Friday, November 30, 2012

Lab Exam today, part 2

Whew.  It is over.  It went well. It went exactly as I expected, in terms of calming down inside as soon as I started and focused on what needed to be done.

In my previous communications career, we would refer to a post-event analysis or evaluation of how it went, a "post-mortem".  In my current career, that somehow doesn't seem quite appropriate, especially considering nobody actually died....

Of course, of the four assessments we had to prepare, I drew the paper that said I had to do musculoskeletal/neuro exam...which was the one I least wanted to do. Murphy's Law, I guess.  Luckily, it was the one I'd prepared for the most, as it was my weakest one, so I guess it all went well, in the end.

And now I'm in that post-exam happy place, where I breathe a big sigh of relief, of gratitude that it's over, that I prepared the way I did in order to feel good about how I did, and most of all, gratitude that I'm in nursing school (mentally insert Kate's happy dance here!!! LOL!)

I'm so happy that's over.  But I really learned so much in the preparation for this exam.  You need a cardiovascular, respiratory, GI or musculoskeletal/neurological assessment done, you come to me.  You'll get a thorough one!

And, yes, I remembered my 'critical elements' - hand washing and ensuring patient privacy - omitting those would have guaranteed an exam failure, no matter how perfectly you did everything else.  So all is truly well.

Just three more classes and three more exams to do, and second year is half way finished.  Next term the real fun starts -- practicing our new skills on real people!

Now to prepare and pack for a weekend of winter camping....brrrrrr...

Lab Exam today

I am a jumble of nerves, as I wait for the lab exam waiting for me later today. 

Logically, there is no real need for these nerves to be jangling...I am prepared, I've done several run-throughs of the various body system assessments we need to prepare, I know what I'm doing. And I can talk about it-- yes indeed, I can talk.  Never had a problem in that department!

But, it's just like so many other times when I'm waiting for something - an interview, a piano competition (back in the day!), giving a presentation at work, an exam - the waiting is always the hardest part.  Mentally, I'm counting down the hours and minutes until it's time to perform.

"Perform" is actually a great word to describe today's exam.  Once it starts, I switch from jangled nerve mode, into performance mode.  The adrenalin kick in just enough to give me a energetic edge, and once I start talking, all is well.  The nerves subside and I focus on what I'm actually doing.  That's the phase I love to be in, when I'm "on".  That's a great feeling, as I actually do really enjoy public speaking and presenting. (It's just the build up to doing it, that I could do without!)

Another aspect I realized, that really works for me, when giving presentations or verbal lab exams, is not to over-prepare.  There is a fine line between being confident in knowing the outline of what you're going to say, and actually memorizing too much. 

In my experience, I truly need to know the outline - the topics I wish to present, and a few key points to absolutely mention.  These are the 'hooks' on which I base my presentation.  However, if I try to memorize sentences or phrases, I find that way too stressful, in the off chance I don't remember it exactly the way I wrote it.  So I don't do that!  It's much easier to just talk about the topic, to ad lib, than to try to memorize everything.

At times like today, I almost wish I could just have been content sitting at my desk job, with no exam stress in my system.  But as soon as the exam is over, I'm back to rejoicing that I have this incredible opportunity to create this new career in the medical field.  This is where I belong, without the shadow of any doubt.  Career-wise, this is truly where I'm meant to be.

Off I go, to run through the intro once more...and then find something constructive to occupy my time with, until it's time to go to lab....wish me luck!  I'll be so happy when this is over!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Great New Reasons to Wash Your Hands, Often!

The semester is winding down, and exams will be upon us very fact, as early as this coming Friday.  Friday's exam is a lab exam, which I truly love doing.  What a welcome change to be graded on "how" I do procedures and explain what I'm thinking and doing, rather than how well I can memorize facts and figure out how not to be tricked on multiple-choice questions.  Those types of exams will come in about two weeks time...

In the interim, I prepare and study.  Critical components of Friday's lab exam includes proper hand washing techniques, cleaning our stethoscope bell, and ensuring patient privacy -- and doing them at appropriate times.  We can fail the exam (and hence the entire course, which involves a significant theory component, too), if we forget to simply show proper hand cleansing during the simluation exam.  Ouch.

Here's an interesting list I came across, on an amazing nursing forum, called  If you click on the title below, it is a link that will take you to the actual site. 

I'll probably be thinking of this list from now on, when I push elevator buttons at a hospital.  UGH!!!  (Even more reason to take the stairs, and work in a bit of exercise!!!)


(870 more days to go....)


Great New Reasons to Wash Your Hands, Often! - General Nursing Discussion

We as Nurses know this one. We even know little cute ways to know how long to wash them(i.e. alphabet song, happy birthday, etc.). A new study conducted by our University Hospital's Medical Tech Program reminded me that Bacterial Colonies, Fungal Spores, and Viruses love the things we touch the most!

Here is the list of the top 10 "most infected" surfaces according to 10 Students swabbing 218 Inpatient Hospital Items.

10. Toilet Flush Lever
9. Soap Dispenser Button
8. Salt/Pepper Shaker in Staff Cafeteria (see #6)
7. Rim of sink (cleaned daily)
6. Cafeteria Cleaning rag
5. An Elevator button (Ground Floor)
4. Water Fountain Handle
3. (TIE) A Patient's Bed's TV Button and Handle of a Patient's Thermos
2. A Stethoscope's Bell (Owned by Infection Control RN)
1. Nursing Desk Phone..."best(Worst?) in show"? The "S" key of one of the "Staff Only" Computers. Now I think "Staph Computer" may better sum it up.

"Dishonorable" Mentions:

Some surfaces' ranks that didn't make the top 10 included a toilet seat (#88), a hearing aid (#31), a BSC (#47), an Emesis Basin (#20), a used tube of Wound Gel (#11), and an abandoned pair of Dentures left in moist Zip-Lock bag (#12)!!!

Do you have any advice for Infection Control Methods?

What are some disturbing things you have seen, that, if given the authority to change, it would be safer/more sanitary?

Do you wash your hands in patients' room for them to witness?

Is enough hand hygiene taught at your facility, and if so do you see it being followed?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Exercise - can you spare 10 minutes a day???

10 minutes a day.
Surely we all have 10 minutes a day to invest in ourselves. 
Surely our health is enough of a priority to dedicate 10 minutes a day to it.
Just ten minutes. 600 seconds. How many chunks of 10 minutes do we waste every day, checking email or FB for the upteenth time...I am guilty of that myself.  But I also have 10 minutes a day to dedicate to me (even 30 or 40 minutes!).


And I'm not even talking about exercise as intense as running.  I'm talking about a simple walk. Not a stroll, but a determined walk.  No exercise clothes are required.  No sweat build up. Just a simple brisk walk.

We all owe it to ourselves to dedicate 10 minutes a day to our health.  Most people take it for granted until it changes. 

10 minutes folks!  Give it a try!!!  Challenge yourselves. Your body will thank you.



Exercising 10 minutes a day can boost life expectancy

Researchers pooled data on 650,000 people 40 and older in Sweden, U.S

Even as little as 75 minutes a week of physical activity can extend your life by nearly two years, according to U.S. researchers who found some benefits regardless of body weight.

The study by Steven Moore of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and his co-authors also suggests that regular activity would boost life expectancy even more.

The researchers pooled data on 650,000 men and women aged 40 and older in Sweden and the U.S. who reported their activity levels.

The findings show that 75 minutes a week — or just over 10 minutes a day — was associated with 1.8 years of added life expectancy, compared to getting no leisure-time activity.

As well, brisk walking for 450 minutes a week, just over an hour a day, was associated with living 4.5 years longer.

The researchers in the study in PLOS Medicine hope the findings convince sedentary people that even a modest physical activity program can boost health.The researchers in the study in PLOS Medicine hope the findings convince sedentary people that even a modest physical activity program can boost health. (Nikki Carlson/Havre Daily News/Associated Press)

"More leisure-time physical activity was associated with longer life expectancy across a range of activity levels and body mass index groups," they said in the November issue of the journal PLOS Medicine, published by the Public Library of Science.

Investigators also considered weight categories:
  • Being active and at a normal weight — the best-case scenario — were associated with a gain of 7.2 years of life, compared with being inactive and in the highest obese category.
  • A normal-weight person who is inactive could face a loss of 4.7 years of life.
"This finding may help convince currently inactive persons that a modest physical activity program is 'worth it' for healthy benefits, even if it may not result in weight control."

Long-term cigarette smoking reduces life expectancy by about 10 years, notes the study, which was funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Intensity rule of thumb

Between 2007 and 2009, only 15 per cent of adults were getting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity to gain health benefits, according to Statistics Canada's Health Measures survey.

"As a good rule of thumb, if you're taking time and you have to think about your breathing and you feel that you're warm and sweaty afterwards, that's the type of activity we're looking at to get these health benefits," said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky of the pediatrics department at McMaster University in Hamilton, where he studies how exercise helps metabolism such as repairing age-related damage.
What this study and others suggest is that it's the first 30 minutes of vigorous activity that gives the majority of benefits, Tarnopolsky added.

Lack of motivation is a common barrier to getting physical activity, says Tanya Berry.Lack of motivation is a common barrier to getting physical activity, says Tanya Berry. (CBC)
A journal editorial cautioned that participants self-reported their heights and weights and leisure-time physical activity, which may have been overestimated.

Other factors also could have influenced the findings in the observational study, although the researchers did take variables such as use of tobacco and alcohol into account.

Overcoming barriers to physical activity

"These findings reinforce the public health message that both a physically active lifestyle and a normal body weight are important for increasing longevity," the editors wrote.
The challenge is getting people to act on the knowledge that physical activity is important for health, said Spencer Moore, an assistant professor in the school of kinesiology and health studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

"In our work, we focus on the importance of having supportive social (e.g., active peers) and built (e.g., available parks, walkable neighbourhoods) environments," Moore said in an email.

"Individuals make the decision to be physically active or not. Having supportive environments around us, however, help to make the healthy choice the easy choice."

Tanya Berry, Canada Research Chair in physical activity promotion at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, studies barriers to physical activity. Time is the top reason cited for not exercising, said Berry.

In Toronto, Melissa Perugini, 20, said she gets no exercise. "Too busy with school and work. No time," she said.

But when people fill out diaries on how they spend their day, Berry adds, most would be able to carve out 35 or 40 minutes a day to at least go for a walk.

"When you're thinking about leisure-time physical activities, where are your priorities?" Berry said. "For a lot of people, physical activity isn't something they enjoy and it's not something that's a priority for them, so motivation becomes a big, big issue."

The immediate increases in energy levels and time spent together being active as a family can be motivating factors.


Monday, November 12, 2012

National Nursing Student Week

Apparently it is "National Nursing Student Week", here in Canada. 

Who knew?!?!

Wishing all my fellow nursing students everywhere, a happy Nursing Student Week!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fitness motivation

My willpower needed a little boost this morning...I am about to go out for my (almost!) 5 km daily soon as I get my duff off this chair and turn the computer off...

Even 10 minutes of exercise a day is better than no exercise...your body will thank you....

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Art of Writing Nursing Notes

I feel I am learning a new language, and learning how to write, both at the same time! 

I already speak five languages, and can muddle my way through a couple others, that are very similar to the ones I know.   I love languages, and was lucky enough to live in several countries where I got to truly learn the languages.  Now I'm learning a new language from a textbook in simulation lab...certainly a new experience!

I also already have a MA in Communications, and spent the vast majority of my government career writing and in strategic communications.  Writing was one of my core strengths in my job...I wrote, planned and project managed for a living.  Writing was so easy, so natural. I knew all the governmentese lingo.  I was fluent in it.  Not anymore!  Now I read my nursing notes and feel like they were written by a five year old.

What a learning curve it is for me to write succinct, yet descriptive medical notes that touch on all the important points that need to be addressed with each patient. The sentences are so intricate.  Medical writing fascinates me, as to how a simple sentence can convery so much information. 

The medical lingo in itself is mostly new. And learning what to include, what is "note worthy" and what is secondary, is currently the biggest hurdle.  Further, today I learned that something as simple as a carelessly written number could make or break a court case, as my nursing notes could be considered invalid evidence. The pressure!

What makes it particularly daunting, is that somebody's life may be on the line.  That was NEVER a factor in any of my previous writing.  Ever.  Now, if I miss documenting something that was, in hindsight, a vital clue for that person's diagnosis, or even if I don't ask the right questions in an interview, the results truly could be life and death. 

I'm not trying to sound melodramatic here.  It's simply coming to realize the full implications of writing in my new career reality.  I never before fully appreciated just how important the writing component is.

That's a lot of responsibility.  I'm up for the challenge, and am reading and practicing as much as I can (yes, I've mentioned before I am somewhat of a 'keener' -- but all joking aside, this is really very important to me to learn to do as best as I can, as quickly as I can.)

I'm hoping it will come more naturally over time and from practice, and most importantly, from experience.  That last factor is probably 'the' most important piece of the puzzle.  We are still only in simulation lab.  Lots of practice and real-life experience, where I can read 'real' nursing notes is bound to help with the learning process.

Any suggestions of books or website that people have found useful in learning this craft would be greatly appreciated.

Have I mentioned recently just how much I'm LOVIN' this career change!?!?!

Happy Future Nurse Kate!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Midterms finished for this term!

Last night was our second lifespan psychology mid-term.  130 multiple-choice questions, which means 130 little circles to be coloured in on the scan sheet.

At one point, I just told myself, "Every little circle you colour in, brings you that much closer to being a nurse."

I'm still having trouble truly seeing the validity and value-added this course gives me, to being a nurse.  On one hand, I think its maybe because I'm not a "traditional" student, that I find little value in this course.  I have experienced pregnancy, labour and delivery, the newborn phase, the toddler phase, the pre-schooler phase, early school years and now the middle-school years (with my oldest).  That's not to say that just because I've experienced these phases with my kids, that I know all there is to know about them -- far from that!  I'm certainly still learning much new information for the exams.  It's just that so much of the course is not new information.  And that parts that generally are new, namely memorizing the various theories, I have a difficult time finding a practical use for in the real world.

Maybe because I'm a "non-traditional" student, I just want to cut to the core, and focus on the nursing material.  Don't get me wrong here, I'm not complaining, I'm just "thinking" with my fingers on the keyboard, about the merits of various courses.  (and there are only three more classes until its over!)

I guess the focused-only-on-nursing-courses approach is what I'd be getting if I'd chosen to the accelerated BScN route.  But that would have caused our family much more undue stress with me attending school full-time, especially over the summer semester when the kids are home.  I'd have been finishing my first term of fourth year right now.

But taking this longer, part-time route (due to credits being accepted that I'd studied previously), is really the right approach, and worth it in the long run for us.  I am forever grateful that I got to spend so much time with my littlest last year, when she was just in school half days, and for the past year, to be able to take my kids to school in the morning, and be home when they come home.  Those are moments that are fleeting and can never be re-gained once they're over.  Our family has definitely benefitted from my career changes, in ways that cannot be quantified.  

Actually, come to think of it, increased parental involvement is definitely a bonus for kids, (and us parents!), in all their various stages of development.  That is something that has been confirmed by my lifespan psychology course! 

Onwards and upwards!

Future Nurse Kate

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ears? I've got a box of ears!

Is it strange that I now want my very own otoscope to add to my 'medical toys' collection???

"There is a box of ears for you to examine."

"Let's go check out the box of ears now."  Yet again, I heard myself utter another sentence that a year or two ago would have seemed completely unprobable for me to say, (unless I had become incoherent due to some bizarre as-yet-unknown and undiagnosed medical condition...) 

So there was this box full of ears for us to peer into.  Each ear had a number assigned to it, and a handy reference chart indicating what ear condition corresponded to it.  Wouldn't it be awesome if it worked that way in real life???  LOL!  ("Let me take a look at your child's ear...aha, it appears she has ear #3, which means she has acute otis media.")

Our simulation lab yesterday was about eyes, ears and the neurological system.  It was a fascinating lab, as usual.  We had to pick new lab partners, so had to part ways with my wonderful first lab partner, Z. 

Now, K and I are partnered up.  She is a sweet and fun wee "young thing".  I'm not sure what she thinks of being paired with a "sweet older thing", but nonetheless, we certainly had a good time in lab, had fun and learned lots.  Really, what more is there?  It's great. 

It's probably a good experience for both of us.  My kids are still very young, as are the kids of the vast majority of our friends, so we have a definite gap in our experiences and encounters with the young adult population.  Our kids' babysitters are adolescents, and at my former job, the youngest colleagues were in their late 20s.  So interraction with the 18-26 age group is one that is definitely lacking in my life.  This will be a very good remainder of simulation lab -- and there are only three labs left before we're allowed to try our new-found basic nursing skills on the unsuspecting public!

Back to yesterday's lab....what I learned....(I learned way more than this, but these were the highlights!)...

- I learned that looking into real (and fake!) eyes and ears is fascinating beyond description. 

- I learned that I really want my own otoscope to be able to check my kids' ears when they get sick.

- I learned that it is practically impossible for me to distinguish between a chronic ear infection and acute ear infection in the fake ear collection.  Thank goodness that is not part of the nursing diagnosis I'll be expected to do in the future...I need to know enough to realize that "this ear does not look healthy" and leave the medical diagnosis to the physicians...

- I learned that if I am examining a patient's right eye, I have to hold the opthalmoscope on MY right eye too (and vice-versa), to avoid an extremely awkward face-to-face position...think about it...

I'm lovin' this nursing school adventure!!!  I am so grateful to be exactly where I am.