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Why Mid-Level is a Dirty Word

A colleague of mine recently described herself as a “mid-level provider.”thumbs-down1

I cringed.

There is nothing mid-level about her.  She has spent over six years in a university and hundreds of clinical hours learning to become a Nurse Practitioner, not half of a physician.  She spent years as a bedside nurse prior to advancing her education to become a NP.  Physicians and nurses have two separate career paths in which they collaborate to care for men, women, and children.

When I first heard the term “midlevel” I wondered if the Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) is in the middle, who is above and below?  If APRNs are viewed as below physicians, does that make her above registered nurses?  An APRN has advanced assessment skill and practice authority, but she is still a nurse.  She always maintains her registered nurse license.  An APRN does not graduate from or stop being a nurse when she becomes an advanced practice nurse!

Words mean things. Why would anyone want to go see someone for their healthcare needs that is described as “mid-level?”  APRNs produce the same good outcomes as other primary care providers.  Their outcomes are not mid-level, their care is not mid-level, and their experience is not mid-level.

The use of “mid-level” comes from the U.S. government.  They use the terms mid-level and non-physician practitioner to describe APRNS and Physicians Assistants (PA).  The APRN Consensus Model encourages the use of the term Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) to describe Nurse Midwives, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Anesthetists, and Nurse Practitioners.    With the implementation of the APRN Consensus Model, throughout the majority of the United States, the use of APRN is increasing. It is being used more in legislative language too.  Despit this progress, the use of “mid-level” is still rampant. We need to encourage the use of APRN in our professional circles.

 

 

Standing together, as healthcare professionals, we can promote the good work of APRNs by using an accurate descriptor.  Our patients are listening.

 

 

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Joy Who?

The internet was in an uproar. Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, delivered a monologue about her experience of being “just a nurse” for the talent portion of the Miss America pageant. I watched it on YouTube the night of the contest. Like many nurses, I felt all the warm, fuzzy, nurse feelings and even got a little misty eyed. By Tuesday morning, the news reached my Facebook nursing groups. Joy Behar and Michelle Collins had mocked Miss Colorado on The View. Ms. Collins thought it would be a good laugh to poke fun at the heartfelt monologue delivered by Nurse Kelley. Ms Behar chimed in with the question, “why does she have a doctor’s stethoscope around her neck?”

A doctor’s stethoscope! Behar poked a sleeping bear with those words. Nurses roared into action as the disparaging remarks reached nurses across the globe. Hashtags like #nursesshareyourstethoscopes, #nursesrock, #nursesmatter, #notacostume, #mytalentisnursing, #nursesunite and #notjustanurse began trending on social media. I wish that Ms. Behar and Ms. Collins had supported Nurse Kelley, not only as a healthcare professional, but as a woman. It was disturbing to watch an all-woman-panel mock another woman for sharing her talent, the art of nursing.

The backlash from three million nurses was swift and strong. Pictures of nurses wearing stethoscopes flooded my news feeds. I spent time retweeting every one of my fellow nurses posts about the scandal. I was caught up in the collective outrage and for a few days I felt united with my sister and brother nurses.

Weeks later, the nurse hashtags have stopped trending and the conversation has changed to other hot topics. All of the nurse empowerment energy has evaporated.

Have we once again become stethescope#justnurses?

Joy Behar’s comment was careless. It was a throw away thing to say to fill up space and to seem like she had something intelligent to add to the conversation. I don’t believe that she meant it maliciously, she was being thoughtless. Her thoughtlessness united nurses in a way that I have not seen since nurses jumped on planes and busses to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The energy on social media was exciting. It was gratifying to read supportive comments and see nurses being given positive attention. I loved seeing all the stethoscopes and reading nursing stories about where those stethoscopes have been. For a few days it has felt like nurses were united and a part of a large community. United in their outrage of being publicly mocked.
It is now clear that nurses have the ability to direct national conversations. Where have all the hashtags gone? Why aren’t there trending hashtags like #endhealthdisparity, #decreasepatientratios, #stoplateralviolence, #nurseautonomy, or #APRNsIncreaseAccessToHealthcare? Healthcare policy and laws are influenced by a handful of lobbyists and legislators. These lobbyists and legislators number far fewer than three million nurses, but their decisions affect the entire nation. Can you envision a healthcare system being directed by our modern day Florence Nightingales and Clara Bartons, with the support of the national nursing community?
The best thing that could result from this stethoscope spectacle would be for nurses to finally find their voice.

We have power to influence, educate and advocate for the healthcare changes that we know we need. We can command a national stage whenever we choose to unite behind a cause. Its time to come together to influence issues that affect our friends, neighbors and families. Nurses are never just nurses, it is time to prove it.

To take action start here: American Nurses Association

 

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The Little Blue Button

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A “code” is the term that medical professionals use to describe the orchestrated chaos that surrounds a patient that is on the brink of death.  Depending on the facility a code may be called a Code Blue, Code Red, Code CPR, or sometimes Code 99.  They all mean the same thing.  A person is about to die unless there are medical interventions made immediately.  Sometimes it means that death will come no matter how hard we try to stop it.

 

A few months past graduation I experienced my first code on my own patient.  The man had been verbally abusing me all day.  I had been running around trying to make him happy and also care for my other five patients.  He was bellowing from his bed that he was going to die.  A lot of patients speak in that way, but something about the way he said it terrified me a little.  All his vitals, physical assessment findings and that he was able to yell with so much energy all assured me that he was stable.  I called the physician anyway.  He agreed to assess the patient. I went to check on my suddenly quiet patient.  When I walked into the room I knew something was different.  I will never forget how grey he looked.  I froze in a moment that felt like eternity while I listened and looked for breathing.  It only took a few seconds to confirm.  I reached up above his head and pressed the small blue button.

 

I was the person yelling now.

 

I called above the alarm sound for help. Help came.  Almost before I could lay the patient flat in the bed, a nursing aid, with a football player build, began chest compressions.  Respiratory commanded the head of the bed, bagging and preparing for intubation. A metal crash cart clanked into existence, pushed by my charge nurse.  The emergency room physician and intensive care nurse rushed in together. The ICU nurse asked who the primary nurse was.  All I could think was ‘Oh Crap! That’s me.’  She told me to grab the chart (that’s back when patient’s records were big, clunky, 2-ringed, plastic folders stuffed with a ream of paper printouts and handwritten notes) and call the patient’s physician.

 

I ran to the desk and called the doctor again. He was just getting off the elevator. We met at the patient’s bedside. I calmly answered questions about history, vitals, and labs, all while the resuscitation dance continued.  I was calm only on the outside.  Inside my mind raced, searching for what I might have missed.  This man had been screaming at me all shift.  How could we be coding him now?  I couldn’t think of anything I could have or would have changed.  Even now looking back, with much more experience, I know gave him appropriate care.  I watched the code continue, clutching the hard plastic chart.  I optimistically observed that his color was pink again.  Surely that was a good sign, I told myself.

 

As if someone had flipped a switch, everything stopped.

 

The ER physician called time of death after nearly 40 minutes of trying to coax my patient back to life.  I watched as my patient lost his rosy color while the team waded through the open package wrappers that had been hastily discarded on the floor.  The CNA stayed and helped me to clear the debris and prepare my patient for the morgue.  The aftermath of the code was over quickly.  I think that is what stunned me the most.  The physicians and nurses went on caring for their patients.  Housekeeping came and cleaned the room for my next admission.  I did not have time to cry or sit in disbelief or process what had happened.

 

The shift went on and so did I.

 

I have since been to countless codes.  Sometimes I am doing the compressions.  Sometimes I am the nurse directing the chaos.  Occasionally I am the primary nurse questioning every action I did or didn’t make that shift. Luckily one aspect of patient codes has changed since I was a new nurse.  It is now an expectation in many hospitals that a debrief occurs after a code, regardless of the outcome.

 

A debrief is conducted as soon as possible after the event.  All available team members are expected to attend.  It is a confidential and non-discoverable group discussion of the event.  The purpose is to discuss the facts, problems, barriers, needed improvements and to acknowledge and share feelings.  This is not a time to place blame or try to find fault with one another. This opportunity to discuss the event and acknowledge how we feel about it is a valuable practice.  I never want to feel that losing a patient is business as usual.

 

Debriefing is the pause that we need to take to acknowledge, gain knowledge and make adjustments for the next time we press that little blue button.

 

 


Debriefing Steps 

1. Introduction: The facilitator establishes the group goals and rules and reinforces the need for confidentiality about anything that transpires within the group.

2. Fact gathering: Each staff person describes what happened and facts are gathered.

3. Reaction phase: Led by the facilitator, the group examines its feelings, thoughts, and responses to the event experienced. If the debriefing session happens soon after the event occurred, there might not be any symptoms.

4. Symptom phase: If some time has elapsed since the event, group members may be experiencing symptoms. The facilitator helps the group examine how these reactions have affected personal and work lives.

5. Stress response: The facilitator teaches group members about their stress response.

6. Suggestions: The facilitator offers guidance on how to cope with stress related to the incident.

7. Incident phase: Group members identify positive aspects of the event.

8. Referral phase: The facilitator concludes with this phase, whereby specific individuals who require additional support are referred for individual follow-up.     

Adapted from: Hanna, D., & Romana, M. (2007). Debriefing After A Crisis. Nursing Management (Springhouse), 38-42,44–45,47.


This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival.

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*all accounts are fictional
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