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5 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft Online

by South University
November 29, 2018
A photo of a woman using a cell phone.

Around-the-world connectivity. Instant information sharing. Holiday gifts that can be purchased and shipped with only a few clicks. More cat videos than you could ever watch. The internet has given us many amazing things. Unfortunately, the internet also comes with its share of dangers. Chief amongst them is the threat of online identity theft. Identity theft occurs when an unscrupulous individual steals your personal and financial information, typically to use it for their own gain.

As more and more of our lives and daily transactions happen online, cyber security should be a concern for not just businesses but for all individuals. Luckily, you don’t have to be an information technology expert to reduce your risk of identity theft online. (However, those with an information technology or information systems degree who know how to secure business information and systems are in high demand!)

Below are some of the most effective steps you can take to prevent identity theft.

  1. Recognize and avoid malicious emails
    Malicious emails may look like they’re from a bank, government agency, or other business. These emails might inform of you of an urgent problem and encourage you to immediately call a number or click a link, where you’ll be asked for personal, financial, or login information. Never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure the email is authentic. Check the from address carefully for misspellings and to make sure it’s from a company email address.

    If you’re suspicious, get the company’s contact info from any paper documents you have or by looking them up online. Contact them directly using that information rather than the details provided in the email.

  2. Pay attention to URLs
    Before logging into or entering any sensitive information in a form online, check the security of the website. It should say “https” at the beginning and show a lock icon before the URL. Also, be sure that you are on a legitimate website. Hackers or cyber criminals may create sites that look nearly identical to the real site but have minor differences in the URL spelling. They may also use a different domain than the actual website, such as using .net when it should be .com or. gov.

  3. Update your software regularly
    Keep your software up-to-date on all devices from which you access the internet—including your smartphone, tablet, and computer. Doing so will decrease the likelihood that hackers will be able to access your files and information by finding and take advantage of vulnerabilities in outdated software. This include operating systems, internet browsers, email clients, and even Microsoft products like Word and Excel.

  4. Fortify your passwords
    Strong passwords are one of the best ways to secure your sensitive information. One way to create strong passwords is to use a sentence or phrase that is at least 12 characters long (including both capital and lowercase letters). For your most important accounts, turn on multi-factor authentication so that you get a text message or email to confirm your identity when logging in.

    Each account should have a unique password. Otherwise, someone only has to steal one password to access all of your information. Of course, managing multiple passwords can be difficult and overwhelming. A password manager can help. Password managers store all of your passwords for you and only require you to remember the password that allows you to access your password manager.

  5. Shop smart
    Before shopping on a new website, research that site to make sure it has good reviews from other consumers so that you know it can be trusted. Avoid submitting financial information or checking your bank account over public WiFi. Likewise, it’s best to use a personal computer rather than a public one for shopping and banking, since you don’t know what computers might be infected with malware.

    When shopping online, paying by credit card is a safe option because you can work with your credit card company to get your money back if your order isn’t delivered or you’re given the wrong items. PayPal is another option that can offer you protection. As always, before entering your information, make sure the website URL includes https so that you know you’re on a secure site.

Considering a career in information systems and technology?

Every business has information they need to collect, organize, access, share, and protect. To do so, they rely on information technology and systems that must be designed and managed by professionals in the field. Does working in this ever-evolving and increasingly critical field sounds exciting to you?

South University can help you prepare with our Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and Master of Science in Information Systems degree programs. Learn more today about how these programs can equip you for in-demand careers in technology and business.

by South University
November 29, 2018
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Why Choose a Medical Assisting Career

by South University
November 28, 2018
A photo of a woman talking with a healthcare professional, perhaps a medical assistant.

If you're considering pursuing a career in healthcare, medical assisting can allow you to do meaningful work that matters in your community. Medical assistants play an essential role in the day-to-day operations of healthcare facilities and are often among the first and last people a patient sees at a check-up or doctor's appointment. If you are compassionate, detailed-oriented, and are interested in working in the healthcare field, here are four reasons why medical assisting is a great place to start.

Medical assistant employment is growing faster than average.

Medical assistant employment growth follows the general growth of the healthcare industry and the increasing need for support workers at healthcare facilities.

An image of a bar graph.

According to the BLS, employment of medical assistants in the US is expected to increase 29% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the 7% average across all occupations.

By 2026, the BLS projects that 818,400 medical assistants will be employed in the US, compared to the 634,400 medical assistants counted in 2016. Such an increase in demand can provider workers with increased career stability and the knowledge that, no matter where they are in the country, medical assistants will be needed.

Medical assisting is more than just a job. It’s a rewarding healthcare career.

As a medical assistant, you’ll have the chance to contribute directly to patient health and medical care. You may interact often with patients and, with an upbeat attitude and positive demeanor, you can help to keep patients feeling at ease and smiling during a physician’s visit that might otherwise be stressful.

An image of a blue cross representing the medical field.

Medical assistants are valued members of the health care team who support physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals.

As a medical assistant, you'll also be learning a lot about the healthcare field. With experience and continued education, you may find opportunities for advancement into roles like medical office or records manager, healthcare administrator, or other related jobs.

Medical assisting encompasses diverse and engaging responsibilities.

As a medical assistant, you may perform a wide mix of administrative and clinical duties, so that you’re always busy and never bored.

On the administrative side, you might:

  • schedule appointments
  • greet patients
  • update electronics
  • manage health records
  • handle billing and insurance.

Clinical duties can include:

  • recording patient information and history
  • instructing patients on medications
  • checking vital signs
  • preparing blood samples
  • conducting basic lab tests
  • assisting the doctor before and during a patient exam.

In some states, medical assistants may also give patients injections or medications as instructed by the physician.

Many healthcare facilities need medical assistants.

Medical assistants can work in a variety of care facilities.  Most medical assistants have full-time schedules while others have the option to work part-time instead. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2016, physicians’ offices (at 57% of medical assistants), hospitals (at 15%), outpatient care centers (10%) and chiropractors’ offices (4%) were the biggest employers.

If you work in a physician’s or other health care practitioner’s office, you may work a relatively predictable schedule since most clinics and offices open during standard business hours, making it easier for you to plan and schedule time with family and friends.

How to Prepare for Your Medical Assisting Career

At South University, our Associate of Science in Medical Assisting degree program can prepare you with the technical training, interpersonal skills, and medical knowledge needed to begin working as a medical assistant in as little as 2 years. Your program will cover topics such as:

  • Medical terminology
  • Clinical competencies
  • Clinical laboratory competencies
  • Medical office procedures
  • Medical insurance and coding
  • Computers in the medical office
  • Human pathophysiology
  • Business communications
  • Medical assisting certification
  • And more
An image that reads 100%
South University's medical assisting program curriculum can prepare you well to start your career, and when South University checked in with our 2015 and 2016 Associate of Science in Medical Assisting graduates, 100% reported high satisfaction.*

In addition to hands-on coursework and one-on-one faculty attention, our program includes the opportunity to gain on-site experience and practice performing supervised medical assistant duties in a local medical organization.

Learn more today about South University’s medical assisting program available at our Columbia, Montgomery, and Savannah campuses.

*See program outcomes pages for more details: Columbia, Montgomery, and Savannah.

See suprograms.info for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, alumni success, and other important info.

Note: This post was originally published on August 30, 2017 and was updated with new information in November 2018.

by South University
November 28, 2018
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Be a Leader: The 3 Skills (and a Principle to Live by) That You’ll Need to Rise to the Top in the Nursing World.

by David Nesmith
November 20, 2018
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

According to the BLS, the demand for all types of nurses continues to grow. As it does, the demand for nursing department and team leaders. Exponentially.

It's never too early to be thinking about your nursing career trajectory. To help you do that, here are three skills that will help you reach the heights of the industry. We've also thrown in an essential principle to practice for good measure.

  1. Decision making

    Decision making is a key leadership skill in any work environment. Whether it’s who to hire, how to schedule staff, or which treatment approach to pursue, the ability to make a good decision with available information is vital.

    Nurses' decisions have always had important implications for patient outcomes. Nurses are often cast into the role of active decision makers in healthcare by policy makers and other members of the healthcare team.

    No single decision-making formula can be used in all situations.

    In order to be a good decision maker, you need a systematic approach so that, no matter what type of decision you have to make, you can make it with confidence. You can’t just rely on your gut. You need to be able to analyze data and project the future of every decision to increase your success.

    In the nursing field, clinical decision making is vital. It’s something that you develop over time, so the sooner you begin honing your decision-making skills, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

  2. Conflict resolution

    Let's face it, even the most well-oiled machines can skip a gear every now and then. So too can a great, cohesive team have an occasional hiccup with one member on the "hic" side and the other pulling for "cup" team.

    Guess who settles these conflicts? That’s right, the leader. And, if you want to be an effective leader, you better learn how to resolve some issues.

    Handling conflicts in an efficient and effective manner improves quality, patient safety, and staff morale. Also important – it lessens the stress on the team.

    Effective resolution and management of a conflict requires clear communication and an understanding of the perceived areas of disagreement. Miscommunication is responsible for too many unnecessary conflicts. Good conflict management means knowing and understanding the mutual and individual goals of those affected. It then becomes a job of understanding each perspective and working toward a solution that meets their mutual goals.

    Here are five styles of handling conflict:

    • Dominating
    • Obliging
    • Avoiding
    • Compromising
    • Integrating

    It has been commonly believed that each of these styles depend on the disposition of the leader. Recently, however, these conflict management behaviors are believed to be partially situational. Effective conflict management means choosing the style that matches the situation at hand.

  3. Delegating

    For a leader, delegating means assigning tasks and activities to team members below you.

    There are many benefits to delegating, some of which are:

    • Training. You can teach someone how to do something, but most people can only master a task by doing it themselves. Delegating tasks, with close oversight for the true novice, will help you develop others and instill even more confidence.
    • Trust. When you delegate something that is meaningful, you’re saying, “I trust you to do this.” Your delegate will not only feel better by having your trust, but they are also motivated to own the task and move heaven and earth to get it done right.
    • Time. Even super-you can’t do everything. If you try, you’ll burn out and you won’t be effective overall. Think of it this way – as a leader you should have your eye on the bigger picture. You can’t afford to get lost in the minutiae.

  4. Integrity

    Integrity is less a skill than a way of life. It means following moral or ethical convictions and doing the right thing in all circumstances, despite what's most profitable for you. Even if no one is watching. Especially if no one is watching. Having integrity means being true to yourself and doing nothing that would demean or dishonor yourself or anyone else.

    There's an old saying that goes, "The only way to build self-esteem is through esteem-able acts." The same goes for integrity. To be a person with integrity requires practice. Here are ways you can practice integrity in the workplace:

    • Always keep your promises and commitments, even if it takes extra effort.
    • Do not gossip.
    • Do not let someone else take the blame for something you did.
    • Never reveal confidential information that someone has trusted you with.
    • Just do the right thing without expectations of advancement or reward.

Being a nurse leader isn't easy. If it was, everyone would do it. If you practice the above skills and life principle, you’ll have a strong start for reaching your career goals and rising to the top of the nursing profession.

You can further strengthen your nursing leadership abilities by advancing your nursing education. While all of South University's nursing degree programs teach some leadership skills, if you’re truly passionate about becoming a nursing leader, our Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program with a Specialization in Nurse Administrator, our RN to MSN with a Specialization in Nurse Administrator, or our Doctor of Nurse Practice degree program may be right for you.

by David Nesmith
November 20, 2018
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12 Relaxation Techniques and Tips for When You Need to Relieve Stress

by South University
November 7, 2018
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

No one is immune to stress, no matter how well you take care of yourself or how much you plan ahead. Stress can be related to work, school, relationships, and the world around you. It’s bound to happen. So, what do you do when things go wrong and the stress is building? What relaxation techniques do you use that actually work? Here are some trusted methods you can use to relieve stress and calm the mind.

  1. Take a break
    Stop what you’re doing. Step away and shift your focus. Look out the window. Drink a cup of tea. Do something that’s creative or that requires focus—like doodling, knitting, or Sudoku—to take your mind off what’s worrying you.

  2. Breathe deep
  3. Breathe in slowly through nose. Feel your lungs expand and notice as your belly rises. Pause at the end of your inhale. Then slowly release your breath, trying to make your exhale slower than your inhale. Repeat this deep breathing three or four times. As you do so, your heart rate will slow, your parasympathetic nervous system will help you to relax, and your mind will begin to calm.

    Consider trying guided meditations that focus on your breathe with apps like Calm or Headspace. In addition to 10-minute and longer meditations, you’ll also find short 30-seconds, 1-minute, or 3-minute meditation options that fit even your busiest days.

  4. Listen to calming music or nature sounds
    Play slow quiet music to help you relax. Choose songs with little to no vocals and no loud instruments. Alternatively, you can try nature sounds—like that of an ocean, a creek, or birds in a field. Whether you’re working around the house or the office, these soothing sounds can slow your mind and boost your mood.

  5. Create a gratitude journal
    Write down 10 things you’re grateful for. Reread your list and think about each item. In doing so, you move your attention away from your stressors to the objects of your gratitude. Keep this list handy and add to it weekly. When you need to relieve your stress, revisit your list to remind yourself of all the good things in your life.

  6. Sing
    Need to reduce stress and anxiety? Like exercising, minus all that sweat, singing your favorite song has the power to produce endorphins that improve your mood and reduce cortisol, a hormone commonly associated with stress, to release tension. So, in your car, in the shower, or in your home, turn it up and belt it out. Maybe don’t try this one in a crowded office though.

  7. Go screen-free
    The constant influx of email. Your love-hate relationship with social media. The never-ending news cycle. Sometimes, it gets to be too much. Give yourself permission to disconnect. Turn off your phone. Read a book, go for a stroll, spend time with your family. Whatever it is, do something that makes you happy.

  8. Declutter
    That clutter at your desk or your kitchen table or even in your car could be contributing to your stress levels. Stop putting off the work of decluttering. Cleaning up and throwing things away can feel good in the moment and seeing a clear space in the future will help you continue to feel relaxed. Be sure to set up an organization system that helps you keep your space clutter-free. This may include reminders or scheduling time each week to sort and organize.

  9. Start small
    If you’re feeling stressed about your to-do list, pick one thing to focus on. Break that item down into small, manageable tasks. Set a realistic goal for which of those small tasks you plan to accomplish in the next hour, two hours, or day. Recognize and acknowledge your small wins as you complete each task.

  10. Be with friends and family
    Talking about how you feel with close friends or family can help you to process your emotions and find the clarity to deal with what’s going on. Your loved ones can also join you in brainstorming how to solve a problem and help you to see something from a new perspective. Spending time with loved ones can also help to distract you from your stressors and give you renewed energy to tackle any complex issues in your life.

  11. Laugh
    Find videos of your favorite comedian or maybe some adorable animals doing funny things. How about an episode of your favorite comedy show? Laughing is another great way to get your feel-good endorphins flowing and to lower your stress hormones.

  12. Move
    Stretch. Dance around the room even if it feels silly. Work out. Dig in your garden. Take your dog for a walk. Do what works for you; just get your energy flowing and your mind off the things that stress you out. (Get bonus points for going outside or spending time with a pet, as both have been shown to help relieve stress.)

  13. Ask for help
    Sometimes we feel stress because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. If you need help, ask for it. Ask your boss, your instructor, or your family. Most people are willing to help if only they know how and when you need support.

Stress Happens

One important thing to remember is to never stress about being stressed. Stress happens and worrying about your stress levels never helps. The best course of action is to find a way to reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Over time, you’ll learn what relaxation techniques work for you.

If you’re interested in helping other people cope with stress and other complex issues in their lives, you may want to consider a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program or Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at South University.

by South University
November 7, 2018
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It’s a Wrap! Here’s What Happens After Taking Your Nurse Practitioner Exams.

by South University
November 6, 2018
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

After hours of planning, studying, and test-taking, when you finish your nurse practitioner certification exam, it will be time for the moment of truth. When your test is complete, your results instantly appear on the screen and you’ll know right away whether you have passed. Once you pass, take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment and hard work!

Your certification will be good for 5 years. (Details on how to maintain and renew certification is available on the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) sites.)

Of course, after taking your test, there are still a few more things left to do before you are officially ready to practice.

What You Receive After Passing Your NP Exam

After passing the ANCC exam: You will receive a copy of your results before you leave the testing center. Within 2 months, you’ll receive a certificate and pin to celebrate your achievement. ANCC does not automatically send verification of certification to your state board of nursing or employer, so you will need to request this be sent to the proper location(s).

After passing the AANP exam: If all required documentation is on a file, a printable wallet card will be available for download online within 48 hours and an official score report and certificate will be mailed to you within 2-3 weeks.

If You Do Not Pass on Your First Try

If you do not pass on your first attempt, contact your university or Career Services team to see whether they have access to or recommendations for additional review materials to prepare for retesting.

For the AANP:

You will first need to wait to receive your exam results in the mail. These results will show your strengths and weaknesses, and you must complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education in your weakest areas. You can typically obtain these through:

  • Attending a review course
  • Shadowing in a doctor’s office
  • Completing modules provided by the AANP

After completing these hours, you may apply to retake the exam. Two testing attempts are allowed per calendar year.

For the ANCC:

If you do not pass the ANCC, your score report will include diagnostic information for each content area of the test and you may retest after 60 days. You can test up to 3 times in any 12-month period. Wait 5 days after your first test to apply for a retest online.

What to Do After Passing Your NP Exam

  1. Notify your university
    If you’ve been working with your Career Services team or university to prepare for the boards, let them know that you passed. At South University, Career Services can help to guide you through the next stages of becoming a licensed and employed nurse practitioner.

  2. Complete steps required by your state Board of Nursing
    Confirm what you need to do to receive your state license. Most Board of Nursing (BON) websites provide a checklist for this process. This process may include:

    • Requesting official transcripts be sent to the BON
    • Filling out your state’s BON application
    • Requesting that your University or Program Director complete additional forms
    • Initiating fingerprints and a background check

    Additional processes and applications may be required by your state.

  3. Send official transcript copies to your house
    Although this is not required, we suggest you keep some official transcripts at your house for any additional paperwork that may be needed in your state or for future positions. If you request copies, do not open them upon arrival—doing so ruins the validity of the transcript.

  4. Apply for your NPI number
    A national provider identifier (NPI) is a unique ten-digit number required by HIPAA and The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for covered US healthcare providers. It helps to track and transmit standard HIPAA electronic transactions, such as electronic claims and claim status inquiries. Not having a NPI number can hinder you when applying for jobs and may hurt your chances at a position.

  5. Consider malpractice insurance
    Look into purchasing your own malpractice insurance. Some employers will provide you with this insurance, while others require you find this on your own.

  6. Apply or register for prescriptive authority (if required)
    Some states require you to complete an additional application for prescriptive authority. A few states also require this application to be completed by the university program director. (South University students, please send this to your Career Services Advisor.)

  7. Apply for a DEA number
    A DEA number is an identifying number that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assigns to health care providers that allows you to distribute and prescribe controlled substances. This cost can be hefty (over $700), but employers often want you to have this prior to hiring you.

  8. Apply to become a Medicare/Medicaid provider
    This ensures that you can provide care to those covered by Medicare/Medicaid. Visit The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website to get started.

Want to know more about becoming a nurse practitioner? Learn about our graduate and post graduate nursing programs or start at the beginning of our blog series on the nursing boards to see how you can get ready for your exams.

*South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

by South University
November 6, 2018
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