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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Rural Health

August 19th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  What makes rural health nursing difficult ? What makes rural health nursing distinct ?  What makes rural health nursing demanding ? What makes rural health nursing deeply rewarding ? 


The answers to all four of your questions overlap.  Rural health nursing is a branch of community health nursing, discussed in this recent post.  It is distinct in that rural settings, in contrast to urban settings, involve widely scattered locations, making accessibility to care difficult, and requiring  nurses making home or clinic visits to travel long distances.  Poverty is sometimes an additional barrier to health and health care in rural settings.  There may be distinct environmental hazards posed by the use of agricultural chemicals.  The risk of occupational  and accidental injury is related to the use of heavy farm equipment.  Many agricultural areas depend heavily on migrant labor and nurses may provide services to migrant camps.  Migrants may not be English speakers, so if nurses are not bilingual, language barriers may provide difficulties.  People in rural areas often come from traditions of self reliance that can make them reluctant to accept care.  Rewards come from carefully assessing the distinct needs and characteristics of each community, so as to be able to provide nursing interventions that promote health and wellness while being culturally sensitive.  Perhaps the best location to set up blood pressure or diabetes screening clinics is at the local farmers co-op.  Are the migrant workers more available for immunization clinics in the evening?  Can online consultation between the state university and the local family practice improve access to specialists?  Rewards also come in forming relationships and partnerships with people in the community to improve outcomes based on local input.

Posted in General

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Being in Charge Without Floor Experience

August 19th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

It would seem that most nurses have come across this at one time or another: a nurse manager or administration person who has very limited nursing experience working on the floors or in the units. Whenever a decision is made or a policy is handed down, the nurses say it’s patently obvious that this is a case. They grumble that if so-and-so knew what it was like in real life, they would never have made such a decision. Is this true?


Paperwork is the bane of a nurse’s existence. While we would like to be spending time with our patients, we’re filling out form after form, signing box after box, and filling out checklists for information that has already been noted in some other part of the patient’s chart. In fact, it’s not unheard of for nurses to have to sign off something in three different places.

One could argue that this double and triple verification is to reduce the chances of lawsuits (or successful lawsuits), is it really effective? Or does it just frustrate the nurses even more?

Customer Service Approach

What nurse in the United States hasn’t heard of hospitals using the customer service approach to provide nursing care. In this approach, nurses are required to say and do things more in line with “the customer is always right” rather than “sometimes you need to do things you don’t really want to do because this is a hospital and we’re trying to get you better so you can go home.”

Nurses are threatened with discipline if their customer service isn’t up to par – but shouldn’t it be the nursing that is what counts? Not if you don’t have experience as a nurse and you make the rules.

Mandatory Overtime

Slavery was abolished in the U.S. a long time ago. Yet, in nursing, there lies these sneaky rules and regulations that allow hospitals to force their employees to work overtime – that’s right: Force overtime. If you are mandated to stay to work longer and can’t, that’s not your hospital’s problem and you can be disciplined for leaving or even accused of abandoning your patients.

Do nurses with experience actually come up with some of these policies? What do you think?

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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Jump from CNA to RN Online!

August 18th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

How long does it take to get a nursing degree online if you are a CNA?

Making the jump from CNA to RN oftentimes might seem like an easy transition, but it is important to understand the requirements and additional courses and clinical experience needed to become an RN. CNAs perform basic nursing duties such as taking vital signs, assisting in patient activities of daily living, and other minor procedures with some supervision. RNs may perform more invasive procedures (blood draws, blood transfusions), collect specimen samples, and perform patient assessments needed for the medical prognosis.

Courses needed for online nursing programs vary depending on how much experience you have as a CNA, what courses you have already completed towards your online nursing degree, and how many clinical hours you have logged for the program. Typically, online nursing degree programs will last anywhere from 9-18 months, excluding your in-person clinical hours needed at a local and accredited health care facility. I encourage you to check out Medi-Smart’s online nursing school directory for more information on specific programs offered and the durations of each program.

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Posted in General, Nursing School

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Health Care Administration

August 17th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

If I receive a degree in health care administration and have an LVN license what kind of jobs will I qualify for?

Health care administration jobs can be quite wide ranging.  If your degree is at the bachelor’s level, you will qualify for entry level positions in health care management.  Examples might be an administrative assistant position,  or assistant department head within a larger health care organization.  Another possibility is an office manager in a smaller medical office.  I can see your LVN background being particularly helpful in that setting. Even though your degree is in administration, having the perspective of clinical training should give you an edge over other applicants for management positions.  Within a larger organization, you will  need a master’s degree in business or in health care administration to move up the ladder.  Nursing administration positions will more likely require a MSN degree with a focus on administration.  More options within the health administration field and educational requirements are described at this Medi-Smart page.  Included are medical billing, coding, insurance, transcription, informatics, as well as office management.

Posted in General

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Bee Stings to the Eye Area

August 16th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

What should I do for a bee sting in the eye area?

Bee stings can be extremely rare, random, and painful. Honey bee, or bumble bee stings are thought to be the least harmful. Watch out for wasp stings and killer (black) bee stings. If you see a large group of bees or wasps, do not agitate them and slowly walk away from them. They are attracted to bright, flashy colors and fast movements.

If you are stung, there are several immediate things you can do to reduce the pain and alleviate the onset of symptoms. Ice or cold packs to the affected area (eye) can reduce some of the pain and swelling that may occur. Taking an anti-histamine can reduce the swelling, local and systemic reactions and taking tylenol or ibuprofen can help with the pain. You will want to remove the stinger immediately with tweezers and a mirror, or have someone else help you.

Watch out for allergic reactions! Swelling of the throat or eye area (disabling your vision), wheezing on breathing or generalized hives or rash are all symptoms of an allergic reaction. You should seek immediate medical care at your nearest health care facility to avoid your body going in to shock.

Posted in General

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Cell Phones for Nurses – at Work?

August 16th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Cell phones haven’t been around for all that long – at least not for general use. But, they’ve been around long enough for people to get used to them and even addicted to them. Nurses are not immune to the pull and convenience of mobile technology, so many – if not most in some places – have a cell phone.

While having a cell phone is your own business, when you bring your phone to work, it becomes the employer’s business. And this is where some nurses and their administrations clash.

In general, nurses and nursing assistants are told they may use their cell phones at work, while on shift. What they do with their phones during break times, in appropriate settings, is up to them. Some facilities take it a bit further, saying that the nursing staff can’t have their phones on their person – not in their pocket, not in their fanny pack – while working, but they may leave them in their lockers to be used during break times.

Both of these policies seem fair. After all, the nursing staff is paid to work, not chat on the phone. Sadly, all too often, some nurses and aides are seen answering their phone while they are in a patient’s room, giving patient care. Others, aware that they aren’t supposed to be using their phone, will hide in empty rooms or supply rooms to take or receive calls. And for those who don’t want to be caught talking, there’s always text messages that go back and forth.

So, why are some staff members so against these policies? Reading on forums and in chat rooms, one would think that not allowing cell phones was a breach against democracy, shutting you off from the world. “What if there’s a family emergency?” they ask. What did nurses do before cell phones? They called the facility and reported that it was a family emergency. It’s not as if there is no option.

There is, of course, the other side of the story. For example: a parent who works 12-hour shifts, which means he or she is away from home for at least 13 to 14 hours. If the children are too old for daycare, the nurse may work better and be able to concentrate better when  the children can call to say they’ve gotten home from school, ask for permission to go out, or if they have a problem they can’t solve.

Add to the single parent, the nurse who is caring for a parent or who has a loved one in the hospital. By having their phone with them, on vibrate, they are available without disturbing anyone else. If the nurses can’t answer the phone right away, when they have a moment, they can excuse themselves and go check the message in a private place. As for the relative in the hospital, someone may be texting the nurse to keep them up-to-date on the relative’s status. This way, the nurse gets to work the shift and not feel that she needs to be at the relative’s bedside.

The problem is though – for some reason – despite the vast majority of adults being adults and acting like adults, many don’t. They would take advantage of this and abuse the policy, making it difficult for those who wouldn’t.

There are many professions and jobs that make it impossible to use a cell phone during work hours. It’s quite simple. Cell phones shouldn’t be used during work hours. For nurses, that means while working with patients or doing nursing tasks.

So, what is the solution?

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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Nursing Education Loan Forgiveness

August 14th, 2010 by – Sue Barton

  I work at a non profit hospital.  Would I be able to get a nursing loan forgiveness?  

There are programs at both the federal and state level that provide funds for repayment or forgiveness of nursing education loans.  Many nurses over the years have benefited from these programs.  The goal of the funding is to ease the nursing shortage, both by helping students to pay for school, and by encouraging nurses to practice in areas that are identified as having a nursing shortage.  It is possible that your non-profit hospital would qualify.  The United States Department of Health and Human Services has specific information under Health Resources and Services Administration.  You should also check into programs in your state.  Your nursing school, your loan provider, and the human resources department at your hospital all likely can give you information.  There may be specific dates for getting in your application, so get started gathering the information as soon as possible.  Other loan forgiveness programs for nurses are specifically targeted at graduate education with the intention of helping to ease the shortage of nursing faculty.

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Posted in General

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A Life of Medicine Post-Nursing

August 13th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Is there any way to study medicine after finishing nursing?

Nursing can be a stepping-stone for many students in the health sciences field. You might think about starting out as a CNA or LVN and then seek your RN. In most hospital settings, the RN spends the most time with the patient and direct patient care, while the practicing or overseeing provider will work with the RN in making the final prognosis and diagnosis. If your passion lies with constant direct patient care, nursing might be right for you.

If you find yourself wondering what it might be like to make the diagnoses and formulate long-term treatment plans for patients, perhaps practicing medicine might be the right choice. Some nurses, after working in the clinical setting for a couple of years, might decide that they want to go back to school for medicine and delve deeper into how the body functions and the different modes of treatment available for specific maladies.

If you are thinking about studying medicine after nursing, you will want to think about a post-baccalaureate program to fulfill the required science courses for medical school, in addition to studying and sitting for the MCAT.

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Posted in Nursing School, On-the-Job Fears

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Surviving Anatomy and Physiology

August 13th, 2010 by – Derek Brocklehurst

How did you get through anatomy and physiology?

Anatomy and physiology are two of the most basic nursing school pre-requisites. Both courses are integral to understanding how the body functions, how each organ system compliments another, and how to troubleshoot problems the human body might be having.

Anatomy can be an exciting game of memorization. Try making flashcards for the different bones, muscle groups, and organs with a fun fact about each one, or a mnemonic device for memorizing where they are located and what their function is. If flash cards aren’t your thing, look for anatomy coloring books to help differentiate the bones and muscle groups from each other. As remedial as that might sound, it can oftentimes be a simple and creative way to learn the different groups.

Physiology can be a little more complex than anatomy, involving critical thinking and how the body’s different systems work together to allow the human body to function. Make sure you read the chapters in your textbook that are assigned each week. Any corresponding lectures to attend or watch online will reinforce your understanding of the textbook material. Flash cards for the organ systems different functions might also help in physiology.

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Posted in Nursing School

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Why Are We Discouraging Others From Nursing?

August 12th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

What do you say when you hear someone say, “I want to be a nurse?” Do you acknowledge them and tell them that they’re making a good choice or do you recoil in  horror, asking them if they’re out of their mind? Do you regale them with stories of gross situations and scary decisions? Sadly, many nurses do discourage and do their best to change the student’s mind.

It doesn’t take hanging around a nursing station for more than a shift (if that long) to hear some nurse say how horrible nursing is. If we are (not) lucky, there will be more than one who feel this way and they’ll start feeding off each other about what a bad job it is, as they go on with their litany of complaints.

Let’s see what’s wrong with this picture.:We don’t have enough nurses and we’re overworked, underpaid, and frustrated. Even in states that aren’t hiring, it’s not because there are too many nurses, it’s because they’re not hiring for a variety of reasons – mainly cost. So, how is discouraging new people from entering the profession going to change anything? It’s not.

The negative attitude that some nurses have about their own profession will keep others from coming into it, therefore making us even more short staffed and overworked, leading to more frustration and burnout.

We should be encouraging people to come into nursing, from the young high school graduates to stay-at-home parents to those who have worked at one career for several years already. We need “fresh blood” in the workplace. We need new people with new ideas and new attitudes. Without the new faces, we’re doomed.

If enough of them enter nursing, it might not be such a tough job. What’s that saying? Many hands make light work? Right now, nurses are exhausted and burned out because they are expected to do too much on their own. How do we solve that problem? We get reinforcements, we bring new people into the fold.

We can’t sugarcoat nursing. It is a tough job. Many jobs are tough. But it is also a much needed profession and it can be pretty darned satisfying when you’ve had a good day – when you have enough people around you to help you through the days.

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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.