News for nurses for Summer 2012


Do Not Disturb Perturbs

Last year, the British healthcare system tried an interesting experiment. In an effort to help prevent medication errors, nurses doing drug rounds were outfitted with red vests inscribed with the words “Do not disturb, drug round in progress.” The reaction was swift and very negative. One patient advocate group even complained that the vests sent a “get off me” signal. Faced with the backlash, some hospitals quickly removed the “do not disturb” part of the message.

Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained—but was it a good idea in the first place? The move was based on the idea that interruptions during medication administration lead to errors. “But we don’t have solid evidence to support that commonly held belief,” says Bonnie Jennings, DNSc, RN, a healthcare consultant in Evans, Ga., who has researched medication administration. Jennings’ own work has shown that many things can compete for nurses’ time, including the need to weave unscheduled medications into regular rounds. “Although efforts to reduce interruptions are born of good intentions, they may not represent enduring solutions, particularly if they leave patients feeling adrift,” says Jennings. A potentially better approach: teaching staff how to handle interruptions. After all, as any nurse knows, like it or not, interruptions are part of the job.

Have a Healthier Night Shift 

Night-shift nurses don’t have it easy; that’s not news. But now comes a report that they may also be at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes. As part of the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study, researchers followed more than 177,000 women ages 25 to 67 for 18 to 20 years. What they found was that every five years of rotating night-shift work was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of diabetes. When they controlled for body weight, however, the risk dropped to five percent—a sign that it’s not just odd hours disrupting your circadian rhythm that may make you more prone to diabetes if you work nights.

And that’s good news because it means you can lower your risk without changing jobs. “Many nurses have to work rotating night shifts, so lifestyle changes are very important,” says An Pan, PhD, lead author of the study and a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Not surprisingly, leading Pan’s list of top ways to reduce your likelihood of diabetes is maintaining a healthy weight. Swapping junk food and sugar-sweetened drinks for fruits and vegetables can help, as can working regular exercise into your schedule. Make an effort to get a good rest after night shifts, too. Says Pan: “Adequate sleep time can help counteract the deleterious effects of night-shift work.”

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