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.

Cures One Shock Away

A Host Of Cures, One Electrical Shock Away

Cures One Shock Away

A Host Of Cures

It’s an iconic scene from all Dr. Frankenstein movies and books. A doctor, emboldened by his passion for science, cackles as a bolt of lightning delivers an electrical charge that brings his creation to life. Back in reality, we may not be zapping monsters into existence, but what we can now do with a single jolt of electricity is no less amazing. Straight from the pages of science fiction, tissue nanotransfection is poised to change medical science as we know it.

The science behind tissue nanotransfection is complicated, but the process itself is startlingly simple. A small piece of plastic containing a computer chip is placed on the skin over an injured area. Doctors send a small burst of electricity through the chip, and the patient’s body takes over from there. The chip (combined with the electrical jolt) converts nearby skin cells into vascular cells, which then go to work repairing whatever damage they find in the vicinity.

While this may read like something out of a Star Trek screenplay, researchers have found that the technology is surprisingly successful in tests.

“This is difficult to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98 percent of the time,” explains Dr. Chanden Sen, co-leader of the study at the Ohio State Center for Regenerative Medicine. “With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch. This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive, and then you’re off. The chip does not stay with you, and the reprogramming of the cell starts. Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary.”

While the technology is still in the animal-testing phase, the results have been more than encouraging. Mice, for example, with injured legs have shown growth of new blood vessels within a week of the treatment.

The technology is also showing promise outside of blood vessel repair. The technology has also been used to transform skin cells into new nerve cells, which can then be injected into the brain to help a patient recover from ailments such as brain damage caused by stroke. In tests with mice, brain function was restored just weeks after stroke damage.

“The concept is very simple,” shares Dr James Lee, who founded the study with Dr. Sen. “As a matter of fact, we were even surprised how it worked so well. In my lab, we have ongoing research trying to understand the mechanism and do even better. So, this is the beginning, more to come.”

Researchers hope to begin testing on humans as early as 2018. For a better idea of how the technology works, check out this video.

The results of the study seem very promising, and the technology could easily be something that you as a nurse see in your hospital or clinic in the not-too-distant future. So remember, the next time you see a ridiculous medicinal technology in a science fiction movie or book, don’t laugh just yet… it might be closer to reality than you think.

For more information on beginning your own career in healthcare, contact Unitek College today for a full breakdown of our multiple nursing and medical assistant programs.



Little girl wins the war on cancer and smiles victoriously

Another Victory In The War On Cancer

Little girl wins the war on cancer and smiles victoriously

The medical world is abuzz this month after the FDA unanimously approved a new treatment for leukemia. And this treatment isn’t another round of harsh chemicals or radiation-instead, it uses “gene therapy” to train the body’s white blood cells to attack cancer cells. It’s the beginning of what many are calling the “living drug” era, and leukemia is just the first disease in the crosshairs.

“It’s a pretty amazing new treatment,” explained Dr. David Agus (director of the USC Norris Westside Cancer Center) during an interview on CBS This Morning. “They take the white [blood] cells out of a child with cancer, they send them to [a lab in] New Jersey, and they put in a gene to reprogram these cells to attack the cancer.”

The gene therapy approach also differs from radiation and chemotherapy in that it is typically only a one time treatment, and the numbers so far are impressive. Of the 88 cancer patients given the treatment during clinical trials, 83% had complete remission of the cancer. The side effects, unfortunately, are still considered severe-something the gene therapy has in common with older treatments. One of the worst side effects seen is a condition called “cytokine release syndrome”, where the body attacks its own vital organs, a condition that can be life-threatening. But even with the side effect risks, the results are better than doctors have seen with chemotherapy and even newer cancer drugs.

“Our daughter [Emily, age 12] was going to die and now she leads a normal life,” said Tom Whitehead, of Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, father to one of the young patients first given the gene therapy treatment. “We believe that when this treatment is approved it will save thousands of children’s lives around the world. I hope that someday all of you on the advisory committee can tell your families for generations that you were part of the process that ended the use of toxic treatments like chemotherapy and radiation as standard treatment, and turned blood cancers into a treatable disease that even after relapse most people survive.”

Adding to the excitement of the breakthrough is the realization that gene therapy will eventually be able to treat diseases other than leukemia.

“It’s a new world, an exciting therapy,” said Dr. Gwen Nichols, the chief medical officer of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The next step, she said, will be to determine “what we can combine it with and is there a way to use it in the future to treat patients with less disease, so that the immune system is in better shape and really able to fight. This is the beginning of something big.”

The technology is still young, and there are still many challenges to overcome and many questions left to answer, but the “living drug” breakthrough and approval mean big things ahead-both for patients and for those treating them.

For more information on beginning your own career in the medical field, Unitek College can help! Contact us today for more information on our nursing and medical assistant programs.

Medical syringe being testing

Can You Give Shots Without A Needle? Science Says Yes!

Medical syringe being testing

Ask a group of people why they hate going to the doctor and you’ll get a variety of answers—the bill, the waiting room, cold stethoscopes, etc. One of the biggest complaints you’ll hear is that many people hateneedles and hate getting shots. But thanks to a new breakthrough, we may soon be able to get some of our injections without a needle prick.

Portal Instruments (a start-up medical company out of Cambridge, Massachusetts) recently unveiled their needle-free drug delivery system at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas… and impressed everyone enough to win the innovation award. The device—which they hope to initially use to treat chronic diseases like MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and hemophilia—delivers medication through a computerize piston mechanism. In plain English, the device uses an electronic motor to shoot a tiny stream of liquid beneath the patient’s skin.

Having a liquid shot directly into your skin may sound more painful than a needle, but that’s where the genius of the device takes over. Much of the pain from a needle injection occurs because pressure is applied even after the skin is pierced. With the needle-less system, the computer automatically adjusts pressure immediately after the liquid (a 150-micron-thick jet of drugs, about the size of a human hair) breaks through the skin, removing the painful pressure of a shot.

The needle-less injection also takes place a lot faster than a standard shot. “The Portal drug delivery technology is needle-free, fast and computer-controlled,” according to a company press release.” It automatically adjusts the injection velocity up to one thousand times in the half-second it takes to completely deliver a 1 ml dose.”

If you’d like a closer look at how the device works, check out a video breakdown by the BBC’s Dave Lee by clicking here.

The device could be a huge breakthrough for people who suffer from trypanophobia (fear of needles). It’s estimated that ten percent of Americans suffer from the phobia, and of that group, twenty percent avoid medical treatment simply because their fear of needles is so great. Eliminating that fear could potentially open up a new world of medical treatment for these prospective patients, and that’s no small accomplishment.

Of course, it may be a little while before the device begins showing up in clinics or hospitals, so in the meantime, click here for some thoughts on how to help your patients overcome their fear of injections.

If you’d like to pursue your own career in nursing or medical assisting, contact Unitek College here for more information about upcoming classes, programs, and certification opportunities.

6 Sun Safety Tips

Summer doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but it’s certainly felt like summer for a while. Don’t start the season with a sunburn—it’s a painful, unnecessary reminder to be more sun-conscious. Make the most of your summer with my 6 tips for staying safe in the sun this season.

UV Ray Ray Strength Chart

1. Wear Sunscreen Every Day

My first tip is the most obvious, but also the most important. Especially during the summer, sunscreen is necessary to prevent sunburns and minimize your chances of developing skin cancer. To best protect yourself against UV rays, you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. SPF is also important when choosing a sunscreen- it describes how long the sunscreen will effectively protect you from the sun. SPF multiplied by the amount of time you can usually spend in the sun before burning determines the amount of time you are protected from the sun.

If you usually burn after fifteen minutes in the sun but you generously apply SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen, you should be protected from UV rays for a maximum of 450 minutes.

SPF Effectiveness Chart

For best results, sunscreen should be applied BEFORE you go outdoors and reapplied often. The length of protection also depends on your outdoor activities—water will affect a sunscreen’s effectiveness. Refer to your sunscreen’s instructions for more information about how often to reapply.


2. Check the UV Index

Did you know that when the UV Index is very high (8+), your skin can burn after less than ten minutes of sun exposure?

The UV Index can be a very helpful tool for minimizing sun damage. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, along with the National Weather Service, provides a next day forecast of predicted UV ray strength. This information can help you decide how frequently you should be reapplying sunscreen—more often on days with a higher index number—or what sort of protective clothing measures you should take before venturing outside. You may also want to avoid spending long periods of time outside when the UV Index is especially high.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency offers a free UV Index smartphone and web app that displays a forecast of UV radiation levels. The EPA’s app is a great way to prepare yourself for summer while you’re on the go.

The US Environmental Protection Agency's SunWise UV Index Phone App

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise UV Index Phone App

You can download the free app by searching for “EPA’s SunWise UV Index” in your phone’s app store. You can also visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website to check the UV Index.


3. Stay in the Shade

The sun’s rays are stronger between 10am and 4pm than any other time of day. The strongest rays occur around noon, when the sun is the highest in the sky. Whenever possible, it’s safest to stay in the shade during peak hours. If you are going to be outside between 10am and 4pm, protect yourself with sunscreen and appropriate clothing.


4. Wear the Right Clothing and Accessories 

You remembered to apply sunscreen before going outside, but are you also wearing the right clothing and accessories? A large-brimmed hat can help to protect your scalp, face, and neck from sun damage. Like your skin, your eyes can also be damaged by UV rays. Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion statement—they block most UVA and UVB rays and help to protect your eyes from the sun.

The clothing you wear in the summer can also affect your level of sun protection. Loosely woven, light colored clothing provides less protection than clothing made with a darker, tightly-woven material. A tighter fabric weave will help keep UV rays from reaching your skin. Make sure to supplement regular sunscreen application with protective clothing to best shield your skin from harmful rays this summer.


5. Check for Skin Cancer Regularly 

With all of the sun exposure you’ll be getting this summer, it’s a great time to preform regular skin exams every few months. Look for any changes in size, color, texture, or shape of moles or dark spots. Also look for any new or abnormal moles or growths. Make sure to have any abnormalities checked, as early detection can make all the difference when treating cancer.


6. Lastly, Drink Plenty of Water!

In the summer, it’s essential to stay properly hydrated. Dehydration is uncomfortable and can lead to serious consequences, including headaches, decreased blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, and, in extreme cases, death. When you’re spending time in the sun, you need to drink enough water to replace what you’ve lost from sweating. Generally, you should drink between six and eight glasses of water every day. In the summer, depending on the temperature and your rate of physical activity, you may require more water to stay hydrated.


That’s it for my summer sun safety tips—what do you do in the summer to stay healthy while having fun in the sun? Leave your tips in the comments.