8 Ways To Improve Your Bedside Manner

8 Ways To Improve Your Bedside Manner

8 Ways To Improve Your Bedside Manner

8 Ways To Improve Your Bedside Manner

Good bedside manner (the way in which you interact and communicate with your patient) can have a noticeable impact on your patient reviews. But more importantly, good bedside manner can have a noticeable impact on your patients’ health as well.

Our results show that the beneficial effects of a good patient-clinician relationship on health care outcomes are of similar magnitude to many well-established medical treatments,” says psychologist John Kelley. “Many of these medical treatments, while very important, need to balance their benefits against accompanying unwanted side effects. In contrast, there are no negative side effects to a good patient-clinician relationship.”

It’s amazing to think about—that the way a nurse talks to their patient can have a direct impact on their health. It also makes it even more important for nurses to go that extra mile in making sure they establish a good, open relationship with their patients, something that’s sometimes difficult to do when it feels like you’re being pulled twenty directions at once.

The good news is, there are simple but effective ways to boost the power of your bedside manner. Here are eight of our favorites.

  1. Give Them Your Full Focus – You may have a hundred other things happening, but don’t let your patient know that. As long as you’re in their room, let them know that they have your full focus. Nothing builds a connection faster than feeling like you matter to someone. Good eye-contact is a fantastic way of doing this.


  1. Listen Carefully – Some people listen to understand, others listen to respond. If you want to make a good impression, be the former, not the latter. Let the patient know you’re hearing them and understanding them. It’s a quick way to let them know you’re on their side.


  1. Ask Open-Ended Questions – “Yes” or “No” questions are impersonal, and the one-word answers won’t give you very much insight into your patient. Look for questions that force them to expound—for example, asking them “How does this feel” instead of “Does this hurt” opens the door to a lot more potential information.


  1. Forget The Shop Talk – You spend your day among co-workers who can rattle off medical jargon like a second language, but your patient probably isn’t one of those people. Keep your terms simple and easy to understand, otherwise you risk raising their anxiety level when they hear a flurry of terms they aren’t familiar with.


  1. Plan Your Exit – Some patients don’t like to talk… others won’t stop talking. This can be an issue when you really need to move on to your next patient but don’t want to appear rude. Find some tried and true exit phrases or ways to get the conversation back on track, then use them to regain control of the moment without making your patient feel brushed off.


  1. Knock Knock – The power of humor in medicine can’t be overstated, and humor in bedside manner is especially powerful. Finding the right moment (and the appropriate topic) might take some doing, but if you can get a patient to crack a smile, you’ve won. (The Atlantic did a fantastic article on the subject of humor in medicine if you’d like to read more.)


  1. Introduce Yourself – One of the quickest ways to make a connection is to simply tell your patient who you are. And don’t be afraid to introduce yourself multiple times—they’re going to be pretty distracted and may have difficulty remembering the names of all the medical staff they’ve met, so frequent reminders of who you are can take a lot of that stress off their minds.


  1. Be Observant – Look for the little things in their body language, in what appears to be missing in their room, in the way they talk to you, etc. Spotting a small favor you can do for them—like bringing water for their “Get Well” flowers—lets them know they aren’t alone.


There are many other ways to improve your bedside manner, but it all comes down to simply caring for the people in that bed or on that exam table. If you really care, it can’t help but shine through, and that can’t help but make a difference.

If you’d like more information on beginning a career in nursing, contact Unitek College today.

Stop the Bleed: School Nurse Saves Child After Freak Accident

Stop the Bleed: School Nurse Saves Child After Freak Accident

Stop the Bleed: School Nurse Saves Child After Freak Accident

Stop the Bleed: School Nurse Saves Child After Freak Accident

Accidents happen… just watch any episode of Chopped. We might not be able to prevent them 100% of the time, but we can prepare, and sometimes that preparation is all that stands between life and death. Such was the case for a 4th grader in Georgia this past week, when a tumble on the playground almost became a fatality.

Jennifer Leon Lopez, a student in Forsythe County, Georgia, was playing with her friends during recess when she fell. The fall alone might not have been so bad had another girl immediately landed on top of her. Her arm broke, and in the process, severed her artery.

Enter school nurse Kathy Gregory, who less than 24 hours previously had unpacked the school’s brand-new supply of a vital new tool—Stop the Bleed kits.

“I heard another teacher yelling for help, so that’s when I grabbed the Stop the Bleed Kit and rushed to Jennifer’s side,” she told Fox 5 Atlanta. “I am so thankful we had them. They were still in the box and I just grabbed the one on top and ran.”

The Stop the Bleed kits (which include gloves, tourniquets, and bandages) are designed to help first responders treat traumatic hemorrhaging (particularly after a major emergency such as a school shooting), which is exactly what Nurse Gregory needed at that moment. She applied the tourniquet and stopped the bleeding long enough to get Jennifer to the hospital. Once there, two surgeries successfully saved both her arm and her life.

“We got a note from the trauma doctors and they said the tourniquet made the difference in Lopez keeping her arm and her life,” Gregory said. “Because of that training, because of that kit, we saved a little girl’s life.”

Stop the Bleed kits have been around for years, but recent school shootings (such as the one in Florida) have renewed a call to equip all schools with the kits—to be used by both school nurses and by bystanders.

“When the American College of Surgeons looked back at the Sandy Hook school shooting, they found that some deaths could have been prevented if people on site were trained in basic bleeding control techniques,” explained Dr. Jeff Kerby, a professor of surgery at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham.

In many emergency situations involving a shooter, locations quickly go on lockdown—which may be effective in preventing more violence or the attacker from escaping, but is bad news for victims who need immediate care. Often a timely tourniquet makes all the difference between a serious injury and a fatality, and making sure that those tourniquets are available (with clear instructions and possibly even prior training) is certain to save lives.

Stop the Bleed training is also spreading across the country, with the goal of using doctors and nurses to train police officers and school nurses, who in turn train the teachers themselves.

For one little girl, that training and kit (plus one skilled school nurse) saved her life. And as the training and movement continue to spread, we hope to hear of many more needless deaths prevented.

Interested in beginning your own nurses training? Unitek College can help! Contact us today.


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.

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.

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.

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.