For Parish Nurses

Parish Nurse Research Update

 Dear Parish Nurses:  2017 is here along with lots of events and programs both in our congregations and communities.  Here are some  articles  you might be interested in reading about; some are featured in HealthDay, a website that you might want to get yourself (

1.Janelsins.& Ganz.(2016)."'Chemo Brain' lasts for months in many breast cancer survivors". Journal of Clinical Oncology, December 27. 2016.  'ChemoBrain' is the mental fog common after breast cancer treatment and can persist for six months. This finding came after a large study that looked as chemotherapy-related thinking problems, such as memory lapses, attention issues and difficulty processing information, that were reported by women following therapy for breast cancer.  The researchers analyzed patients' perceived impairment and also how others perceived the mental difficulties.  One month after chemo ended, 45% reported significant decline in cognitive abilities but only 1 in 10 of the comparison group did.  After 6 months, 36% still felt their mental ability has declined compared to 13% of the others.  The study found that younger women, black women and those with more anxitey/depression at the study start were more likely to have greater declines in brain functioning. The cause of the "mental fog" may be the chemotherapy drugs, but the researchers point out that there is not a direct caluse-and-effect relationship.

This information may be helpful if you have a member of your congregation who has had chemotherapy for breast cancer. The information may help her and her family understand that this does occur and she is not imagining the problems. You can assist her is getting additional assistance if the condition persists.

2. Shireman, T., Ciaccio, C., & Gurley-Calvez, T. (2016). Kids' asthma flareups fall off after no-smoking laws. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.   This study examined ER visits in 20 metropolitan areas that prohibit smoking in public places such as restaurants and hotels.  The findings indicated that ER visits for childhood asthma attachk fell 17%.  The study also showed that even short exposures to secondhand smoke in public spaces can have a significant impact on asthma exacerbations. In collecting the data, the researchers compared asthma attacks during the 3 years before and 3 years after the smoking ban.  The hospitals were in 14 states and Washington, DC.  After controlling for extraneous factors, the researchers found that kids' asthma-related ER visits tended to fall more and more each year folloing the local smoking ban, reaching 17% overall in the 3rd year; a similar decline in ER visits in locales without smoking bans was not found.

This is helpful information for families whose child/children have asthma related problems.  If your local area permits smoking in public places, it might be helpful for you to compile a listing of restaurants that prohibit smoking for those families to consider.  Or your congregation may consider becoming active to make your community "smoke-free in public places".

3.  American Journal of Nursing. If you do not take this journal, you might want to consider finding where you can access it monthly.  There have been several articles recently that are, in my opinion, of interest to parish nurses:  (A) In November, a series began titled Supporting Family Caregivers: No Longer Home Alone.  Each article has focused on assisting caregivers giving medications:  managing comples medications regimes (Nov), administration of subcutaneous injections (Dec), administration of eye drops, transdermal patches and suppositories (Jan).  These articles were published in collaboration with AARP and provide educational videos available at the AJN website. (B) In October, Helping Elders 'Age in Place' provided excellent information for members of your congregation who insist on remaining in their homes.  Several web sites were identified for additional information. (C) In January, there was an article on updated information on Triglycerides in light of the fact that many people do not pay attention to triglyceride levels but focus mainly on LDL and HDL levels instead. (D) In January a short article on declines in physical activity in schools and climbing rates of childhood obesity. Several approaches are presented that had a positive impact of obesity.  Additional information is available on the web sites included in the article. (E) Also in January there was an excellent article on "Nurses improving adolescent sexual and reporductive health across health care settings". The information and web sites address all aspects/questions/content for the adolescent and his/her parents.

 All of these articles are excellent sources for educational programs for your congregation or the larger community. 

4. Carrie Fisher's death helps us focus on heart disease in women.  In comparing cancer in women and heart disease, 4 of evey 10 women between 45 and 64 die of cancer; 1 in 3 women, 43 million, are living with cardiovascular disease, many without knowing it, making heart disease the number 1 killer of women. Almost 2/3 of women who die suddenly from heart disease had no previous symptoms according to the CDC.  One problem is that women have more atypical symptoms.  Women's symptoms may mimic other conditions for example fatigue could be the flu. Other symptoms may include discomfort/pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder or right arm that worsens with activity.  Also high triglycerides levels were a dangerous risk factor for women but not necessarily in men.   Controlling the risk factors, smoking, exercise, diet, weight and alcohol intake, can control 80% of the probems. One way for women to stay on top of heart health is to know the target numbers for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol (both LDL and HDL), and triglycerdies.  Parish nurses have an excellent opportunity to present a program just for women on heart health.  

As we begin this new year, it may be time to reassess your congregation to determine if the programs you are providing are meeting the changing needs of the members.  Have particular questions come up that could a focus for a new direction?  Several congregation are "Walking to Jerusalem" for Lent.

 This last year I have focused on my own spiritual development.  My husband and I participated in the educational program "Divine Drama" which led us through the Old and New Testament in studying what God has intended us to do as Christiams.  Then we both participated with another group at church reading the Bible in 365 days - we will finish the end of January.  I would recommend that for each of you - we used The 365 Bible which divided the Bible into  segments with information about each book (when it was written and by whom, etc.), selected verses from the reading, a Comtemplate written by a variety of authors from ancient to modern time, questions to think about for yourself, and a prayer.  I kept notes for each day.  I have grown from these two experiences.  It has influenced my thinking and my interactions with others.

Andrea M. West