This Month in “Medicinal Miracles”

This Month in “Medicinal Miracles”

This Month in “Medicinal Miracles”

This Month in “Medicinal Miracles”

Medicinal technology is growing faster than ever, and 2018 is already off to a big start. From new antibiotics in the fight against superbugs, to breakthroughs in the realm of mental health, to advances in prosthetics, here are a few of the biggest game changers in the medical world that have already happened this year.

Human Trials Begin For Cancer “Vaccine” – An immunotherapy injection that has had positive results in mice with cancer has now been cleared for human trials. Researchers at Stanford University have discovered a way to re-activate immune cells that have been “put to sleep” within tumor growths. A localized injection “wakes” the cells, which then begin attacking the cancer from the inside. In the 90 mice tested, 87 were cancer free after just one injection… and the remaining three mice were cured after their second injection. Researchers hope to see the same level of results in human patients this year.

A Blood Tests Predicts Alzheimer’s Up To 30 Years In Advance – What used to require spinal taps or expensive brain scans can now be done with a prick of the finger. Researchers can now examine simple blood tests for markers that show a high likelihood of the patient developing Alzheimer’s at some point in their future. While a cure for the disease is still unknown, advance notice allows access to treatment sooner, and could greatly improve quality of life.

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Gets Trial Run – Johnny Matheny lost his arm to cancer, but for the next year, he gets to borrow a new one from the U.S. government. And this isn’t your ordinary prosthetic. The new arm (the Modular Prosthetic Limb) uses brain waves to control movement and to communicate sensations from the arm. The prosthetic began testing as early as 2016, but this year will be the first long-term trial run of the technology… which currently boasts a price tag of over $120 million.  Here’s hoping that drops before the arm heads to market.

Forgotten Antibiotic Super-Effective Against Superbugs – Old dogs may not learn new tricks, but it turns out that old antibiotics can. Octapeptin, an antibiotic discovered (and abandoned) in the 1970’s has been able to accomplish something modern antibiotics haven’t—defeating the antibiotic resistant bacterial “superbugs”. Which is excellent, considering that scientists currently project that drug-resistant infections will be responsible for 10 million deaths per year by 2050. This is one win we desperately needed.

We Can Grow (and Attach) New Ears – For the first time in world history, doctors can successfully grow and attach new ears onto human patients… using their own cells. Most of us probably remember the eerie photo from the 90’s of a human ear grown on the back of a mouse, and recreating human ears using cartilage from other parts of the body has been practiced with limited success. But as of 2018, cells from the patient can be used to grow a new ear within a structure that eventually dissolves after being attached… leaving behind a new ear almost identical to the other.

These are just a handful of the new practices, treatments, and technologies heading towards your hospital or clinic, and we’ll be watching excitedly to see what other medicinal “miracles” come out of 2018. Unitek offers nursing programs and training courses throughout California.

For more information on beginning your own career in healthcare, contact Unitek College today. Our programs range from nursing to medical assistant to dental assistant and more, with flexible schedules and a variety of start dates available.

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.

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 programs 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.

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

Frequent Flyer: Nurse Commutes 2,600 Miles To Work

If you’re looking for a state in which to begin your nursing career, or you’re already a nurse and looking for a move, it’s hard to beat California. Frequently ranked as one of the top (if not the top) states in nurse salaries, it should come as no surprise that nurses from all over the country are eyeing jobs in the Golden State… even if they don’t plan to live there. One survey found that of all the out-of-state nurses crossing the border into California for jobs, a whopping 84% still planned on leading active lives in their former state. That’s a lot of commutes.

But one commuter in particular takes the cake when it comes to job dedication. Tom Fowkes is a nurse who lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he has no intention of moving… despite the fact that his full-time job is in Oakland, California. That’s a commute of over 2,600 miles… one way!

“I can’t believe I’ve been doing it for 9 years,” Fowkes told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It seems like 4 or 5. It’s changed my life. I spend more time with my son. And when I’m home and I don’t work, we can do things because I have money now.”

So just how beneficial is it for nurses like Fowkes to make the long commute? With the high cost of travel, it may seem like the cost would outweigh the benefits, but that’s not always the case, and certainly wasn’t with Fowkes.

“These are the highest paid nursing jobs on the planet,” he says, referring to his job at Kaiser. “I make more than some doctors do back home.” And for a nurse who was previously working three jobs just to make ends meet, that pay difference has been life-changing. Not only is he working just the one job, but he’s found more time to spend with his family… and was even able to afford to splurge on a new swimming pool.

And nurses like Fowkes are becoming more and more common. In fact, Fowkes estimates that 10% of the workers on his floor commute from other states.

Of course, travel from coast to coast isn’t always the case for commuting nurses. Nurses such as Ann Inman of Las Vegas still fly to work each week, but it’s a much shorter jump.

“It’s very intense for me, especially because I don’t like to fly,” Inman told the LA Times. “But I can make more money here than anyplace else, and I’m kind of getting used to it.”

And money isn’t the only benefit. Job satisfaction ratings among California nurses are on the rise, earning a 4.21 on a scale of 1 to 5, a 10-year high. The study also found that California RN’s were “more ethnically diverse, better educated, better paid and more satisfied with their work than in previous years.”

So if you’re already a nurse and looking to make a move, there’s a lot to be said for California. And if you’re someone who’s hoping to become a nurse, we also have seven campuses here in California to help make that a reality.

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.