06Jun

Last year we recognized National Nurses Week at a time when the COVID pandemic had become so critical no nurse felt much like celebrating.

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So the World Health Organization extended the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife through 2021. In the US, the American Nurses Association not only joined in the extension but has now published the online storybook “To Be a Nurse.”

“To Be a Nurse,” says the ANA, “Is a collection of stories and photos from nurses around the world. Submitted during the Year of the Nurse, these stories showcase diverse experiences, inspiration, and reflections.”

Calling it a storybook is a little like calling a Van Gogh a painting. To Be a Nurse is a digital experience that merges a series of vignettes into a compelling understanding of what it means to be a nurse.

Text and pictures and video combine to tell stories of achievement, challenge and calling. And stories so moving you know they come straight from the heart.

“I had never had a patient without family, no less one who was going to pass from this earth at any time,” recalls RN Chris Kowal, of a night many years ago when he was only a few years into working the surgical ICU.

“I did what I never thought ICU nurses did… I closed the curtain to the outside unit, sat in bed next to the gentleman, held his hand and then clung to him, alongside his frail body, and told him, ‘It is OK. You are loved, and you have permission to leave when you feel it right.’

“It was only a matter of minutes after I held onto him that I heard the familiar long EKG alarm, and I noticed he was not breathing anymore. I respectfully wished his spirit well, began to cry uncontrollably, and I turned off the EKG and alarms. It was not my first patient to pass away, but it was one I will never forget. No one should have to die alone.”

No one who reads this storybook can come away unmoved. Not every story is as poignant; many show the joy of nursing. All are inspirational.

Jennifer Bonamer tells of wanting to be a pediatric healthcare provider as a child. She grew up to become a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse. But over time she wanted to do more.

“So I decided to go to school to pursue my PhD so that I could create evidence to improve patient care,” she tells us. Today she is a clinical nurse researcher helping clinicians explore opportunities for better patient care “to ensure we are treating the whole person.

“I am so grateful to be a nurse.”

Photo by Rusty Watson on Unsplash

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Jun 6, 2023

Colleges Are Turning Away Nursing Students

Despite a nursing shortage that existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic turned it desperate, colleges are turning away tens of thousands of applicants to nursing programs.

An article by the nonprofit education news organization The Hechinger Report cites Long Beach (Calif.) City College as a stark example. The college this year accepted only 32 students out of 1,200 nursing applicants. Another California college accepted none.

COVID is to blame for worsening the situation by forcing schools to limit in-person instruction, substituting simulations and telehealth care for the clinical work required of student nurses.

Hospitals where students would normally get the hands-on clinical experience are turning them down, according to the report, because they are too busy to provide the training and can’t spare the personal protective equipment.

“It’s very shortsighted of them,” Sigrid Sexton, chair of the nursing program at Long Beach City College, told Hechinger reporter Matt Krupnick. “We’re very supportive of the hospitals’ needs to protect patients, but we’d like to see them be more supportive of students.”

Even when students are able to find a facility willing to accept them, many are required to buy their own personal protective equipment and pay for their own COVID tests.

“When you start putting extra costs on the students and the programs, that becomes a barrier,” said John Cordova, a nurse who directs California’s Health Workforce Initiative.

Problems with nurse training have been developing for years, notes the report. Faculty shortages kept many schools from increasing enrollment to meet the demand. Other schools had to limit enrollment even before COVID for lack of faculty.

Sharon Goldfarb, dean of health sciences at the College of Marin and a regional president of the California Organization of Associate Degree Nursing, said a third of the state’s nursing schools have lost faculty since March. The average age of those remaining is 62.

A key reason is the relatively low pay of teachers, especially when compared to practicing nurses. In California, the average annual pay for an experienced RN is $113,000. Indeed puts the average pay for junior college instructors in California at $65,748. The majority of nurses are trained in junior and community colleges.

Between the shortage of clinical opportunities and the lack of in-person teaching, educators fear many new graduates may not be sufficiently prepared.

“It would be naive to say, ‘Oh, no, this won’t affect them at all,’ ” said Renae Schumann, dean of the Houston Baptist University nursing school in Texas. “Yes, we all worry about it.”

Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

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Jun 6, 2023

In Honor of Home Care and Hospice Workers

Every day, all across the country millions of home care aides, therapists, nurses and social workers make life better for people with chronic illnesses, the disabled and healthy, but frail elderly by assisting them with daily living activities.

Home health aides care for patients who are still living at home, helping to lift the burden from family caregivers. Nurses and therapists make regular visits to their housebound patients to check on their progress and, for those with life limiting illnesses, to provide palliative care.

They go about their work quietly, serving patients and families, providing companionship and comfort to those they serve.

For the work they do, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice asks all of us to recognize November as National Home Care & Hospice Month and November 8-14 as Home Care Aides week.

In honor of these special people, all of us at Green Key Resources say thank you to those who do so much to make life better for so many. We join with NAHC President William A. Dombi who says,

“Home care and hospice nurses, therapists, aides, and other providers choose to use their lives to serve our country’s aged, disabled, and dying. This noble work is deserves our recognition and praise and we celebrate November as home care and hospice month for that very reason.”

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

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