Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nurses Battle to Fight Opioid Addiction

It seems like we see articles and hear news reports about opioid addiction on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of these stories are no exaggerations.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2015 World Drug Report, it is estimated that 32.4 million people around the world struggle with opioid abuse. Additionally, results from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimate that 1.9 million Americans struggle with addictions to prescription opioids and 435,000 more have addictions to heroin, an illegal opioid.
Opioid abuse is clearly a problem in the United States and abroad. Different organizations, institutions, and agencies have taken different approaches to combat this problem, as have individual rehab centers across the country. Several of these approaches involve nurses.
Treating Addictions
If the opioid epidemic is a war, nurses are serving on the front lines. Emergency room nurses often treat people who have overdosed or are suffering from the ill effects of opioids, other drugs, and alcohol.
Nurses work at rehab centers to treat opioid abuse and other forms of abuse. They work at clinics and hospitals that provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT). They work in a wide variety of health care settings to help people recognize and treat their addictions. They also work to educate others about substance abuse and hope that such preventative measures can help people avoid addiction in the first place.
State Efforts
At Boston Medical Center, doctors do not administer programs that treat opioid abuse. Instead, nurses administer such programs. This tactic allows the clinic to see more patients (and ultimately treat more patients). Other health centers in Massachusetts and across the United States are utilizing nurses to administer such programs.
Other programs might provide specific training that relates to addiction. In 2016, the U.S. federal government awarded a grant to train student nurses at the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts. This program trains nurses in SBIRT, which stands for screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment. The program aims to diagnose addictions early and help people find treatment for them.
National Efforts
National organizations are also tackling addiction. The American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and others have pledged to provide more training for people who prescribe opioids. The ANA has also pledged to encourage more health care providers to register with their states’ drug monitoring programs.
The ANA has also pledged to launch a campaign to raise awareness of opioid addiction. It has already established resources about opioid addiction and other forms of substance abuse. Additionally, ANA provides resources that can help nurses with their substance abuse problems if they are addicted themselves.
Government Efforts
The government has also joined nurses in the fight against opioid abuse. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created and published guidelines regarding the prescription of opioids. Several nursing schools across the United States have pledged to teach these CDC guidelines, many of which address the use of opioids for long periods of time.
State boards of nursing have also created similar recommendations. The Michigan Board of Nursing, for example, has issued guidelines for nurses in regards to using controlled substances to treat pain. These guidelines recognize that nurses need to effectively treat pain. They also recognize the potential danger of certain medications.
There are also other government efforts relating to opioid abuse and nurses. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 is a federal law that permits nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine to patients who are addicted to opioids. It also allows doctors to see higher numbers of patients who need such drugs.
Speaking of government action, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sponsors National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. During this event, people bring unneeded prescription drugs to designated areas. DEA agents and other law enforcement agents take these drugs and educate the public about drug abuse. During one such day in April 2016, authorities took back almost 447 tons of prescription drugs.
Nursing Efforts
Nurses educate the public about Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. They also play a vital role in other government efforts to end addiction by participating in community-based opioid overdose prevention programs (OOPPs). As their name indicates, OOPPs work to prevent substance abuse problems from ever occurring. Other nurses and nursing organizations are interested in government matters as advocates. They encourage other nurses to take political action or support candidates who take particular views on health care matters.
These efforts demonstrate that while the opioid epidemic is huge, different organizations, institutions, government bodies, rehab centers, and people are committed to helping fight it. Nurses have played—and will continue to play—a vital role in this battle.

Pam Zuber

Pam Zuber is a writer and editor interested in a variety of topics. She has written about health and fitness, emotional wellness, and rehab in California and other states.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Am I The Picture of Health? Confessions of A Stressed Out Nurse

I had never received the backhanded compliment of “oh, she has such a pretty face” until recently. That was a compliment reserved for fat women. I did not consider myself fat at all. I would describe myself as overweight, but never fat. If I could still purchase clothing out of regular department stores, I did not believe myself to be obese. Even when I was hospitalized last year and the doctor’s notes said “…obese, 47yrs old female,” it did not truly register. However, once my vanity was attacked it hit home.
Sometimes, I see myself in the mirror and wonder how did it get to be this way. I am 5’4″. I weigh 210 lbs and am a Registered Nurse! Euphemisms like “thick,”” full-figured,” and ” healthy” only mask what I know to be the truth. This body that I live in is well on its way to diabetes and hypertension. Thankfully, in this moment I do not have any of those diseases, but it is just a matter of when, not if.
Being overweight has affected my self-esteem, my sense of self-worth, my self-love. It feels like a self-inflicted punishment. When I think back to when I was slim and feeling good, it almost brings me to tears. I start asking myself how did I let it get this out of hand? Why didn’t I just get up from the table? Stop eating at fast food restaurants? Continue to exercise? I am not a fat person who does not know how I got fat. I know exactly what I did, which I think makes it all the worse.
There are times I find it difficult to teach my patients about health and wellness. I wonder if they are looking at me and finding me a hypocrite. Or are they realizing that I, too, understand how hard it is to walk that path.
The heavier I became, the more crap I accepted from the men I dated. I no longer felt I that should be respected or loved entirely. Glad that they were in my life was enough. Trust me, when you do not love you, no one else does either. I stayed with a man who told me that he did not usually date “big girls.”  So, I sat wondering, should I feel special that you chose me? I found myself always trying to overcompensate for not being thin, for not being his ideal of beauty. I was showing him that my love was not worth it because it did not come in a perfect size 4, 6, or 8. I was depleted walking out of that one.
So now at this juncture, I am ready to lose the weight. I mean do what is necessary to get to where I feel comfortable in my skin. This is not simply about my vanity, but about my life, my health, and self-love. So, I am inviting you on this journey with me. Come along.
Hi, I’m Erika.
Ciao Bella!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Unwind After Work

Sometimes the best part of work is leaving it behind. When you want a “do-over” after a difficult day, plunge into an activity that you enjoy. Even if you only have 15 minutes to devote to it. (Or, maybe the dirty dishes can wait after all.) Relaxing activities are a wonderful way to let go of workplace stress.
Here are a variety of after-hours stress busters for you to try:
Read a favorite comic, book, or magazine – in print format or on an e-reader. A library of reading choices can be at your fingertips.
Hold a game night and invite family and friends to play cards or Monopoly. You’ll chat and get caught up with everyone, without worrying about conversational lulls or spats.
Call, write, or Skype loved ones far away. People you have a history with, and who you can trust, are worth staying in touch with. Share your hopes, fears, and everyday joys.
Sports, such as golf, tennis, or cycling can work off your jagged anxious energy.
Make something! Sew, knit, or crochet. Repetitive hand motions are calming, and it’s fulfilling to end up with a finished product.
Listen to music for pleasure, or as a meditative practice for clearing the mind and inducing relaxation.
When you’re too tired to cook, order take-out for a no-stress supper. While you’re at it, enjoy a trashy reality TV show, such as The Real Housewives.
Make a “bucket list” of everything you hope to experience in life: Places to go, things to do, people to meet.
Laugh out loud at a funny movie, TV show, or YouTube video. (Too Cute Kittens, anyone?)
Download free or low-cost tutorials from websites such as, or take a class at your local community college.
Calgon, take me away! Nothing washes off the stress of the day like a long, hot bath or shower. For extra measure, change into PJ’s or soft jeans that say “aah, home at last.”
What activities appeal to you? If none, don’t worry. You can create your own list. Let us know what stress management techniques work for you.

Jebra Turner is a health reporter and former H.R. director for an ergonomics-focused firm, where she oversaw workplace health and safety training programs for staff and clients. She lives in Portland, Oregon, but you can visit her at
Jebra Turner
She frequently contributes to the Minority Nurse magazine and website. Visit her online at

Monday, October 24, 2016

4 Ways to Stay Positive

Feeling a bit down or bored? Everyone experiences periods of not feeling enthusiastic about life or work. But as a nurse, it’s important to remain positive for your patients. If you’re feeling down in your personal life, those feelings can creep into your work day. The same is true for feeling down about your job. If those feelings grow large enough, they can follow you home.
Here are four easy tips for increasing your positivity and elevating your overall mood.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
If your co-workers or certain family members are always gossiping or bringing you down, limit your time with them. Go for a walk during your breaks instead of the employee lounge if that’s where negativity lives. Take charge and turn negative conversations with friends and colleagues into positive ones. You don’t have to dwell in negativity. Either remove yourself from those situations or drastically decrease your exposure to them.
Avoid the Media
Too much news and even celebrity gossip can take a toll on your outlook. Again, limit your exposure. There’s no reason to watch 24 hour news channels for hours on end – especially when you aren’t getting any new information on a news story and instead are listening to negative chatter and opinions. While it’s important to remain knowledgeable about what’s going on in the world, find a balance and limit your exposure.
Practice Gratitude
It’s true that counting your blessings can shift your mood and help you out of a slump. Many of us take things such as our homes, cars, food, clothing, clean drinking water and electricity for granted. But if you’re feeling negative, stop and consider how fortunate you are to have your basic needs met and to work in a field where you are literally changing lives every day. Start the practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal by writing three to five things you are thankful for each day.
Working out is not only good for your body, it’s also great for your mood! According to WebMD, regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and ward off depression. Remember that walk during your work breaks? That’s an easy way to get in some regular exercise and avoid workplace gossip all at once. So get moving!
Denene Brox is a Kansas City-based freelance writer. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Five Ways To Burn Fat and Tone Up at Work

Do you find yourself too pooped after work to exercise? Get in line. And it is a rather lengthy one.
About half of the adults across the nation say they fail to get the suggested 30 minutes, five days a week of moderate activity or the suggested 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times week, according to a survey by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Don’t be one of them. Start by exercising where you spend eight hours or more each day: your job. You already know that a sedentary lifestyle is no bueno. Here are five ways to work out [without advertising] while at work:
☛ Take the stairs. Ideally two at a time, several times each day. If it has been a while since you navigated floors without using an elevator, start off by walking down the stairs. Make it a goal to climb stairs in a designated time.
☛ Walk more. This classic exercise is ideal for the workplace. Split your lunch time between eating and walking. Visit a co-worker instead of emailing or calling. Or walk to a restroom or water fountain that is not nearby.
☛ Do seated leg lifts. Sit up tall in your seat. Lift one leg until it’s straight and parallel to the ground. Hold for a count of five, then lower. Repeat 10-15 times, and switch to the other leg.
☛ Try the “Wooden Leg.” While seated, extend one leg out in front of you. Hold for two seconds. Then raise it up as high as you can, and hold it again for two seconds. Repeat with each leg 15 times.
☛ Stand up and stretch your arms, legs and torso.
Increasing your activity at work provides benefits and not just for you. On-the-job exercises can boost concentration and productivity, making it a benefit for your employer.

Robin Farmer is a freelance journalist with a focus on health, education and business. Visit her at

Monday, October 10, 2016

8 Ways to Handle Criticism at Work

No one is perfect, and no matter how hard you work at your job every day, some things won’t turn out the way you planned. You might beat yourself up for making an error or saying something you didn’t really mean, but when someone else calls you on it, it takes everything up a notch.
How can you respond when someone criticizes you at work? Taking criticism is one of the hardest parts of professional life. No one likes to hear someone else say something negative about how they performed.
But is all criticism negative? Here are eight ways to deal with someone else’s comments.
1.Take a Deep Breath
Whatever comes to your mind first is not something that should come out of your mouth. Of course you are going to be defensive when your boss tells you a patient complained about your timing with medications. Maybe she doesn’t know the back story that you tried to give meds and was asked to come back after the patient’s visitors left.
Don’t expect the other person to know your side of the story, and keep that in mind when you want to reply with a biting comment. Escalating the conversation to a nasty tone will make things worse, not better.
2. Listen Carefully
All criticism is not bad. While it may be hard to hear, the meaning might not be negative in tone. If someone is telling you that you did something wrong, think about the reasons behind what’s being said.
If the comment has to do with patient safety or satisfaction and you did mess up, this is an opportunity to do your job better. If the remarks have to do with an action that’s based on a bigger, systemic problem, the criticism can open the door to discuss how to make things better for your whole unit.
3. Be Cordial
Keep your tone steady and even while you are talking. Don’t pull others into the conversation and don’t start blaming other people. If your coworkers were part of the problem, you don’t have to take all the blame, but you do need to think about how to present your information.
If you’re able to, tell the person who is criticizing you that you hear what they are saying and you want time to think about it so you can have a thoughtful discussion. Ask to return to the topic in 24 hours and then get back to them in that amount of time or sooner. If both sides are feeling defensive and heated, this time allows each of you to cool off a little.
4. Reflect Honestly
Is a coworker upset with you because you leave the nurse’s station a mess? Is a new nurse feeling overwhelmed with the patient load you have given her?
If the criticism isn’t based on completely false information, step back and assess. What role are you playing in the scenario? What did happen that caused someone else to point it out to you? What can you do to fix the problem?
5. Work on a Solution
You’ve been told there’s a problem or an issue and that you played a part in it. Now it’s up to you to try to figure out how to make things better. No matter how difficult it is to do, stepping up and accepting responsibility for your actions is important for your credibility. Your colleagues will have much more respect for you if you don’t overreact to criticism or try to deflect the blame.
6. Keep It Quiet
You might want to bad mouth your boss for criticizing you (especially if it was done in front of others), but resist that urge. Keeping a positive and professional attitude will do more for your professional reputation than getting the personal satisfaction of complaining about your boss.
7. Keep an Eye on the Future
When anyone is criticized at work, people often remember how a person reacted first. Years later, colleagues might not remember the mistake you made, but they will remember if you responded professionally and appropriately or not. As you could potentially someday report to any of those people, have an interview with them, or even become their boss, how they perceive your action can have lasting impact on your career.
8. Move On
You are not perfect and you will make mistakes. Some of those mistakes will be judged more harshly than others and not always fairly. Try to turn any criticism around so that you improve in some way moving forward. If the criticism was biting, unfair, and not based on fact, you might learn how to deliver criticism correctly when the shoe is on the other foot. If the criticism is right on target, make changes to correct whatever you can and to ensure the mistake won’t be repeated.
Whatever you do, don’t let the criticism knock you down. Learn, take responsibility, and keep moving forward.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.

Monday, October 3, 2016

5 Common Legal Mistakes That Nurses Make

5 Common Legal Mistakes That Nurses Make

Are You Prepared For a Medical Malpractice Suit?
Shutterstock | Blend Images
Medical malpractice is a form of personal injury law where the actions of a health care provider, the treatment facility, or both, have led to a negative outcome for a patient. Nurses can be named in these lawsuits if the plaintiff believes that their actions contributed to the injury. This could be a career destroying situation if you are not prepared. If you find that you have been named in a medical malpractice lawsuit, make sure that you follow all the necessary steps as outlined by your attorney.

What is Medical Malpractice?
Simply defined, medical malpractice is improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient. This could be from the actions of a doctor, dentist, pharmacist, radiologist, or nurse. In order to protect nurses and other health care providers from frivolous claims of malpractice or negligence, the law stipulates that four elements must exist in order for a lawsuit to be considered viable:
  • That a duty of care was owed by the nurse
  • The nurse violated applicable standards in care
  • The patient suffered a compensable injury as a result
  • The injury was the direct result of a deviation in the standard of care
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the burden is always on the patient to prove that all of these elements existed.

Understanding the Legal Jargon
As a nurse, your vocabulary centers around blood counts, syringe types, and vital signs. You should also know some key words related to medical malpractice:
  • Standard of Care – From a legal standpoint, the standard of care refers to what the majority of nurses would do when faced with the same circumstances that led to the claim of medical malpractice. For example, nurses monitoring a laboring patient would contact the attending physician immediately if they saw a rapid decline in fetal response on the monitors. If you fail to do that, then you have deviated from the accepted standard of care in that situation. It is not necessarily an action defined in a law book, but it is what is considered acceptable by the majority of the medical community. The patient can use other nurses as witnesses to prove how you did not meet the standard of care in their case.
  • Compensable Injury – A compensable injury is one that resulted in obvious losses to the patient. This could be in increased hospital or medical bills, loss of employment or even future employment. Simply put, the lawsuit cannot exist unless the patient can prove that they suffered some form of financial loss as a result of the injury.
  • Duty of Care – If you are named in a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is because at some point you were responsible for the care of that patient. This could be with direct contact, or indirect if you were responsible for overseeing inexperienced nurses at the time.
  • Negligence – An action (or lack of one) that leads to injury, disability, illness or death. In most cases, in order for negligence to exist, it must be proven that the defendant was aware of the possible risk associated with their actions.
Common Examples of Nurse Negligence
Any one of the following could be construed as negligence, and result in you being named in a medical malpractice action:
  • Failing to properly monitor a patient in your care
  • Not taking vital signs at the correct times
  • Forgetting to take an important vital sign
  • Failing to enter the nursing record onto a patient’s chart
  • Administering the wrong type or dose of medication
  • Giving medications at the wrong time
  • Not checking bed ridden patients for the presence of bed sores
  • Not responding quickly to a patient’s call button
  • Failing to report a symptom or complaint to the doctor
Your best defense is to always follow the accepted standards of care, and document all of your patient interactions. Charting is not only in place to monitor the condition of a patient, it is there to show proof of each action you have taken with a patient and why.

What Should You Do if Named in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Personal injury laws do vary slightly from state to state. If you are personally named in a lawsuit, whether solely or as a part of the facility you work in, you should contact an attorney right away. They will be able to help you sort out the specifics of the case in relation to the laws that govern your state.
The hospital or clinic that you work in will likely have nursing malpractice insurance to help cover any losses from a lawsuit, but this is not always enough. You could also protect yourself and career by purchasing an individual policy. Having individual nursing liability coverage will provide you with an attorney that works to protect your best interests, not those of the institution that employs you.
Nurses never mean to do any harm to a patient, but sometimes situations extend beyond our control. The best way to defend yourself in a medical malpractice suit is to always have documentation that you worked in the best interest of every patient, to the absolute best of your ability.