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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Sleeping During the Day When You’re a Night Nurse

December 23rd, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

“You’re hired for night shift, you start next week.” Magic words if you are looking for a nursing job, but the term “night shift” may throw you for a loop at the same time. While some nurses thrive on working off shifts, others dread it. They can’t imagine what it’s like to live a “normal” life if they’re working midnight to eight, or a 12-hour shift overnight.

With some work at helping your body adjust, you may find working night shifts easier than you thought. Here are some tips that may help you adapt to the night-shift life:

Keep the night schedule

If you work full-time 8-hours shifts, try to maintain your day/night schedule on your days off. That means trying to sleep during the day and be up at night. This way, you’re not throwing your body’s clock upside down every time you have a day off and then when you go back to work.

Lay down the law

When nurses work nights, it’s not uncommon for family and friends (and neighbors and just about everyone else!) to not think twice about calling or visiting during the day – just when you are trying to get some sleep. While you may not want to seem rude or nasty, you have to lay down the law about when they may come over or call. After all, you don’t disturb them at three in the morning, do you?

Turn off the darned phone

One of the biggest thieves of day-time sleep is the phone. Whether it’s the friend who forgot that you worked last night or a store trying to sell something, the ring wakes you up. Of course, there are always exceptions and you must be available in certain cases, such as if you have young children. Perhaps a good solution for you is to have a cheap, separate cell phone that has no other use other than emergency contact. You can give this number to the one person who needs to have it and then keep on when you sleep, turning the other phone (or phones) off completely.

Invest in good bedding

You can’t sleep comfortably if you’re not comfortable. While it may seem to be a waste to spend more money for higher thread count sheets and luxurious pillows, but these things can make all the difference between tossing and turning and sinking into a deep sleep.

Buy room darkening blinds or drapes

Your body needs the dark to get into a deep sleep. Light prevents it. So just as you should have as good linens for your bed as you can afford, you should buy the best curtains you can to darken your room.

Wear sunglasses home

This may seem like an odd piece of advice, but if you leave the hospital with sunglasses, your eyes don’t get exposed to the bright sunlight that will waken your sleepy brain.

There are many other tips to help sleepy night nurses get the rest they need. Do you have any to add?

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Signs of Pregnancy

December 23rd, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  What are the signs of pregnancy? 

The first sign of pregnancy is a missed menstrual period.  In women who may have irregular periods this sign is not as quickly noticed as it is for the woman whose periods are predictable.  In addition to the absence of menstruation, women often notice breast tenderness, nipple changes, feelings of fatigue, and nausea or morning sickness.  Spotting may occur with implantation, and there may be urinary frequency.  Some women may have headaches, backaches, and food cravings.  As the pregnancy progresses weight gain occurs and movement is felt.  Long before then most women have confirmed their pregnancy with either a home test or visit to their health care provider. 

 The American College of Nurse Midwives has a website with tips on relief for many of the common discomforts of pregnancy, and can direct you to other helpful information for yourself or your patients.  Getting started early with prenatal care is important.  Nurses play a critical role in educating pregnant women about nutrition, screening for potential complications, providing childbirth education, and providing emotional support.

Posted in General

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Nursing School Prerequisite Courses

December 22nd, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Is it important to complete 12 science courses in order to get admitted to nursing schools?

Courses needed for admission to nursing schools will vary depending on any past schooling or degrees you may have. Generally, admission to nursing schools will require you to take or have taken some basic science courses including chemistry, biology, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology.

If you are new to applying to nursing schools and haven’t taken any courses before, the nursing schools to which you are applying will guide the way in terms of science courses. You might have to take courses before starting nursing school, or you might take the courses during your nursing program.

If you have a previous degree and are applying to accelerated or second-degree nursing schools, you will probably have prerequisite courses to complete. These courses would generally include nutrition, developmental psychology, microbiology, anatomy with a lab, and physiology with a lab. You should check with each individual nursing school of interest to make sure you have taken the correct courses for entrance.

Make sure you check out Medi-smart’s nursing school directory for more information about programs. You can search for nursing schools by location, degree, and type of program.

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Posted in Nursing School

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What Is Your Nursing Horoscope, Part 3 of 3

December 22nd, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been looking at nursing horoscopes. The first post was for nurses who were born under the sign of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, or Cancer. Last week’s was for those born under Leo, Virgo, Libra, or Scorpio. Finally, this week, it’s for nurses who are Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.


The sign of the Sagittarius is considered a dual sign (not like the twins), because you have a half animal/half man and you have an archer, pointing his arrow to the sky. This combination gives you a nurse who reaches for the stars and loves being outside at the same time. Hmm, a camp nurse who works nights maybe?

Actually, nurses born under the sign of Sagittarius tend to be quite intelligent and friendly, although they may prefer being outside enjoying the fresh air rather than in the hospital, working with you!


Capricorn nurses are dependable workers and try hard to help their coworkers. However, they’re a bit hesitant to try new things and need things proven to them first. We’re lucky that some of our nursing founders weren’t born between December 22 and January 19, or we may not have made any progress in nursing!

If you work with a nurse who is a typical Capricorn, she’ll love to collect things. While usually they collect assets and save their money, nurses born under the sign of Capricorn may just start collecting some supplies that are left lying around. Or your pens.


If you work with a nurse who was born under the sign of Aquarius, you’ll find  yourself working with a rebel. While not patently obvious, it may come out with refusal to wear the nursing uniform as per the hospital code or by sidestepping rules or regulations she feels are silly.

While this behavior may seem a bit annoying at times, often changes made by administration are made because of the way an Aquarian balked at the system.


Have you ever felt like a fish out of water? Well fear not because 2011 will bring Pisces nurses enough liquids to fill an ocean. Between hanging IVs and emptying catheter bags, you will be administering fish oil supplements to your patients to help them regain their health.

Much like salmon swimming upstream, you may face some battles with administration, but as long as you’re aware of your surroundings, you won’t fall for the hook and bait techniques and get reeled to shore.

So, will you come back next year and tell us how accurate we were?

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Doing CPR Outside the Hospital

December 21st, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Nurses are not unfamiliar with CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscutation, whether they are a clinic nurse or an intensive care nurse. How often they do CPR does vary greatly though. But even if you do CPR frequently in a hospital or clinic environment, doing it outside of the hospital is a very different thing.

When a patient “crashes” in hospital, CPR is initiated and the crash or code team is called. Every doctor and nurse has a role to play and equipment and medications are at hand. Your role is one part of the play that is going on as you all try to save the patient’s life. On the street or in your house – you aren’t just a bit player, you have the starring role.

This happened to me one day, many years ago. I was pregnant with my son who is now 23 and I had taken my brother out trick-or-treating on Halloween. As we came down one side street, we saw a woman on the side of the road and a man doing CPR on her. I had worked in ICU, so I had done CPR more times than I could remember, so I stepped in to give him a hand, confident in my abilities. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so confident.

Someone had called 9-1-1, so we only needed to keep doing compressions and respirations until the ambulance arrived. The man on the scene had been doing CPR for a few minutes by the time I happened upon them. Doing compressions with your knees on cold hard concrete isn’t easy. Trying to do respirations instead of using an ambu bag isn’t easy. Remembering the rhythm without panicking was – surprisingly not easy. Everything I had ever known about proper CPR seemed to have gone out the window.

A police car eventually came and there was an oxygen tank in the trunk. Unfortunately, no ambu bag and since the woman wasn’t breathing, having no ambu bag made the oxygen tank useless. Finally, after what seemed like forever and a half, but was likely 5 or 10 minutes, an ambulance came.  The paramedics took over and we were left to go off on our own.

Unlike in a hospital, where you can ask how your patient did, there was no follow up. We had no official word of whether the woman lived or died, but I suspect she died. She didn’t look like she would pull through. And, while I was left wondering, which was bad enough, I was also left with a sense of “do I really know what I’m doing?”After all, in the hospital, CPR came naturally. On the street, I couldn’t remember much about the procedure and I took my cues from the first aider already on the scene.

I’ve wondered over the years if this was a normal reaction because I was out of my element or if it was just me – that I didn’t react well. Have you ever come across anything like this?

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Practicing What We Preach

December 21st, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  I work three twelve hour shifts weekly in a cardiac care unit, and have a busy family.  I’m overweight and don’t have time for an exercise program but I feel badly that I’m such a poor role model for both my patients and my own kids.  How can I fit it all in? 

Here’s the short answer: you can’t.  Somethings got to give, you can’t do it all.  Of course being overweight and not getting enough exercise is not heart healthy, neither is being stressed out.  The reality is that parents who are working outside the home full time never have enough time for themselves.

It’s helpful to set some priorities and delegate some of the jobs on the home front.  Assign chores to your children as soon as they are old enough to help with kitchen clean up and laundry.  Consider using some of that hard earned paycheck for some household help.  Does your employer offer any on site programs to encourage exercise for staff?  What can you do to change eating habits to be more  healthy?  Think about what kind of exercise lifts your spirits as well as keeping you fit.  Are there exercise and eating well changes that the whole family could buy into?  You have  already realized that your own health matters on so many levels, now figure out how to make it a priority.

Posted in General, Work-Life Balance

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Valsalva’s Maneuver Troubleshooting

December 20th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

I blew my nose really hard and my right eye swelled up. I felt fluid enter into my eye lid and in the area below my eye. It’s been two days and the fluid remains. Should I seek medical care?

By blowing your nose really hard, you are invoking Valsalva’s Maneuver, or increased pressure in your body’s cavities. By increasing the pressure in your head, it is possible to have burst a capillary system or tear duct.

You should pay careful attention to the fluid, noting color, consistency, drainage, and amount. Also noting any pain with or without touch to the area.

As soon as you feel something erupt or note swelling in an area that should not otherwise be swollen, it is a good idea to seek medical care, especially if it is unchanged after 2 days. Fluid remaining under your lid could become infected, painful, red, and lead to a larger systemic infection if it is not treated properly and in a timely fashion. You should go to your primary care provider or urgent care center for medical assistance if this issue has not resolved.

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Nursing School for ER Nurses

December 17th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

How long would I have to be in college if I want to be an ER nurse?

Unfortunately, there is no specific nursing degree to be an emergency room (ER) nurse. You would  want to get your registered nurse (RN) license or your bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree and have focused in ER care during your schooling and clinical rotations.  There are several different routes towards becoming a nurse.

  • You could attend a 2-year program at your local accredited health care facility for your diploma in nursing, which allows you to sit for your board exams (NCLEX).
  • You could attend a similar 2-year program at your local community college and get an associates degree, allowing you to sit for the NCLEX.
  • If you are interested in higher-level nursing such as nursing administration or leadership roles, you would want to attend a 4-year BSN program and sit for your boards after obtaining that degree.

All 3 options will allow you to work as a nurse. If you want to focus in ER nursing after school is over, though not all programs give the option, try to get clinical rotations in the ER. It’s always a good idea to network during rotations, as it might open up options for careers after school.

Check out Medi-smart’s nursing school directory for more information about schools and programs around the country.

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Posted in NCLEX, Nursing School

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What Is Your Nursing Horoscope, Part 2 of 3

December 17th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Last week, we checked the horoscopes of nurses who are born under the signs of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer.

Let’s see what’s in store for for the next four zodiac signs and keep in mind, these are just tongue in cheek!

Leo – lion

The confident Leo nurse has quite the 2011 coming his way.  With your cat-like approach to patient rooms, you have been known to startle a patient or two, resulting a higher-than-expected number of cardiac arrests in your unit, so don’t be surprised if the nurse manager presents you with a bell to pin to your uniform, to warn people of your approach.

Leo nurses have an uncanny ability to sleep anywhere at any time, but you have been known to surprise your coworkers when they find you curled up on top of the ward kitchen fridge.

Virgo – the virgin

Although people are often encouraged to embrace their creative side, Virgo nurses may find themselves in a tough spot. Creativity and nursing don’t always mix. The upcoming year, 2011, may be when your superiors pull the plug on your rapping reports, hip-hop patient education, and creative use of medical supplies to decorate the nursing station.

While the use of bedpans to recreate a Japanese garden is rather unique, the sound of running water into the bedpans tend to make your fellow nurses run to the bathroom a little more often than they would like.

Libra – scales

Nurses who are Libras may have trouble making some decisions as they are always weighing the pros and cons of each situation.  If you are a student nurse who is a Libra, 2011 may bring some difficulty when writing multiple choice exams. Your need to balance all sides may make it impossible to choose a response.

Libra nurses have to pay attention to the tiniest detail, so you do well if you have a nursing PDA or smart phone, with alarms set for everything and information at your fingertips. By having all your information in one place, your organizational skills are the envy of the nursing staff hospital-wide.

Scorpio – scorpion

Ah, the sting of a Scorpio nurse is one that people never forget so you can bet that in 2011, you won’t have too many people crossing you – at least not for a second time. Scorpio nurses like to work night and can be quite cross if you disturb them during the day.

Nurses who are Scorpios like to be in charge, so you will find yourself as charge nurse or moving up in administration, where you can use your sharp intelligence to rule all that is yours.

Because scorpions, nurses born under the sign of Scorpio like warmth, a move to a warmer climate may coming this year.

Come back next week to see what the rest of the horoscopes are.

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Working and Studying as an International Nurse

December 15th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

How can I study pediatric nursing in the United States as a Ghanaian registered nurse?

Every year, thousands of international nurses and nursing students work and study here in the United States. It’s good to know your scope of practice as a nurse or nursing student and what your rights and limitations are. If you are a registered nurse in another country, check with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website to see if your license might transfer over and allow you to practice in the United States.

Each country might vary in their requirements to become a nurse. If you want to study pediatric nursing in the United States and you are already a registered nurse in Ghana, check with your state board of nursing or potential academic institution where you would study to see if they acknowledge and honor your foreign license. You also might want to check with the hospital or health care institution where you would like to work with pediatric patients to see if they honor your foreign license.

If you are interested in international nursing, also check out the International Council of Nurses website for more information.

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Posted in General, Nursing School

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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.