Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just following orders? Is it okay to say no?

Recently the American Nurses Association (ANA) has publicly supported a Navy nurse that has refused to force-feed Guantanamo Bay detainees that have refused to eat and are on self-imposed hunger strikes.   Each case is reviewed by a senior medical officer and determined if force-feeding is necessary. If ordered, the detainee is strapped in a 5-point restraint system in a chair and the nurse then proceeds to place a nasogastric feeding tube and administers tube feed consisting of Ensure (according to the cited article: Top nursing group backs Navy nurse who wouldn’t force-feed at Guantánamo) The controversy in this case is whether the nurse was wrongly removed from duty for refusing to carry out the force-feedings. The ANA is supporting the nurse and believes that a nurse should not carry out an out that he or she feels is unethical. 

Reading this story I began thinking of patients in the hospital setting. How often do these type of situations occur? How often are nurses faced with situations that are dancing on the edge of being ethical? Whether it is placing a patient in restraints or feeding a patient that has already refused via an advanced directive or giving a medication for an unapproved use or performing CPR on a DNR patient; how many circumstances come close to being questionable? Maybe the actions are not as violent as restraining a patient to slip a tube through their nose into their gut so that liquid food may be given to them like a drug; however placing wrist or hand restraints on a frightened elderly woman with advanced dementia who keeps shaking the side rails of her bed could be similar.

The point is there are times when nurses can say "No, I cannot do this or that" for ethical reasons. Maybe the more appropriate question is how many times do nurses speak up or question the order? Is this grounds for dismissal or is there any recourse? 

I think that a fundamental question needs to be asked...will these actions either way harm the patient? If withholding care will result in injury or death the nurse has a duty and obligation to ensure the patient is safe and receives the care they need. However if the nurse is being asked to do something that could result in harm that would need to be reported that the order is not being carried out and why to the supervisor. Remember nursing practice should be guided by the ethical principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence - to "do no harm" and to be compassionate and "desire to do good." 

The story of the nurse and detainee is troubling because it makes me wonder the principle of autonomy is in this situation. Has that right been forfeited because he is a prisoner so the other principles are also null and void as well? As a nurse this is confusing and somewhat undermines are core values that guide are practice. I will continue to follow this story as the outcome is important to nurses as clinicians and decision-makers everywhere.

ANA Short Definitions of Ethical Principles and Theories 

Read more here:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Can't we all get along? Making true collaboration work

I recently read a Blog posted on the Society of Hospital Medicine regarding relationships between physicians and non-physician providers, namely nurse practitioners. It was interesting as I could not agree more with the points in the blog as barriers to successful hospitalist or other collaborative care models. The author summarized well what I believe are key issues that can create toxic environments for nurse practitioners and physician assistants and ultimately affect patient care. I truly believe that there is a place for all providers and that are many successful   practices both in and out of the hospital setting in which physicians and nurse practitioners work along side of each other to delivery high-quality and cost-effective care.

The big winner in this is the patient. But so are all the providers if we can all get over ourselves and truly work as colleagues, together!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why we are here

We have this thing, my husband and I. I protest that life is hectic and timing is impossible and that I am not 'feeling' that I am ready for the trip from the east coast. He talks me up and tells me how I will feel once the conference starts and I meet up with nurses from all over the country and begin networking. But my presentation isn't quite perfect. It will be, he coaxes. I have so much to do. You need to recharge your professional batteries he reminds me.

It takes little time to feel the energy of AACN's NTI. From the flight attendants giving a 'shout out' to the nurses on the plane, or the LED sign welcoming AACN Nurses to Denver or walking into the conference center and picking up your materials working out your schedules for the week.

It is day one of NTI2014.

On the phone he reminds me why am I here. And I have to admit he was right. Recharge and renew.

Why are you here? What will you learn? What will you take away?

Today we Step Forward in Denver together for NTI 2014.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Not a physician, not a nurse...what?

APRN Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
ACNPC Acute Care Nurse Practitioner-Certified
CCNS Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist
CEN Certified Emergency Nurse 
Are you following the pattern?  I could go on...
These are examples of just some of the many certifications for nurses in specialized areas of care. And please excuse the underlying snarky tone as I am not feeling so "happy" after this past Certified Nurse Day.

Disclaimer: I am very proud to be a nurse and promote clinical excellence through certification - this is not a swipe at certification  or certified nurses!

So let me set the scene. I primarily work as an ACNP specifically as a Hospitalist and part time as a CNS. I also work as nursing faculty at a local university. During this past certified nurses day a unit clerk asked in general to anyone in earshot is it CNA day? (meaning certified nursing assistants day)  I spoke up and said no, it's certified nurses day - a day to recognize nurses that have obtained specialty certification, I gave him examples of my certifications and the clerk pointed to a list on a wall and said I was not on the list and finished with "well you're a doctor". "Umm, well actually I'm not. I did not go to medical school. Well you're not a nurse anymore," was the reply. Wow! I was not prepared for that. As it turned out this person was not alone in this perception.

Interestingly, I am no longer considered part of the nursing staff but not "part" of the medical staff. I have to abide by the medical staff by laws. I am not allowed to eat meals in the medical staff lounge or get free meals in the cafeteria. I am part of the "Allied Health Staff" which includes NPs, PAs, CNRAs,  & CMWs; we all pay dues. But we have no leadership. No meetings. No organization. No lounge. And we are not welcome at either nursing meetings or medical staff meetings.

So if I'm not physician and not a nurse, what am I? I know that I am not the only nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist that has been experienced something similar? Please don't get me wrong, I have a great working relationship with most of the medical and nursing staff members and I love my both of APRN positions. And most of all I LOVE being a nurse.

I continue to educate the staff on my evolving roles (I started out as a staff nurse and worked my way through school and various positions).  And to either our determent or benefit, I think we [nurses] will continue to educate others on what we do at every level as we continue to diversify our roles in healthcare.

I know I am not a physician. I do not pretend to be. I am an acute care NURSE practitioner and clinical NURSE specialist and I believe that I offer my patients something my physician counterparts do not. I am proud of my roots and my education and experience...and most of all my certifications. All of them!