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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Why do I need to take English?

March 22nd, 2011 by – Sue Barton

 I’m an LPN with years of experience.  Every time I consider going back to school to get an RN degree, I find I need to take courses like English and social studies.  I would be perfectly willing to take science courses, but why do I need courses that don’t have anything to do with nursing? 

An LPN license is attained at the end of what is typically a one year academic program, often in a vocational setting.  An RN license results from taking the NCLEX after completing at minimum an Associate Degree in Nursing, or alternatively a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.  These degrees are offered at community colleges or four year liberal arts colleges.  In order to qualify for an associate or bachelor’s degree, you must also take the core courses that are common to college students across academic disciplines.  It’s assumed, for example that if you are a college graduate you have good skills in English (can write, comprehend literature), as well as have familiarity with the social science fields (history, psychology, philosophy, for example).

While these requirements may seem like roadblocks to your nursing goals, in fact they contribute to your development as a well rounded educated person.  If you have been in practice for several years, you may enjoy the change of pace they represent.  Because they are not clinical courses, you may be able to test out of courses you feel you are already knowledgable in.  Most others can be completed online for maximum flexibility.

Posted in Nursing School

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Accountability and role changes

March 19th, 2011 by – Sue Barton

  I was assigned to work as a nurse aid in a MICU. I am a RN and do not have
the training in MICU. The facility stated I would not be held accountable
as a RN. I do not agree. What do you say?

I say get some legal advice.  You are asking a legal question, and the facility may not have your best interests in mind.  You may be able to access legal advice from an attorney in the health professions field through your local or state nurses association.  Your state board of nursing should also be able to respond to this question.  It is an interesting one in that the facility is asking you to perform in a role that is under your skill level and licensure.  More often it seems nurses are in positions where they are called on to perform tasks that are outside of their scope of practice.  Clearly, in those cases,  nurses may be held liable for actions that are not within the scope of practice for their licensure level as defined by the state nursing practice act.

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Posted in General, On-the-Job Fears

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YouTube videos help nursing students learn

March 18th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

Whether you’re a nursing student or a graduate who needs to review certain techniques, YouTube can be a wonderful source for you. Often thought of as a way of showing silly things to friends or catching the world’s attention with beautiful music, it’s also a great learning tool.

Check out some of these YouTube videos that nurses and student nurses have made to help others learn.

Understanding IV tubing by MauiMaryRN is an interesting review of the actual tubing and its parts. She has many other videos as well including several on diabetes and endocrine disorders.

If you’d like a review on inserting IVs, nursingcrib shows you how to start an IV in this video. She has a few others including one on how to insert an nasogastric, or NG, tube.

Sometimes it’s better to see what we may be doing wrong to reinforce our technique. This is the first in such a series: Common errors in sterile technique (1 of 8 ) dressing removal. Subsequent videos go on to to focus on other errors and ways to avoid them instead.

There are many more videos that offer demonstrations of other skills. It is important, however, to be sure that you are doing the techniques that are required by your nursing school or the facility where you work. Their protocol and procedures trump what you see on the Internet. That being said, these videos are great reviews and can help you remember parts of a procedure that you may have forgotten.

Have you ever used YouTube videos to learn or remember techniques? Which ones do you like?

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Posted in Nursing School

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Nursing characteristics

March 17th, 2011 by – Derek Brocklehurst

How would you characterize this career?

Nursing can be an extremely rewarding career if you put into it what you want out of it. Many nurses would say that in order to care for others, you need to give up a small part of yourself. That is, you have to check your emotions and feelings at the door when you start a shift. Others would say that the opposite is true: you need to be in tune with your emotions that correspond to your patients in order to give excellent care.

Nursing is also a very versatile career, lending itself to many different fields of health care. This may include, but not be limited to pediatrics, medical/surgical, maternal and child-bearing health, community health, geriatrics, emergency room care, cardiac care, plastics and reconstructive surgery, surgical care, infectious disease, and psychiatric health.

Nursing is not for the faint of smell, touch, or vision. There will be days when you have to clean up fecal matter, or walk into a room that smells like fatty stools, or witness a gruesome abscess lancing. If you get nauseous easily, you might consider out-patient nursing. Make sure to check out Medi-smart’s Nursing Resources directory to find out more information and links for nursing.

Posted in General

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US graduate education for foreign nursing graduates

March 17th, 2011 by – Sue Barton

  I am still an undergraduate at a state university in Nigeria.  I wish to do a master’s degree in the United States.  Please, what do you advise? 

Your question deals both with education and with study abroad issues.  From an  education point of view, you first of all need to complete your undergraduate nursing degree.  Good grades and good recommendations will strengthen your graduate school application.  Any clinical nursing experience you have after completing your undergraduate degree will also be helpful.  Work experience helps you to know more about what area you may want to study in graduate school.  Your undergraduate degree from the Nigerian university will need to be the equivalent of a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) in the US.

The next step will be to research travel and visa  details for studying in the US.  You might contact some of the American universities that are of interest to you.  Most will have an office and staff that can advise foreign students.  Will you need any assistance with English, or are you already studying at the university level in English?  Will you need financial aid?  Do you have any contacts in the US who can help you get settled if you come here to study?  Do you know any nurses in Nigeria (faculty?) who have studied in the US?  The answers to these questions may help you to know which programs to apply to and how best to proceed.

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Posted in Nursing School

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Would you be a good nursing instructor?

March 16th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

Pass any group of nursing students and chances are you may catch some conversation about their nursing instructors. Many times, it’s not complimentary. There seems to be an adversarial relationship between nursing students and nursing teachers, and it also seem to go quite far back.

Is there really such a disconnect between the student nurses and the instructors or is it imagined? It’s hard to tell. What is easy, though, is to find a nurse who has at least one horror story about how they felt they were treated at the hands of a nursing instructor.

If this is the perception, then the nurses and nursing students need to do something about it. And the best way to go about changing things is to get involved. There is a shortage of nursing instructors in the U.S.  and Canada. If you believe you can do a better job teaching our future nurses, then now is the time to step up and become part of the solution.

According to a Tennessean article called “TN short on nurses, and those who teach them“, the state of Tennessee desperately needs nursing teachers to fill the demand of people who are applying to nursing school. Writer Tom Wilemon says: “Last year, 3,000 nursing school applications never made it past the admissions office because there wasn’t enough teaching faculty.” And, if no teachers are hired, this will continue.

So, what does it take to be a nursing instructor?

In some states, a nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, or BSN, may teach licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, and students in the associate degree of nursing, or ADN, program. Having a background in education, either degree or certificate, will increase your appeal to hiring departments.

Most nursing teachers, however, must have a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing, or MSN. Again, a background or some sort of program in education is very helpful. It’s important to understand that no matter how great a nurse may be, this does not necessarily make them a good teacher. Having an education background will help you develop the skills needed to teach adults.

So, is this something you would like to do?

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Posted in Nursing School

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History of nurse’s caps

March 15th, 2011 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Why do nurses no longer wear a cap?

A nurse’s cap has been a historical symbol of the registered nurse. When they first emerged in the health care profession in the 1800s, nurses (all of whom were female) donned caps to keep their hair tied back neatly and out of their faces during patient contact. Many females had long hair which needed to be kept out of the way during procedures and patient care.

According to the American Journal of Nursing, it was not until the 1980s that the nursing uniform was standardized to the ubiquitous “scrubs” outfit. With the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria and an increased outbreak of viral pathogens, caps became obsolete and were thought to be a vector of some of these pathogens in the health care setting. Getting rid of the cap was also deemed more appropriate as more males came into nursing in the 1980s.

Today, nurses are required to keep any long hair out of the face with hair ties. All nurses wear unisex scrubs which consist of pant-bottoms and a V-neck shaped top, usually including a pocket.

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Posted in General

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FDA Medwatch program

March 15th, 2011 by – Sue Barton

  What is the FDA Medwatch program?  When should a nurse make a report?

Medwatch is the safety information and adverse event reporting program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  As professionals and the public report safety problems with medical products, this information is monitored for trends, and safety alerts are issued when appropriate.  Nurses may report serious adverse events associated with the use of FDA approved medications.  Biologic products and medical devices should also be reported when serious problems are noted, including product quality problems, product use errors, and therapeutic failures. You should note that privacy regulations such as HIPAA do not preclude the reporting of problems.  Two exceptions to Medwatch reporting would be vaccine reactions, which should instead be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting Systems (VAERS), and events associated with drugs which are in the process of clinical trials.  Reports may be submitted online at the FDA Medwatch site or by phone at 1-800-332-1088.

While most reports are voluntary, facilities are required to report deaths and injuries related to medical devices to both the FDA and the manufacturer.  These mandatory reports are not able to be done online, so you  should find out from your institution the policy for mandatory reporting when necessary.  You may also want to subscribe to Medwatch safety alerts to help you stay informed about the medications and products you are using.

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Posted in General

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3 ideas for hungry nurses at work

March 14th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

Eating a good diet is important for good health: We know that and it’s something we preach to our patients. But nurses work very odd hours and eating in a healthy way can take a back seat to eating whatever is at hand. So what can nurses do to ensure they eat in a healthy manner?

The best approach is to be prepared. Much of our unhealthy eating patterns stem from lack of preparation or lack of food on hand particularly if we have only small windows of opportunity to get something down. Here are three healthy snacks for work:


Many work places, including hospitals, have banned the use of microwave popcorn in the building. The main reason for banning popcorn is it’s too easy to burn and can cause a fire. And, if it doesn’t cause a fire, it creates a strong smell that is quite far-reaching.

You can get around that by popping your own popcorn at home and just putting it in a reusable container. Keep it in your bag and you have a healthy ready snack. Air-popped popcorn has the least number of calories. But be aware that if you start piling on butter, you’re defeating the purpose of the snack!

Fresh fruit

Not many things beat fresh fruit. They’re low in calories and high in nutrition – something that nurses constantly recommend to their patients. You don’t have to spend a fortune on fresh fruit. If you stick to in-season fruits, costs are generally lower. Another tip: Many supermarkets will reduce fruit prices drastically when they are ripest but still very usable.

You can also combine some fruit, like apples, with peanut butter for extra filling and protein.

Low-fat instant oatmeal

Most work places have kettles for boiling water or a microwave. If you keep a microwavable bowl and a few packets of oatmeal in your bag, you’ve got a filling, hot, and quick-to-prepare meal.

Check labels

If you’re not sure about the food you want to eat, be a label reader. Check to see how many calories are in one serving and be true to the servings! Look to see how much fat is there and avoid trans fats. You also want to see fiber. If you’re not sure what the numbers mean, check the percentages along the side. These will tell you how much of the ingredient makes up the daily recommended amount.

Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Molluscum contagiosum

March 12th, 2011 by – Sue Barton

  What are molluscum?  What should patients know if they have this diagnosis?  

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin condition that consists of small flesh colored papules that characteristically have a dimpled center.  As a viral condition, molluscum typically will resolve over a period of time that may range over several months, and therefore do not require treatment.   While considered contagious, molluscum is not a reason for isolation or exclusion from school.  People with weakened immunity may be more susceptible to molluscum outbreaks, but the condition is common in otherwise healthy individuals as well.  Skin irritation may provide an entry point for the virus.  Lesions may be isolated or may occur in more extensive clusters.  Molluscum are not painful or itchy, but may be cosmetically unacceptable depending on location and age group.

Starting as tiny raised papules, molluscum lesions become a bit larger over time, with the typical dimpled center.  As the condition runs it’s course, the papules may look inflamed, and a small cheesy core is extruded, before resolving without scarring.

Treatment options for molluscum, if desired, range from scraping or freezing, to application of canthardin oil to create a blistering reaction.  Retin A cream is sometimes used for it’s exfoliating effect.  More information about molluscum and treatment options can be obtained from the American Academy of Dermatology.

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Posted in General

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is intended as a supplement, not as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.