Nurse with great bedside manner talks to patient

Caring for the Mind: Life as a Psychiatric Nurse

Nurse with great bedside manner talks to patient

Not all nurses put on their scrubs and go to work to suture wounds, change IV’s, and treat physical illnesses. Nurses working in the psychiatric realm of medical care can often have very different experiences from their counterparts in the emergency room, and they are just as valuable. Right now, 1 in 5 Americans deals with a mental illness in a given year (1 in 25 deals with a serious mental illness), and suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the country. Mental health is a nationwide problem, one that demands a skilled, caring, and dedicated medical workforce to combat… and that’s where psychiatric nurses come in.

“While RN’s can specialize in anything, I opted for psychiatric nursing because I’m a ‘people-person’,” shares RN Jess C. of Colorado Springs. “I love the fact that psychiatry is not a cut and dried field – nothing is black and white when dealing with the human mind. The best part of my job is when I get to make a positive impact on a person and help them get their life back on track.”

As someone working with mental health patients, a day for a nurse like Jess tends to focus on two things: monitoring and safety. Psychiatrists can only do so much at one time, so they rely on their nurses to be their eyes and ears-which can mean assessing mental health needs, tracking progress on mental health regimens, and even providing counseling from time to time as patients work through their self-care activities. Nurses also play a big part in managing the “therapeutic environment” and making certain that everyone-patient or medical personnel-is safe.

“While I was in nursing school I fell in love with psychiatric nursing,” writes RN Dan J. of Baltimore. “It is extremely challenging trying to meet the needs of psychiatric patients, and I like teaching the patients and their families about their illnesses and medications. They depend on me to calm their fears and I like knowing that I help put them at ease. It’s very satisfying to know that I made a real difference in a patient’s life.”

While some states only require their psychiatric nurses to be RN’s (NCLEX-RN certified), some states require some additional certifications and training, but in a field that’s expected to grow 19% by the year 2022, that extra effort can add up to a lot of job security.

(For a more detailed look into a day in the life of a nurse working in the mental health field, RN Stephanie Dauphin describes exactly that in this video.)

While the current number of mental health issues in the country can feel overwhelming, the challenge isn’t insurmountable. New technology (such as Woebot) and new treatments are entering the field almost daily, but what will really turn the tide are the people who work one-on-one with these patients every day of the week. So if psychiatric nursing sounds like a good fit for you, don’t hesitate. There’s a long line of people out there just waiting to appreciate your help.

For more information on becoming a nurse or furthering your nursing education, Unitek College can help. Contact us here for more information on our upcoming classes and programs.

Nurse Delivers Baby On Flight To Dallas

If there’s one thing that’s true across all pregnancies, it’s that when the baby decides that he or she is ready to arrive, there’s very little that can convince them to wait… even if their mother happens to be on an airplane at the time. Such was the case of a mother from Phoenix, who began labor during a flight to Dallas just a week ago.

The situation could have ended in many ways-many of them tragic-but thankfully for the mother and new baby, a nurse was on-board, and she didn’t hesitate to get involved.

Nurse Rhondula Green of Carrolton quickly answered the call for help after the mother went into labor mid-flight, and not a moment too soon.

“He just popped out – literally. So we just kind of like caught him,” described Green. “I was kind of nervous initially, but when I saw the baby come in the nerves were gone!”

The moment (witnessed by the mother’s two older children, seated beside her for the entire birth) was captured on video by another passenger, Shelley Starks, and can be seen here.

“It’s amazing they were able to accomplish that on the plane without being prepared at all,” said Starks. “She [the mother] had on a black shirt that had two baby hand prints on it with a red heart that said let me out of here.”

The flight diverted to New Orleans, where the new mother and her newborn were able to recover, and Nurse Green continued on to Dallas where she’s undoubtedly gone on to help others. But if you ever find yourself in a situation similar to Nurse Green’s, the website has a few things to remember.

  1. Call 911 – Or in a situation like the one above, see if you can establish contact with medical help on the ground. Of course, sometimes this won’t be available, which is where your medical training comes into play.
  2. Stay Calm – Both you and the soon-to-be mother need to breathe. Anxiety and panic won’t do either of you any favors.
  3. Ask for Blankets – If blankets aren’t available, get towels, sheets, clean shirts, anything you can use to wipe the blood off a new baby or wrap around both mother and child to keep them warm after the delivery.
  4. Push! – Let the mother lie down, and let her body tell you when it’s time to push. When it does, guide the head, check for the cord, and just let the baby come.
  5. Leave the Cord Alone – In the movies, they always cut the cord, but this is a bad idea after an emergency birth. Leave the cord alone until doctors can clamp and cut with sterilized equipment.
  6. Remember Your ABC’s – Dr. Marjorie Greenfield (author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book) stresses the importance of checking the ABC’s-airway, breathing, and circulation. Feel for breath near the baby’s nose, and check for a pulse by putting a hand on his or her chest. Not getting anything? Don’t panic. Try “rubbing the baby’s back or flicking their feet… These will often get a newborn crying,” says Dr. Greenfield.

Of course, the best thing for both mother and child is to get them to a hospital in time, but in some cases (such as Nurse Green’s infamous flight to Dallas), sometimes the baby refuses to wait. So pay close attention in your classes, future nurses, and keep your training sharp, because you never know when you might be the next person who gets tapped on the shoulder and asked “excuse me, but are you a nurse?”

If you’d like more information on beginning a career as a nurse or medical assistant, Unitek College can help you start your career on the right foot. Contact us here for more information.

The Medical Science Behind Those Magic Glasses

If you’re on any form of social media, chances are you’ve seen one of the heartwarming videos capturing the moment when a colorblind friend or family member puts on a pair of magic glasses and can suddenly see the world in color. If you haven’t seen one of these videos, grab some tissues (they’re tearjerkers) and take your pick: two colorblind brothers overwhelmed by a full color world, a colorblind grandfather given the gift of full sight, a 10-year old boy who gets the birthday gift of a lifetime, and many more like them.

The individual stories and reactions are amazing, and we could easily spend all day focusing on just those, but there’s another medical aspect to the stories that deserves some attention as well-why and how these “magic glasses” work.

The creation of the color-correcting glasses was actually a happy accident. In 2005, Don McPherson (a glassware specialist) was working on protective sunglasses for laser surgeons-glasses that would both protect the surgeon from the brilliance of the laser while still allowing them to tell the difference between blood and tissue. To accomplish this, he used a rare earth iron in the glass, an element that absorbed the light, boosted the color saturation of the wearer, and had one unintended side effect.

While playing ultimate Frisbee one afternoon, a friend (Michael Angell) asked to borrow the custom pair of sunglasses McPherson was wearing. But the moment Michael (who is colorblind) put on the glasses, he was shocked and pleasantly surprised to suddenly be seeing a world of color. It was then that McPherson realized the potential of what he’d created.

The way the glass works is fascinating. In every human eye, there are three photopigments (cones) that are each sensitive to a unique color-blue, red, or green. As photons from light hit the cones, they translate that information into color. Blue cones operate independently, but the red and green cones often overlap in their duties… for example, if an equal amount of photons hit the red and green cones simultaneously, we see yellow. If they land primarily on the green instead of the red, we see a more greenish hue. (There’s also a 4th type of non-functioning cone found in a small percentage of women that, if activated, would allow them to see 100 million colors rather than the one million most people see).

Colorblindness occurs when the red and green cones overlap too much (the cause of colorblindness in 99% of cases). It’s as if the cones can’t decide between each other what color to send to the brain, so they choose “nothing”. McPherson’s glasses add a “band of absorption”, essentially forcing the light photons to separate further, preventing overlap issues between the cones.

The glasses aren’t perfect, but they’re an amazing leap forward for those struggling with colorblindness. Some rare cases, like those where a person is completely missing a set of cones, can’t be helped. But the technology is on the move, new types are being turned out, indoor glasses in the process of being developed, and some doctors are hoping to use the glasses to prevent the progression of colorblindness in children.

The medical science is fascinating, the results are incredible, and if you need us, we’ll be watching more of those Youtube videos for the next hour. Please pass the tissues.

For more information on starting your own career in the medical field, contact Unitek College here to find out how you can begin working towards your nursing degree now!

Doctor and surgeon rushing to see their patient

Surviving Your First Weeks As A Nursing Grad

Starting any new job can be stressful. Starting a new job where people’s lives depend on you can be downright terrifying. But every year, over 150,000 new nurses do just that. They pull on the scrubs, tie on the no-slip shoes, and push past those first few weeks of training and orientation to begin making their mark in one of the fastest growing career fields in the country. And if they can do it, you can do it. You just have to remember a few key pieces of advice.

  1. Get Everything You Can Out Of Orientation – You have to go through orientation one way or another, so you might as well make the most of that time and learn everything you possibly can. This should come naturally, considering the amount of information you had to memorize and understand in your nursing classes. “Take advantage of every learning opportunity,” urges Jean Mills, RN, MS, clinical instructor with the University of Illinois College of Nursing. “Even experienced nurses actively engage in new employee orientations.”
  2. Be A Team Player – There are two parts to this piece of advice. The first is to remember to invest in the people you’ll be working with, from management to fellow nurses to the building maintenance team. No nurse can do their job alone, so tap into that network of support as fast as you can. The second part is that as a member of the team, you shouldn’t be afraid to contribute, even early on in your career. There’s nothing wrong with making suggestions or sharing perspectives, even if you’re new.
  3. Eat Well, Drink Lots (of water) – Nursing is a high stress occupation, and for new nurses struggling to learn the new system, the stress can be even higher. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself by eating food that will nourish your body and mind (try and avoid the fast food and vending machine stops). And stay hydrated, advises “Your body and brain need water. Make sure you drink enough to at least keep your urine clear and your mucous membranes moist. Stay hydrated at all times.”
  4. Let Others Help You – No matter how well you did in nursing school, everyone needs help to a certain degree when transitioning to a nursing career. So don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know something-no one is expecting you to know everything right out of the gate. Ask questions as many times as you need, get help when you’re struggling with a procedure or treatment, and use your mentor as much as you can. Everything will begin to click eventually, but remember-even seasoned nurses need to ask for help once in a while.
  5. Be Proactive – That “nurse call” button is a necessity, but let’s face it, it’s not always an emergency every time a patient presses it. Sometimes they just need a water refill or an extra blanket, or they’re looking for pain medication. Nurse Susan suggests in her blog that the best way to protect your workflow from constant interruption is to be proactive in meeting these needs. “When you go into a patient’s room, check if their water pitcher is filled, ask if they need to go to the bathroom, and assess their pain. Add in other environmental scans or assessments that may help the patient while you’re already in the room. Patients really, really appreciate it, and you have fewer interruptions. Win, win!”
  6. Take a Break – You might be tempted to go full throttle, day in and day out, as soon as you hit those hospital floors. And while a good drive is vital in a good nurse, you can’t maintain that kind of push indefinitely. Take some time for yourself when you can, recharge those batteries, and you’ll avoid burning out.
  7. Don’t Give Up – Ask just about any seasoned nurse and they’ll tell you that while the job isn’t easy, it is rewarding. Your first few weeks may be tough, but stick with it, because it does get better. “All change is frightening, and you need time to adapt to your new role as a professional,” says Nancy DiDona (EdD, RNC, coordinator of the traditional program in nursing at Dominican College). “It takes a good six months to a year to feel part of a work situation.”

“You’re going to be there when a lot of people are born, and when a lot of people die,” ” writes 44-year EMT veteran and author Thom Dick. “In most every culture, such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. No one on Earth would be welcomed, but you’re personally invited. What an honor that is.”

For more information on starting your own career in nursing, contact Unitek College for more information on available programs, tuition, online class options, or to find a campus near you.

Your Best Foot Forward: Choosing The Right Nursing Shoes

Nurses are no strangers to the pains of aching feet and empty stomachs, and this week’s blog post aims to help you out with both, starting with the rumbling of a missed meal. This Wednesday, June 14, Chipotle restaurants nationwide are offering nurses a “Code Burrito”-bring in your nurse’s ID to for a “buy one, get one free” on all burritos, tacos, bowls, or salads. You can find more information on the deal here.

As for the aching feet (and by association, legs and back), that’s an issue that can be a little more complicated. The answer, of course, is to choose the right pair of nursing shoes, but with so many options and varieties available, this can be a daunting task. The shoes that work for your co-worker may not work for you, and choosing the wrong pair can make those 12-hour shifts feel like an eternity. It can also result in “heel pain, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee pain, hip pain, or low back pain”, so as you can see, a lot rests on your decision (no pun intended).

Here are a few things to consider when buying your next pair:

Biomechanics – According to, feet are designed to do two things with every step-absorb the shock of the first step, and provide you with a push for your second. This is accomplished through specific biomechanical motions, such as pronation (rolling in) and supination (rolling out). But no two steps are the same, and some people’s gaits will over-pronate while others can under-pronate, causing fatigue and pain either way. In the end, it all comes down to your foot’s arch (look at the wet outline of your footprint after a shower for a good indication of how high or low your arch is). suggests that “If you have a low arch (flat feet/over-pronator), you should choose Motion Control Shoes. If you have a normal arch (neutral pronation), you should choose Stability Shoes. If you have a high arch (under-pronator), you should choose Cushioned Shoes. (Keep in mind that high arch and under-pronation are extremely rare.)”

Age of Current Shoes – Experts suggest that you switch out your shoes every 500 miles-and those miles add up quickly in a hospital hallway. Your shoes’ support can wear down over time, so even if you choose the perfect pair to start, they can wind up hurting you in the end if you hold on to them too long.

Style – Sneakers, clogs, and slip-ons are the most popular choices for nursing shoes, and each is built for different scenarios. If you’re in a fast-paced department (such as the emergency room) where speed and mobility are factors, sneakers are the best choice. Slower paced shift? Slip-ons can provide support and comfort, while clogs can offer a little extra wiggle room for aching feet and can relieve pressure points. (Though always check your hospital or clinic’s footwear requirements first).

Account For Swelling – A good shoe doesn’t need to be broken in-it should feel comfortable from the start. And keep in mind that after a long day on your feet, you may experience some swelling, so size your shoes so you’ll be just as comfortable at the end of the day as you are at the beginning.

Slip-Prevention – Lots of things wind up on the floors of hospitals. Lots of things. And spills plus linoleum can add up to a painful fall. Be sure and choose a shoe with slip-prevention attributes.
And as a bonus suggestion, in addition to the right shoes, wearing compression socks can also go a long way to both easing foot pain and preventing spider and varicose veins.

Of course, if you continue to struggle with foot, leg, or back pain, consult a specialist to find a solution that works best. The less you have to think about your aches, the more you’ll be able to think about your patients, and that’s a win/win for all of us.

For more information on starting a career in nursing, contact Unitek College today for information on our fast track nursing and medical assistant programs.

Medical person typing on their laptop

Five More Websites That Help Nurses Stay Sharp

The opportunities for nurses to make a difference come hard and fast once you begin that career path, sometimes while you’re still just studying to be a nurse. Last week, for example, a nursing student used CPR to save the life of a woman at the Indy 500. So with that in mind, you can understand how important it is to soak up as much information as you can-in class, out of class, and even after graduation. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools out there to help keep your mind sharp and ready to go, and most of them are just a few clicks away.

  1. is a website and app suite that helps nurses enhance their understanding of anatomy and physiology. Think of it like a 3D atlas of the human body, with cross-sections that allow you to look deeper and in more detail at the systems, organs, muscles, or functions you’re hoping to study. There’s even a kids’ version of the app available if you have a little one who’d like to study alongside you. You can check out here.
  2. Nursing-Informatics is a tutorial website that doesn’t just start with flash cards and mnemonics. It offers self-assessment tests to help you first identify which areas you need the most work. The site primarily focuses on the technical and utility abilities of nursing-using the computers and other technical medical equipment on a day-to-day basis. “It is important that nurses feel confident in their use of computers and software in the practice setting,” the site explains, “especially at the bedside, in order to be able to attend to the client at the same time.” You can check out the free self-assessment test here.
  3. Lippincott Nursing Center is a website created for nurses by nurses and so, unsurprisingly, it contains lots of information that most nurses will find useful. Whether you’re looking for job opportunities, articles on the latest medical breakthroughs or nursing news, or suggestions for meeting those continuing education requirements after graduation, it’s all here.
  4. Epocrates isn’t technically a website (it’s an app), but it’s one that definitely deserves a mention on any list of helpful tools. Epocrates condenses a library of drug-reference guides into one smart phone app, helping nurses do everything from checking for harmful drug interactions to referencing drug guidelines to helping identify prescription drugs visually. It’s not a free app, unfortunately, but with over a million users in the medical field, it’s hard to argue with its effectiveness.
  5. RN Central. Okay, we admit it, this one (RN Central’s list of 100 best websites for nurses) is a bit of a cop out, but this list is just too good not to mention. Whether you’re looking for tutorials, communities, blogs, or even entertainment, you should have no trouble finding it here. There are even nine sites dedicated to simply helping you find a job.

There’s a popular myth about sharks that says a shark will drown if it ever stops moving forward. While that may not actually be true about sharks, it is true about a career in medical fields. The world of medicine is constantly growing and evolving, and if you want to stay afloat, plan to keep learning long after you’ve passed those nursing school classes.

For more information on the nursing programs available at Unitek College, contact us here.