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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Gifts for Nurses

December 15th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

It’s holiday time in North America – whether you celebrate Christmas or another tradition, the gift-giving frenzy is all over the place. If giving something to a nurse is in your plans, you may be wondering what would be a good gift.

Whether you’re a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, a certified nursing assistant or in nursing administration, chances are you already have lots of nurse knick knacks and mugs. While these are always nice gifts and it is the thought that counts, there are many other items nurses may appreciate.

Pens – lots of pens

Nurses go through pens like a firefighter does water. Ok, maybe not that much, but you get the picture. Between losing pens, lending them out to others, dropping them into stuff you really don’t want to touch, and running out of ink, pens are like gold. If you love a nurse (or like her enough to give her gifts), some nice pens are always a great “little something.”


Although there are clocks everywhere in the hospital, every nurse really does need a watch. Some depend on their cell phones or PDAs to tell the time, but if both hands are full, you need to be able to glance down at your wrist to check the time or to count the seconds. Some nurses prefer cheap “throw-away” watches in case they get damaged, while others appreciate nice watches that double as nice jewelry.

Spoil-me Stuff

If the nurse in your life likes to be pampered, you can’t go wrong with a spa-at-home type of gift. Between bubble bath or shower gel (or both), nice skin creams and maybe a bottle of wine, your nurse will be able to relax and rejuvenate after work.

Gift Certificates – Store or From You

Whether the certificate is from you for a couple of home cooked meals to keep in the freezer or from a store for some coffee and treats, gift certificates are a great way to show someone you care.

Magazine Subscriptions

If someone travels by public transport to get to work, that’s a lot of time spent sitting and doing nothing. Some nurses bring books with them to read to pass the time, but sometimes it’s hard to read a book in short spurts because you can’t get into it before you have to stop reading. A solution? A  subscription to a favorite magazine. They are meant to be quick reads that you can pick up and put down at a moment’s notice.

iTunes Cards (or equivalents)

Does your nurse like to listen to music? If he’s an iPod touch sorta guy, then gift cards for more music can help brighten his day.

Nurse-y Things

Of course, if you know that your gift recipient loves cute nurse things, there are so many items to choose from. You can find great bumper stickers, pins, tree ornaments, decorative statues, book ends, mugs and more.

Whatever you decide to get, it will likely be very appreciated. So, don’t sweat it. Just find something you like and can afford and give it with love. That’s what counts.

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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The High Cost of Nursing Textbooks: Don’t Blame the Authors!

December 14th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Most of us, if not all of us,  complained about the high cost of textbooks when we were nursing students. They cost us a fortune and can only be used for one or two semesters. Sure, we save them for a few years, but new information and technology comes along, making the textbook out of date. If you go back 30 years ago, you won’t find nursing textbooks with a mention of HIV or AIDS, for example.

But why are nursing textbooks so expensive? The gut reaction is that the authors are running to the bank laughing, carrying our hard earned money (or student loan money). But wait – it’s not the authors.

Usually, a new textbook is born from someone noticing that there was a gap in education material. Other times, a new text is an update or new edition of a text already in print.

Once the idea is formed, work has to start on writing the material and finding a publisher who is interested in adding the new text to its catalogue.

Writing a textbook is a labor of love, definitely not a fast way to get rich. After all, you’re educating future nurses and your information must be correct. Every bit of information has to be verified and, if necessary, referenced. Any materials obtained from outside sources may be quite costly (particularly photos and images). The time investment is phenomenal.

Look at your closest textbook and look at the author’s name. It’s very unlikely that you will see only one author. Usually, there are three (or more), because of the amount of work involved in producing a publishable product. So, any royalties that may come from the book must be split between all the authors. Royalties generally are 10 percent to 15 percent of the net price (what the book sells for, which isn’t always the list price). So, if you have a book that sells for 100 dollars 10 to 15 dollars of that goes to the writers. If there are three writers, that’s 5.00 each. Considering it can take over a year of work to write such a text, that’s not a very good return on your work dollar.

No, the cost of textbooks, or the high cost of textbooks, is the fault of the publishers. They know that they have a captive audience. If your nursing instructor tells you to buy The History of Nursing by Jane Doe, MSN, PhD, Volume 13, Edition 4 – you don’t have much of a choice. You have to get it. The publisher knows that. So, you’re stuck.

Can prices be lower? Yes, it is possible for nursing textbooks to be less costly, but the publishers have to lower the prices. Good nursing professors (or considerate ones), will try to pick nursing books that are the least expensive while still maintaining their nursing school curriculum and standards.

So, the next time you have to buy an expensive book, don’t blame the authors. Chances are, they are not exactly raking in the bucks.

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Posted in Nursing School

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Nursing School Financial Aid

December 13th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

My daughter is a nationally certified paramedic and has completed almost all of her nursing courses. She is a single mother and because I am disabled and she cares for me, I have hindered her completion. Is there any financial aid out there that can help her finish and give her an opportunity to work?

First, your daughter sounds like a hard-working inspiration to us all. Her perseverance will surely pay off in the long run. Second, there are a number of options for your daughter as she pursues a higher education in the nursing field.

I would encourage her to log online to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and fill out an application. This will assess her assets, income, and financial need and give her some hard numbers to work with during nursing school applications. She could be eligible for subsidized student loans where the government would pay the interest on her loans as she works to pay them off. These loans are usually on the smaller scale in total amount and have low interest rates.

I would also encourage her to contact potential nursing schools, seeking applications for grants or scholarships. Depending on your daughter’s previous course grades, extracurricular activities, and racial or ethnic background, there might be a number of minority and merit-based scholarships and grants out there to help her through nursing school. Make sure to check out Medi-smart’s directory for federal agencies and health care organizations for any posted scholarships or grant applications as well.

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Posted in Nursing School

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Asking the Right Questions

December 11th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  My child has a big blister on her toe, and it’s getting larger.  What could it be? 

This is the sort of question that nurses working telephone triage positions often get!  Let’s go through some of the discussion that might take place.  The first need is for more information from this parent.  How old is the child? How long has the blister been there?  What did it look like initially?  How big is it now?  Is it painful?  Itchy? Red? Warm to touch?  Tender? Is there any discharge?  Where on the toe is it located?  Has there been any injury?  New shoes?  Any other blisters or rash?  Is it interfering with normal walking?  Does the child have a fever or seem ill?

Possibilities range from friction injury (new shoes rubbing) to an infection.  It’s fairly common to see paronychial infections around the nail bed.  Blistering (fluid filled vesicles) can also be typical of herpes simplex lesions, not common on the toes.  If the child is not in pain, if there are not signs of spreading infection, if the blister has been noticed quite recently, if the child is not an infant, then this parent might be advised to use warm soaks, and topical antibiotic ointment, along with careful observation.  Any change for the worse in terms of pain or signs of infection should bring the child in to be seen for evaluation.

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Posted in Common Nursing Procedures

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Female Sexual Maturation Questions

December 10th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

What if you’re 14 and you haven’t started your period and everyone in your school has?

A girl’s “period”, what medical professionals like to call menstruation, is when a girl’s internal sex organs mature and she starts ovulating eggs about once a month. Depending on the girl’s hormones and endocrine system, menstruation frequency, duration, and amount of ovulation may vary.

The good thing about human bodies is that each one is different. You shouldn’t worry if you have not developed breasts yet or have not gotten your period. When nature and your body are ready to mature, they will do so. All you can accept is that some of your peers will begin sexually maturing faster than others, and some might be a little later than others. This does not mean that you or anyone else is over- or under-developed.

It is also important to recognize abnormal findings during sexual maturation. You should not be having any abdominal or cervical pain during sexual growth. If you have specific health-related concerns about your body, you should see either your primary care provider or the school nurse. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers or parents for guidance along the way.

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Posted in General

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Planning Ahead

December 9th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  Hi, I am a sophomore in high school and I am thinking about becoming an E.R. nurse. I would like to have your opinion on the job and whether or not I should pursue further education on it. 

It’s great that as a 10th grader you are giving serious thought to your future career plans, asking questions, and looking for information.  Just exploring the links on the Medi-Smart site for nursing career information and nursing education options should be helpful to you.  Certainly there is a lot to recommend a nursing career in emergency room care, including helping people during times of trauma and developing expertise in responding to critical emergency situations.  I would encourage you at this stage of the game however to be thinking about all the options that might be available to you as a registered nurse, rather than focusing exclusively on one aspect.  Getting into nursing school is the first step after high school, and as you go through your nursing education, you may find many clinical areas that interest you.

As a high school student you can be taking basic science courses such as biology, chemistry,and physiology to see if these courses are intriguing to you and if you do well in them.  You may also be able to get some exposure to hospitals and health care by volunteering and job shadowing, although this is getting harder to do due to privacy regulations.  The best advice I can give you is to keep your grades up so that you can gain admission to the school of your choice.

Posted in Nursing School

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What Is Your Nursing Horoscope? Part 1 of 3

December 9th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Do you believe in astrology? Astrology, the science (?) of the stars as it relates to human characteristics. What could provide a more precise determination of personality than the placement of a planet millions of miles away? So, what does your 2011 horoscope say about you? (please note that this post is completely tongue in cheek!)

This is the first part of a two-part series.

Aries – the ram

Nurses born under the sign of Aries like to take risks and jump into situations – sometimes without looking. They also tend to be a bit accident prone because of their risk-taking behaviors. Aries nurses are also likely to tinker with machinery – which may not always be a good thing when you’re accident prone!

For Aries nurses, 2011 is all about looking before you leap. Because of your accident-prone tendencies, this really means “look where you step.” That puddle on the floor in the patient’s room may not be spilled water (did you forget to cap the catheter bag again?).

When the emergency room personnel in your hospital see you and know you better as a patient than a nurse, you may be an Aries nurse.

Taurus – the bull

Nurses born under the sign of the bull are known to be very dependable, but also stubborn. This stubbornness does well for your patients because you stand up for them, but you’re also willing to learn new things if they mean it makes life better for all involved.

While you may not charge someone if she waves a red flag in front of you, you won’t think twice about plowing ahead to complete your tasks – you keep your eye on your goal.

Collecting is a favored hobby among Taurus nurses, which may explain your stash of medical tape, gauze, and alcohol swabs in your pockets, bag, and glove compartment, and at home.

Gemini – twins

The twin nurses – born under the sign of Gemini – can be very confusing to work with. Your colleagues never know which one of you is going to show up to work. While you are a strong communicator, charting isn’t always your best task. After all, there’s so much more out there to do and learn.

If any nurse could benefit from a teleporter that could send you from one place to another instantly, it would be the Gemini nurse. Why spend time on an elevator with a patient on a stretcher when you could be teleported immediately? Why waste time waiting for a doctor when you could just zap her to your patient’s bedside on the spot.

Gemini nurses are full of energy and get the job done, but your coworkers may get exhausted just watching you.

Cancer – the crab

Nurses born under the sign of Cancer won’t be caught sky diving; taking risks for them means eating cold pizza for breakfast and pancakes for supper. Your routine-oriented personality makes you a great colleague as you work your way through your day, but can throw you for a loop when something unexpected occurs. This is when your crabbiness can show through.

Cancer nurses are enterprising, imaginative, and full of energy. This may seem to run contrary to your routine-oriented aspect, but the fun side of you makes you someone to fear on April 1 – April Fool’s Day.  Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Come back next week to see more 2011 nurse horoscopes

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Characteristics for Psychiatric Nursing

December 8th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

What are the personal characteristics needed to be a good psychiatric nurse?

Being a good psychiatric nurse means providing excellent and safe care to all of your patients. The psychiatric and mental health field can be extremely taxing on your own mental health, as the patient population can be challenging. From schizophrenic patients who hear voices to patients with 2 conflicting personalities, the patients you will encounter on a mental health ward require big-hearted nurses with their wits about them.

As far as characteristics go, you want to be a great listener. Many of these patients will have stories to tell and it is important for you to pick apart the irrelevant statements from the cues or hints that might point to better patient care. For instance, if a schizophrenic patient is telling you a story and they mention they “hear voices”, you might inquire as to what those voices are saying, specifically asking if they are telling the patient to harm themselves or others. Providing safe care, emotionally, physically, and mentally, to all psychiatric patients in your #1 priority.

Please visit the American Psychiatric Nurses Association webpage for more information about mental health nursing.

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears, Patient Interaction

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Cruise Nurse: A Way to See the World?

December 8th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Do you have the travel bug? Do you like being away for long stretches at a time? Does the idea of working on a cruise ship appeal to you? It does seem like a dream job: nursing on a cruise, but be sure to research the job before you commit yourself. It may be a bit harder to walk away from a floating ship than a neighborhood hospital if you’re not happy with your job.

What Do Cruise Lines Look for in a Nurse?

Working as a nurse on a cruise ship can be pretty intense, particularly if the ship is one of the larger ones. It is like working in a cross between a walk-in clinic and an emergency room, with limited resources. Because of this, cruise lines usually require that their nurses have a few years of experience, particularly in critical and urgent care areas. Newly licensed nurses will likely have a hard time finding a job in this area, as may licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

Qualities of a Cruise Nurse

Nurses who work on cruises have to be able to work independently and take on many responsibilities that they may not have on land, such as doing insurance paperwork, taking x-rays, and doing simple laboratory tests. The auxiliary personnel that may be around in hospitals won’t be onboard the ship.

While we know that nurses must be able to react quickly in emergency situations, cruise nurses must also be able to help evacuate patients from the ship and even help with complete evacuations if ever needed.

Fluent English is usually a requirement and other languages are helpful, particularly the ones related to the company that owns the cruise line or ship.

What the Cruise Nurse Does

When people think of being a nurse on a cruise, they think of the care that the passengers may need, from gastro outbreaks to heart attacks to falls. But, the more practical role of the nurse is to take care of the crew, which can number over 1,000 on larger ships. These crew members are on the ships for lengthy times and may have health issues that need to be addressed just as they would be on land. As well, due to the machinery involved in the operation of the ship, from the engines to the kitchen, work accidents are always a possibility – and they could be quite severe.

Pros and Cons of Cruising

To work on a cruise ship, you must be comfortable with being away from home for long periods, perhaps up to six months at a time. Some nurses take advantage of this by not having a home of their own, saving money on rent or mortgage, and staying with family or friends when they are on leave or vacation. This allows them to save money for their post-cruise life. However, being away from home for such long periods makes it difficult to see family and friends. This problem has been alleviated somewhat since the spread of the Internet, but some nurses may find this difficult.

Working conditions are generally good – after all, the ships must be able to provide good care to its paying passengers. However, shifts could be quite long as there are only a few nurses to share the load. As well, if a nurse becomes ill and is off for a few days, there is no way to replace her, so the other nurses must take up the slack.

That being said, when you’re off, the opportunities are many. Many people liken cruise ships to large floating hotels, so the weather, the views, and the activities are usually enough to keep you busy when you’re not at work, particularly if you are docked on the day you have to yourself.

Salaries for cruise nurses are about on par with on land. Some companies pay higher than others, but vacations are a big benefit. You may be on a ship for several months and then get one or two months off between stints.

So, does working on a cruise interest you? Have you worked on a cruise?

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Nurse Practitioners in Canada

December 7th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  Are nurse practitioners the same in Canada and the United States?

According to Canadian NPs Jane MacDonald and Donna Alden-Bugden,  the NP role in Canada in many ways paralleled that in the US in the years following 1965, but had mostly disappeared by the mid 1980’s.  Over the past decade interest in nurse practitioners has reemerged,  resulting in regulations to govern NP practice in all provinces.    Certification for licensure may be obtained by passing  the exam offered by the Canadian Nurses Association.  Some provinces also accept certification exams from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.  In contrast to the US, a master’s degree is not always required for entry to practice in Canada, although it is the recommended educational preparation for NPs.

Alden-Bugden and MacDonald practice in Winnipeg.  They state that marketing of the NP role to both other health care professionals and to the public continues to be a challenge.  This may be related to the more recent utilization of NPs in Canada.  Exclusions in prescriptive authority and in ordering diagnostic tests exist, with variation between jurisdictions.

The Canadian Nurse Practitioner Initiative has released  recommendations for integrating nurse practitioners into Canadian health care.  Canadian NPs share many concerns with NPs in the US in the areas of developing and implementing advanced practice nursing roles.

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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.