Nurses Work Around IV Bag Shortage

Nurses Work Around IV Bag Shortage

Nurses Work Around IV Bag Shortage

Nurses Work Around IV Bag Shortage

There’s an old saying that you never fully appreciate something until it’s gone—like how much you appreciate breathing clearly only after a cold stops up your nose. In hospitals, which are filled with millions of moving parts, people, and easily overlooked amenities, this can be especially true… something that doctors and nurses are dealing with across the country thanks to a nationwide shortage of a vital piece of hospital equipment—IV bags.

It’s been over four months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, and the island is still picking up the pieces. Power outages, crime, and disease continue to slow the rebuilding process, which is a problem for U.S. hospitals. Normally, Puerto Rico supplies more than 44% of IV bags for the United States’ healthcare industry, but thanks to the hurricane, those IV bags are no longer being produced.

“I find it shocking that in the richest country in the world we run out of fundamental, basic supplies,” says Martha Kuhl, an oncology nurse at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.

This certainly poses a problem for hospitals such as the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which uses over 1,000 IV bags per day. And complicating matters further is the massive flu epidemic sweeping through the states. Some hospitals have even been forced to treat patients outside in tents, making this a very inconvenient (and potentially dangerous) time to deal with a medical supply shortage.

But nurses are becoming increasingly creative in dealing with the challenge, and patients are receiving their treatments uninterrupted and none-the-wiser.

“We are handling the situation very well. Every patient, every flu patient, every hospital is a little different,” says Mark Ross, an emergency preparedness southeastern regional manager, in an interview with CNN, “but we are holding our own with conservation and alternative methods so we can administer the right care for the right patient at the right time.”

Some of the methods being used to circumvent the problem range from using oral medications as much as possible, using larger IV bags (which are now also beginning to run low), employing the “push method” (injecting drugs and antibiotics directly), and some hospitals have even reverted back to using glass bottles instead of bags. In some cases, even the pharmacists are figuring out solutions.

“Our pharmacists started doing what we call compounding,” says Dr. O’Neil Britton of Massachusetts General. “[They] mix the medication themselves in the pharmacy, label it and send it to the floor. So this would be more like baking a cake from scratch rather than using cake mix.”

But even through the chaos of the flu season and IV bag shortage, hospitals are optimistic. Not only has the shortage identified a supply problem that can be addressed once the emergency has passed, but the issues have also demonstrated once again the resilience and creativity of those treating patients.

“Hospitals are fairly well-versed at dealing with a wide variety of challenges,” says Courtney Burke, COO  for New York’s Healthcare Association, “and so they have a lot of excellent people on the ground who are helping them manage the situation.”

And we couldn’t agree more.

For more information on beginning your own career in healthcare, Unitek College can help! Contact us today for more information on our multiple nursing and medical assistant programs, schedules, and online options.

Saving For Retirement: Top Tips For Nurses

Saving For Retirement: Top Tips For Nurses

Saving For Retirement: Top Tips For Nurses

Saving For Retirement: Top Tips For Nurses

It may be hard to imagine while you’re still studying to become a nurse, or while working your first 12-hour shift, but there will come a day when you don’t wake up and put on scrubs. However much you enjoy your career as a nurse, all good things eventually do come to an end. And with a few notable exceptions (like Nurse Rigney), retirement eventually arrives for all of us.

But with the hectic schedules and flurry of activity that fills most nurses’ days, planning for said retirement can easily become an afterthought. Nearly 60% of nurses admit to having done no planning whatsoever for retirement, and that could mean some unpleasant surprises down the road… or even having to delay retirement indefinitely.

But preparing for retirement as a nurse doesn’t have to be complicated, and by keeping a few key points in mind and making some sound financial decisions now, you can care for your future just as well as you care for your patients today.

Tip #1: Start As Soon As You Can – The reason is simple… compound interest. More money saved now means a longer period in which it can grow. CNN Money offers a fantastic example of how this works at this link. It may sting a little to set aside money you know you won’t be seeing for several decades, but the difference between saving now and saving later could be in the hundreds of thousands.

Tip #2: Look For Free Money – There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but with many employers there is such a thing as free money for your retirement. Check with your company on their 401k employee match program—many employers will match (up to a certain amount) your retirement contributions if it’s automatically withdrawn from your paycheck. But not all hospitals and medical companies are the same, so if you move from job to job across your career, pay close attention to their retirement program details.

Tip #3: Save Automatically – Judith McNiff (CFP, Wells Fargo) suggests that nurses “set up automatic transfers of money from your checking account into your savings or retirement account. This way, you’re less likely to spend money you want to allocate to savings. Check your savings progress every month and watch your balances grow.” She also suggests setting a savings goal of 5% of your income when you’re first starting out as a nurse, then gradually increasing that amount to 10% as your career progresses.

Tip #4: Start Small – Nurses are natural problem solvers, hard workers, and people who like to see results quickly. But trying to conquer retirement planning too quickly could lead to burnout and frustration. Steven A. Boorstein (RockCrest Financial LLC) recommends nurses who are hesitant about making financial decisions to start small. “Starting something begins to take you down the right path now. Over the course of a year or two, if you tackle the small issues, you find that you’ll start to clear up the mess and can focus on the bigger issues (e.g., student loans, retirement, major purchases, college planning for your children).”

Tip #5: Get Help Sooner, Not Later – Between juggling patients and home life, nurses have their hands full, so learning to navigate the world of finance and investment alone could quickly become overwhelming. Fortunately, there are plenty of financial advisors available to help take that burden off your shoulders… and some hospitals and medical companies even offer financial advisement in-house. “But don’t wait until you’re ready to retire to talk to a financial adviser,” warns McNiff. “That’s like saying, ‘My house is on fire — I better go get some homeowner’s insurance!’ Instead, meet with an adviser early in your career to create a long-term plan that will help you meet your retirement savings goals.”

You’re a hard worker, and there’s no reason why your money shouldn’t be working just as hard as you do. So form a few good habits now, and soon saving for retirement could feel as natural as scrubs and hand sanitizers.

For more information on beginning your career in nursing, contact Unitek College today.

New Year’s Resolutions for Nurses and Nursing Students

New Year’s Resolutions for Nurses and Nursing Students

New Year’s Resolutions for Nurses and Nursing Students

New Year’s Resolutions for Nurses and Nursing Students

2017 is in the rearview mirror and 2018 stretches out ahead of us, full of promise and possibility. And those wanting to take advantage of those possibilities are quickly compiling their plans on how to do so. You’ve probably seen several lists of New Year’s resolutions (or maybe you’ve written some for yourself), resolutions that may include things like losing weight, eating better, calling your parents more often, etc. But as a nurse or nursing student, your life has a whole other aspect that needs some resolutions of its own… and we’ve put together a few suggestions to help get that list started.

  • Resolve to stay up to date on healthcare – The world of healthcare is changing incredibly fast, as new technologies, procedures, and practices are entering hospitals faster than ever. So resolve to invest time in reading about these breakthroughs so that you’ll be one step ahead when they eventually become part of your work day. (Sites such as The Healthcare Blog are great places to start).
  • Be the nurse you’d want assigned to you – If you were in a hospital bed, what type of nurse would you want taking care of you? Chances are, they’d greet you with a smile, listen attentively, and would have a positive outlook on life—even at the end of a long shift or during a particularly difficult day. Resolve to be that nurse whenever you can.
  • Share your resolutions – This applies to both personal and nursing resolutions. Once you verbalize what you plan to do (sharing your plans with co-workers and supervisors), they can begin to help hold you accountable for reaching those goals. We naturally want to please others and avoid disappointing, and that little boost can go a long way in keeping those nursing resolutions.
  • Find a Resolution Buddy – Everything is easier when you have someone that can relate to exactly what you’re going through. Find another nurse that wants to make the same improvements and make a pact to improve together. Not only will it help you reach your own goals, it could go a long way in strengthening that co-worker / friendship bond.
  • Sleep/Exercise/Eat better – Okay, this one is probably already on your personal list of resolutions, but the benefits directly apply to your work life as well. Resolve to take better care of your body, and you’ll have more energy to take care of your patients.
  • Resolve to rest – Your days off are precious—guard them. Your breaks are few and far between—take full advantage of them. There will always be something to do or a co-worker to help, but unless you’ve taken care of yourself first, you’ll burn out. So this year, resolve to recharge when you can (and not to feel guilty for doing so).
  • Resolve to ask for help – Asking for help is a simple thing to do but so many people struggle to do it. So in 2018, resolve to set pride to the side and ask for help when you need it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or overextended, there’s no shame in asking for a helping hand.
  • Stay ahead of stress – Stress is everywhere, and if you’re a nurse or studying to become a nurse, you more than likely have a higher dose of it than most. But there are many ways to keep ahead of stress (some great suggestions can be found here), and if you start the year by keeping a step ahead of your stress, and if you can keep up that commitment to stay ahead of your stress, 2018 could be a lot more relaxed.

There are dozens more resolutions we could share (you can see a fantastic list of others here), but hopefully these suggestions are a good start to your list. Good luck in the new year, and we can’t wait to see what you will accomplish.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to begin your own career in nursing, Unitek College is here to help! Contact us here for more information about our many nursing and medical assistant programs.

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.