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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Choosing the Right Nursing School

September 3rd, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Choosing the right nursing school can be a stressful endeavor for someone with an eye on a nursing career. But, by thinking it through and doing your research, you’re increasing your chances of success.

The first and most important decision that needs to be made is what level of nursing you want to enter.

Do you want to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN), also called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs)? Do you want to be a registered nurse (RN)? If you want to be an RN, do you want to go to school to get your associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) program? Or, do you already have a degree in another field and want to go on to get a master’s in nursing (MSN)?

Once you know what type of education you want to have or can go for, depending on whether you have the proper prerequisites, you need to choose where you’re going to go. Here is where it can get even trickier.

Do you want to go to school away from where you live? Do you want to stay close to home? Do you want to attend a college? A university? What about online education versus traditional schooling? Decisions, decisions….

Online Schools

With the advent of the Internet, traditional correspondence courses have morphed into distance education: from the matchbook to the website. And they have taken their place alongside traditional schools.

By researching the online nursing programs available to you in your state, you can narrow down which schools interest you. Of course, you should always check with your state’s board of nursing to see if they will recognize the education and allow you to write the licensing exams.

Hands On Experience?

A question asked by many people about nursing programs offered by online institutions is how can a nurse learn how to be a nurse through online education? And this is a good question.

Nurses who have gone back to school to upgrade their education (RN to BSN, BSN to MSN), may not have to do clinical experience because they have already learned the skills and techniques that they need to do their job on a daily basis. However, LPNs who go back to school to obtain an RN or BSN, or someone who has no nursing background at all must participate in clinical experience.

Online colleges and universities take care of the clinical experience by either working with local health care facilities that can offer the hands-on experience or by helping the student find places for their practical work. When considering an online education, it is essential that students find out how their potential school handles the practical work.

Whichever program and school you decide on, good luck! Nursing can be a very rewarding profession and career, with many options available to those who reach for them.

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Posted in Nursing School

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Adult Nurse Practitioner

September 3rd, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

What is an ANP?

After working as an RN where your patients change daily on the hospital floor, you might begin to yearn for more time as the primary practitioner for patients, working with a team of other health care professions to provide long-term care. Going back to school to receive your master’s level degree will allow you to work as a nurse practitioner in your chosen field. Master’s programs are typically 1-2 years in duration after having received your RN.

An “ANP” is an Adult Nurse Practitioner, sometimes abbreviated AHNP (adult health) as well. ANPs provide primary care to the adult population, individuals between 18 and 65 years of age. The focus of an ANP tends to be pretty broad in practice. Focuses can range from treating conditions like diabetes or cancer to getting individuals into smoking cessation programs or screening them for preventable illnesses.

Take a peak at University of California at San Francisco’s Nursing School website for a brief overview of what ANPs do. Make sure to check out Medi-smart’s Master’s Level directory for more information about how to go back to school for your next degree!

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Posted in General, Nursing School

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September 2nd, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration in an infant or toddler with vomiting and diarrhea? 

One of the first signs of dehydration in infants is dry mucous membranes.  Lips and eyes are not moist, saliva and tears are decreased.  Urine production is decreased, fewer wet diapers.  Skin looses it’s turgor, which is the normal springy quality, and may “tent” when pinched over the abdomen.  There is decreased capillary refill, which can be assessed by blanching the nail bed and watching the color return.  Children become listless as dehydration progresses, and weight loss may be noted.  Labs show changes in the electrolyte balance.

Treatment involves restoring fluids, which may be done intravenously in more severe dehydration, and commonly is done orally in milder situations.  The use of a balanced electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte is ideal.  Small sips may be best tolerated either from bottle, cup, spoon, or syringe on a very frequent basis.The use of a medication to inhibit vomiting may be considered, but medications to slow diarrhea are generally not used in children.

In underdeveloped areas of the world, diarrheal illness from contaminated water is a major cause of infant mortality.  Breast feeding is the best measure to counter this danger.  The availability in recent years of a vaccine for rotavirus has decreased hospital admissions for this illness in the US and has the potential to save lives in underdeveloped countries.

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Posted in General

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Troubleshooting a New Grad Interview

September 1st, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

How would I answer a question like, “Why do you think you are the best person for this job?”, in an interview as a new grad?

Graduating from nursing school and searching for jobs as a “new grad nurse” can be extremely intimidating, daunting, and time-consuming sometimes with very little success. Oftentimes, employers at hospitals will hire nurses with whom they are familiar from recent clinical rotations or volunteer service. Regardless of the competition you might face for a position, passing a new grad interview with flying colors can be easier than you think!

Focus on clinical skills you excel at: placing IVs, troubleshooting breathing sounds and lung conditions, or distinguishing ventricular tachycardia from ventricular fibrillation on an electrocardiogram. Remember to think critically if the interviewer gives you a case study question during the interviewer. Ask follow-up questions (employers love to understand how your mind is working, especially if applying to a fast-paced floor in the ICU or ER), and show the interviewer that you are thinking about all aspects of a patient’s health.

In order to demonstrate your research about the health care facility to which you are applying, try to end the interview with some questions about the position. Always remember to thank them for their time and consideration for the job.

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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Nursing Goes With You, Even if You Leave

September 1st, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

It used to be that once you chose a profession or career, this is what you did for the rest of your working life. Sometimes, this worked out well but other times it was a disaster because the chosen profession just wasn’t a good fit. Going back to school wasn’t an option because continuing education or adult education wasn’t widely available – it just wasn’t done.

This one job or career for life mentality changed drastically over the years. What was once virtually unheard of (two careers in one lifetime) is now not unusual at all. In fact, some people change career directions a third time. Sometimes the career changes are within the same area of interest, but just as often, they are in a completely different direction. Nursing is a great example of this. Many nursing students are what used to be considered “mature students,” but now they’re simply older students who have returned to school.

Just as people enter nursing as a second career, many nurses leave nursing to follow another dream or passion. But often what made them good nurses will also do them good stead in whatever other profession they choose. After all, once a nurse, always a nurse; you may choose not to renew your license and can no longer practice, but you will always have that nursing knowledge that was drilled into you in nursing school.

Important Skills

What does this mean? What do you take with you? Many things and this is just a small example:

Communication: Nursing students are taught the importance of good communication, from listening to patients and colleagues to getting their own messages across. Good communication skills, whether used in a hospital setting or an office, can never go wrong.

Organization: An organized nurse is generally a less stressed nurse, although this isn’t always the case. As student nurses learn how to organize their work and nurses build on this experience as they work, transferring organizational skills to a new profession can make the change less daunting.

Teamwork: While we often hear of nurses complaining that they may not work with team players, health care can only be provided if a team of people are working towards helping the patients. Nurses, in particular, have to be able to work with any number of professionals and paraprofessionals to get their job done. Learning how to work well in a team is vital in most other professions as well.

Working with the public: While not all professions and careers call for working with the public, most people who can do so successfully seem to be able to handle just about anyone who crosses their path. This is a definite plus for a future employer.

Supervision: Most registered nurses (RNs) have been in charge of other nurses at some point in their career, as have many licensed practical nurses (LPNs), depending on the area in which they work. Being in charge of your peers is not an easy task many times, so being able to do this can only be a plus on your resume.

So, whether a nurse leaves because he no longer feels he can be an effective nurse or she chooses to follow a dream, the skills and knowledge gained as a nurse will always be with them. Education and work experience is never lost.

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Help for Impaired Nurses

August 31st, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  I’m pretty sure that one of the nurses I work with has an alcohol problem.  I’ve gotten phone calls from her after work that sound like she has been drinking,  and on a couple of occasions she has missed work.  I don’t think she is endangering patients, but I’m worried about her, and I think there is a chance she will loose her job.  What should I do?

Nurses are not immune to the problems of substance abuse that occur in the general population, and in fact may be  at increased risk due to access to drugs, combined with job stress.  Naturally, concern for patient well being is paramount, but concern for the well being of our nursing colleagues is also important.  Can you find a way to discuss your observations and concerns with this person, perhaps with the support and presence of others?  Is she willing to acknowledge a problem and seek assistance?  Your institution very likely has policies in place to deal with impaired employees.  Typically, these would involve suspension from the job and participation in a treatment program.  Once treatment is successfully completed, the nurse may be able to return to work under a strict monitoring regimen.  Additionally, your state board of nursing will have policies and resources to address the problem of impaired nurses.  The American Nurses Association has an Impaired Nurse Resource Center as well.

Posted in General

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Phlebotomy Information

August 30th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Do you offer classes for phlebotomists?

Phlebotomy, or the ability to draw blood intravenously, is a very important skill to master early on in your nursing career. Learning to draw blood safely and correctly, troubleshooting when errors occur, and knowing when to call for help are all important factors when discovering phlebotomy. Good blood-drawing skills will eventually lead to an increased ability to place intravenous lines, commonly referred to as “IVs”. Practice makes perfect and when it comes to phlebotomy, the more practice you get on your coworkers, colleagues and others volunteering their veins, the better you will get.

Simple things can help you become an expert phlebotomist such as learning when you pass through a vein and go too far upon initial puncture, missing the vein because it rolls and learning to re-position, or what veins are the best to search for. Choosing the proper gauge size for the desired vein and the amount of blood you will be drawing also play significant roles even before entering the vein.

Check out the National Phlebotomy Association’s website for information about certifications and trainings across the nation.

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Posted in Common Nursing Procedures, Nursing School, On-the-Job Fears

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The Importance of the Bed Bath

August 30th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Whether you’re a certified nursing aid (CNA), a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN), giving bed baths is something you will learn when you are beginning your career. For some people, giving up this task can’t come early enough – particularly if where they work, a support worker can do this work instead. But, we all learn how to give them and although we may not always have time to give a bed bath, if we can work one in, it may be the most informative part of your day.

Nurses who bathe their patients can learn more about the patients than report can give them. Sure, if we’ve had a certain patient on the floor or unit for a long time, we get to know them well, but there are things a bath and the time it takes to give the bath can tell us that we have little chance of learning any other way.

Life Stories

The intimacy of a bed bath can encourage patients to share their stories. They could be stories of when they were children or stories more recent, such as when they discovered they were ill. Talking to the patient and really listening, can give clues to why a patient behaves a certain way or why his or her actions may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by some people.


Nurses are supposed to be assessing their patients all the time. Whenever a nurse enters the room, assessments are done on the patient’s appearance, behavior, and condition.  While these assessments are vital to a patient’s wellbeing, they are frequently spot judgments, made from but a few moments of observation.

Assessments during a bed bath can be much more thorough. You can see for yourself the condition of a patient’s skin, how delicate it may be. You may notice things that encourage the patient to talk, such as an unusual scar you didn’t know about or a tattoo that may explain a patient’s history.

Patient Teaching

Often, patient teaching is relegated to handing over some printed sheets that describe the patient’s problem and what should be done. But receiving this information and understanding it can be two different things.

Bathing a patient gives you the time to discuss the issues the patient needs to know. You can determine how much she does know and how much she understands. This quiet, one-on-one can do more for patient education than any number of pamphlets or videos.

The Real World?

There are bound to be nurses who laugh at the suggestion of taking the time to give a bed bath. It’s either not in their job description or they just can’t find the time. Realistically, it’s true. It may not be possible to do as much as you would like to. But to find the time to do one bath, once in a while, could make all the difference in the world to that one patient.

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Posted in Common Nursing Procedures

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Human Papillomavirus

August 28th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  What is HPV?

HPV is short for human papillomavirus.  We have been hearing a lot more about HPV in recent years because of the recommendation that all adolescent females receive preventive immunization for this virus.   According to the CDC, fifty percent of  sexually active individuals will contract HPV at some point, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection.   While the human immune system clears most HPV infections without consequence, the risk of cervical cancer in women is significant.  Cervical cancer is detected by pap smear testing, which should be done regularly after age 21, or alternatively beginning 3 years after sexual activity is initiated.    HPV is also associated with other less common cancers of the genitalia and head and neck regions in both men and women.  It can cause genital warts in both sexes. 

Marketed as Gardasil, and Cervarix, the HPV vaccine is effective in reducing infection from the strains most involved in the development of cervical cancer.  The vaccine is approved for use in females between the ages of 9-26.  It involves 3 injections given over a 6 month time period.  The vaccine is most effective when given before sexual activity begins. Gardasil is  licensed for use in males, but is not always covered by insurance because use in males is not yet part of the standard vaccine recommendations.

Posted in General

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You Want to Be a What? A Nurse?

August 27th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

How many nurses have heard this question at least some point in their student life: “Why do you want to be a nurse??” (you can pretty well hear the double question mark after the question!) Or, “why do you want to be just a nurse?”

You’d think that it wouldn’t happen much any more, considering that nursing is a mainstream profession, open to anyone. But it still happens. Who hears it?

The Men

Many men in nursing school – many, not all – will get this question at least once in their student days. “Why do you want to be a nurse?” Even today, with more men on the front line of nursing, it’s still considered an oddity for a man to become a nurse. Currently, men make up less than 10% of the nursing population, which seems kind of odd, since so many of the patients nurses take care of are men.

Female High School Students

It’s not unusual for a girl who is graduating from high school and who has picked nursing as her next step to be asked “why?” After all, women have their pick of so many professions, why should she be interested in a job that is considered to be a traditionally female job, a “pink collar” job?

Another question thrown in her direction may be why she doesn’t go on to medical school instead, after all, she’s “so smart and definitely smart enough to get into medical school.” Others may try to discourage her from going into nursing because they know nurse or are nurses, and feel that the young woman can do better than be a nurse.

People Considering a Second Career

Whether they choose to go back to school to study nursing because they’ve been downsized once too often or they’re fed up with the career they’ve chosen, many people who become nurses do so as a second career. While someone who can’t find work in his or her first choice career may not get asked “why nursing,” someone who is giving up a successful career will most certainly be asked that question, particularly if the career is considered a professional one, such as law or teaching.

There don’t seem to be too many other professions out there that cause the same “why” reaction as nursing. It’s an odd reaction, but universal, or so it seems.

So, why did you want to be a nurse? What did you answer people when they asked you that question?

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Posted in 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.