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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Nursing 101: Why To Choose Nursing

August 27th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Why did you want to become a nurse?

Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career. Not only do you get to see the progress of patient’s conditions and be their support through rough times, but you get to know patients and can form emotional attachments with each interaction. This isn’t to say that nursing is for everyone. It takes a certain type of person who is capable of handling some of the stresses of nursing and the emotional ups-and-downs of challenging patients to keep them interested in the field.

I realized I wanted to be a nurse by volunteering at a local free clinic during my undergraduate degree for biology. I was working with marginally-housed clients, many of whom were HIV+ and had no access to reliable health care. I learned how to effectively triage clients, diagnose sexually transmitted infections )STIs), and help treat those STIs with a team of volunteers, nurses, and other health care professionals. It was the high patient volume and fast-paced setting that really sparked my intrigue into nursing.

If you are interested in nursing, I urge you to check out Medi-smart’s Nursing Resources directory for a guide into getting a jump start into a career as a nurse!

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Posted in General, Nursing School

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Mid-life Career Change

August 26th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  I am a 52-year old woman. I have a BA in Home Economics. I worked as a paraprofessional with blind students for 7 years, then went back to school for a teaching certificate & masters degree. Taught for 5 years, then 2 years ago my contract was not renewed. I’m now turning about face, and have just enrolled in school; have about 3 pre-requisite classes to take, then hope to enter nursing school. Am I crazy??? I’m really excited about it…a long time ago,  I thought that I wanted to become a nurse! Now’s my chance. Any advice? 

Advice?  Go for it!  I admire your initiative in doing what it takes to get to your goal.  It is not unusual in this economy for people at any age to be reinventing themselves and changing career paths either out of choice or necessity.  Your past experiences both in your work in education and with visually impaired students, will serve you well in nursing.  You may find waiting lists for nursing schools, but an option to consider in your situation are the second degree programs that are  designed for students who are already college graduates and may be working and/or raising families while they attend school.  It’s possible that your maturity and experience will make you a strong applicant for funding.  Those same qualities will bring a dimension to your practice that the average student who is half your age may not have.  With retirement ages being pushed back, you will likely have years to use your new skills.  Be sure to pay attention to your own health needs and stress levels to stay in the best possible shape for those years ahead.

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Posted in General

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“I Have to Work Overtime? Are You Serious?”

August 25th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Have you ever heard of jobs where people are forced to work mandatory overtime? Did you even know that this exists in North America in the year 2010?  It does and it happens more than you might think – and it happens in nursing.

Whether there’s a nursing shortage where you are or not, there are often situations where nursing staff is caught short. Either more people than usual call in sick, the management didn’t staff the floors properly, or weather or outside forces made it impossible for nurses to come to work. Regardless of why, it happens.

The first step when someone can’t cover their shift is for the supervisors or nurse managers to find someone to come in. That can’t always happen, no-one is available to work. So there are two choices left: work short or ask someone to work overtime.

In some cases, working short isn’t an option – the nurse is absolutely needed or the patients won’t be cared for. So, if working short isn’t an option and no nurses want to work overtime, what is the solution? In some places, it is forced or mandatory overtime.

Imagine working eight or 12 hours. You’re tired. You want to go home. But your manager comes to tell you that you can’t because it’s your turn to work overtime. But what about getting your kids off to school? What about your aging parents who are depending on you to make supper for them and help them get ready for bed? What about those expensive concert tickets that you splurged on for a special night out with friends? None of that matters – not if you’re told you have to work overtime.

Studies repeatedly show that overtired and stressed nurses make more mistakes than rested ones. So, take a nurse who is exhausted from working a full shift and she is worried about her children at home. How effective will she be?

But what is the solution? In some places, there just isn’t anyone to hire to work as extra nurses. What is the hospital supposed to do if they can’t find anyone to staff?

Is there a solution? There has to be. Because the more tired and frustrated our nurses get, the more they’re going to take sick leave or just up and quit. Leaving even fewer nurses to fill in the holes.

What do you think? How can this problem be solved?

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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Free Online CEUs and Courses for the Nurse Working Abroad

August 25th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

I am a new nurse who is aiming to be a professional in the field and I am based abroad. How can you help me achieve this through free online programs?

If you are a new registered nurse in the USA, you are not required to sign up for continuing education units (CEUs) until after the first 2-year license renewal cycle. While CEUs are not necessarily required during this 2-year period after you initially pass the NCLEX, CEUs can still provide significant and up-to-date nursing information, especially if you are traveling and working abroad and do not have direct and easy access to attend CEU courses in person.

Maybe there is a new evidence-based study out on pressure ulcers and ambulatory techniques, or perhaps there is an IV line placement course you could use as a refresher. Whether it be either of these two aspects of nursing, or a completely different educational skillset offered through online courses, you should always be on the lookout for newly-offered CEUs. Make sure to check out both Medi-smart’s Nursing Resources page as well as Medi-smart’s Continuing Education directory for free online CEUs and other courses offered.

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Posted in Continuing Education Units, General

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Stress and Nursing

August 24th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  If you are not good with high stress, how can you be a nurse?

The beauty of the nursing profession is that there are so many career options and paths available to nurses.  Not all of those options involve the sort of stress levels that you probably associate with working in intensive care units and emergency rooms.  Many nursing roles focus on prevention and wellness, and care of chronic conditions. Others involve research, education, or administration.  Keep in mind also that the scenes you see on the typical medical TV drama are not entirely realistic!   If you are still evaluating career choices, you may want to take a career aptitude test to give you some idea of what fields are a good match for your interests and personality.  Most jobs of course involve some level of stress.  If in general you find that stress is a problem for you, you might want to consider doing some short term counseling to find coping skills that enable you to be more comfortable and effective in stressful situations.

Posted in General

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Doctor, Please Lower Your Voice

August 23rd, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Times have changed in nursing, but some doctors haven’t figured that out yet. And the odd thing is, some of those doctors are fairly new and weren’t around in the times that nurses weren’t more than doctors’ handmaidens.

In all fairness, most doctors do seem to respect nurses, but we all have met a few who think that either

- Nurses are only worth speaking to if they’re ordering the nurses around

- Feel nurses can only hear them if they shout or yell

- Think nurses are idiots


- That they, themselves, are on the same level as God and nurses are nowhere close to them in brains or status

Are They Right?

No, of course they’re not right! Whether you’re a certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN), you’re all equals to the MDs in terms of being human and having an important role in the health care system. While the MDs may have more education and more responsibilities, they wouldn’t be able to get very far if it wasn’t for the nursing staff’s diligent and professional work.

So, What Do We Do?

Although there are no fail-proof solutions nor are there one-size fits all problem solutions, there are some methods that do work in many cases. First, assess the situation. While no-one has the right to be abusive, assess when and where is the best time to deal with the behavior. Often, the most important part of dealing with a problem coworker – and that is what an abusive doctor is – is choosing the right time and place.

Second, be sure you can discuss the problem calmly and rationally. Speaking to someone in the same tone and level of voice as they are speaking to you often results in escalation rather than solution.

Third, if necessary, ensure you have back up. Two or more voices are more effective than one lone one.


Speak to the doctor one-on-one. This is a tough one for some people because they feel it is confrontational and don’t know how the doctor will take it. However, sometimes one-on-one is all it takes. Only you can judge if this is possible in your own situation.

Ask your nurse manager for help. We all hear stories about nurse managers who aren’t helpful, but more of them are than not. Speaking with your nurse manager may help you formulate how you can handle a difficult situation. Or, sometimes the manager will step in and help you deal with the problems.

Whatever you end up doing, stay calm. If a doctor is yelling at you, say calmly that you wont’ be spoken to like that and give him or her the opportunity to turn it down a few notches. If that doesn’t work, turn around and walk away. You may be shaking inside, but if you’re not there for the doctor to yell at, he or she has to stop.

Sometimes, abusive behavior is thrown at all the nursing staff in plain view of everyone. Some floors deal with that by using the White Wall. When a known abusive doctor is on the floor, the nursing staff watch out for each other and if one nurse is being verbally abused, the other nurses come to wherever it is happening and form a circle around the nurse or a line between the doctor and the nurse. They don’t say anything – they just stand there. It shouldn’t take long for the doctor to get the message.

It’s tough enough to work in today’s health care environment. The costs are being cut, staff is spread thin, patients are sicker than ever before – the last thing the nurses need is to be belittled by someone who really has no right to do so.

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Posted in Doctor/Nurse Relationships

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Career Choices: Nurse Practitioner vs. X-Ray Technician

August 23rd, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Which would you do: become a nurse practitioner or an xray tech?

Deciding between two very different career paths within the health care field can be difficult depending on where your interest lies. As an x-ray technician, you would typically work in hospitals, private clinics, or radiology practices. You would train for one to two years learning about the human body and how snapping x-ray photographs help to diagnose a variety of ailments, conditions, and injuries.

Nurse practitioners work in similar settings but they have vastly different responsibilities. As a nurse practitioner, you would work with other health care providers on patient diagnoses, prognoses, evaluations, and treatment plans. In most states, nurse practitioners can prescribe and diagnose patients in health care settings. As a nurse practitioner, there is more time spent with the patient assessing their needs and creating a long term care plan.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, x-ray technicians make around $50,000 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have any specific salary datum for nurse practitioners, however nurse practitioners generally make more than RNs, and RNs make around $60,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Posted in General, On-the-Job Fears

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Sports Physicals

August 21st, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  My son is starting high school and needs a sports physical before he can participate in athletics.  What’s the difference between the sports physicals that the school offers for a small fee and the regular check up he gets from our family doctor? 

The pre-participation sports physical is specifically designed to evaluate whether there are any health risks to the athlete that prohibit safe participation.  The anual  physical with your primary care provider should be very similar and may be more comprehensive in looking at non sports related concerns. A key element of a good sports physical is a thorough history of past health problems, injuries, and family health problems.  It is critical to know if there have been any cardiac deaths at younger ages in the family, as in some high risk cardiac conditions, the physical exam may be normal.  Evaluation of physical development is important because some 14 year olds are physically mature, while others have not yet completed puberty and developed the height and strength of some of their peers.  Immunizations should be up to date.  Are there breathing problems, such as asthma that need to be effectively managed for safe participation?  Are there muscle or joint problems that will be aggravated by the chosen sport? Is there any sign of infectious disease, such as ringworm in a wrestler?  It is also a good time to remind young athletes of the health risks of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use, as well as the benefits of good nutrition and regular excercise.

Posted in General

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Internet-Savvy Patients and You

August 20th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

There are a lot of medical and health websites available to anyone who knows how to access the Internet. This means, the new generation of patients are coming in with a much broader knowledge of their health and health issues. This could be a valuable asset to nurses as they do their patient education or it could be a major drawback.

At first glance, patients researching their illnesses on the Internet looks like it would be a good thing. After all, an informed patient is one who is likely to be more compliant with care, right? Sort of. Why? Because much of the information the patient has learned may not be accurate or even close to accurate.

People who say the Internet is akin to the Wild West aren’t that far off. There’s little in the way of control or safekeeping when it comes to information and anyone can set up shop (or website) and declare that he or she has the next best thing to sliced bread. While this might not be a problem if you’re looking for information on the latest Amazing Race episodes, it is a problem if you’re looking for health information and you plan on basing your decisions on the information you have found.

When you care for patients who have looked for information on the Internet, it’s a good idea to probe and see where they found their information. Keep in mind though that sometimes people are very defensive about their favorite sites. Be careful not to put down the sources, even if you know that they are garbage. Here is where diplomacy works best.

Educate your patients by explaining what the medical community feels are tried and true websites and why they feel that way.

.org sites

Websites such as the American Diabetes Association or Sepsis Alliance are websites that have .org domains. This means they are (generally) non-profit or charity groups with a mandate to help educate the public. Most often, these are reliable sites that don’t have a vested interest in anything other than promoting education for their particular topic or cause.

.gov sites

In the United States, federal government sites end with .gov. These sites, such as the National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control, are maintained by the government and are usually as up-to-date as possible, particularly in the health areas.

.edu sites

Universities and college sites usually end in .edu domains. Medical and health informatin, including research, can be found on .edu sites.

Other Domains

Sites that end with .com, .net, or other domains aren’t necessarily bad. But, if a patient is using these sites to do research, they should dig to see how reliable the site is and if the site has any ulterior motives. This means looking for:

- Sponsors. Is the site sponsored by anyone or any company. If it’s a website on diabetes and the main sponsor is a pharmaceutical that makes diabetes medications, the information may not be well balanced.

- Advertisers. Are there lots of advertisers on the site? Does it seem that there’s more advertising space than information? Bad sign most of the time.

- Founder or person who maintains the blog. Who is maintaining the site and why did he or she establish it? You can usually find this type of information in the About Us section.

- Related links. When you look at related or recommended links, what do you see? Do you see government and educational institutions or do you see links to online stores and such?

Not Everything on the ‘Net Is True

Something thing that hasn’t gotten through to some people, particularly those who are desperate to find answers to an illness or injury, is just because something is on the Internet, it doesn’t mean the information is good or real. By teaching your patients about how to vet the websites, you may be helping yourself because you will have not only informed patients, but well informed patients who will work with you, rather than against you.

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Posted in Patient Interaction

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Fast-Track from Your RN-to-BSN

August 20th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

I am a foreign graduated nurse and now I just passed the NCLEX_RN and became an RN in the USA, too. I am thinking about going back to school for my BSN. How can I further my education in nursing? What are the basic requirements for obtaining a BSN?

After working in the health care setting for years and immersing yourself in certain clinical aspects of nursing (blood draws, catheters, chest tubes, etc.), you are ready to become a bachelor’s prepared RN! Obtaining your BSN after working as an RN for many years can be quite simple. Most of the courses you will have to pass for your bachelor’s degree relate to the theory of nursing, nursing management, and nursing leadership and how to act in the charge nurse role.

After practicing as an RN, there are a couple different routes towards obtaining your BSN. There are online degree programs available for those of you who like to work in the convenience of your home. These courses can be completed at any time during the day (as long as you meet the deadline for completion) and studying and homework can be done at home and online as well.

Applying to a local and accredited BSN fast-track program might be the way to go if you like learning in the academic setting with other students around you. Check out Medi-Smart’s nursing schools directory to search for nursing programs based on location, program type, and degree received!

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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.