February is all about heart health—what you can do to improve it, ways to prevent damaging it, and finding out what heart-healthy habits work for your lifestyle. Stress is a big contributor to poor heart health, so relieving stress is a natural way to improve your odds.
But reducing stress, especially when you’re a nurse, is not always as easy as it sounds. Sure, you can try (and probably have great success with) yoga classes or even with the scientifically proven meditation. But if you want to find something a little off the beaten track, try these odd ways to give your stress the boot.
1. Bake Bread
Baking bread is such a huge stress reliever that some medical professionals tell their patients to try it. But you have to put the bread machine away for this one. This is bread baking the old-fashioned way. All the banging and kneading of the dough not only gives your upper body a workout, but the repetitive motion is incredibly soothing. Then call a friend to come over and share your wonderful loaf of bread.
2. Laugh Really Hard
There are lots of formal and informal laughing groups that gather strictly for the purpose of laughing. People get together and try to force a few big laughs, but the resulting honest laughter can really relieve your stress. You can also get your laugh meter going the old-fashioned way. If you want your laughs to come from something funny, tune your radio into some comedy stations, download some funny podcasts, or get some comedians’ CDs from the library. You might have to seek it out, but ticking your funny bone really is good for your health.
3. Carry a Fragrant Cotton Ball
This might sound weird, but carrying around a cotton ball infused with an essential oil can have a huge impact on your mood. Carry your scented cotton ball in a baggie or a small plastic container (remember the idea of this blog is weird ways to relieve stress!) so you can sniff it periodically throughout the day. Lavender is an excellent and well-known relaxing scent. Citrusy scents like lemon, lime, or grapefruit are invigorating and might help your brain out of an afternoon slump.
4. Rest Your Eyes on Beauty
When there’s no way you can step outside or escape to the blue ocean of the Caribbean, find an app with a flickering fireplace or with soothing ocean waves or the bird songs in a rainforest. Spending a few minutes looking at something peaceful (bonus for added sounds) will bring your blood pressure down a few notches even if it’s not the real thing. You can spend just a few minutes gazing and then get back to your day a little more relaxed.
5. Watch a Sad Movie
This is not for everyone! But if you are one of those people who feels relieved after a good cry, you might want to turn on a good tearjerker. A good crying jag can release a lot of pent-up emotions and, in fact, get rid of some of the stress you’re holding in. But, if you’re someone who takes a long time to shake the sad feeling of movies that make you weep, skip this tip.
Finding out what makes you feel better is always good–even if it is a little out of the ordinary. In the end, what matters is your health, so find a great stress reliever and stick with it..
Of all the risk factors for heart disease, the areas you have no control over are often the ones that are especially troublesome. While you can make inroads to a healthier diet, more activity and exercise, reducing stress, and even taking appropriate medications, it often feels like there’s nothing you can do to change your family’s track record of heart disease.
As February is American Heart Month, now is a great time to take stock of your own heart health. Knowing that your family carries a higher risk for heart disease is actually a great motivator to keep your own heart as healthy as possible. In many cases, if you ramp up your efforts to control what you can, you can negate some of your family’s health lineage.
Can you change your family’s past? No – if you had a father and three aunts who died from heart disease in their 40s, you need to take that very seriously. But it doesn’t mean you will take the same path.
How can you beat your genetics?
Know Your History
The American Heart Association recommends gathering as much family history as you possibly can. If you are at least able to start with members of your immediate family, that will help you assess your risk.
Look for family members with a history of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or congestive heart failure. Find out how old family members were when they were diagnosed and how old they were if they died from the disease. And try to notice any patterns – is the predominant problem heart attack or stroke?
Accept (But Don’t Give Into) Your Genes
There is virtually no way to change your genetic makeup. But if you carry an elevated risk, it can make you feel unsure of what’s to come. So while you can’t change your genetic cards, you can change how you live your life.
A lifestyle that is heart-healthy, heart-friendly, and heart-supportive can contribute greatly to your overall heart health and start to bring your elevated risk into a more normal range.
Talk with Your Team
Talk to your healthcare providers to make sure you are getting all the tests you need to uncover any early indicators of heart disease. Discuss medications and other therapies that can lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol and even get things like triglycerides into normal range.
Some minority populations are more predisposed to heart disease (including African Americans and Hispanics), so go over some of those risk factors. And have a discussion about any other conditions you may have that could put you at a higher risk including diabetes, depression, and even psoriatic arthritis.
Make Heart Health a Priority
No one else is going to put your heart health first, so that’s going to be up to you. Put caring for your heart at the top of your to-do list. That means taking a look at obvious things like your eating habits, your weight, your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. But it also means making sure you get enough sleep (lack of sleep raises your risk of heart disease over time) and making sure you take the time for pleasure.
Loneliness also contributes to declining heart health, so develop a rich social life and figure out exactly what that looks like for you. Some people want three parties every weekend and others are happiest having dinner with best friends every couple of weeks or a favorite book club every week.
No matter what story your family health patterns reveal, it doesn’t mean that’s your destiny. With some changes and lots of diligence and close observation, you can keep you heart healthy and strong.
From February 6 to 12, Perianesthesia Nurse Awareness Week will be celebrated and honored by perianesthesia nurses and the colleagues they work with.
According to Armi Holcomb, RN, BSN, CPAN, and immediate past president of the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN) perianesthesia nursing is one of the most well-rounded areas of nursing. For that reason, she sees the field as exciting and satisfying for both personal and professional reasons.
Perianesthesia nurses always have to weigh several different factors when treating each individual patient.
“We see people before surgery and have to know about their preexisting conditions or any medical conditions they have to make sure the surgery is safe,” she says. “We are the patient’s first line of defense.”
Perianesthesia nurses, who administer care during the transition times of pre- and post-surgery, are especially aware of the recovery room care.
Holcomb, who has practiced in many settings including med-surge and ICU, says perianesthesia nursing is her niche. “We see the whole patient,” she says. And then, she says, the perianesthesia nurses are there to help patients transition safely after surgery. “We make sure they can transfer to home, to inpatient, or to the ICU,” she says.
Perianesthesia nurses undergo a certification process through the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc. Certification must be renewed every three years.
As medical care becomes more advanced and complex, the patients nurses see are also generally more acute. Many have coexisting conditions that can have a big impact on surgery and anesthesia. Because of that, these nurses have to always be on top of trends and research. “We have to be life-long learners,” she says, noting that perianesthesia nurses have to keep current with physical health, pharmacology, and surgical needs.
“All of that weighs in and it’s critical thinking,” says Holcomb. Perianesthesia nurses never back away from asking questions and will always advocate for patients, says Holcomb. And they are a tight bunch. ASPAN emphasizes mentoring and sharing knowledge among members.
If you are a perianesthesia nurse or work with one, take time this week to reflect on all you do. Celebrate with colleagues and do something to honor your own work (Holcomb says her organization will celebrate nurses with goody bags and a luncheon among other things).
And if your state doesn’t have a proclamation for this week, you can always advocate for one. ASPAN even offers a sample proclamation to guide your efforts.
Congratulations to all the perianesthesia nurses!
Of all the professions available, nursing offers one of the most flexible and diverse set of opportunities to people with similar training. One of the reasons so many people stay in nursing the because they are able to stretch their professional skills and try new roles. With additional training or certification, a nurse can move into a specific cardiac specialty or try something as broad as travel nursing.
Even with so many options, nurses can easily get into a job rut. There are a few ways to tell if you’ve reached a point where you feel like you’re stagnating. If any of these signs feel familiar, it’s time to take a step back to reassess what you’re doing in your current role. You might be able to change things up by talking to your supervisor about taking on new responsibility or it might just be time to seek out something else.
How can you tell if you’re in a job rut?
1. Are you happy to go to work?
You don’t have to leap out of bed ready to get right to work with a smile on your face. It’s not that kind of happy. But if you genuinely dread going to work or, worse, if you are feeling real physical symptoms from job stress, it’s time to reconsider what you’re doing. Your job shouldn’t give you headaches, stomach aches, feelings of panic, or an overall sense of hopelessness.
2. Do you feel challenged?
If work feels like you’re just biding your time, then your time is probably best spent in some other role. Your job should offer you enough new tasks or put you in different roles so you’re learning new skills. Whether it is a new technology at your organization or a new management skill, adding to your skill set is important for your overall job growth. If you aren’t getting that, you’re missing out and also hurting your long-term job prospects.
3. Do you feel your skills are being used well?
If you have expertise, it should be highlighted and used to your and your organization’s advantage. Your skills should help every professional around you do a better job and do it more efficiently and safely. You might have to point it out and find ways to make sure your expertise is used to its full advantage, but don’t let it stagnate.
4. Are you satisfied with your work environment?
Working with people isn’t always easy, but it can bring about life changing results. If your work environment feels toxic, whether from a bullying situation or from management that doesn’t support nurses, then it’s time to move on. And, of course, if you don’t feel safe in your environment, that’s a red flag that it’s time to move on immediately.
5. Are you always reading job boards?
Everyone looks, but if you’re looking and thinking how much a new job would improve your life, you might be right. If you want a bigger salary or better benefits and you can get that somewhere else, it’s time to polish up that resume.
Honest job dissatisfaction shouldn’t be ignored. If your current role is holding you back, eating away at your spirit, or preventing you from learning new skills, then it’s time to reassess and consider moving on. You shouldn’t be stuck in a job rut.
During this year’s CRNA Week (#crnaweek), there are many nurse anesthetists who are remembering why they got into the profession, and even more are reflecting on how the face of the profession is changing.
John Bing, BSN, CRNA, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Region 6 director, and national AANA board of directors member, says one of his steadfast missions is to make sure the field continues to attract top nurses, but that it is especially welcoming to aspiring minority nurse anesthetists.
Bing knows first-hand how hard it is being a minority in the field. When he first started out, he was often the only African American in the OR, he says. At times, people assumed he was part of the housekeeping staff. Although he laughs about it now, Bing has made it a direct part of his mission to attract more minorities into this field.
He even takes on leadership positions with the primary goal of making sure he is representing the minorities in the field. “You need to see that in leadership,” he says. “If others don’t see that, they won’t see a place for them. I make sure they see it.”
“Many times you would go in and you were it,” he says of when he started out. “Maybe you were the only one in the hospital or the department. Now you go in and you see a fair amount [of minorities].”
As a president of the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentoring Program, Bing also makes sure his students know why he enjoys this profession so much.
One of Bing’s specific approaches is to make sure he talks to patients as the anesthesia takes effect. He finds out what they like so they can chat about it—sports, cooking, books, kids—anything that helps them relax. “That’s like a sedative,” he says. “It calms them down and they remember that.”
And while he’s monitoring a patient, Bing does exactly what he teaches his students—he assesses his patient over and over and over. “You must rely on your instinct,” he says. During travels with students to countries like Nicaragua, Bing teaches students that not every machine is calibrated the same or even correctly.
“The machine is a guideline,” he says. “You are ultimately responsible for anything that happens. You can’t blame the machine for anything. Look at the patient.”
Bing says that while he’s checking blood pressure every five minutes or so, he is constantly “circling the block,” as he calls it. All the machines are incredibly helpful, but they should only confirm what a nurse anesthetist is seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching.
And getting stale in this profession is not an option, he says. “I say to my students, ‘Tell me how this patient could die today,’” he says. That forces students to look at the big picture and not just look for complications, but to look for other factors that could impact that patient on that day.
Bing clearly enjoys working with his students, but he understands first-hand how sometimes they are not the ones who chose the profession. “The last thing I thought I would be was a nurse,” he says with a laugh. As an African-American, there were few role models that looked like him.
A chance look at a jobs list that revealed six pages of nursing jobs, convinced Bing, an athlete in high school and college, to take a look. Bing says he turned to his buddy he was working out with and said, “We get to be around girls and have a great job!” But he still didn’t expect to land in this field. Eventually, nurses in the recovery room where he worked nudged him to give it a try.
Now, Bing’s mission is to attract minorities into nurse anesthesiology. He speaks to kids in schools, paying special attention to making the field appealing to boys and young men. As it is, 49 percent of nurse anesthetists are male, he says, which is a high number considering less than 10 percent of all nurses are male.
But Bing lets kids know that there are chances to be out on a helicopter go team or even in the midst of trauma situations. “Men like that kind of stuff,” he says and it certainly gets the attention of younger kids who don’t know those possibilities exist.
Add in the good salary, the camaraderie, and the fair amount of autonomy, says Bing, and a career as a CRNA shows kids who might not initially consider a nursing career that the path is open to more possibilities than they ever imagined.