Archive for October, 2008

Why Should Nurses Vote?

Posted in Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Travel Nursing

Why should nurses vote?

What’s at stake in this election for nurses? There are two vital issues; the economy and health care. In many ways these two issues are intertwined and they both impact nurses immensely.

In a struggling economy, be assured that hospital administrators will be making cuts to maintain some margin of profit or keep losses to a minimum. That means fewer nurses and a shortage of beds for those who need them most. In other health care settings, administrators will face similar financial decisions and will be making cutbacks in staffing as well.

As the economy began to take a turn for the worse several months ago, many non-active nurses returned to the field for their own financial security. This factor helped to temporarily address some of the shortage of nurses which in turn affected opportunities for foreign born nurses as well as travel nurses. With more permanent staff available, the need to help nurses immigrate or to use travel nurses has declined in some areas, and not in others.

Now as the economy worsens, the fear is that hospitals and other healthcare facilities will have to make mild to severe cutbacks. In states where mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios exist, hospitals will be forced to take a closer look at how much they can cut back and still offer quality healthcare in their communities. Mandatory overtime could and probably will become even more of an issue if that proves to be more economical for the facility.

Each of the Presidential candidates has expressed a view of the health care crisis in this country and has developed a comprehensive plan to address the issue. They have each made note of the nurse’s role in the health care system and expressed their level of support of nurses. After careful consideration, the American Nurses Association has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

Each of the candidate’s plans for economic reform and for health care reform shows a deep concern for the American people in keeping with their own political party views.

The 2004 Presidential election was decided by a little more than 500 votes. This election stands to be a very close one as well. There are 2.9 million nurses in the U.S. and health care is the largest industry in this country. Your vote is very important. Please be sure to exercise your right to VOTE on November 4.

No matter who you vote for, the important issue is that you get out and VOTE on Nov. 4. Many states allow early voting to help those who may have scheduling conflicts on voting day. For nurses, this may be a very useful alternative, especially for those who work 7AM to 7PM and may not get to the polls in time to cast their ballot. Absentee ballots are another alternative, but it may be too late to request one now.

With rights come responsibilities. Make sure you make an informed choice. In many elections across the country, voters will be choosing state and local representatives as well as voting on ballot initiatives. Read your voter information carefully and research the candidates and issues; especially in regard to how they impact nurses and healthcare.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and is author/owner of

© 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Common Errors in Patient Education

Posted in Nursing, Uncategorized

Common Errors in Patient Education

One of the most important aspects of the nurse’s role is to educate patients. To do that effectively, there are a couple of points that nurses (as well as other health care professionals) should be aware of.

One is that health care illiteracy affects over one half of all Americans. Regardless of their ability to read and write, or their level of education, Americans don’t understand the health care system and how it works. They don’t even understand enough most of the time to know that they don’t understand.

The other point is that as a result of this problem, the Institute for Health Care Advancement (IHA)points out that costs are continuing to rise to the point of, “as much as $236 billion in unnecessary health care expenses annually due to the inability of patients to understand what medical providers are communicating to them.”

The IHA has complied a guide for health care professionals and consumers to help eliminate some of these problems. This list is composed of the 10 Most Common Errors Medical Professionals Make When Communicating with Their Patients.

Some of the points in this document include:

  • Prescription drug instructions are often written at a 10th or 11th grade reading level. Most of the population reads at a 5th grade level.
  • Communicating with patients using medical or other technical jargon such as “otitis media” or “myocardial infarction” instead of using laypersons’ terms such as “ear ache” or heart attack.”
  • Telling patients to go read about their condition, treatments or medications on the Internet when this information might be too complex, might disagree with the physician’s course of treatment, or the patient may not have access or know how to search the Internet.
  • Handing out reading material which is printed in too small a font to be easily read, especially by seniors who represent the largest portion of the population.
  • Not using simple graphics or other visual aids to enhance the patient’s understanding.
  • Not recognizing that the patient is nodding or saying “yes” as more of a means to be polite and not necessarily because s/he understands what is being said.

Providers should always ask patients to repeat back to them in their own words what they interpret to be the information or instructions given to them. Tis is the best way for the provider to be sure the patient understands correctly and then to make clarifications as needed.

Not demonstrating cultural awareness and how cultural differences may affect the patient’s ability to comply and to succeed with a treatment or other regimen.

  • Speaking too quickly and not allowing the patient time to formulate or ask questions.
  • Not providing the information and instructions in the patient’s first language.
  • Not taking time to adequately explain the meaning of terms on prescription drug labels. For example, “Take With Food,” is written at a 1st or 2nd grade level, but what does it really mean? Studies have shown that some patients have interpreted this as meaning stuffing the pill into a piece of solid food and swallowing it without taking any liquid. This could have varying degrees of problems depending upon the drug and even the size of the pill.

Other problems patients typically have difficulty with include how and when to make follow up appointments, where to go for tests, and even which medications should be refilled and continued versus a course of antibiotics.

Even the most highly educated patients may not understand medical information. Nurses, as the primary health educators, need to understand how to educate patients as well as how to evaluate the patient’s understanding before they leave.

Helen Osborne M.Ed.,OTR/L, Health Literacy Consulting (
By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the author/owner of

©2008 by All Rights Reserved

Questions to Ask in Your Job Interview

Posted in Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Travel Nursing

Questions to Ask in Your Job Interview

When preparing for your job interview, here are some of the questions you should consider. Be sure to adapt them to your own needs and goals. Add or subtract from this list as appropriate for your unique situation. Make your own list and take it with you to the interview.

Understand the orientation and continuing education process offered

  • How long will my orientation last?
  • Will I be offered additional time if I feel I need it?
  • Will my orientation be provided on the shift I will be working?
  • Will I have a preceptor or mentor?
  • Is there an internship program for new grads?
  • How often do you offer in-services and other education opportunities?
  • What are your expectations for new hires during the first six months?
  • Are nurse educators available on all shifts?

Ask about the working conditions.

  • What is the typical nurse-to-patient ratio on this unit? Is there a maximum?
  • What are the days/hours available? How long are the shifts?
  • What is the policy for weekend and holiday rotation?
  • Is there flexibility to the schedule? Can nurses trade days off with each other?
  • Who does the scheduling?
  • Is there mandatory overtime? How often?
  • Is there an on-call responsibility? If so, explain the requirements and conditions.
  • How many nurses work on this unit? On each shift?
  • How long have most of the nurses worked on this unit? (Turn over rate?)
  • How long has this position been vacant? Why did the previous person leave?

Then ask about the management and administration.

  • How do you motivate your employees?
  • What do you do to boost morale?
  • What is your management style?
  • How much autonomy do your nurses feel they have?
  • How do you demonstrate that you value your nursing staff?
  • How often are performance evaluations done and what is the process?
  • How much input does the staff have about patient care and other issues on the unit?
  • How do you handle conflict between staff members?
  • Are there any challenges that this unit or facility is facing or anticipates in the next year?
  • Would you support a nurse looking to transfer for career growth or hold him/her back due to your own staffing issues?
  • How do you ensure safe working conditions for your staff?
  • What are the career growth opportunities?
  • Why would I want to work here?

Salary and Benefits
Typically the interviewer will bring up this subject first so wait and follow their lead, but be sure you understand thoroughly and make your negotiations up front.

  • What is the salary? Is there a shift differential involved?
  • What is the salary policy regarding weekends, holidays and overtime?
  • What is included in the benefits package? Is there a salary adjustment allowed if some benefits are waived such as health insurance that your spouse provides?
  • How much vacation, sick leave and other time off and how is the time accrued?
  • How are raises handled? Are there merit increases, cost-of-living adjustments, etc.? How often are they given? What is the typical amount?
  • Are there any tuition reimbursement plans?
  • Are there any incentives such as sign-on bonuses, concierge services, mortgage or housing assistance plans, etc.? What are the specifics of these options?

Have a clear understanding of the position and assess how it measures up to your needs and goals before accepting any offer of employment.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN
Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the owner/author of

©2008 by All Rights Reserved.

How to Use the Interview Process

Posted in Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Travel Nursing

How to Use the Interview Process

The interview process is a time for the employer as well as the applicant to exchange information. It is not just about the employer learning more about you. This is your chance to find out more about the employer and the job at hand.

You might be an excellent choice from their perspective, but how does this position and employer fit your needs and goals? To assess this, you need to first understand what your own needs and goals are. These will be unique to you.

If you are currently employed and looking for a change, consider the factors that have driven you to this point. Make a list of the pros and cons of your present situation and prioritize these points. What do you need in a new position to make it a more satisfying and rewarding situation?

You might need a change of venue. Perhaps you need a slower paced environment or maybe even crave something more challenging and faster paced. Maybe you need a more positive experience such as a change away from hospice or oncology. Or perhaps you’re looking for a career path opportunity.

If this is your first nursing job, you will need to consider a few other issues such as the orientation and learning opportunities for new grads.

If you are a travel nurse, you will reevaluate your needs and goals much more frequently and will have perhaps perfected the interview process with recruiters as well as with facilities.

Being prepared for your interview will help you to demonstrate the fact that you are organized, able to prioritize, and have a strong understanding of your personal goals and needs.

Once you have completed the list of priorities for your new job, consider some of the questions you may need to ask in your interview and how to fine tune them to your individual needs and goals. These questions will also help you to demonstrate your knowledge base and interest in the opportunity.

Arrive for your interview early and be professional. Be neat, clean and well-groomed. That includes your hair, nails and any facial hair. Your clothing should be clean and professional.

Be sure you have all of your documentation with you such a licenses, social security card, and names and contact information for references. Have a black pen that writes which you are comfortable using. Be neat and legible with all of your paperwork.

Prepare your answers about any gaps or other issues in your resume. Be ready to discuss your skills and talents as well as your expectations and goals. If you need a second to consider an answer, say so instead of stumbling, stammering or giving the deadly “deer in the headlights” look.

Use direct eye contact and be aware of your body language. Thank the person for their time and this opportunity. Send a follow up thank you note or email. Remember that anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is too good to be true. Take some time to consider any offer that is made.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN
Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book, and is owner/author of

©2008 by All Rights Reserved.