The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

The Danger of Stress in Young Patients

A wide range of patients with a wide range of health problem walk through the doors of your hospital or clinic every day, and of that wide range of health problems, it’s amazing how many may be traced back to stress. High amounts of stress have been found to cause heart issues, digestive issues, breathing problems, headaches, immune system deficiencies, and other health problems. In other words, we know that stress in our adult patients is far from healthy… but how bad is stress for child patients?

“Very bad”, according to the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) in San Francisco. And the long-term effects can range from asthma to heart disease and even to cancer.  Simply put, heavy amounts of stress on a young life can lead to that life being cut short.

“It can tip a child’s developmental trajectory and affect physiology,” explains Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and founder of the CYW. It can trigger chronic inflammation and hormonal changes that can last a lifetime. It can alter the way DNA is read and how cells replicate, and it can dramatically increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes — even Alzheimer’s.”

Dr. Harris goes on to explain that childhood stressors such as divorce, abuse, or death of a loved one “literally gets under our skin, changing people in ways that can endure in their bodies for decades.”

Stress by itself can actually be a good thing for both children and adults… if it occurs in small doses. Stress can help keep us awake, focused, and activates the “fight-or-flight” response when we encounter a dangerous situation. But in order to accomplish these things, stress activates so many of our bodies’ systems simultaneously (immune, hormonal, respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, and more)—and keeping all those systems perpetually revved up and ready for action eventually starts to wear the body down.

And just imagine what that kind of wear-and-tear does to a body that’s still developing.

But unlike many of the health problems that can be caused by stress, stress itself can be dealt with before it becomes a life-threatening issue… if caught in time. Dr. Harris shares the story of one patient, a 3-year-old girl, who scored a seven on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, a very high score for a patient so young. The patient simply wasn’t growing (“itty bitty”, in the words of Dr. Harris). But after identifying stress as a contributing cause and prescribing child-parent stress therapy, her patient was back to a healthy place on the growth curve within six months.

As a nurse, you also have the unique opportunity to help temporarily reduce stress in your young patients. A trip to the clinic, doctor’s office, dentist’s office, or hospital is almost never without an element of fear for most children, but there are a few simple tips you can use to help make the experience a positive one.

  1. Positive Reinforcement – Pay attention to what’s going well and use praise to reinforce that behavior. Are they doing a good job of listening or holding still? Let them know!
  2. Take a Deep Breath – Or more accurately, take several deep breaths. Show your patient some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to help calm their nerves.
  3. Explain Everything – Dr. Greg Psaltis (a pediatric dentist) suggests providing “a running commentary to the child so that nothing comes as a surprise. By telling the patients (in simple, understandable words) what is happening, they can anticipate the next instrument, sensation, or procedure with minimal anxiety.”
  4. Don’t Forget The Parents – Very little upsets a child faster than seeing their parents upset, so be sure to share some of your focus with the adults in the room. Keeping them calm will in turn help keep their children calm.

Of course, these tips and tricks work primarily for the medical or dental visit itself—they aren’t designed to deal with the bigger psychological stressors that may be a factor at home. But it’s always possible that stress-management techniques learned in one place (your workplace) can be applied in others (their home or school). And as always, if you believe stress may be impacting the health of your young patients, address the possibility with your supervisor first.

“This is a public health crisis,” says Dr. Harris. “So guess what? Schools, you need help! Doctors’ offices, you’re part of the solution! If you’re in early childhood, you’re part of the solution. If you’re in juvenile justice, you’re part of the solution. We all need to be part of the solution. If we each take off our little piece, it’s nuts how far we’ll be able to go, together as a society, in terms of solving this problem.”

If you’d like more information on beginning your career as a nurse, medical assistant, or dental assistant, Unitek College can help! Contact us today for more information.

This Tattoo Could Save Your Life

This Tattoo Could Save Your Life

This Tattoo Could Save Your Life

This Tattoo Could Save Your Life

For many, tattoos are a form of self-expression. For others, a tattoo may be an impulsive mistake—and an expensive one, considering they can cost up to several hundred dollars to have done and even more to have removed. But if you suffer from one of several diseases or conditions, a new ink may be a lot more important than an art form. And instead of an impulsive mistake, it could be the thing that saves your life.

Researchers at Harvard and MIT have now developed a new magnetic ink, known as Dermal Abyss, that can be used to create a “smart tattoo” that detects specific levels within your body. Currently, the ink detects dehydration and blood sugar levels by monitoring pH, glucose, sodium, and hydrogen ions within the body’s interstitial fluid. The ink then changes color based on which level it’s meant to detect.

For example, if you’re a diabetic, rather than prick your finger multiple times a day to check your blood sugar level, you could instead just glance at your tattoo and observe the color to see if anything needs your attention.

And if you’re worried you can’t pull off the tattoo look, don’t worry—an invisible ink option is also available, one that becomes visible only under certain lights.

“We wanted to go beyond what is available through wearables today,” explains Ali Yetisen, one of the lead researchers, referring to known issues with wearable medical devices such as short battery life and the inability to pair seamlessly with the body.

Yetisen also hopes to take their discovery beyond our planet—printing the ink on astronauts to make health monitoring more reliable.

Of course, there are a few bugs that need to be worked out before you can line up for that new, health-conscious tat, such as:

  • The possibility of colors being difficult to read or interpret.
  • Ink must stand up to the heavy punishment we often give our skin.
  • False positives / negatives.
  • How the size of the tattoo impacts the accuracy of the reading.
  • Privacy issues—maybe you don’t want every person on the beach knowing your glucose levels.

“The purpose of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts,” says researcher Nan Jiang. “These questions of how technology impacts our lives must be considered as carefully as the design of the molecular sensors patients may someday carry embedded in their skin.”

The work is promising, and it’s future should be promising to both doctors and artists alike. With any luck, that next tattoo might not be a reminder of that crazy three day weekend in Mexico… it might just be the reminder that saves your life.

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

Nurse Delivers Baby In Parking Lot… Then Saves His Life Again

Nurse Delivers Baby In Parking Lot… Then Saves His Life Again

Nurse Delivers Baby In Parking Lot… Then Saves His Life Again

Nurse Delivers Baby In Parking Lot… Then Saves His Life Again

As a trauma nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, nurse Steven Welton has seen many things… but what he was asked to do earlier this December still came as a huge surprise. Steven’s mother Chris Biesemeier, who also works at VUMC, was the first to notice a man frantically trying to get help for his wife—who was still outside in the backseat of their car—and quickly let her son know. Steven headed out, unsure of what to expect.

There in the backseat of the car was a crying toddler, an expectant mother, and a newborn baby already in the process of being born. Welton immediately jumped into action.

“It’s kind of fuzzy at this point because adrenaline was pumping,” Welton told Nashville’s Fox 17. “But the baby looked to be about halfway out so I grabbed him, pulled him the rest of the way, and I could see the umbilical cord and everything. No gloves. I’m just out there in it!”

But delivering the baby turned out to be only half the challenge. As the baby fully emerged, Welton quickly noticed that the child was blue, not crying, and wasn’t drawing that crucial first breath. Training kicked in, and Welton began compressions.

“I immediately could tell he was blue and not doing anything,” Welton said. “He wasn’t moving, wasn’t crying. I just said I gotta start compressions and held him in my hand and started doing it, about two minutes of solid compressions.”

Those two minutes of compressions turned out to be exactly the right decision. Baby Elijah finally took his first breath just as his father arrived back at the car.

“I’m thinking ‘oh my goodness’ and he had a smile on his face,” Welton said. “I think because he was happy things were getting better, and in my mind I was like ‘Man, you have no idea what just happened.’”

Mother and son were quickly transported into the hospital and both are doing well, thanks to the quick thinking and immediate action of nurse Steven Welton—yet another in a long line of heroes in scrubs.

And if you are ever put in a situation where you have to help deliver a baby who’s determined to show up earlier than expected, the experts at VeryWell.com have a few tips:

  • Call 911, the doctor, or the midwife even if you won’t make it to them on time. They can at least begin making important preparations.
  • Remind Mom to pant and to push gently—push only with the contractions.
  • Support the head as the baby emerges.
  • Don’t pull! Let the baby and her mother’s body do the work.
  • Don’t cut the cord! It’s better for both mother and child if the cord stays attached until reaching the hospital.
  • Wipe the fluid from the baby’s nose to help him breathe.
  • Let Mom hold her newborn – As soon as the baby is born, hand her to her mother for skin-to-skin contact with the head “slightly lower than the body” to help with drainage. If you have clean blankets or towels available, cover the two.

If you would like to begin your own training to become a nurse or medical assistant, contact Unitek College for information on our many courses, schedules, and to find a campus near you.

In Harm’s Way: Nurses Fight Back Against California Wildfires

In Harm’s Way: Nurses Fight Back Against California Wildfires

In Harm’s Way: Nurses Fight Back Against California Wildfires

In Harm’s Way: Nurses Fight Back Against California Wildfires

California is no stranger to wildfires, but this year has been tougher than most. October saw over $9 billion in damage to Northern California as fire raged over 245,000 acres, and this month’s wildfires in Southern California are keeping pace. As of today, over 181,000 acres have been consumed, with over 210,000 residents forced from their homes. A state of emergency was recently declared for the entire state, and the fire is now considered the fifth worst in the state’s history.

And as is the case in nearly all emergencies, nurses are at the center of the chaos—treating existing patients and new fire victims even as flames threaten their own homes and hospitals. Nurses such as Julayne Smithson, a 55-year old ICU nurse in Santa Rosa, who was working the overnight shift when the fires arrived.

Julayne was so busy with her patients that she’d paid little attention to the fire’s location, and was completely caught off guard by how close the flames had gotten. “One of the nurses came up to me and she said, ‘Julayne, I’m sorry, but your house is not going to make it,'” Julayne recounts. She’d only purchased the house in the past weeks, and hadn’t finalized the insurance arrangements yet.

“I was so busy working the last couple of weeks that I didn’t get my insurance, which I never do. I never ever, ever go uninsured,” she says. “I kept saying, ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to do that. Tomorrow, I’m going to do that.'”

With only minutes to spare, Julayne rushed home to save what she could. Faced with a crucial decision, she ultimately decided to save those few things with which she could make the biggest difference: her nursing supplies. She escaped with her scrubs, her nursing documents, and a nightgown. A short time later, she was back at work in the ICU as her neighborhood burned. But the fire wasn’t finished with her yet. Two hours later, the fire suddenly changed direction, and the hospital was ordered to evacuate.

“A lot of nurses and staff were putting patients in their cars and driving them to the hospital,” Julayne told NPR. “And then other people were carrying people on blankets, people who couldn’t walk, and putting them in cars.”

(For more information on the Santa Rosa hospital, check out this video by NBC News.)

But even the hospitals untouched by fires have been impacted. Doctors and nurses across the area have not only taken responsibility for evacuated patients, but have seen a significant number of fire-related injuries and conditions come through their doors as well—particularly asthma and other lung or breathing problems caused by smoke and air pollution. Air purifiers and “closed door” policies are now in place at many hospitals, in an attempt to keep the air inside as pure as possible, and the evolving situation has caused staff shortages in some areas.

One hospital was even forced to rely on generator power after the fires caused blackouts.

“Santa Paula Hospital, which is just miles from the original start point for the Thomas fire, remained opened throughout the evolving disaster, in large part due to the courage and coordination of the hospital staff and efforts of fire rescuers from state, county and local battalions,” said spokesperson Sheila Murphy.

Another hospital, Vista Del Mar Psychiatric, wasn’t so lucky. While the patients and employees were unharmed, the wildfire completely destroyed the building.

It’s a frightening situation for all involved, but as in all difficult times, local doctors and nurses have proven again that they don’t give up without a fight. And if you’d like to help in that fight (and in the recovery), there are many ways to do so. One way is by donating to the local Red Cross (you can find more information here) or by volunteering to help the Red Cross with relief efforts (by clicking here). But be careful… multiple scams have already surfaced seeking to intercept donations before they reach victims. The Ventura sheriff recently addressed the issue, and has a very helpful list of tips for avoiding criminals here.

“Makes me want to be able to go out there and help people,” explains nurse Jody Pinion, a nurse from Charlotte, NC who flew to California with the Red Cross to help at area shelters. “It’s why I do what I do.”

If you’d like more information on beginning your own career as a nurse or medical assistant, contact Unitek College today.

Nurse Takes “Hero” To New Level

Nurse Takes “Hero” To New Level

Nurse Takes “Hero” To New Level

Nurse Takes “Hero” To New Level

If you look up the definition of hero, you’ll see one described as a person “admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” (If the definition describes one as a submarine sandwich, you’re looking at the wrong hero). And with that definition in mind, it’s easy to see why most people unanimously agree that nurses are heroes. But when you hear the word “superhero”, you probably don’t think of nurses first. You probably think of superpowered beings in tights fighting villains and aliens on the big screen or in comic books. But once you meet nurse Tobin Matthew, that all may change.

12 years ago, Tobin graduated from nursing school and went to work at Chicago’s Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he called his job of caring for infants and small children “the best job in the world”. On his very first day, Tobin wore a superhero t-shirt during his shift, not knowing that he’d just begun a 12-year tradition that would one day attract a national spotlight.

“I guess it sort of happened organically,” Tobin told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m really into super heroes. As a kid, I would grow up reading comic books and watching super hero movies. When I started at what was called Children’s Memorial back then, I found that the kids that I took care of seemed to be into the same stuff that I was. So I was like ‘OK, I’m going to start wearing super hero shirts,’ and sort of just spiraled from there … I would say kids and parents get about equally excited now, which is really cool.”

Since then, his costumes have ranged from Superman to the Hulk to the Ninja Turtles. And on holidays such as Halloween and Christmas, when being in a hospital is especially difficult for kids, he’ll make up to five wardrobe changes to bring as much light as possible to his young patients. He’s raced down halls as the Flash, hung upside down as Spider-man, and there’s no telling where his heart or creativity will take him next.

Because of his efforts, and the impact he’s had on so many of his patients, Tobin was recently featured on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (you can watch the story here). He was also awarded the 2017 American Red Cross Nurse Hero award, an award given each year to a nurse who “exhibited heroism either in their response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community through acts of kindness, courage or unselfishness in response to an identified need.”

“The biggest compliment that you can receive is a family trusting you with their kids, the most important thing in their lives,” says Tobin. “Dressing as a superhero helps me to motivate myself to be the absolute best I can be for my families at the hospital. Some of the patients you take care of for months and years. It is my job to let them be kids, let them know I care and make that time as special as possible.”

And there is no shortage of literal compliments for Tobin’s care, either. On the hospital’s Facebook page, one mother writes “Tobin was my son Isaac’s nurse many days when he was admitted in May and June with a mysterious illness that left him in isolation with facial lesions! We can’t say thank you enough to this superhero nurse for all that he did to help us during some very difficult days. Thank you, Tobin!!”

So a big thanks to Tobin and the many other nurses out there like him who daily go above and beyond for the people in their care. You may not be in tights and a cape, but you qualify as superheroes in our book. (Besides, scrubs look a lot more comfortable).

If you’d like information on starting your own career in health care, contact Unitek College today for information on our many nursing and medical assistant 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.