miracle cures. Get that flu shot soon!

If you’re interested in beginning your own career in health care, contact Unitek College today for information on our many available health care programs, classes, and online options.

Nurses Emerge As Heroes

Nurses Emerge As Heroes In Las Vegas Violence

Nurses Emerge As Heroes

Nurses Emerge As Heroes In Las Vegas Violence

The past weekend’s attack in Las Vegas dominated headlines this week, as investigators struggled to piece together a motive for the shooting that claimed 59 lives and injured nearly 500 more. And outside Las Vegas, the nation reeled as it came to grips with the horrors that had unfolded.

But as the chaos slowly faded, stories began emerging—stories of those in the line of fire (many of them nurses) who risked everything for the strangers around them. And in the hospitals and trauma centers around the city, nurses stepped up to save as many lives as they could.

Amber Ratto, a paramedic, recalled driving back onto the concert grounds following the shooting, not yet sure whether the violence had ended, but knowing there were too many victims to stay put. “I turned off the lights in the back of the ambulance to not be targets,” she recounts. She and her crew then worked to triage the victims—treating the wounded, and placing blankets over the dead.

Among those helping was a nurse identified only as Vanessa, who told local news station KTNV why she left safety to return to the danger zone. “We went back because I’m a nurse and I just felt that I had to,” she explained. “I went to three different scenes. The first one was OK. The second one was worse. And by the time I got to the third one, there was just dead bodies…”

But even in the middle of tragedy, Vanessa recognized the extraordinary effort happening around her. “There was so many people, just normal citizens, doctors, cops, paramedics, nurses, just off-duty,” she said. “Everyone was just communicating and working together. It was completely horrible, but it was absolutely amazing to see all of those people come together.”

Nurses weren’t immune to the attack, of course. One 43-year old nurse, Natalie Vanderstay, was hit by gunfire during the attack. However, despite fear and shock, her training kicked in, and she managed to treat her own gunshot wound before being taken to a trauma center by a cab driver.

In the hospitals, shooting victims began arriving any way that they could—by car, taxi, ambulance, or truck—and every nurse available was called in to help. One nurse, Toni Mullan, returned to the hospital immediately following her 12-hour shift to help treat patients alongside her daughter, a trauma nurse at the same hospital.

“The minute I got there, I looked at the situation and said ‘How am I going to utilize my resources?’ ” Ms. Mullan tells the New York Times. By the end of the night, 104 patients had arrived. The situation may have looked chaotic to anyone looking in from the outside, Toni explained, but in actuality, much was being accomplished. At one point, five trauma patients were being “clocked in” simultaneously. And even the patients who did not have life-threatening injuries were treated quickly by doctors.

“I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, and this was by far the worst moment I’ve had, the worst injuries,” she said. “But it was the proudest moment.”

Another first-hand account of what went on in the Las Vegas hospitals can be seen here, along with video of the response.

Ratto, the paramedic, said she was still processing the horror but felt proud. “So many died but we saved so many. I feel lucky. I have the best co-workers in the entire world.”

If you’d like to help victims of the Las Vegas attacks, CNN has listed several resources here. And if you’d like more information about beginning your own nursing training, contact Unitek College today.