Nursing and Autism

With the current rates of autism among children and adults, it may not be surprising for a nurse to run into a person with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Autism diagnoses can range from high functioning, such as Asperger’s Disorder or Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) to low-functioning, non-verbal autism. Just like the person affected by the disorder, the different aspects of an autism disorder are unique and present their own challenges.

Many times, a student nurse pursuing a degree in nursing or a nurse that has worked with autistic patients may wish to specialize in the care of those on the autism spectrum. While there are certifications available within a handful of nursing school or continuing education programs, it may be more important to focus on the location of the nursing job, and its availability to work with these patients.

School nurses are extremely likely to encounter a child with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Unlike decades ago, a child with a special needs diagnosis is encouraged to “mainstream” with children who are not affected by a neurological, developmental or intellectual disorder. There are also specialized schools for those on the spectrum, as well as clinics that may offer services like speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy that have a large percentage of autistic adults and children receiving those services. 

Psychiatry, neurology and developmental pediatric practices are all included in the care and management of patients with an autism diagnosis. On the administrative side of nursing, a nurse case manager can help coordinate different services for the patient, as well as streamline communications between medical facilities, physicians and therapists. Nurse researchers can help discover new treatments and therapies for patients with autism, as well.

For a nurse, working with an autistic patient requires knowledge of the disorder, including its mental, physical and social ramifications. As the number of people affected by an autism spectrum disorder seems to keep growing, medical professionals like nurses can help make a difference in the treatment, coordination or research of this pervasive medical issue.

Preparing for Nursing School in High School

It is never too early to begin considering the best choices to make in order to get into nursing school.  Nursing school admission is a highly competitive process and making choices during the high school years that can give one a competitive edge is one of the best ways to smooth the transition from student to nurse.

Algebra is used in the daily life of a nurse, so it is important to take this course in high school.  Geometry, physics, chemistry, and biology are also classes that should be considered before entering college.  Computer skills are vital to a nursing career, so it would be wise to take computer classes while still in high school.  When possible, taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes is a good option.  Since getting admitted into a nursing program is such a competitive process, maintaining the best grades in the most advanced classes you can handle will look very good on your application.  Nursing programs tend to be rigorous, so it is also important to establish good study habits during the high school years.  Of course, grades and coursework are not the only factors to consider when preparing for nursing school admission.

Nursing schools require a variety of entrance exams, so it is important to prepare for the SAT and ACT.  In addition to these traditional standardized tests, some nursing schools are offering National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Examination (NLN PAX) or the Entrance Exam for Schools of Nursing.  Although not every nursing school requires these additional exams, select schools might and it is best to research that and prepare for the tests as early as possible.  Nursing entrance exams may test for more skills than the SAT and ACT, which is also why taking the most advanced high school classes possible will be beneficial.

Volunteering at a hospital, veteran’s home, or nursing home facility is also a wonderful way to prepare for a career in nursing while in high school.  Even working in the front office can give a realistic picture of what life as a nurse will look like.  Also, volunteering is a good opportunity to find a mentor in the nursing field and you may discover scholarship opportunities, as well.  While any kind of community service is beneficial on college applications, it can be even more positive when the nursing school applicant has volunteered in a nursing environment.  This activity may demonstrate that the applicant’s desire to become a nurse is rooted in reality and that the applicant has some idea of what a nursing career entails. 

A career in nursing can be extremely rewarding and the sooner you begin preparing to succeed, the better.  Nurses are in high demand and the demand is growing every year.  Getting admitted into a nursing school can be a complicated and challenging process, so take advantage of the high school years and give yourself an edge over the competition.

Choosing a Nursing School

Deciding to become a nurse is only the first step in the journey to becoming a nurse. If you have recently decided on nursing as a career path you may be faced with a lot of options. Here is some helpful information that may aid in the decision making process.

One nursing career decision to think about is whether or not to specialize within the field of nursing. If you choose a nursing specialization, that will affect your nursing school choice, in both the programs offered and what degree to pursue, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a Master of Science in Nursing. Different schools offer classes geared towards different specializations. Make sure the school you apply to is congruent with what you are looking for in nursing.

Ask yourself what about nursing appeals to you. What career goals do you have in mind? Look at schools that match your career goals with their degree programs. Whether you want to go to school for two years and get your ADN or go for four years and get your MSN, make sure the school you choose offers the correct program. If you already have a degree in a different field, take this into consideration as some schools and most accelerated nursing programs will offer you credit for classes you have already taken.
Make sure that the location of the school you pick is not a hassle. Consider the course schedule and how it fits into your life. Will the commute be too long? Do the class times interfere with your life in a major way? A school that is close and easy to get to may be the best option.

Consider if the school you want to attend has online classes. If the school is too far away to be feasible this may be a good second option. Online classes have the added benefit of fitting to your schedule, and online nursing degrees are becoming a quick and convenient way to begin on the path to a career in nursing.
Be sure the school you choose is accredited by either the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Your school may be accredited by both. If your school is not accredited by one of these groups you may find difficulty in furthering your education or finding jobs down the road.

Schools can be expensive. It is very important to look at the cost of tuition and the amount of financial aid that may be available to you. Consider this information carefully before making a commitment to a particular school.

Clinical rotations can be a valuable part of any nursing education. Look into the rotations they offer. Think about whether or not this is the kind of nursing you would like to be doing. Some experience can help you to make important career decisions.
Keeping these things in mind will help you make the nursing school decision that is best for you. The more you know the more you will get out of your educational experience. With these tips you will be well on your way to a fulfilling career in nursing.

Flu Season and Flu Prevention

Flu season lasts from October to May in the United States, peaking in February.  During this time, it is important that people are diligent about their personal hygiene in order to prevent the spread of germs.  Regular hand-washing, with warm water and soap, is an important way to keep germs from spreading and if soap and water are not convenient, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is helpful, as well.  Another important way to prevent the spread of germs is to cover all coughs and sneezes.  It is best to use a tissue and throw it away afterward, but if no tissue is available, it is better to cough and sneeze into the crook of one’s arm than into one’s hands.  Never touch eyes, noses, or mouths without first washing hands and use disinfecting wipes to clean off surfaces like keyboards, phones, and counter tops.

If you ask any professional nurse who has completed a nursing degree program, there are plenty of ways to help prevent coming down with the flu.  First of all, eat healthy foods and get lots of rest.  It is also important to exercise regularly and keep stress levels as low as possible.  If you are a smoker, flu season is a great time to break that habit.  Studies show that smokers tend to get the flu more than non-smokers and when they do get sick from the flu, have an increased risk of dying from it.  There have been studies that suggest that vitamin D helps to prevent the flu, so a visit to the doctor to see how much vitamin D is needed might help.  Taking the recommended dose, by your doctor, physician or nurse, of vitamin D per day  should help during the winter months when getting enough exposure to the sun may be difficult.

Some herbs to take for holistic flu prevention are oil of oregano, Echinacea, and Chinese herbs like Yin Chiao San, Chuan Xin Lian, and Gan Mao Ling.  They all can help build up the immune system in order to prevent the flu, as well as help lessen the severity once one has the flu.  Probiotics also help to prevent the flu by helping maintain the integrity of the microbial flora in the digestive tract.  There are the “bad” germs that make us sick and there are the “good” germs that keep us healthy.  Probiotics are the good guys and they help us fight off illnesses like the flu.

The most commonly advertised way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine.  The most ideal time to get the shot is in the early Fall, before flu season is very far along.  Some people may choose the nose mist instead of the shot.  The main difference between the two is that the mist contains a live flu virus while the shot does not.  Wanting to help people on their quest to prevent the flu? Look into a degree in nursing. 

Top 10 States Affected Hardest by the Nursing Shortage

As new nurses graduate, many are facing the reality that finding a job in nursing may not be as easy as the headlines say. While there is a global nursing shortage affecting the lives of people everywhere, many new nurses are becoming frustrated and disillusioned with the current job-seeking landscape. Large, metropolitan areas may have the most jobs available, but these areas also may have an equal number of applicants, leading many new nurses to seek employment in new places across the U.S.

While it may be difficult to find a job in nursing, even after completing all of the requirements of a nursing degree, there are still plenty of opportunities available for qualified nurses. Searching out these opportunities may be a matter of researching specific nursing specialties, or looking at the states where nurses are especially in demand.

Top States in 2010 with a shortage of nurses:

California -47,600
2 Texas -41,900
3 Florida -32,700
4 New York -21,500
5 Pennsylvania -21,100
6 New Jersey -19,600
7 Tennessee -18,500
8 Georgia -16,400
9 Massachusetts -16,100
10 Missouri -12,900

For newly graduated nurses searching for a job, standard advice applies: keep your resume updated and continue to submit it regularly to medical establishments, clinics and hospitals, network and don’t give up hope. In addition, looking outside a local area can be a big benefit when it comes to finding and obtaining a job in nursing.
(Nursing shortage data courtesy of

Nurse Jackie, Substance Abuse and Addictions

Substance abuse and addictions are common problems faced by people each day. The destruction of the life of the addicted, as well as family, friends and loved ones can be irreparable, causing financial difficulties as well as interrupting social bonds and causing damage to relationships. The typical addiction, if there is such thing as a typical addiction, revolves around the consumption of alcohol or street drugs. These addictions are often portrayed on television shows where a family member or friend gets caught up in an addiction, is sent to rehab, and subsequently cured of the problem. However, in the world of nursing and medicine, many times, easy access to prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals can be irresistible, even for healthcare providers like nurses and physicians.

The stigma of addiction is hard to face, no matter the person it affects. Unfortunately, for nurses that experience substance abuse problems, not only is the addiction an issue, but there is a loss of faith and trust in the nurse as he or she goes through the process of recovery from addiction. Many times, nurses that abuse medications are not only jeopardizing their own health, but, also the wellbeing of patients under the nurse’s care. In Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” the issue of addiction runs throughout the show’s episodes.  Nurse Jackie manages to maintain the secrecy of her addiction, but is eventually discovered and has to face the repercussions of her addiction. A nurse with an addiction is not an uncommon problem, and there are many states that offer programs to nurses wishing to recover from addiction, with the hopes of maintaining a career in nursing.

While addictions can affect people in all career fields, it may seem exceptional that a nurse or medical professional defies the very advice given to patients when it comes to drugs or alcohol. As happens in real life, Nurse Jackie admitted her drug abuse problem and began her recovery in rehab, with the hopes of finding better coping mechanisms than popping pills or downing vials of drugs. Addiction can be a problem in all areas of medicine, from nurses and physicians to the student pursuing a degree in nursing. Understanding and offering support to these individuals can be a helpful way to curtail the problem of addictions in the healthcare industry.

Allergies and Accidental Medication

Allergic reactions are a common problem these days, seen in children and adults alike. Allergies to foods, medications, chemicals and the environment can have mild to severe indicators, including rashes, hives, dizziness, itchiness, tightness in the chest and other symptoms. These reactions are widespread and can be recurring; such as with seasonal allergies or a documented food allergy, while other reactions can come out of nowhere, presenting an emergency situation. Many times, a dose of diphenhydramine can help calm and soothe mild symptoms, but for those that experience severe allergic reactions, an Epipen may be prescribed.

Epipens are self-injecting syringes of epinephrine, a medication that eases the severe symptoms of allergic reactions. For life-threatening allergic reactions, Epipen use is recommended immediately, followed by the care of a hospital emergency room. In Nurse Jackie, however, an EMT accidentally injects himself in the finger with an Epipen from his medical bag, causing dizziness, anxiety and heart palpitations and/or a rise in blood pressure. These medical symptoms are common for those suffering from an accidental dose, or overdose, of epinephrine and should be seen as a serious medical problem. The EMT on Nurse Jackie had no need for an Epipen in his life, yet his health was impacted by the accidental injection, possibly causing a real-life emergency situation that could be as severe as someone experiencing an allergic reaction. Moreover, Epipen literature warns that an injection of the medication into hands or feet can cause a loss of blood flow to the area, resulting in tissue damage. Other information warns that epinephrine can cause brain hemorrhaging.

Allergies can be life threatening, and affect millions of people around the world. Nurse Jackie’s treatment of the EMT who was accidentally injected by an Epipen was based upon standard practices learned through the pursuit of a degree in nursing. The skills and knowledge learned in nursing degree programs are invaluable in emergency situations with allergies, medicine overdoses and all other medical situations. While Nurse Jackie may be just a show on television, the storylines are based on true and real medical events and possibilities.
If you accidentally ingest or are given medicine without the supervision of a nurse or doctor, or are experiencing any of the following allergy-related symptoms, please seek medical care immediately.

Symptoms of severe allergic reactions:
  • Difficulty breathing and/or swelling of the tongue.
  • Shock or loss of consciousness.
  • Decreased or low blood pressure, heart palpitations.
Less severe symptoms include:
  • Hives, welts, redness or swelling of the skin.
  • Wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, sneezing.
  • Dizziness, irregular heartbeat.
  • Tingling, anxiety, confusion.
  • Nausea, diarrhea.