Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Peds Part I

I read a great blog (510 Medic) about the importance of taking vital signs in pediatric patients. The author cites great research on how often vital signs are not taken, especially blood pressure which puts our patients at risk if we are unable to properly assess and measure vital sign data. This issue cannot be underscored and is applicable to all providers in the emergency services - both pre-hospital and in the hospital. I often get asked about pediatric assessments (including vital signs) from nurses and paramedics alike. My answer is always the same...what does the child look like and do the vital signs match the rest of the clinical picture?

For instance, some years ago I had an ED nurse tell me that an infant had a respiratory rate of 8 - 10 and was in no distress. Apparently I had an alarmed look on my face as she questioned my concern. I asked, "what does the child look like - color, skin temp, capillary refill, respiratory effort, etc.?" She proceeded to tell me the child was comfortably sitting in the mother's lap, skin very warm, flushed cheeks, but taking Pediatlyte from a bottle. Obviously I reassessed the child including vital signs and found that the respiratory rate was in fact almost triple the original rate and the heart rate was quite tachycardic due to fever.

It is important that we synthesize all the patient data and evaluate what we are hearing or seeing. Does it make sense with the clinical picture?

Thanks to 510 Medic for addressing a topic near and dear to my heart! Stay tuned for Part II with a discussing breaking down the numbers and correlating to the pediatric assessment.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Celebrate Clinical Nurse Specialists!

2nd Annual National CNS Week September 1st - 7th

Clinical Nurse Specialist Facts from NACNS:

  • Hildegard Peplau, RN, Ed.D. (9/1/1909 – 3/17/1999), is the founding mother of the CNS role. Rutgers University School of Nursing is the birthplace of the CNS role.
  • Dr. Peplau was a nursing theorist who published a landmark work in 1952 titled, "Interpersonal Relations in Nursing." She emphasized the nurse-client relationship as the foundation for nursing practice, and the important partnership model that focused on shared experience through observation, description, formulation, interpretation, validation and intervention. This theory was considered "revolutionary", since at that time clients or patients typically were passively receiving treatment and nurses were merely acting out doctor’s orders. In 1956, Dr. Peplau established the first nursing Master’s Degree program with a focus exclusively on clinical practice. Graduates of this program were called "clinical specialists."
  • Health systems across the nation are commemorating this recognition week. Plans include community activities and public lectures, receptions honoring Clinical Nurse Specialists, wellness fairs, community outreach, and fundraisers promoting the spirit of nursing, such as organized walks or golf outings which in turn support underserved communities or particular health concerns.
  • An estimated 72,521 Clinical Nurse Specialists practice in the U.S. They are licensed registered nurses who hold masters or doctorate degrees in nursing.
  • CNSs are expert clinicians in a specialized area of nursing practice. The specialty may be identified in terms of a population (i.e. Pediatrics), a setting (ie. Emergency Dept.), a disease or medical subspecialty (i.e. Diabetes), type of care (ie. Psychiatric), or type of problem (i.e. Pain).
  • CNS practice improves the healthcare environment and outcomes by influencing: direct care of patients/clients, nursing standards and personnel, and care delivery systems. In other words, as leaders CNSs drive innovation in their environments from care at the bedside to system-wide improvements.
  • Examples of outcomes of CNS practice: reduced medical complications in hospitalized patients, reduced hospital costs and length of stays, improved pain management practices, increased patient satisfaction with nursing care, reduced frequency of emergency room visits.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More proof that STEMI Systems work

A recent news article showcased the coordination of care between EMS and a hospital in Vancouver for patients having an MI: En-route diagnoses save heart attack victims’ lives. It is unfortunate that despite increasing global evidence that pre-hospital diagnosis is an integral piece of improving patient outcomes with STEMI, there are still barriers and turf wars that prevent the same. So how do we change this?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Putting a sacred cow to pasture - cervical and spinal immobilization

The American Emergency Physicians News recently published a piece on the use of spinal immobilization and cervical collars. Despite evidence against the use and very little evidence that using immobilization techniques and equipment protects the patient from further injury this practice continues to put patients at risk for injury. There is increasingly more literature that discusses the harms associated with inappropriate cervical and spinal immobilization, which is defined as either incorrectly applied devices or inappropriately placed on patients without signs/symptoms of injury. This practice has been under scrutiny since the 1980s yet both pre-hospital and emergency departments use this practice routinely despite valid and recent evidence recommending otherwise. Disclaimer: this is not to say that there are not situations that spinal and/or cervical immobilization is not appropriate or necessary; and there is literature that supports this practice.

Further contributing to increased morbidity is prolonged immobilization once in the emergency department. Delays in being evaluated by an emergency department physician or nurse practitioner leave the patient lying immobilized for a prolonged period of time increasing the risk for extension injuries, skin complications, airway complications, elimination issues and emotional distress. Many nurses are not trained or competencied to adequately care for a patient with cervical collars and/or spinal immobilization let alone application and removal; this is often the case in non-trauma centers or in an academic institution with medical residents. Nurses often lose track of how long their patients are immobilized and a substantial delay occurs before being evaluated and removed from such devices. Once in the emergency department, nurses must advocate for their patients and treat immobilization as a priority of care.

Both paramedics and nurses must be familiar with evidence-based practices and know both the risks and benefits of the care they provide. Performing a skill on the basis of “that’s how we’ve always done it” is dangerous business for the patients we care for and it is incumbent upon us to ensure the care we provide is rooted in evidence and not just another scared cow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The return of communicable diseases

There was a story today in the NYT Health section regarding people contracting Dengue fever in the Florida Keys. In recent weeks, there has been much discussion of the alarming rate in which Pertussis (Whooping Cough) has spread in California and other parts of the country. This is concerning for me and should be for all healthcare providers in all settings (prehospital, emergency departments, outpatient clinics, acute care/inpatient, etc). Many communicable diseases have previously been eradicated with vaccinations and have not been an issue for decades. Unfortunately, many of us would be unable to recognize many of these diseases; especially those such as dengue fever with vague, nondescript sympotomolgy.

So what does this all mean? The resurgence of communicable diseases requires education for all healthcare providers that may potentially come in contact with infected individuals. Ensuring vaccination to diseases such as pertussis and measles is also important to protect your own health. Both of these efforts are especially important for both EMS and emergency department staff (paramedics, EMTs, nurses, physicians, NPs, CNSs, patient care techs, etc) that have first contact with patients.

Education is perhaps the single most important step we can take for both ourselves and our patients.
  1. Know what, if any communicable diseases have been reported in your geographic area or region. The CDC, WHO and local health departments have free information for both healthcare providers and the laypublic.
  2. Many state health departments send memos to hospitals and EMS systems to alert providers the status of various diseases in the region. These memos are a great resource, providing information on symptoms, transmission, incubation period, disease course and priorities for treatment.
  3. Look for teachable moments: Encourage high-risk populations to vaccinate their children and themselves, use cough-etiquette and perform good hand-hygiene.
  4. Educate your colleagues: share the information you recieve and promote personal safety practices such as hand-hygiene.

Taking a proactive rather than reactive approach may help to reduce the incidence of these deadly diseases.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lateral violence among nurses

There is a great discussion at allnurses.com regarding the age-old issue of "nurses eating their young". It is amazing to me that for all the compassion nurses have for patients and being ranked as the most ethical profession, nurses have no reservations turning on each other. Disclaimer: Not all nurses are guilty of this behavior; but not all nurses will intervene or stop one nurse from harassing another either. And lately it seems that there is a renewed emphasis on lateral violence and healthy work environments by many nursing organizations which aim to raise awareness and empower nurses to not tolerate such behavior (a great effort and much needed topic for discussion). But I have to ask will this ritual ever end?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tall Stan - Part 1

The new AACN theme introduced Tall Stan - this is my Stan sporting palm tree scrubs!

Stand Tall means to recognize the unique and indispensable role nurses play. Recognize it, understand it, articulate it, own it, accept responsibility for it, and celebrate it.
Stand Tall — be proud of what you do.
Stand Tall — speak up.
Stand Tall — together we can do more.
Stand Tall — own the outcomes of your work.
Stand Tall — enjoy what you do.


Stan working on evidence-based practices!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nurses, keep talking

Poor communication between healthcare providers including nurses and physicians has been linked to various types of patient safety events. As a patient advocate it is important that nurses ‘speak up’ for their patients and convey critical information accurately and timely. During a typical patient admission, many different units may care for a patient transferring care from one clinical unit to another. Continuity of care depends on the communication of various medical information, plan of care and response to treatments to ensure safe and appropriate care; providing information in a concise manner is important in reducing the risk of errors. Communication problems frequently lead to serious safety events which makes it a high-risk process.

What is good communication? Clear, accurate communication that conveys the patient’s clinical story and ensures the appropriate treatment and care for that patient.

What is meant by hand-off communication? Hand-off is the process of communicating patient information from one care provider to another. Examples include: nurse to nurse shift report, between levels of care, nurses and physicians, care management staff and other care providers, and care providers to patient/family.

Strategies for good communication:
¬ Use clear language – avoid slang terms
¬ Limit interruptions
¬ Standardize routine reports, such as shift to shift or unit to unit, such as SBAR technique
¬ Use tools and technology as available – standardized report tools such as the trip ticket and
Kardex, electronic charting and portable phones
¬ Provide an opportunity for the receiver to ask questions
¬ Repeat back information such as orders or diagnostic results

Keeping patients safe involves more than keeping patients free from physical or
psychological harm but communicating important information in a way that promotes
optimal outcomes.

For more information check out these links:



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lessons Learned from NTI

As a newbie to AACN’s NTI (American Association of Critical Care Nurses, National Teaching Institute) I did not know what to expect; I certainly did not know how ‘big’ and overwhelming the conference was going to be. And inspiring. I cannot possibly list all the incredible sessions I attended, interesting, intelligent people I met, and information I learned. But I can tell you that being in a room with over 7,000 nurses aspiring to provide the best, safest, quality, evidenced-based care they can was exciting. Sharing success and challenges, heart-wrenching stories and uplifting accomplishments was both invigorating and frustrating. This is what healthcare is supposed to be – nurses committed to caring, compassion and excellence; living it, everyday. Isn’t this why we got into nursing in the first place? Because we care and desire to nurture and heal those who are ill or in need?

One of the highlights of the conference is the AACN president’s message. The current president inspired us and shared how we have “Act[ed] with Intention” as she passed the reigns to the incoming president who unveiled her theme for 2010: “Stand Tall.” So the question is what does it mean to “stand tall” as a nurse and how will I accomplish it? I challenge others as well to think about standing tall: doing the right thing, going the extra mile and striving for excellence. No matter how small the act or the intention, we as individuals can make a difference in each patient’s experience and that alone is cause for standing tall.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Building better care

Another interesting article (Physicians must become team players) on providing primary care and the steps it will take to ensure patients are cared for and each provider type fills their niche. And although cliche' it really is about teamwork and working collaboratively and complimentary of one another towards the same goal...quality & cost-effecient patient care.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Celebrate a nurse

Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the mainstream and healthcare media regarding ‘turf and title wars” between healthcare providers, namely physicians and nurses that has resulted in nurses being painted in a negative light. (Fox News Health Blog) Nurses have been characterized to be less intelligent than physicians, only going to nursing school because they were unable to get into medical school, that physicians are the only providers saving the lives of patients and nurses are merely task-masters and have no role in the recovery and outcomes of patients.

During this time of uncertainty within the healthcare delivery system, I find it incredibly demeaning and inappropriate that instead of looking toward common goals (patient care) that we are bickering about who is smarter, who has more education and who can provide care or perform what skill. Interestingly, the myriad of medical-drama television programs portray physicians frequently performing nursing roles with a disproportionately higher number of physicians to nurses.

There is no doubt that nurses are not content with the current system –an increasingly growing number of sicker patients in the acute care setting with less resources resulting in poor patient outcomes. Impending Medicare cuts (for both primary care and hospitals), an ever changing and evolving healthcare landscape and decreasing numbers of all levels and types of providers; this includes physical therapists, pharmacists and respiratory therapists just to name a few. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the current resources and collaborative practice?

Maybe the discussion we should be having is how can physicians, nurses, advanced practice nurses and all other care services provide safe, efficient, and competent care together?

With so many unknowns related to the healthcare reform bill, it is time to seriously look that the global impact that the changes are going to have on all providers and patients. We are all professionals and deserve to be treated with respect no matter education level or title we have.

It is time for nurses to let their voices be heard and re-educate others about the important role they play in providing safe, quality healthcare.

Happy Nurses Week to the 2 million strong and intelligent nurses across the country.

And remember to say thank you - they might just save your life one day!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Would you like fries with that?

I recently overheard a conversation in which a patient was berating the nurse for the temperature of the food on his tray and that he could not see outside his room from where he was sitting.

Disclaimer: I am huge patient advocate and in most cases will look at a situation from the patient’s point of view as they are most vulnerable and it is our responsibility as nurses to provide competent care, ensure their safety and preserve their dignity and rights in the process…however in this particular case, the patient was treating the nurse more like a waitress than a professional. The part of the conversation I encountered upon was only a small part of the patient-nurse dynamic that had been transpiring. The tone of voice and demanding attitude towards the nurse were inappropriate and belittling. She felt that everything she did was not good enough and was spending an inordinate amount of time trying to please him, meanwhile getting behind in her medications and patient assessments. This nurse handled herself with great poise and patience, yet he continued to be demanding.

Nurses are not waitresses. Nor are they babysitters or activity directors. Yet, much of a nurse’s shift is spent making sure the patients are happy instead of cared for. I understand that the role of the nurse is multifaceted and must care for the whole patient, however there comes a point when fluffing pillows and entertaining patients interferes with real nurses work – taking care of patients. The quest for patient satisfaction has perhaps swung the pendulum too far. I am sure some would argue that is part of a nurse’s job. I would however challenge that if nursing has truly become no more than providing hospitality services, then why do we expect nurses to be educated, make critical decisions, provide complex care and so much more around the clock?

I think this situation is a symptom of a bigger problem…entitlement. Everywhere people go, the customer is always right, the service must be outstanding, the product must be perfect and if not the right to complain about it is theirs. Healthcare is different and hospitals are not hotels. There is no room for social admissions anymore; beds are tight and resources are short. If you are well enough to notice the food is cold and want to see into the hallway to people watch you are most likely too well to be in the hospital (this a perfect example of healthcare waste) and would be better off going to Burger King where you can have your way.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's a new day

and I am back...or at least I hope to be. I cannot believe it has been nearly a year since I last posted to my blog. So much has changed in these past 11 months, but wasn't hasn't changed are my passions: nursing/patient care and coastal living.

Stay tuned as I find my way back to the blogging world!