Vital Record » Nursing Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Summer safety for kids Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:00:07 +0000 Summer is almost upon us, and with it comes warmer weather, outdoor fun, and more freedom for our children to move and be healthy. As the season approaches, it helps to be reminded of ways to keep our kids safe in the summer months]]>
girl swimming

If you own a pool, make sure that the fence and self-latching gate are in working order, and never allow children to swim in your pool unattended or while you are away.

Summer is almost upon us, and with it comes warmer weather, outdoor fun, and more freedom for our children to move and be healthy. As the season approaches, it helps to be reminded of ways to keep our kids safe in the summer months.

Don’t Bug Out
Unfortunately, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes love summer as much as we do. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus, which has been on the rise in recent years, along with St. Louis encephalitis and other diseases. To protect yourself, reduce the number of mosquitoes in and around your home by draining sources of standing water and repairing door and window screens. Wear long sleeves and long pants outdoors when weather permits and use mosquito netting over infant carriers and strollers. Avoid outdoors when possible at peak mosquito biting times (dawn and dusk).

The most effective repellents are those which contain 20 to 30 percent DEET, and repellents with greater than 30 percent DEET have not been shown to offer any extra protection. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends repellents with no more than 30 percent DEET on children.

Other ingredients such as picardin and essential oils (eucalyptus, lemon, cedar, soy bean) have shown some effectiveness in studies by the Centers for Disease Control if you want to try a more natural repellent. The AAP recommends NO insect repellents of any kind for children under two months. Chemical repellents containing permethrin are recommended for tick and flea infestations in yards, outdoor equipment, and even clothing, but should never be applied directly to the skin.

If you do find a tick on a member of your family, don’t panic. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upwards evenly to avoid leaving the mouth-parts attached to the skin. After removal, thoroughly clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. As always, if a family member develops severe headache, confusion, or weakness, seek medical attention immediately, as these may be symptoms of a transmitted illness.

Sun Smart, Swim Smart
Make sure to use sunscreen every day
you are in the sun, with at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 and both UVA and UVB protection (“broad spectrum”). Reapply after swimming and as directed on the container. Recently, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) proposed new regulations regarding sunscreen, including removal of claims that they are “waterproof” or “sweat proof,” and changing products that claim to have SPF higher than 50 to read simply, “SPF 50+.” There is no reliable data that products with SPF over 50 provide any additional protection, and these products can be more costly and more laden with chemicals.

Please keep an eye on your children at all times. Children can drown in seconds, and in silence. Use personal flotation devices that are U.S. Coast Guard approved for children. If you own a pool, make sure that the fence and self-latching gate are in working order, and never allow children to swim in your pool unattended or while you are away. The Consumer Product and Safety Commission has a great website on pool safety.

Additionally, avoid swimming when you are sick. Yes, chlorine helps to kill germs, but not immediately. Many people have become sick from germs in contaminated pools and lakes, so teach children to avoid getting water in their mouths. Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and check diapers/swim pants frequently. Be sure to shower after swimming, using the bathroom, or changing diapers.

Safe food handling and hand washing
It just isn’t summer without some delicious food cooking on the grill. Just make sure to avoid food-borne illness by washing hands before and after handling food, and use a food thermometer to ensure that meats are cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Marinate and defrost in the refrigerator, not on the countertop and don’t put cooked meats back on the same unwashed plate that held raw meat. In hot weather, food should not sit out for more than an hour before going to the fridge.

Street Smarts
The freedom that summer brings for kids can create a lifetime of memories. To make sure everyone stays safe, make sure to remind your kids of basic traffic rules, including looking both ways, using crosswalks, and never allowing children under 10 to cross streets without an adult. On bikes, wear a helmet every time you ride, even on short rides. Make sure you know where your child is at all times, and tell them when they are expected home. Teach kids to avoid isolated areas and to practice the “buddy system,” instead of wandering off alone. Revisit the conversation about “stranger danger,” including the fact that grown-ups should ask other grown-ups for help, not children.

Road Trip!
Summer also means more cars on the road, including yours. So remember to buckle up every time, and keep kids under 12 in the back seat. Remember that kids need a booster seat until they are about four feet nine inches tall. Avoid distractions while you are driving, so that you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. With more states and communities passing “no texting while driving” laws, consider an app for your phone that sends automated responses to incoming texts while driving, such as SafelyGo, DriveScribe or Zoomsafer. Interestingly, a recent study showed that tending to children in the car distracts the driver up to 12 times more often than talking on a cell phone! Set some ground rules for your kids, so that they know they can’t get your help until the car stops.

Our community has so much to offer in the warm summer months. Following these simple tips will ensure a safe and happy outdoor season.

The story originally appeared in 
Brazos Family Magazine’s Spring/Summer 2013 edition courtesy of Alison Fisher Pittman, RN, M.S.N., CPN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

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When breaking the rules leads to better patient care Mon, 22 Jun 2015 13:00:22 +0000 Professional nursing standards were created to guide patient care services and lay the foundation for best practices. However, health care is unpredictable and not always black and white. What works for one patient, might not work for another. What happens when hospital policies contradict the nurse’s opinion of the right thing to do?

Jodie Gary, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor of nursing at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Nursing, explores this topic in her concept analysis, “Exploring the Concept and Use of Positive Deviance in Nursing,” available online and in the 2013 August edition of the American Journal of Nursing.

Positive deviance involves an intentional act of breaking the rules in order to serve the greater good. The concept is widely used in business, management, sociology and criminology; however, there is no consistent definition of the term as it applies to nursing.

In order to increase understanding of what positive deviance is, and what it is not, Gary used the Walker and Avant method of concept analysis to explore and identify an operational definition for the term.  Positive deviance is intentional and honorable behavior that departs or differs from an established norm; contains elements of innovation, creativity, adaptability, or a combination thereof; and involves risk for the nurse.

Essentially, nurses might have to react creatively, and break hospital policies or physician’s orders, in order to meet the needs of the patient.

“The concept of positive deviance is useful, offering nurses a basis for decision making when the normal, expected actions collide with the nurse’s view of the right thing to do,” Gary says. “Nurses must balance their decisions for patient care between what evidence-based practice dictates, what is mandated by law and what the situation demands.”

positive deviance

Caring for a patient is not always black and white, some patients fall in a grey zone. However, nurses are asked to practice within very rigid hospital policies.  Jodie Gary, Ph.D, RN, assistant professor of nursing, explores this topic her concept analysis, published in the American Journal of Nursing.

There is evidence that positive deviance is routinely used by nurses in the health care setting, but because of strict policies and fear of loss of license, nurses generally choose not to report (or are unable to report) the exact care they provided. Thus, there is no outcome data for the care that was actually provided.

“Nurses, who are positive deviants, may be generating new knowledge on the fly and we need to be able to access that knowledge,” Gary explains.

It is essential that nurses have a way to safely report the deviations they make for the sake of patients. Accurate reporting and documentation of the actual nursing care delivered are vital to having accurate outcomes data, to ensuring patient safety, and to furthering the profession.

“As nurses become more autonomous providers of primary health care services, I believe the use of positive deviance must become a goal,” Gary says.

In addition, she notes, guidelines should guide practice and assist in allowing nurses to provide care that is centered on the best needs of the patient in the specific care situation. Guidelines should not serve as a formula that tells a nurse what to do, but rather they should help a nurse be as smart as possible every step of the way while ensuring that the nurse has the critical information, is systematic about decision making and has communicated with everyone involved.

“Today’s professional nurse wants to be a critical thinker and have the autonomy to make individual decisions at the bedside to provide quality patient-centered care,” Gary says. “Although better documentation and further research are needed, it seems likely that patient outcomes will improve when nurses have the courage to make intentional, honorable decisions to provide innovative, creative, and adaptive care in situations that demand it.”

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Texas A&M Health Science Center celebrates largest graduating class in history Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:18:59 +0000 Texas A&M Health Science Center graduated 639 students at commencement ceremonies across the state last month. This is the largest graduating class to date, and is indicative of Texas A&M’s commitment to educate exceptional health care leaders in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and medical sciences]]>

Graduates gig 'emAddressing the need for highly trained state and national health care professionals, Texas A&M Health Science Center graduated 645 students at commencement ceremonies across the state last month. This is the largest graduating class to date, and is indicative of Texas A&M’s commitment to educate exceptional health care leaders in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and medical sciences.

“As the health care landscape continues to grow and change, so do the needs of our patient populations, but one thing remains the same – the need for compassionate and skilled providers and leaders with a desire to serve,” said Paul E. Ogden, M.D., interim executive vice president and CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “That desire to serve and the mindset of leading by example is innately Aggie, and is exactly what the members of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Class of 2015 embody as the next generation of health care professionals.”

Graduates for each college are as follows:

Texas A&M College of Medicine – 184 students received a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), 11 a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and one a Master of Science (M.S.) in Medical Sciences.

Since graduating its first class in 1981, the college has welcomed more than 2,200 Aggie Doctors to the work force, with 64 percent choosing to stay in Texas and half of all Texas A&M College of Medicine graduates entering into primary care. The College of Medicine also exceeds the national benchmark with a 97 percent pass rate on the national medical licensing exam.

Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry – 93 students received a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), 30 a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Dental Hygiene, 2 students receiving an additional PhD and 45 students with graduate’s degrees and certificates in specialty programs.

The college has the highest percent of under-represented minority students in the nation, and nearly one-third of all dentists in Texas are graduates of the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry.

Texas A&M College of Nursing – 112 students received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). Since its opening in 2008, the college has produced more than 500 nurses to help in addressing the state and nation’s critical nursing shortage. The Texas A&M College of Nursing holds special commendation status from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for pass rate excellence.

Texas A&M Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy – 84 students received a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). The College of Pharmacy ranks in the Top 50 “Best Grad Schools for Pharmacy” by U.S. News & World Report, and to date, more than half of the college’s graduates remain in South Texas to practice.

Texas A&M School of Public Health – 45 students received a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.), 35 a Master of Health Administration (M.H.A), two a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) and one a Doctor of Public Health (D.R.P.H.). The school ranks in the Top 25 “Best Grad Schools for Public Health” by U.S. News & World Report.

Texas A&M Health Science Center’s enrollment across its five colleges and eight statewide campus locations totaled 2,467 students in 2014.

Story by Jonathan Knechtel.

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Unraveling the don’ts of pregnancy Fri, 05 Jun 2015 21:31:09 +0000 Pregnancy can be a beautiful time in a woman’s life, but some women may struggle with knowing what is best for their baby. There are many resources for moms-to-be, but they can be confusing and even conflict from one source to another. Certified Nurse Midwife Robin Page, Ph.D, director of nursing education at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing in Round Rock, offers clarity on the don’ts of pregnancy.


Don’t literally eat for two. A common misconception is the idea of “eating for two.” Some women may take this too literally, but really you only need to increase your caloric intake by about 300 calories per day. “Many people think that pregnancy means the mom-to-be can eat whatever she wants, but expectant mothers shouldn’t take a break from healthy eating; if anything, they should be more focused on what they put into their bodies,” Page said.

Misperceptions about prenatal diet and exercise can cause women to gain extra, unnecessary pounds during pregnancy, which can be difficult to shed after having the baby and can even lead to complications, such as gestational diabetes.

The best approach to nutrition – whether pregnant or not – is to eat a balanced, healthy diet to appropriately fuel your body for each day.

Don’t forget folic acid. Page emphasized the importance of folic acid in a pregnant woman’s diet. This vitamin helps to form red blood cells and other new cells, and is essential in developing the baby’s neural tube, which later develops into the spine and brain. Pregnant women and women that plan on becoming pregnant, are encouraged to add up to 400 micrograms of folic acid to their diets.

Foods high in folic acid:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Asparagus
  • Turnip greens
  • Okra
  • Certain beans

Don’t skip fish altogether.
There has been a lot of controversy over whether fish is safe for pregnant women to eat. The main concern with fish is the amount of mercury it may contain. The fish that are said to contain the most mercury are some types of tuna, king mackerel, orange roughy, shark, and swordfish. However, fish are also a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and should not be avoided altogether. Page suggests that appropriate selection and moderation are key. Consult your physician for more information.

Don’t eat foods at high-risk for Listeria. The bacteria listeria – which has been linked to a number of notable food recalls recently – highlights another food-borne risk of which pregnant women should be aware of as Listeria can be transmitted in utero. Exposure to listeria can lead to meningitis, a dangerous and potentially deadly disease. While the risk for being exposed to listeria is rare, it is serious, doctors, to be safe, recommend avoiding the following foods and drinks:

  • Unpasteurized dairy products
  • Soft cheeses, such as Brie
  • Unheated deli meat (be sure to heat the meat in the microwave until it is steaming)

Don’t drink too much caffeine.
While the potential effects of caffeine on the developing baby are still unclear, doctors suggest that pregnant women avoid it, especially during the first trimester. Caffeine is said to be okay in moderation, 150-300 milligrams per day, during the rest of the pregnancy. Remember that caffeine is not just in coffee but also tea, soda, chocolate and even some over-the-counter medications for headaches.


Don’t neglect exercise, but be aware of the changes in your body. Pregnancy is often viewed as a delicate time for both mother and baby, which usually translates to taking extra care in all that the mom-to-be does. But are you being too careful? While it’s important not to overdo it, studies have shown that as long as there are no complications with the pregnancy, continuing normal exercise routines while pregnant is very beneficial. According to Page, being fit and flexible can even help to ease labor pains. However, if the woman was not active before becoming pregnant, she should start out slow when embarking on an exercise routine. Exercises that are safe during all stages of pregnancy include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Biking
  • Light weight training
  • Low-impact aerobics

To avoid injury during prenatal exercise, be aware of any changes taking place during this time and know your limitations. Injuries are more likely during pregnancy as your joints soften in preparation for childbirth and the center of balance changes as your baby bump grows. Body temperature should not rise above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, as this can cause complications with the development of the fetus.


Don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Doctors agree that it is best for women to quit drinking as soon as they decide to become pregnant. It is important to quit as soon as the mother-to-be finds out she is pregnant as any amount of alcohol can be very dangerous for the baby’s health and can cause fetal alcohol syndrome.

Doctors also agree that women who plan to become pregnant try to quit smoking. The toxins that are in cigarettes can be very harmful for the baby and cause low birth weight of the baby.

Don’t indulge in hot tubs, baths, or sitting in the sauna. Body temperature should not rise above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, or complications with the development of the fetus could occur. “Even if the woman doesn’t feel overheated, she may be, which is why it’s important to monitor your temperature. Generally, pregnant women should skip the sauna, hot baths and hot tubs,” Page said.


“There is no universal statement on which medications are safe during pregnancy,” Page said. It is best to consult with your doctor about the medications you are currently taking to determine whether they are safe to continue while pregnant. If a medication the woman is currently taking is considered in a higher risk category, which is determined by the FDA, during pregnancy, there may be a safer alternative specifically for pregnant women.

Don’t take Aspirin. For pain medications, doctors recommend staying away from Aspirin and medications labeled “extra strength,” “maximum strength” and “long-acting.” A safe alternative is acetaminophen (Tylenol).

For more information Page recommends visiting the American College of Nurses-Midwives: Share With Women site.

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What’s the right contraceptive for you? Tue, 02 Jun 2015 15:12:58 +0000 Whatever your reason is for choosing birth control, there are multiple forms from which to pick. No matter what method you decide on, it’s important to make an informed decision so you can select the option that best fits your lifestyle]]>

Hoping to regulate your menstrual cycle? Know that kids are not in your immediate future? Whatever your reason is for choosing birth control, there are multiple forms from which to pick. No matter what method you decide on, it’s important to make an informed decision so you can select the option that best fits your lifestyle.

“When deciding what method of birth control to use, there are a few questions every woman needs to ask herself,” said Trisha Sheridan, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing and a certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. “Can she remember to take a daily method; does she need or want a menstrual cycle; and does she smoke?”

Since there are so many options available to women, Sheridan offers the following rundown on each method:

Bowl of brightly colored condoms

No matter what your reason for choosing birth control is, it’s important to know the benefits and downsides of each method.

The basics of hormonal methods

When looking at different forms of birth control, it is common to come across a wide variety of hormonal methods such as the pill, patch, injection, implant or IUDs. However, not all hormones are the same, and one form may be more conducive to your lifestyle than another.

There are two primary forms of hormonal birth control: progestin-only and a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Progestin-only methods work by thickening the mucus at the cervix and thinning the uterine lining, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus. Combination forms also work by changing cervical mucus and lining of the uterus, but they also prevent ovulation.

Methods with estrogen are not recommended for women over 35 who smoke, women who are nursing, or with a history or family history of developing blood clots.

Hormonal methods can be used to regulate menstrual cycles or to treat menses-related conditions such as painful cramping or premenstrual syndrome.

Common hormonal side effects are:

  • Moodiness
  • Weight change
  • Nausea
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness

While hormones can introduce uncomfortable side effects, most go away after a few months of use. If symptoms persist or worsen, contact your health care provider to see if another method might work better.

The pill

Perhaps the most common and widely known method of contraception is the daily pill. Within this category there are many different brands and forms that might impact a woman and her lifestyle differently.

“Birth control only works if you use it,” Sheridan commented. “So when you’re considering using some form of the pill, it’s important to consider whether or not you’ll remember to take it every day around the same time.”

Oral contraceptives are estimated to be 92 percent effective, taking into account typical use. Both combination and progestin-only pills are widely available, so it is easier to find a brand that works best for your lifestyle. The main differences between brands are the dosage of hormones and the different progestin or estrogen imitations they contain.

With oral contraceptives, women can choose to regulate their cycles to monthly, four times a year or to skip them altogether.

The patch

Hormonal patches are a weekly method of birth control that adhere to the skin and release estrogen and progestin into the blood stream. The patch is a small and easily concealable method. The patch contains a higher level of estrogen in it than a typical birth control pill, so it is not recommended for people who are predisposed towards forming blood clots, such as those who smoke or have a family history of clotting issues.

“Hormone-related side effects are frequently reported, especially breast tenderness,” Sheridan said.

The ring

A form of birth control that is gaining popularity is the vaginal ring. The ring is a monthly method that is inserted into the vagina for three weeks and removed for one.

With the ring, hormonal symptoms are less likely to occur, but users may experience vaginal discomfort or a change in the consistency of their discharge. For the most part, however, the ring shouldn’t be felt. Since the ring uses a combination of estrogen and progestin, it will regulate menstrual cycles, which will usually occur during the week it is removed.

Users are able to skip a period, if they choose, by inserting the ring immediately after removal of the previous one, but they should consult their physician before doing so. Like the oral contraceptive, the ring is dependent upon timing and with average use it is estimated to be 92 percent effective by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

The injection

The birth control shot is another form of contraceptive that lasts longer than oral contraceptives and is cited as having a 97 percent rate of effectiveness with typical use. Women who choose the shot receive a progestin injection from a health care provider every three months. Some women prefer this hormonal method, because it is more discreet and longer lasting.

“The first injection is usually administered within the first five days of the woman’s menstrual period and lasts for three months. After the second injection, most women stop having periods,” Sheridan said.

Women may experience a decrease in bone density while using the injections, but this effect is not permanent as bone density and hormone levels return to their normal state after injections are stopped. Some providers may recommend taking a calcium supplement, while taking the shot.

The implant

ACOG recommends long-acting, reversible contraception (LARC) methods as the primary form of birth control for most women. LARC methods are the most effective forms of birth control, and less than one in 100 women become pregnant during the first year of use. At any time during their effective periods, these methods are completely reversible.

The birth control implant is a LARC that lasts for up to three years. It is a matchstick-sized, flexible rod that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. The procedure only takes a few minutes and a special inserter device is used so that no incision is made. For three years, the implant releases progestin into the blood stream. If the patient wants to remove the implant at any point during the three years, their health care provider can make a small incision to do so.

The hormonal IUDs

The longest-lasting and most effective forms of birth control are intrauterine devices (IUDs). IUDs are small T-shaped devices that are placed in the uterus during a regular gynecological visit and last for multiple years. The procedure only takes a few minutes and is easily removed during another office visit. There are multiple kinds of IUDs available: several hormonal ones and the copper IUD.

The hormonal IUDs are plastic devices that release progestin and are effective for up to five years. The Mirena IUD is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat heavy or painful menstrual periods. Approximately 40 percent of users will cease having menstrual cycles after the first year of use; and most of the remainder experience lighter and shorter periods.

Aside from monthly self-checks, to ensure the device is in place and hasn’t moved, the IUD is a low-maintenance form of contraception. The devices have strings attached to the bottom, which contour to the vaginal walls. If the user feels that the strings have become misaligned, or if during the recommended monthly self-checks she can feel the device protruding from her uterus, she should schedule a visit with her health care practitioner.

The copper IUD

For women who want a long-term method of birth control, but aren’t too keen on hormonal methods, the copper IUD may be the preferred choice.

“The copper IUD is slightly less effective than its hormonal counterpart, due to its lack of progestin to thicken the cervical mucus, but pregnancies still occur in less than one woman out of 100,” Sheridan noted.

The copper works to repel any sperm that make their way into the uterus, creating a hostile environment for any foreign organisms. The copper device can last for up to 12 years after insertion. Since the copper IUD doesn’t utilize hormones, it doesn’t regulate periods and women will remain on their natural cycles.

IUDs are very effective forms of contraception, but not everyone should have them inserted. If women are susceptible to infections or have a pelvic inflammatory disease, they should not have an IUD placed. Any woman who has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) should seek treatment before having the device placed.

While pregnancies are rare with IUDs, when they do occur, ectopic pregnancies are more likely happen than with other methods. If a woman becomes pregnant with an IUD, they should meet with their health care provider to have the IUD removed.


It’s a classic, yet important form of contraception that shouldn’t be disregarded: the condom – both for males and females. While all of the methods listed above are far more effective at preventing pregnancy and can help to regulate menstrual cycles, none of them can protect against STIs.

As opposed to hormonal and long-lasting methods of birth control, a prescription or visit to your health care provider is not necessary to obtain male and female condoms. However, both methods only offer around 80 percent effectiveness with typical use. If condoms are your preferred method of contraception, be sure to follow the directions on proper use.

From long range to short term, there are many different kinds of contraceptives that can fit your lifestyle. If you find yourself currently unhappy with your method of contraception, talk to your provider about different options. You have many alternatives at your disposal, but by asking a few key questions, you and your health care provider can determine which form of birth control fits your preferences and lifestyle best.

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Baby blues or something more? Mon, 25 May 2015 13:00:16 +0000 Ever heard of baby blues? It’s not the color you’re painting the nursery. More than 70 percent of women show symptoms of unexplained tearfulness, feelings of being let down, and a decreased appetite after delivering a baby]]>

Ever heard of baby blues? It’s not the color you’re painting the nursery. More than 70 percent of women show symptoms of unexplained tearfulness, feelings of being let down, and a decreased appetite after delivering a baby.

Protect you and your baby by knowing the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression.

Protect you and your baby by knowing the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression.

“Women have a much higher chance of being admitted to a psychiatric ward after giving birth than any other time in life,” says Cody Bruce, M.S.N., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing in Round Rock.

With several years of professional experience in a clinical psychiatric ward, Bruce has witnessed these symptoms first hand. He has often seen patients experiencing baby blues and in various stages of postpartum depression, and explains several differences between the two.

“Baby blues symptoms typically only last one to two weeks after pregnancy,” says Bruce. “Postpartum depression is different, because women are at risk for up to 12 months after birth.”

Bruce notes these ways to help new moms push through baby blues and return to normalcy:

1. Offer a support system 

Women can feel overwhelmed with the sudden lifestyle changes that encompass motherhood. Simple household tasks can feel more taxing than they previously did. During this period, family members and friends can step in to help complete the housework so the mother can have time to adjust.

“It’s not that these women don’t love their baby,” mentions Bruce. “This new lifestyle just overwhelms them, which is why they really need their family members and friends during this time.”

2. Encourage rest

Many women encounter a wide range of emotions after delivering a baby. Their bodies have experienced a number of hormonal changes over the past several months, which can cause exhaustion over time. Once the excitement and nerves have gone away, their bodies are often begging for more sleep.

3. Keep visitors to a minimum

While many people may be excited to see the baby, it’s important to let the mother and child not only bond, but rest. The shuffling of visitors can cause mothers to feel like they are constantly “on.” Space out visits with family and friends so mother and child don’t feel too overwhelmed right after delivery.

4. Watch for signs of postpartum depression

Both women and their families should observe if tearfulness, feelings of being overwhelmed, or a variety of other symptoms  last longer than two weeks after giving birth.

Some of the first signs of postpartum depression include having thoughts of harming yourself or the baby. If you notice these signs, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If left untreated, it could leave both the mother and child in a highly dangerous situation.

“In the end, it’s important to give the mom as much love and support as possible—for the benefit of both herself and the baby,” says Bruce.

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A beginner’s guide to working out Tue, 05 May 2015 14:56:56 +0000 Physical activity is important and can bring with it a plethora of health benefits. However, for people who are just getting into the habit of regular exercise, it can be difficult to determine where to begin. There are a few tactics and tips people can use to help them fit activity into their day and make it a regular occurrence. ]]>
Woman and man sitting together on a sidewalk and stretching their hamstrings.

Regular exercise has a myriad of health benefits, but for beginners it’s hard to know how to get started.

Maybe it’s for a health reason or maybe you want to look your best for a specific occasion—whatever the catalyst, you’ve decided to become more physically active. If that’s the case, then you’ve already made the first important step towards reaping the benefits of regular activity. However, we all know that deciding to work out isn’t enough to achieve our personal goals; and the truth of the matter is that figuring out where to get started can be difficult, especially if you’ve never bought a pair of sneakers, let alone been to a gym.

“If you’ve never been particularly physically active, it can be difficult to find where to begin,” said Shelley White-Corey, clinical assistant professor with the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing and experienced personal trainer and certified group exercise and yoga instructor.

For those individuals focused on boosting their physical activity, White-Cory offers a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Start small and build slowly

One of the most common misconceptions about exercise is that it involves long hours at the gym or sprinting at a neck-breaking speed, but this is not the case. Most of the health benefits from activity can come with moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, swimming or even doing household chores like cleaning.

“When people are just starting to work out, or are deconditioned, they should take it slow,” White-Corey encouraged. “Start with something small like a walk around the block or whatever you can achieve right now.”

If you’re just starting to get into the routine of exercising a few times a week, there’s no need to push yourself. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. However, White-Corey suggests that deconditioned individuals, who find that number daunting, start with shorter time periods and work their way up to the weekly recommendations.

Keep in mind that you do not have to achieve your weekly goal in one session, or even five 30-minute workouts. Fitting in physical activity can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away from your destination. Try breaking up your workouts into shorter durations, such as three, 10-minute periods a day, or whatever you can achieve with your schedule.

There are three components to increasing fitness: frequency, duration and intensity. White-Corey advises that beginners start with increasing their frequency first, then work on their duration, before they focus on the intensity of their workouts. This is the best way to avoid injury when you’re beginning to introduce activity into your lifestyle and striving to keep it consistent. It’s easy to lose motivation if you experience injury, or do too much, too quickly and then feel too sore to continue.

No matter what activity you chose to pick up, it’s important to consult your health care provider before jumping into it. They may recommend modifications to certain exercises or activities and can advise you on how to avoid injury.

2. Think positive

Some days, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to go for a walk or catch that exercise class, especially if you don’t think you can complete it.

“It’s easy to undermine yourself before you even get started,” White-Corey said. “Maintaining a positive outlook can help you stay in the habit of regular exercise, and to improve your conditioning.”

On days that you doubt your ability to complete a workout, ask yourself if you’re feeling physical or mental exhaustion. If you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do it,” but your body feels fine otherwise, White-Corey suggests coming up with a positive mantra to push those undermining thoughts aside, such as “I am strong, powerful, and capable of great athletic feats.” Once that pessimistic barrier is removed, you might find yourself feeling accomplished or even setting a new personal record.

3. Find your motivation

Getting started can be the most challenging aspect of exercising. Whether your goal is to lose weight, look better or something more specific to your life, it’s important to find your motivation. You can’t expect to make physical activity a habit, if you don’t have a drive to keep with it.

If setting goals motivates you, White-Corey advises starting with something measurable and realistic. For example, if you are trying to increase the amount of weight you lift, keep a specific number in mind and give yourself an appropriate amount of time to achieve that level. Even training for an event can help you increase your fitness and keep you motivated, just remember to take the necessary amount of time to adequately prepare before the event occurs.

4. Have fun

Who wants to spend 150 minutes a week doing something they strongly dislike? No one. If you despise the idea of running, there’s no reason to force yourself to run a marathon.

When you’re first adopting an activity, choose something you enjoy.

Grab a friend or your dog for an afternoon walk, dance around your house, play with your child at a playground, join a community sports team or whatever makes you happy. If you like your workouts, you will be more likely to make them a habit and accomplish whatever goals you have set for yourself.

5. Pay attention to form

While consistent exercise comes with a myriad of health benefits, it can also lead to injury if you don’t pay attention to proper form. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 11,000 people receive treatment from U.S. emergency departments each day for sports, recreation and exercise-related injuries. Always be sure to implement the proper form and techniques during physical activity. For those who adopt weight training, be sure to pay attention to your form and consider consulting a professional, such as a personal trainer, for a few sessions; it may be a little costly, but an injury can sideline you and cost you more in the long run.

For first-time runners, be sure to increase the duration and pace slowly. Rapidly increasing your speed, or running for too long can lead to injuries such as shin splits, which will put you out of commission for a while.

If you do find yourself injured, follow doctor’s orders and don’t force yourself to continue exercising. Pushing yourself when you’re injured can exacerbate your injury and possibly cause more permanent damage. Take the time you need to rest and heal, before resuming any activity that exerts your injury.

6. Stick with it

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see the results of regular activity immediately. “Most of the benefits from being physically active take about three weeks to be seen or felt,” White-Corey said.

Whatever activity you decide to adopt, consistency is key. Within a few short weeks you will start to see and feel all of your hard work paying off, and once you notice your improvements you will likely find the motivation to stick with it. As you accomplish your goals, look for new ways to challenge yourself and keep your activity entertaining.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to discover the right activity for you, along with the motivation to turn your newfound hobby into a lifetime habit. So go ahead and roll out that yoga mat or throw on a pair of sneakers and start to reap the benefits of your hard work.

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The ultimate guide to contraceptives Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:46:09 +0000 Choosing a contraceptive that’s right for you can be difficult. With more than 10 to choose from it can be a daunting task trying to understand how age, lifestyle and personal preferences should or could play into your decision. This guide explores a variety of available options and ultimately helps you determine which contraceptive is right for you and your body]]>


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Pediatric nurses: On the front lines in dealing with child abuse Tue, 28 Apr 2015 13:00:51 +0000 With 65,000 reports of child abuse filed last year in Texas alone it's no wonder pediatric nurses are regularly confronted with cases of child abuse, either in the form of physical abuse, or neglect. New comprehensive program aims to provide future nurses with the specialized training needed to recognize the signs and symptoms]]>
Sad child, alone on the playground.

A major goal of forensic nurses is to provide care for children in a timely manner, in a child-friendly atmosphere

In 2014, more than 65,000 reports of child abuse were filed with Texas Child Protective Services (CPS).

This comes as no surprise to Kathryn Sanders, a clinical assistant professor of nursing at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

From the day she started working as a pediatric nurse 20 years ago, Sanders says she was regularly confronted with cases of child abuse, either in the form of physical abuse, or neglect, which can include not providing children with the food or medications they need.

“One of the worst cases I ever saw was an infant who had been crawling on the floor and put something in his mouth,” Sanders recalls. “It turned out to be his mother’s crack cocaine.”

Whether they are working in hospital emergency rooms or serving as school nurses, nurses are often on the front lines of dealing with child abuse. Sanders has filed reports with CPS, talked to investigators during the course of their investigations, and even testified in court when charges were brought against the parents.

Part of Sanders’ job now as a faculty member at the Texas A&M College of Nursing is to train future nurses how to recognize the signs and symptoms of child abuse, which can often be very subtle. Clues that there might be abuse going on include children who regularly have headaches or stomach aches caused by stress, children who display bruises in uncommon sites and children who become more withdrawn when a certain person comes into the room.

“Early identification is where nurses can really make a difference and hopefully get some early interventions to the family,” Sanders says.

But Sanders says nurses who deal with child abuse on a daily basis – such as those who work in pediatric hospitals – should have additional training on top of what they receive during their pediatric rotation in nursing school.

“These nurses really need a lot more understanding of the forensic side of child abuse,” she says.

That’s why the Texas A&M College of Nursing is pursuing plans to develop a comprehensive forensic nursing program for the state. Forensic nurses have specialized training in providing a medical forensic examination and documenting injuries such as those related to child abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence. They also learn how to interview victims of abuse and provide testimony in court.

“Forensic nurses are much more adept at interviewing children and parents in a way that is going to assist in planning care and providing better evidence,” Sanders says.

Sanders says there are not enough forensic nurses to help with child abuse cases in Texas, especially in the rapidly growing Central Texas area. She regularly leads nursing students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Round Rock campus through clinical experiences at hospitals in Austin, where they may see victims of sexual assault, for example, having to wait in an emergency room for several hours before a sexual assault nurse examiner is available. A major goal of forensic nurses is to provide care for children in a timely manner, in a child-friendly atmosphere.

Sanders says having more forensic nurses would also serve as a valuable resource for other nurses.

“We give our students a basic understanding of child abuse, but if you are in a situation where you are confronted with it, you need to have a good resource and a good support person,” she says.

But in the end, it is all about making sure that children who have been abused get the help they need.

“Forensic nurses can deal with the forensic aspect of a case while the other nurses step back and take care of the child,” Sanders says.

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