Staff Nurses and Evidence-Based Practice

Editor’s note: The following blog is by Linda Yoder, PhD, MBA, RN, AOCN, FAAN, Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow. Dr. Yoder is an associate professor and director of Nursing Administration and Healthcare Systems Management at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.

The original research article “Staff Nurses’ Use of Research to Facilitate Evidence-Based Practice” mentioned below was published in the September 2014 issue of the American Journal of Nursing (AJN). The article was featured in the AJN blog Off the Charts, in which the bloggers discussed the importance of these findings. To read that blog, click this link.


Professor Linda Yoder

Dr. Linda Yoder

I was thrilled to be part of the research team that conducted a study on staff nurses and their use of evidence-based practices and pleased that the American Journal of Nursing recognized the importance of the topic and chose to publish it.

Unfortunately, the findings support other research from the past two decades stating that bedside nurses do not have sufficient skills to read and critique the research to determine if they should change practice based on research findings.

Also, with nurses working 12-hour shifts, they have clearly indicated that they are not willing to engage in research usage or evidence-based practice (EBP) activities unless they received paid time to do so. In other words, this is not an activity that they are willing to do during their personal time.

The findings from this study create a challenge for senior leaders in acute care hospitals. They must determine whether EBP activities are important enough to support financially and they must provide additional education for nurses so they can gain the skills needed to accurately critique the science.

Partners in Research, Health Care and Education

Two UT Austin deans

Dean Alexa Stuifbergen and Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, welcomed visitors to the Jack and Laura Lee Blanton Lecture in Nursing, which featured Clay Johnston, inaugural dean of the UT Austin Dell Medical School.

The evening was a celebration of the new medical school and all the opportunities that affords for future interprofessional collabortion as well as a recognition of the consortium of educators, civic leaders and health care organizations who had worked for many years to change the landscape of health care education and delivery in Central Texas.

dean at podium during lecture

Dean Stuifbergen’s opening remarks

Dean Stuifbergen reminded the audience that as recently as Nov. 6, 2012, Proposition 1, which assessed a small property tax increase to pay for changes to the health care delivery system, was passed by Travis County voters.

In addition to providing for a medical school and teaching hospital, Prop 1 outlined ways to increase access for the underinsured and uninsured, efforts that complement the school of nursing’s long-term mission and history of strong clinical training and community-based research — particularly research efforts to improve the health of the underserved.

This video includes opening remarks by Dean Stuifbergen and Dean Johnston’s presentation “The New Dell Medical School: Joining the Team Promoting Health.”

The Big Picture

Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Alumna Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

In May my mother-in-law experienced a syncope episode while shopping at the outlets. Luckily she felt dizzy and sat down before she passed out.

My father-in-law became paralyzed with fear, but gracious bystanders came to his aid. The emergency medical service arrived as my mother-in-law regained consciousness. They took her vital signs and determined her blood pressure was low and decided it was best to transport her to the local medical center.

Completely flustered by the incident, my father-in-law scoured the parking lot but was so worried about his wife that he couldn’t find the car. He meandered around for nearly an hour and was then unable to find the hospital on his own. Nearly two hours after my mother-in-law was transported by ambulance, my father-in-law arrived at the hospital.

The CT scan revealed that my mother-in-law’s known benign meningioma had doubled in size. Though this was not determined to be the cause of her fainting episode, the hospital staff recommended she be transferred to a bigger hospital for evaluation by a neurologist. Two days later she was advised to have the tumor removed from the frontal lobe of her brain.

My in-laws have been married for 55 years. They have a co-dependent relationship. My mother-in-law (age 73) is a strong woman totally capable of taking care of herself, but heavily relies on my father-in-law to meet her daily living needs. She never learned to drive, rarely works in the yard or empties a trash can. He makes all the phone calls and does most of the grocery shopping. My father-in-law has also relied on my mother-in-law for three square meals a day, clean clothes, his medication and instructions on how to move through his day. Together they have clearly defined roles. Apart they can’t seem to function independently. It was a scary realization for my husband and me.

Thankfully the surgery was successful. The neurologist called us with an update and said if all goes well she could be discharged in three to four days. However, he was a bit concerned about discharging her to the care of her husband. The neurologist commented that my father-in-law was clearly frazzled by the situation and unable to focus on any medical information given to him. We quickly determined I needed to help them through this difficult time.

Upon arrival I was shocked to find my father-in-law disheveled and exhausted. His color was not good and he looked like he had lost quite a bit of weight; clearly he had not been coping well over the past few days. He admitted he had been overly stressed by Mom’s sickness and felt he was unable to take care of himself without her. I said that now was not the time for him to feel sorry for himself, that he needed to be there for her, which meant he had to take care of himself. A harsh reality, but something he needed to hear.

Fortunately I was able to help my mother-in-law through the discharge process. Shortly after we arrived home, I realized that she had been sent home with another patient’s discharge information with completely different instructions and no follow-up orders. I had to call to clarify her orders.

Deciphering the steroid tapering instructions was tricky for me — a well-seasoned nurse — and nearly impossible for an 81-year-old poorly functioning spouse. In an attempt to divide the pills into doses, I noted the pharmacy had put 10 extra pills in the bottle.

I share this story because I worry that this medical scenario may be commonplace in the geriatric population. It bothers me that the neurologist and ICU nursing staff were aware and documented that my father-in-law was not functioning well and yet no one really made any attempt to help him. He is a heart patient and wears a medical bracelet. How easy would it have been for a nurse to take his blood pressure? Or ask him if he has been taking his medication properly? Would a social work consult have been appropriate in this situation? I shudder to think how my father-in-law would have coped with my mother-in-law’s discharge had I not been there.

I think back to my excellent training as a student nurse at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and remember how the teachers embraced the concept of family-centered care. This was especially important in my field of neonatal care. As primary care nurses for babies, my colleagues and I cared for the entire family and often identified parenting issues and financial burdens, and worked hard to seek the proper outside resources for families to ensure that their baby was safe and healthy upon discharge and beyond.

As nurses we inherently understand that new parents often need assistance, but when it comes to the aging population, we tend to feel they have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to help them cope. We take for granted that the elderly have the physical, emotional and sometimes mental capacity to cope with a major life-changing event, such as illness.

This experience made me realize that as a nurse it is important to remember to not only treat your patient, but to take into consideration the patient’s support system. Recovering from open brain surgery is difficult at any age, but imagine experiencing this event in your 70s.

Although hospitals may consider a quick discharge a successful case, the entire hospitalization is pointless if the patient fails to safely transition at home. Often, older spouses do not have the mental resources, cognitive flexibility and physical stamina to cope with an unexpected health situation. Their entire world changes in the blink of an eye, and they become paralyzed.

It behooves nurses to explore beyond a patient’s physical well-being and determine what needs must be met for both spouses during the hospital stay and upon discharge.

By “seeing the bigger picture,” you are not acting as just a caregiver, but truly a lifesaver.

Welcome to a New Semester

Dean of the UT Austin School of Nursing

Dean Alexa Stuifbergen

I always find the beginning of the school year to be exciting and full of promise for the future. A new year always offers a new start, with opportunities to engage with new professors, confront and challenge new ideas and perspectives, and bring your own renewed sense of discovery and curiosity to the academic experience. It’s a time ripe with possibility and intellectual excitement.

Although it’s always a bit slower during the summer months, we haven’t exactly been inactive, and I have something new and something old to share with you all.

First and foremost, this semester marks the start of our new freshman admissions policy. In the past, students were admitted — after a competitive process — into the nursing program as juniors. This fall, freshmen admitted to UT Austin who declared nursing as their first choice major were admitted directly into the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. A newly revised curriculum will have students taking nursing courses earlier than in the previous degree plan, and as sophomores, they will begin hands-on clinical practice rather than having to wait until their junior year.

As you may have heard, several changes are afoot in health-care education across the country, and the UT Austin School of Nursing is addressing these as well. We were successful in securing a significant grant under the leadership of Dr. Gayle Timmerman, associate dean of academic affairs, to promote inter-professional education (IPE) at UT Austin. This has prompted several initiatives to build IPE into the nursing curriculum as well as curricula in the College of Pharmacy, the School of Social Work and the upcoming Dell Medical School.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Alternate Entry Masters of Science in Nursing (AE-MSN) degree. Twenty-five years is hardly “old,” but we were in fact the second school of nursing in the nation to launch a program that opened nursing education opportunities to people from all walks of life. Today, several other schools of nursing provide a similar program.

Designed for individuals holding baccalaureate or graduate degrees in disciplines other than nursing who are interested in pursuing both a registered nurse license and master’s in nursing degree, the program has graduated more than 691 students to date. Students are admitted once a year, and 144 are currently enrolled.

I’m particularly pleased to tell you about changes to our own building. We recently began work on a master plan — about which we will be soliciting input from students and faculty — that we believe will provide the best support for teaching, learning and research. These changes are long overdue, and we are eager to hear your ideas.

Speaking of buildings, Dell Medical School and Seton’s new teaching hospital are now well underway, and our section of Red River Street has changed dramatically. Nursing students, faculty, staff and researchers now rub elbows with numerous surveyors, architects and construction crews. But amid the clouds of dust and monstrous earthmovers, we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide the best quality nursing education to our students and public health care to our community.

Welcome to our busy, productive home of learning, leadership, discovery and individual opportunity.

An Alumna Looks Back at the Past and Forward to the Future

norine_yukon-100x125“Thoughts on the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, Brackenridge Hospital and the New Medical School”

—Norine Yukon

My mother’s cousin was a general surgeon in Austin, and I started working for him when I was eighteen. Originally, he had me help out by preparing and sending out all his paper statements to patients and insurance companies.

You see, back then, we sent bills out once a month. Once a month! That would probably freak out any office practice manager today. The paper statements themselves fascinated me because each piece of paper told a story. Almost all his patients came to him initially for surgery, but a lot of them ended up coming back to him for years as a general practitioner.

Many of his patients had no insurance and no money. Some of them used to drive long distances to his office every week or month to bring him five or ten dollars and slowly pay their bill down. While they were there, he’d check them out, knowing that they were unlikely to seek any other medical care. So he figured he’d better go ahead and take care of them when they dropped in to make their payments.

And, after driving for so long, they loved to sit and talk to his wife who was also his receptionist, assistant and constant companion. She had a smile that beamed when you walked in the door, and you couldn’t wait to visit with her. Some folks came from farms in the Valley, and since she was crazy about fresh fruit, and he loved to make her happy — and loved to eat, too — he’d accept produce from patients to pay off surgical bills.

One time I was doing the monthly statements and said, “Hey, Mr. So and So brought in that bushel of cantaloupes last week; how much do you want me to knock off his bill?” He said, “That fruit was so sweet, go ahead and wipe out the whole bill.” I figured those cantaloupes ended up being worth about twenty dollars each. That happened a lot, but my cousin and his wife always had a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables at their office and in their house, which was okay by me.

His patients came to him for years, well after their original surgeries had healed. They liked his direct, gruff but sensitive approach and they loved his wife. She did almost every job in the office until her muscular dystrophy wouldn’t allow her to assist in the exam room any more.

They were together 24/7: at home, where I used to stay with them a lot while attending college; at his office, where they worked together for long hours; at the old Brackenridge Hospital, where the emergency room, intensive care unit and operating room staff knew her as well as they knew him.

She was in the surgery lounge, often at 3 or 4 a.m., because he was one of the on-call surgeons, which meant gunshots and appendectomies and crazy stories at all hours. His wife was always by his side, holding onto his arm, especially during the last several years when she couldn’t walk alone.

And he was happy to support her on his arm. He was a big bear of a guy who enjoyed having his lovely and sociable wife with him and he knew what a positive impact she had on all his patients. She was there in the hospital with him on rounds and she was the first face you would see when you came to his office for post-op visits.

Soon after I started working at his office, I found that I loved dealing with all the patients and their conditions — even the blood and guts — and so he taught me to help him in the exam and treatment rooms, which came in handy, especially when his wife got to where it was hard for her to stand up.

He told me I should consider going to nursing school, but I told him that I was pretty sure my assertive personality would get in the way. He would roll his eyes. I didn’t know why, but he started taking me to the Brackenridge emergency room and intensive care unit (ICU). He’d say, “Watch those nurses and tell me that they aren’t the smartest, fastest, most assertive people around.”

Of course he was right. He challenged me to get a job at Brackenridge as a ward clerk and then come back and tell him what I thought about nurses.

I got a job in the brand new coronary care unit (CCU) at the old Brack’s brand new wing. The unit was state of the art, all new and modern and bright. In spite of that, our big cardiac weapons were still lidocaine and defib paddles. It seemed like a lot of patients died.

In retrospect, I’m not sure what “a lot” means, but every death was so intense because every person who died was so precious to someone. That someone could be just one person there for them, or a few, or a mass of family and/or friends, but every single loss seemed painfully huge.

The minute a patient came to the unit, our team of nurses and helpers formed a relationship with them, and if there were no family or friends there, the nurses took over and our team became that someone for them. I saw a lot of people die, but thanks to our team, I never saw a person die alone.

My experience as a ward clerk sent me straight back to school to get a bachelor’s of science in nursing. I got that “golden ring” at the UT Austin School of Nursing, and my cousins took enormous pride in my career over the years.

So much has changed in the health care system during the decades that I have been immersed in serving others. But one thing has not: the power of compassion. Evidenced-based practice is essential to providing health services. Human caring and kindness extend that scientific knowledge to allow us to connect with our patients in ways that improve their engagement and their health outcomes. Compassion is what makes the science and art of nursing so powerful.

My mother’s cousin was a general surgeon in Austin, and his wife was his team member who kept his patients engaged. Together, they were amazing. The nurses I worked with in the ICU and CCU at Brackenridge were brilliant and kind.

I look back at all these individuals with respect, and I look forward to all the training at both the School of Nursing and the future Dell Medical School and new teaching hospital that is expanding on the same ground where I learned so much.

A lot has happened and changed on this property in Austin between 15th Street and MLK Boulevard. I am lucky to have learned my basics from some of the masters who helped make these grounds around here so special.

Norine Yukon grew up in Texas, Bermuda and Tokyo. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and worked in an inpatient setting for nearly ten years. After becoming engaged in health care policy and the allocation of health care resources, her interests led her to the managed care industry, where she led several health plans. She began working for UnitedHealthcare in 1987 and then for Prudential HealthCare and the AMERIGROUP Corporation. Norine returned to UnitedHealthcare in 2009 and retired in May 2014 as the CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas, serving beneficiaries in Medicaid, CHIP, Long Term Care, and Dual Special Needs Programs.

Norine has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations, and she has been a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and a neonatal intensive care unit. She has lectured at universities in Texas, Arizona, and New Jersey, and been appointed by several governors to various task forces, advisory committees, and transition teams for health and human services. She currently serves on the Austin Meals on Wheels Board of Directors, the Texas Conference for Women Board of Directors, the Advisory Council for the UT Austin School of Nursing, and the Texas Exes Council.

Dell Medical School Construction Update

Things are changing here at the UT Austin School of Nursing. Seriously changing!

May 7, 2014: Two weeks after the groundbreaking for the Dell Medical School, Centennial Park becomes ground zero.

May 7, 2014: Two weeks after the groundbreaking for the Dell Medical School, Centennial Park becomes ground zero.

Once ground was broken for the Dell Medical School and a new teaching hospital on April 21, it’s been full steam ahead.

Parking lots have been ripped up. A few trees have been taken down. Roads have been closed. A park has disappeared.

May 14, 2014: Another week, another mound of dirt.

May 14, 2014: Another week, another mound of dirt.

And still we stand!

Here are a few photos showing the construction progress next door (which will be the hospital). The medical school will be across the street where the Erwin Center parking lot once was.

Check back in a couple of months for more information and photos of the progress.

May 30, 2014: Looks like all that rain over Memorial Day weekend brought the grass back to life. Notice how the large trees have "collars" around them. This is part of the process of relocating them. Big job!

May 30, 2014: Looks like all that rain over Memorial Day weekend brought the grass back to life. Notice how the large trees have “collars” around them. This is part of the process of relocating them. Big job!

Oh! And if you were concerned about the statues of the three muses that once graced Centennial Park next door, they were safely relocated to Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum near Zilker Park.

Background: Last year, the UT System Board of Regents committed $334 million for the construction. Additionally, the Seton Healthcare Family has committed $295 million — a portion of which will come from fundraising — to build a new 211-bed teaching hospital to replace the aging University Medical Center Brackenridge.

June 11, 2014: Still fairly green. And the mound of dirt keeps growing.

June 11, 2014: Still fairly green. And the mound of dirt keeps growing.

Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas will serve as the medical school’s primary clinical in-patient teaching facility and enhance services to residents of Central Texas.

The Joy of Service

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”


Dean of the UT Austin School of Nursing

Dean Alexa Stuifbergen

If you graduated from the School of Nursing within the last ten years, you received a burnt orange leather bookmark inscribed with this quotation. During your time as a nursing student, you learned not only the clinical and critical thinking skills necessary to become a competent health-care provider, but also, I hope, the joy that service can bring to one’s life.

Service is a huge part of the nursing profession, and I am pleased to see all of the volunteer opportunities our students take advantage of (and even create) each year.

From Longhorn School-bus to Explore UT to collecting clothing for the homeless and school supplies for patients at the Children’s Wellness Center, our student groups are active participants in numerous Austin-area events and charitable concerns. Their service can be as formal as holding office in a student organization to as personal as giving of their time to assist another student in understanding a concept from class or honing a clinical skill.

This past year, AE-MSN student Paul Bradley collected gently used purses for Handbags for Hope, which benefits domestic violence victims. BSN students hosted bake sales to support student scholarships, charity 5K teams and service projects. Members of the University of Texas Nursing Students Association assisted with flu shots and other hands-on care at the CD Doyle Clinic and hosted health fairs on campus. Undergraduates Brittany Castañeda and Clay Clark were named fellows of the Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement–City Hall and will work alongside Austinites to improve local neighborhoods.

This May, the School of Nursing is proud to confer 72 bachelor’s, 70 master’s, five post-master’s and four doctoral degrees. You cannot imagine how proud I am of each and every graduate as they walk across the stage. I cannot imagine how many lives their service is going to impact across the span of their careers.

I can only imagine what great joy will follow their service.

At the Learning Center

Woman in library

Mandy Deen, Librarian at the School of Nursing Learning Center

Many of you may be very familiar with the School of Nursing Learning Center on the 5th floor of the Nursing building.

Some of you may not be familiar with the Learning Center on the 5th floor at all.

Some of you may believe I am confusing the collection of lunch tables and excellent napping couches in the southeast corner of the 5th floor of the Nursing building with some kind of center of learning, but I assure you, that’s what it is!

I know because I work there. I am your friendly, coffee-dependent, departmental librarian, and I have therefore compiled the following list of tips and notes (#LCLifehacks, I fully expect this hashtag to be trending later today) regarding the Learning Center (LC) and nursing research.

The LC is covered with giant windows. The thermostat is probably lying to us all about the real temperature, so bring some layers! In the winter you can pretend you’re shooting your very own North Face commercial.

Woman and printer

The printer seems to be working!

If you are a Twitter user, you can follow the LC’s very own Twitter account (@TheSONLC) to find out the instant a) the printer is broken, b) or fixed, c) if any new fancy materials have been donated or bought for the LC, d) if there is any free food at the reference desk, and e) if any advances or changes occur in the field of academic research.

Set up your own accounts on any of the databases you use: It will make your life so much easier when you want to save or revisit items you previously found. Particularly when it’s 3 a.m. and you’ve just decided to completely change your paper topic.

Use more than one academic database. Different databases have different materials. We all like the interface of the ONE single database we’ve used for everything since high school, but Wikipedia is very much against the rules in college. Being familiar with more than one interface will give you a lot of academic flexibility and make you a stronger, more fearless student.

If you’re a graduate student OR writing a lengthy literature review, don’t work harder than you have to. Look into downloading and using a Citation Manager. They allow you to store articles, PDFs and create citations easily. Some of them are free! Some of them are not! Check out the LC bulletin board on the 5th floor by the south elevator for further details on the more popular options. (ReadCube, Mendely, Zotero, Endnote).

During October the LC has free candy! Plan your meals accordingly.

Woman at computer

The Learning Center’s computer classroom

The LC has two scanning computers, both in the outer computer classroom. Instructions are taped to the desk by the computer, and many people from all walks of academia have successfully scanned items. Don’t be intimidated.

The LC has a lot of clinical equipment, and some of it may be useful to students conducting health fair screenings and school presentations. Relevant items include School of Nursing banners, scales, anatomical models, blood pressure cuffs and thermometers. I personally feel that the UT Austin School of Nursing Hypertension Screening Banner does not get enough circulation.

student asleep with book on couch

One of the center’s excellent napping couches

The LC does NOT have Mac chargers for check out, but we do offer a battery pack for laptops with a Mac adapter. It also has adapters for PC laptops. It is advertised to last 19 hours! Which should be more than long enough to get you through your classes, even if they feel longer.

The LC lab computers just will not print HTML documents. They won’t even recognize your command when it comes to HTML. Try and cut and paste your text into a Word document. They’re better at those.

A $20 bill is hidden in the seat cushions in the LC couch. First person to find it …… keeps it.*

The LC also has a select number of laptop computers for student check out. Checkout times range from two hours to a week. These are very precious items; please handle them carefully, like a newborn child.

Lost and found box

Don’t look for lost IDs in the Lost and Found box!

If you have lost your ID in the LC it probably won’t be in the “Lost and Found” box at the end of the reference desk. We keep lost IDs in a secret behind-the-desk location. Ask one of the workers to check for you.

There you have it. These are all the important details for a successful semester at the Learning Center.

If you have any questions at all, or any kind of free pretzels, please stop by and see me.

— Mandy Deen

*OK, not really. $20! That’s a lot of pretzels!!

Nurses Need Nutrition, Too

Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Alumna Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Whether as a nursing student, professor, school nurse, floor nurse or research nurse, at one time or another we’ve all had to eat on the go. There never seems to be enough time in the day to sit down and enjoy a meal. We’re always looking forward to the next class, next patient or next task at hand.

Some nurses work nights adding to their dietary disorder. We, as nurses, stress the importance of good nutrition with our patients, but when it comes to nourishing ourselves, nurses are just as guilty of turning to empty calories or skipping meals all together.

This post is a gentle reminder that nurses should take time to grab a healthy snack and seek nutritious meals.

Surprisingly, the hospital cafeteria is not always the best model for nutrition. Often they grill frozen processed hamburgers and chicken breasts and offer high-calorie, sugary, carbonated drinks. In most hospitals, the cafeteria is rarely open at night or serves a limited menu of junk food items, such as microwaveable sandwiches and burritos.

Patients’ families are typically quite generous, especially around the holidays, and love to spoil the nursing staff with sweets and desserts. These are just a few of the contributing factors to poor nurse nutrition, lethargy and weight gain.

Although you might think that bad eating habits don’t affect your job performance, the headache, lack of energy, and grogginess you feel after your 44-oz. soda rush leaves you mentally and physically challenged for the remainder of your shift. You may also find that those extra pounds hiding around your waistline make it harder to move patients. Without a doubt, your nutrition affects your overall wellness and your ability to think on the job.

OK, so maybe nutrition is important even for the most physically fit and brightest nurses, but with all these roadblocks how can nurses motivate themselves? Little things make a big difference; first explore new foods.

There is always something exciting about opening up your lunchbox and finding a food you’ve never tasted. Even the most diversified eater can find something in a farmers’ market or health food store they have never tried before. You may find you hate certain flavors and textures, but at the very least you will expand your palate.

Dr. Seuss promoted this concept in his beloved book Green Eggs and Ham.

You do not like them so you say.
Try them, try them, and you may!
Try them and you may, I say.
Sam, if you would let me be,
I will try them, and you will see.
I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!

Speaking of lunchboxes, treat yourself to a sassy new lunch carrier. Gone are the days of metal lunch pails displaying your favorite Muppet character. Today you can find shabby chic, contemporary and useful containers to store your meals. My personal favorite is Vera Bradley. Although on the pricier side, I have found the quality of these lunch carriers to be impeccable.

The Container Store has unique items to store lunch, from trendy thermal lunch sacks to stackable bento boxes, the options are endless. And don’t forget to add a fun matching tumbler or travel mug, which often can be personalized. Do you have a favorite lunch container idea or brand you love? Please share your favorites in the comments section below.

Thinking outside the (lunch) box brings some excitement back into your meals. Try packing your favorite granola cereal, milk and yogurt for your night shift. Some of my favorite meals involve creatively mixing things I love, such as sandwiches made of peanut butter, honey and apples on toast, and Nutella and bananas on raisin cinnamon bread.

Another favorite is ham, cheese and mayo sandwiches served on King Hawaiian original sweet bread buns with salt and vinegar chips. Consider tortillas, pita bread and crackers combined with sandwich items or dips like sun-dried tomato hummus or pesto.

Pinterest and the internet are filled with ideas for creative lunches and snacks. Spend a day surfing and finding new ideas that appeal to you. This small effort will make a difference and light that spark of inspiration, which hopefully will encourage you to think about nutrition in 2014.

Most importantly work for a balanced diet. Try filling your lunchbox with all the food groups, including grains, fruits, dairy, vegetables, and a good source of protein.

Here are some helpful links:

Container Store

Vera Bradley


Lunch Ideas

Awesome Lunches to Bring to Work

7 Easy, Speedy Lunches

85 Snack Ideas for Kids & Adults

Let Me Give You Some Advice

Graduate coordinators for the UT Austin School of Nursing

Tracy Demchuk and Rudy Ortiz, Graduate Coordinators

The job of a graduate coordinator goes far beyond advising students. They must be effective advocates for graduate students and graduate causes for the School of Nursing. In addition to being accessible to students, the graduate coordinator role involves:

  • Providing an effective liaison between students and the graduate advisor, the graduate program, and the graduate school
  • Having the ability to carry out administrative tasks
  • Anticipating problems and resolving issues effectively
  • Having great communication and organizational skills
  • Having the ability to promote efficient and effective administration of the graduate programs

In this session of “Let Me Give You Some Advice,” we meet Tracy Demchuk and Rudy Ortiz, graduate coordinators for the School of Nursing.

Why is advising important?

Ortiz: Faculty advisors help graduate students navigate the system by assisting students in completing their program requirements for their MSN, post-MSN (certification) or PhD program and developing career goals. Graduate advisors and the graduate program coordinators also assist with The University of Texas at Austin and the School of Nursing policy and procedures, along with administrative duties submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies or Graduate and International Admissions Center.

Demchuk: Advising at the graduate level is two-fold. All graduate students have a faculty advisor who they officially meet twice a year to ensure that they are meeting course requirements for the concentration area in which they are enrolled. As a graduate coordinator, I support the faculty advisor by having a strong working knowledge of the academic policies as well as understanding each program of work, which also ensures that the student meets all course requirements and that all policies of the graduate school are being followed.

Graduate coordinators for the UT Austin School of Nursing

Graduate coordinators Tracy Demchuk and Rudy Ortiz review graduate programs

What is a typical day like for you?

Demchuk: It would depend on the semester and time of year. October through February, my typical day involves working on admissions and communicating with prospective students and the admissions team. A month or so of every semester, a typical day is preparing and coordinating advising. During the beginning of each semester, it’s dealing with registration issues or questions. No matter what time of year, a big part of most days is communication with students, prospective graduate students, and assisting graduate deans and faculty with data and questions. In addition, I need to be available at a moment’s notice to complete important time-sensitive tasks, which is an integral part of any process that ensures student success at the graduate level.

Ortiz: Answering 75 plus emails the first thing in the morning, returning several phone calls, being available for walk-ins during business hours, and working on several projects as we prepare for the next business cycle; for example, admissions, registration, prospective students, recruiting, advising, current student assistance, graduation. The list goes on!

What’s a typical question you get?

Demchuk: There are several. When is the last day to drop a course with a refund? Can I take this course credit/co-credit? Can you help me register for this course? Can I use this course for my support course?

Ortiz: Does the School of Nursing offer graduate online degree programs? Are there scholarships for me? How much scholarship funding may I expect to receive?

What are some of your job duties other than meeting one-on-one with students?

Demchuk: Speaking with prospective students, facilitating information sessions for the AE-MSN program, gathering graduate data for the School of Nursing and the university, managing admissions for the AE-MSN and AE-PhD program, coordinating and managing, advising internal transfers, keeping all documents and information current, managing graduate fellowships processes, assisting with compliance, assisting with School of Nursing alumni needs, and being part of team with all of the other School of Nursing departments.

Ortiz: Recruiting in the Texas area, certifying graduation, and assisting with graduation ceremony are some of the fun duties.

What do you consider the most important part of your job?

Demchuk: Being a liaison for School of Nursing graduate students and the university; which means I’m available to assist, direct and support each student to ensure that they are successful.

Ortiz: Being available to assist current students, faculty and prospective applicants in understanding the policies and procedures in order to achieve their educational goals.

What’s been one of the more difficult questions you’ve had to answer or situations you’ve had to deal with?

Demchuk: I don’t think any question or situation is too difficult to answer or deal with but the ones that tug on my heart are situations that are personal (loss, illness, etc.) and that are affecting or inhibiting student success.

Ortiz: Why hasn’t the School of Nursing started the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program since it is mandatory by 2015? This is a topic that applicants hear in chat rooms, that it will be mandatory for all nursing programs in the U.S. to establish a DNP program by 2015 and eliminate the traditional MSN nurse practitioner programs. THe DNP is not a mandatory requirement. It is a recommendation by the accrediting board for nursing programs to consider. The School of Nursing is currently exploring the possibility of starting the DNP program, but doesn’t have plans to dissolve the traditional MSN nurse practitioner programs.

What should students understand about the services you offer before they come to see you? How should they prepare?

Demchuk: A graduate coordinator can answer questions or point a student in the right direction, and we are here to help. But I like to instill a sense of responsibility in students by asking them to, at minimum, search for information prior to coming to my office. The School of Nursing and UT websites hold a wealth of information, and it just takes a SEARCH to find answers.

Ortiz: Students should understand that our office is available to assist them with their academic goals as they pursue their MSN or PhD degree. We provide the tools and resources needed to complete the necessary paperwork required by the university and the School of Nursing. Our goal is make life easier and less stressful so the students can focus on their studies.

Anything else you’d like to share about the job or about working with students?

Demchuk: I have worked in many roles in post-secondary admissions and student affairs for over 13 years, and my favorite aspect of every position has been the opportunity to work with students and watch each one succeed and GRADUATE! Being a small part of a student’s reaching the finishing line through graduation is very fulfilling.

Ortiz: It is one of the best jobs on campus. I have the opportunity to see students earn their degree (graduate) and walk the stage (commencement). That is the greatest joy, plus all the thank you’s we receive for doing our job. That’s rewarding to me … to see so many smiling faces of success.