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.

Better Leader in Nursing

Five Ways To Be A Better Leader In Nursing

Better Leader in Nursing

Five Ways To Be A Better Leader In Nursing

The world needs good leaders, and the world of heath care is no different. When you first put on your scrubs and begin your first years of nursing, you’ll more than likely be surrounded by capable leaders—nurses, doctors, and administrators who either by title or seniority have risen to roles of responsibility and will be vital in helping you navigate those extra-complicated days.

There’s also a good chance that you will be asked to lead in some capacity at some point in your career—a big honor, but also a big responsibility—and there are a few key points you’ll want to keep in mind to keep you and your team on track.

  1. Stick To The Classics – Leadership responsibilities may vary from career to career, but leadership traits tend to stay the same. Forbes has a great list of ten leadership qualities that apply to any and all industries—including healthcare. For example, setting the bar high for yourself in terms of honesty and ethics, learning how to delegate, and projecting confidence and positivity even when the days get tough. Of course, to do those things, you’ll need an extra strong dose of…
  2. Good Communication – You can have all the positivity, experience, knowledge, and management theory in the world, but if you can’t share those things effectively with your team, they won’t do you much good. The better you are at communicating (to patients, to other management, and to co-workers), the better you’ll be at leading. And communicating is more than just sharing your thoughts, by the way. Being a good listener is the essential second half of the skill.

 

  1. Build More Leaders – No leader, no matter how good they are, can do everything on their own. You need a team you can rely on, and that means developing new leaders within it. American Nurse Today suggests that you “Identify your informal and formal leaders and invest in them. Take them to meetings with you; have them provide presentations to the staff and senior-level leaders. Find opportunities to highlight their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Train them to be the next leaders.”

 

  1. Take Care Of Yourself – If you’re in a position of leadership, it’s probably because you’ve shown a passion for what you do, and now that you have more responsibility, you’ll be even more driven to succeed. This is wonderful, but don’t let that drive burn you out. “Remember to take care of yourself by eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising ,” advises Susan Hassmiller (PhD, RN, FAAN). “You need to be strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually to best take care of others and to model wellness for the people you serve.”

 

  1. Never Stop Learning – A good leader is always learning, and knows that he or she can learn from anyone—patient, co-worker, professor, or the nurse on the first shift of her career. “Technology and the profession continues to grow and expand,” writes Jacqueline Cole of the American Associations of Managed Care Nurses. “You are the resource for the lives you touch. To be the most effective and greatest resource for each patient is to keep your knowledge fresh.”

 

Not sure if you’re destined to manage or climb the hospital ladder? Keep these tips in mind anyway.

“Title aside, all nurses are called to leadership,” writes Eileen Williamson for Nurse.com. “The call to leadership moves all of us to a higher plane of responsibility and accountability, with or without a management title; it is inherent in all nursing positions from staff nurse to CEO. We all have similar goals and responsibilities for patient care.”

In a nutshell? If you care about your patients, care about your co-workers, and are willing to set an example by your own actions, then you’ve got what it takes to lead.

For more information on starting a career in health care, contact Unitek College today for information on our many available nursing and medical assistant programs.

When you first put on your scrubs and begin your first years of nursing, you’ll more than likely be surrounded by capable leaders—nurses, doctors, and administrators who either by title or seniority have risen to roles of responsibility and will be vital in helping you navigate those extra-complicated days.

There’s also a good chance that you will be asked to lead in some capacity at some point in your career—a big honor, but also a big responsibility—and there are a few key points you’ll want to keep in mind to keep you and your team on track.

  1. Stick To The Classics – Leadership responsibilities may vary from career to career, but leadership traits tend to stay the same. Forbes has a great list of ten leadership qualities that apply to any and all industries—including healthcare. For example, setting the bar high for yourself in terms of honesty and ethics, learning how to delegate, and projecting confidence and positivity even when the days get tough. Of course, to do those things, you’ll need an extra strong dose of…
  2. Good Communication – You can have all the positivity, experience, knowledge, and management theory in the world, but if you can’t share those things effectively with your team, they won’t do you much good. The better you are at communicating (to patients, to other management, and to co-workers), the better you’ll be at leading. And communicating is more than just sharing your thoughts, by the way. Being a good listener is the essential second half of the skill.

 

  1. Build More Leaders – No leader, no matter how good they are, can do everything on their own. You need a team you can rely on, and that means developing new leaders within it. American Nurse Today suggests that you “Identify your informal and formal leaders and invest in them. Take them to meetings with you; have them provide presentations to the staff and senior-level leaders. Find opportunities to highlight their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Train them to be the next leaders.”

 

  1. Take Care Of Yourself – If you’re in a position of leadership, it’s probably because you’ve shown a passion for what you do, and now that you have more responsibility, you’ll be even more driven to succeed. This is wonderful, but don’t let that drive burn you out. “Remember to take care of yourself by eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising ,” advises Susan Hassmiller (PhD, RN, FAAN). “You need to be strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually to best take care of others and to model wellness for the people you serve.”

 

  1. Never Stop Learning – A good leader is always learning, and knows that he or she can learn from anyone—patient, co-worker, professor, or the nurse on the first shift of her career. “Technology and the profession continues to grow and expand,” writes Jacqueline Cole of the American Associations of Managed Care Nurses. “You are the resource for the lives you touch. To be the most effective and greatest resource for each patient is to keep your knowledge fresh.”

 

Not sure if you’re destined to manage or climb the hospital ladder? Keep these tips in mind anyway.

“Title aside, all nurses are called to leadership,” writes Eileen Williamson for Nurse.com. “The call to leadership moves all of us to a higher plane of responsibility and accountability, with or without a management title; it is inherent in all nursing positions from staff nurse to CEO. We all have similar goals and responsibilities for patient care.”

In a nutshell? If you care about your patients, care about your co-workers, and are willing to set an example by your own actions, then you’ve got what it takes to lead.

For more information on starting a career in health care, contact Unitek College today for information on our many available nursing and medical assistant programs.

Nursing jobs on a cruise ships

Could A Cruise Ship Be Your Next Nursing Job?

Nursing jobs on a cruise ships

Could A Cruise Ship Be Your Next Nursing Job?

Most people (with the exception of sailors and entertainers) don’t think “full-time job” when they hear the words “cruise ship”. Most of us think of a cruise as a getaway, our chance to leave work and worries behind for an all-inclusive, buffet-filled vacation at sea. But running a cruise ship takes a lot of manpower behind the scenes, especially when it comes to heath care.

More and more people are taking cruises every year, with the industry continually setting new records for numbers of passengers. In 2016, attendance jumped to a record 24.2 million people who cruised worldwide, and when the number of people grows, the potential for health issues grows as well.

Time Magazine compiled a list of some of the significant disease outbreaks aboard cruise ships in the past few years—including the norovirus outbreak on Royal Caribbean that infected over 600, and back to back outbreaks on Princess and Celebrity cruises that sickened over 1500 passengers combined. Passengers can also be injured or infected while exploring ports. And if that’s not enough, the rising and falling seas while onboard (combined with steps, wet surfaces, and alcohol) often lead to slips and falls… especially among elderly passengers.

All that to say… a cruise ship may sound like paradise, but they definitely rely heavily on their ship nurses, and if you’re looking for an opportunity to provide health care while traveling, then a cruise line may be one possible fit.

In most cases, ship nurses report directly to the ship doctor / physician, and work under the supervision of the lead nurse (also a solid career opportunity). In addition to assisting the ship doctor and lead nurse in a broad range of medical care, ship nurses are also usually the first line of defense when an injury or illness is reported—one reason why many cruise lines prefer to hire nurses with emergency room experience.

Interested? Nurse.org offers a few of the pros and cons of the position. In the “positive” column, the website lists the flexibility of short-term contracts, travel, chances to explore international ports, and generally more responsibility than one might find in a traditional nursing position. Under the “negatives” column,  they list the stress of multi-month deployments (especially for those with a family), a competitive job market, and a lower than average pay rate… although they also mention that due to the free room and board the job offers, the salaries tend to even out.

For many nurses, though, such as Nurse Joan Jones, the experience is one they return to again and again. “It can be like a working vacation,” she says. “It is far less stressful than a hospital environment.”

(It might be a good idea to make sure you aren’t prone to sea sickness before you apply, though, or you may spend as much time in the sick bay as the people you’re treating!)

If you’d like more information on exploring a career in nursing, contact Unitek College today for more information on our multiple nursing and medical assistant programs.

The Battle Against Cancer May Be Zika

Our New Ally In The Battle Against Cancer May Be Zika

The Battle Against Cancer May Be Zika

The Battle Against Cancer May Be Zika

There’s an old adage that says “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, and it looks as if that saying may have found a new application in modern medicine. Just one year ago, the Zika Virus dominated the headlines, spreading anxiety and panic across the country—especially among pregnant mothers. The virus, known for causing severe birth defects such as microcephaly, caused epidemic scares, terminated travel plans, and quickly rose to the top of 2016’s “public enemies” list.

But despite its dangerous reputation, scientists may have found a way to put the Zika Virus to work in our favor. If the virus attacks fetal stem cells in the brain, they hypothesized, perhaps it can be used to attack the stem cells in a brain tumor. It’s a bold theory, but thanks to researchers at Washington University, it’s one that’s now a step closer to being proven fact.

“We take a virus, learn how it works and then we leverage it,” said Dr. Michael Diamond, a professor of molecular microbiology, pathology and immunology. “Let’s take advantage of what it’s good at, use it to eradicate cells we don’t want. Take viruses that would normally do some damage and make them do some good.”

So far, the research labs have focused their efforts on surgically removed glioblastoma stem cells (the most common form of brain cancer, one recently diagnosed in Senator John McCain), and the results have been promising. The virus killed the isolated glioblastoma cells (which are generally resistant to treatment), and when tested on mice, brain tumors shrank considerably.

The researchers are still several steps away from clinical trials on humans, but the future is promising, with the ultimate goal being the removal of tumors and prevention of their return.

“Our study is a first step towards the development of safe and effective strains of Zika virus that could become important tools in neuro-oncology and the treatment of glioblastoma,” Diamond said, according to the news release. “However, public health concerns will need to be addressed through pre-clinical testing and evaluations of the strains’ ability to disseminate or revert to more virulent forms.”

In other words, before scientists consider releasing the treatment to the public, they want to be absolutely certain that they’ve prevented any possibility of the Zika Virus “going rogue”.

One method researchers explored was the use of a mutated version of the virus, one weaker and more sensitive to the human immune system. While this approach also required the use of a chemotherapy drug, it did show positive results, and could be one potential direction for the treatment.

“Once we add a few more changes, I think it’s going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease,” says Diamond. He hopes to begin human trials within 18 months.

It’s the medical equivalent of turning lemons into lemonade, and our fingers are crossed for their success.

If you’d like to explore your own career in health care, Unitek College can help. Contact us today for more information on our nursing and medical assistant programs.

 

 

 

Protecting Your Patient

Protecting Your Patient: What We Learned From Nurse Alex Wubbels

Protecting Your Patient

Protecting Your Patient: What We Learned From Nurse Alex Wubbels

It’s a video that swept across the social media pages of nurses and non-nurses alike: a Utah nurse roughly put in handcuffs and arrested for refusing to follow the orders of a police officer. And not only is the story sparking outrage nationwide, it’s also highlighting just how important it is for nurses to know both the law and their hospital policies.

The issue began in July, after a driver fleeing from police crossed into oncoming traffic and caused a major collision. The driver was killed in the crash, but fortunately, the other man (a truck driver and part-time police officer) managed to survive. He was rushed to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, where Nurse Alex Wubbels (a former Olympic skier) was assigned to him.

This, however, was when Alex’s situation took a turn for the frightening.  John Payne, a police detective, arrived at the hospital shortly after the injured driver, requesting a sample of the motorist’s blood to be analyzed at the crime lab. But the patient was still unconscious and couldn’t give his consent. Payne ordered that the sample be drawn regardless, and that’s where Nurse Wubbels drew the line.

“The patient can’t consent,” she says to a person on the phone in the released video of the incident. “And he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant. And the patient is not under arrest. So I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”

Soon after in the video, Payne goes on the offensive, accusing Wubbels of interfering with an investigation. She repeatedly attempts to explain the hospital policy to him, but his responses grow more and more agitated.

“I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow,” Payne can be heard saying.

Wubbels, crying for help, was put in handcuffs and led away—an action that Wubbels and her attorney now say amounts to assault. While she was soon released and allowed to physically recover, Wubbels doesn’t consider the matter resolved. She tells the Salt Lake City Tribune that she’s “heard anecdotally of other health care workers being bullied and harassed by police, and that these videos prove that there is a problem.”

“I can’t sit on this video and not attempt to speak out both to re-educate and inform,” she said. Police agencies “need to be having conversations about what is appropriate intervention.”

The incident is currently being investigated, though the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office has already issued an apology, but what happened to Nurse Wubbels shines a spotlight on the need for all nurses to be aware of their hospital policies.

“If you choose not to follow hospital policy — say, for instance, you drew the labs on the request of the detective, without a court order or patient consent, and on a patient that wasn’t under arrest — you open yourself up to many potential legal ramifications,” writes Dr. Jennifer Mensik for Nurse.com.

She also points out that Alex Wubbels stood up—not just for hospital legal policy—but also for the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics. Two parts of the code, she points out, were at stake. Provision 1.4, which requires all patient decisions to be voluntary , and Provision 2.1, which says that a nurse’s primary commitment is to her patient.

“The nurse stood up valiantly for her patient when the patient could not speak for himself,” concludes Mensik. 

While we always hope that issues like those Nurse Wubbels faced never happen again, it’s still always best to be prepared to face them. So familiarize yourself with the American Nurses Code of Ethics, and your hospital or clinic’s policies, and never hesitate to reach out to your superiors or your workplace’s legal department if you ever question something you’ve been asked to do.

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

Nurses Face Off Against Hurricane Harvey

Nurses Face Off Against Hurricane Harvey

Nurses Face Off Against Hurricane HarveyIt’s been days since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, and he’s still causing trouble. The storm has claimed two lives so far and continues to dump inches of water into east Texas—sending the residents of flood-prone cities like Houston scrambling for higher ground.

But evacuation isn’t a simple task, and not everyone is able to do so without a significant amount of help… residents of this nursing home, for example, were stranded in waist deep water until help could arrive. As Harvey approached, many hospitals began closing their doors—sending their patients north to Dallas.

“We want to make sure that people are located in a facility where they can receive care without the impact of a hurricane,” explained Corpus Christi Fire Chief Robert Rocha.

The federal government made emergency health care a top priority as well, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price declaring a public health emergency—a decision that relaxes many Medicare and Medicaid requirements to make it easier for health centers to treat the wave of new patients.

But even with the federal help, treating the sudden influx of patients requires more than just paperwork assistance. It requires boots on the grounds and scrubs in the halls. In other words, fighting Hurricane Harvey requires an army of nurses, and nurses from all over are answering the cry for help.

A team of thirteen from the Texarkana region boarded a plane and headed for the coast, landing ahead of Harvey and immediately going to work easing the burden on Texas hospitals.

“We’ll help take care of those patients and provide the care. We’ll provide the hospital a little relief as they’re taking in these added patients,” explained Micah Johnson, CHRISTUS St. Michael-Atlanta Director of Nursing.

Other nurses, like NICU nurse Michelle Smith, helped fly critically ill and premature babies to Dallas, as doctors felt the risk was too great for the young patients should their hospitals lose power. Smith, who did similar work following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, took the role very seriously.

“I saw one young mom saying goodbye to a baby she loves very much,” Smith said. “We don’t take lightly the responsibility of caring for their children.”

Other nurses stayed behind to assist patients who couldn’t be moved, including four mothers who gave birth in Corpus Christi during the storm… one of the babies was even named “Harvey”.

And as the storm fades, more nurses continue to volunteer to help, using services such as the RN Response Network to find a need. (If you’re interested in helping out, you can fill out their volunteer form here.)

Thanks to all of the brave men and women in scrubs who stepped up to the challenge, proving once again that when the skies get darkest, that’s their opportunity to shine the brightest.

If you’d like to explore your potential future as a nurse or medical assistant, Unitek College can help make that dream a reality. Contact us here for more information.