The compassionate work and care of all nurses deserves to be celebrated, and throughout the year, different branches of the nursing profession get the chance to spotlight their unique duties.
This week, September 10 to 17, is National Nephrology Nurses Week, sponsored by the American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA), and honors the work nurses do with patients who have kidney disease or are at risk for impaired kidney function.
The need in this area is great. According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in seven adults has chronic kidney disease. Many people don’t realize they have a current disease and many of those who are at risk are also unaware.
Many sub-specialties exist within nephrology nursing, so nurses in this area have many choices. To advance their careers and gain more knowledge, nurses can become certified through the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission in becoming a nephrology nurse nurse practitioner, a certified nephrology nurse, or a certified dialysis nurse (several technical certifications exist as well).
With a varied and diverse population, nephrology nurses work with all ages of patients from the youngest patients to the oldest. They can work in healthcare settings ranging from hospitals to home care, but may also choose to pursue research, policy work in government, or a position in academia.
Renal disease can impact anyone, so nurses become comfortable helping patients with prevention, with deciding on treatment options, and guiding them to administer self care and monitoring. And while many patients are relieved to know their kidney disease can be managed, sometimes the care options (like needing dialysis) are a daunting prospect when patients first hear it. They rely on the compassionate, professional, and expert nursing care to help understand and adapt to their diagnosis. Nephrology nurses must have broad knowledge and care for the whole body as kidney function impacts so many physical systems.
Many kidney patients have additional conditions making their care especially complex, so a nurse who wants to get into the nephrology field needs to be able to work comfortably on a team to understand the complexities of care.
In a public letter celebrating National Nephrology Nurses Week, Alice Hellebrand, MSN, RN, CNN, and 2017-2018 ANNA president, said, “Nephrology nurses use their vision, knowledge, and skills to take action and improve patient outcomes. They make a positive difference in the lives of patients and their families every day. Individuals with kidney failure rely on the skills, knowledge, and expertise of nephrology nurses to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their life-saving care.”
Thanks to all the nephrology nurses out there!
With September designated as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, it’s especially fitting to recognize the nurses who care for these young patients with a day to honor their compassionate work.
September 8 marks Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse Day, the fifth such celebration of its kind. Spearheaded by the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON), the day recognizes the work of caring for children, teens, and young adults who have cancer or blood disorders. In addition, the nurses are also supports and sources of knowledge for the families and loved ones of these children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening and life-changing diseases and disorders.
APHON is working steadily to have states recognize and celebrate September 8 as an officially dedicated day. Organizations and the health care teams within them can help these efforts by notifying legislators of the importance of honoring the work in this challenging and rewarding field.
If you are interested in taking action to support these efforts or just honoring a pediatric hematology/ oncology nurse in your life, there’s lots you can do.
- Write to your legislators to inform them about the day and propose legislation to have the day officially recognized in your state. You can also invite legislators to a presentation to tell them about this important role in the lives of children and families and health care organizations. Teach them about what you do—in short order they will be amazed.
- Use social media for one of its best purposes –spreading good news far and wide. Post on Facebook, chat on Twitter, and post pics on Instagram of you and your fellow nursing team. Use #pediatrichematologyoncologynursesday to bring it all together.
- Say thank you to your team or to the pediatric hematology/oncology nurses in your life. Working with children who are fighting these diseases is uplifting, emotional, and essential for the children. Let these nurses know how crucial their work is by spreading a little joy throughout the day and making them feel appreciated.
If you’re a nurse and are interested in exploring this field, contact APHON to learn about some of the requirements and skills you’ll need. A BSN is recommended for pediatric hematology/oncology nurses, and you’ll probably want to work in a general pediatric unit so you can get a feeling for what it’s like working with kids. After gaining some on-the-job experience, getting certification as a Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON) with the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation will boost your confidence, your skill set, and your professional credentials.
Happy Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses Day!
Starting a job search is exciting. Thinking about a new nursing role or working in a new organization is often energizing and helps get you through the work of looking for a new position. But if you are getting lots of rejections (or even flat-out silence), it’s time to shake things up.
Today’s job market is intense and competitive. If you’re a qualified nurse with a solid background of great work, finding a job shouldn’t be as hard as it sometimes is. If your resumes and inquires are being met with a solid round of no, it’s time to step back and see what you could do better.
1. Take a New Approach
If you’re only sending out resumes, it’s time to do something different. Branch out into professional organizations or networking groups. See if there are any seminars or lectures on LinkedIn or in local organizations. Get yourself out of your routine and meeting new people. Despite today’s incredible technological advances, many job offers come though personal connections not computers.
2. Check that Resume
Sending out the same resume you started with months ago could be a problem. Lots of rejections means it’s time to change it. Your resume isn’t getting replies so check it over for obvious things like spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. But also look at your resume with a critical eye. Should you try easy-to-read bullet points instead of a paragraph? Do you have an outdated phrase like “references available on request” that you should delete? Are you showing rather than telling your experience? Change it up.
3. Prepare for Your Interview
Even if you have an interview with people you know, you have to remember you’re probably up against some highly qualified candidates. Each interview has to be your best interview. There’s no way around that, so you have to be prepared. Know the job, know about the company, be ready to talk about your accomplishments, and ask relevant questions. Be prepared enough so you can listen to your interviewer without just thinking about what you’ll say next. You’ll respond better and will be more relaxed.
4. Do the Follow Up
Follow up after your interview with a handwritten thanks. Email is fine, but in today’s electronic world, many people appreciate a handwritten note.
5. Keep Your Momentum Going
Even after you land a new job, keep growing your professional networks and building your reputation. Careers are always changing and you might decide on a new direction a few years down the road. If you are ready, the next opportunity might seek you out.
Nursing students are a disciplined bunch. They balance coursework in both classrooms and labs, clinicals, a social life, and essential self care in a fast-paced and structured environment.
As a new nursing student, how can you make sure you keep everything moving forward but still take care of yourself? Set good habits and now and get your year off to a good start.
1. Be Open to a New Approach
The most successful students aren’t always the smartest ones. The students who do the best are often the ones who learn how to manage their time best and know what their strengths and weaknesses are. You might have been a top student before, but nursing school is a whole new game. Find the best method of time management for you by experimenting, researching time management approaches, and even taking a seminar (almost all schools offer these). One or two hours of learning a new approach can save your hours and hours of lost time and unnecessary stress.
2. Rethink Getting Help
Nursing students don’t always like to ask for help. But if you don’t ask for help when you’re struggling with an assignment or with an overall course load, you risk falling behind or getting grades that aren’t what you expected. If you’re reluctant to ask for help, look at getting help in a new way. Consider the effort as learning from the best. Ask people to let you in on their secret to success. You are asking to make yourself better, not because you lack skills or knowledge. Assistance doesn’t show your failings, it shows your strength.
3. Learn the Delicate Balance
Anyone in nursing school has the potential to burn out. There is always something more to do, another paper to finish, another exam to study for before your head hits the pillow. If you don’t take time for you, no one is going to do it for you. Now is the time to learn your limits and to respect how caring for yourself makes you a better person. Get enough rest and eat well, but also take time to spend with friends and family. Block off some time for solitude if that’s how you thrive. Be good to yourself now and you’ll reap the benefits throughout your career and your life.
4. Be Proud
You are going to have bad days. Nursing school challenges each and every student—that’s why we have excellent nurses. But it won’t always be fun and your confidence is going to take some serious hits. Throughout it all remember to be proud of yourself. Not everyone can make it as far as you have. Remember that and use that to fuel your fire to become the best nurse you can be. When a bad day knocks you over, just get up and keep going.
Although Angela Warnke, RN, director of nursing at the Greenhouse Treatment Facility of the American Addiction Centers, now manages a team of nurses doing direct patient care, until about six months ago, she was a “working” manager, working directly with patients going through withdrawal.
Warnke works with patients ages 18 and older. She says that people as old as in their 60’s and even 70’s are detoxing from opioids and other substances. “Day to day this work is similar to many other types of nursing in that it involves continuous assessment, interventions, medication administration, and caring for the whole patient and their family,” explains Warnke. “Some days I work to physically stabilize patients, some days I listen to people who need to talk, some days I teach groups on the physiology of addiction, some days I just offer hope. Most days are a combination of all aspects of nursing.”
With the opioid epidemic on the rise, many other nurses may be working with recovering addicts and people detoxing in the near future. “Everyone knows or is someone who has struggled with addiction,” says Warnke. “I have the gift of also seeing and experiencing the joy and freedom of recovery. This is a treatable disease, and recovery changes everything.”
During the first half of her career, Warnke worked in critical care in the Medical/Respiratory ICU of a hospital with 960 beds. Then, she worked in an ER that would often see between 250 and 350 patients each day. She thought that she would miss the challenges she experienced when she moved into substance abuse recovery nursing. Instead, she says, she found her home there.
“To be effective in helping people recover from substance use disorders (SUDs) one has to care for the whole person. People’s minds, bodies, and spirits are hurt by SUDs, and I get to engage people and help them heal on all these levels. I get to do the work of caring that I went to nursing school for,” says Warnke. “By far the most difficult challenge of this work is having a front row seat to the effects of this disease. Addiction gets worse as diseases do and kills as diseases do. The tragic loss of life—often very young life—is incredibly painful.”
As for the greatest rewards of her job, Warnke explains it in this way: “I think many people imagine my job is to be treated poorly by whatever they imagine ‘addicts’ to be. In reality, I work with people from a true cross-section of our culture who have quite unintentionally developed problematic relationships with opiates and other substances.
“In general, I work with people who will go on to live full lives, new lives, great lives. While recovery is intensely difficult and requires trying and trying again, our population literally ‘comes to life’ in our care. I get to see people who ‘come in hot’ stabilize. I get to see people who have been beaten down get life back in their eyes. There is nothing else like it.”
When asked what she would say to a nurse who might be considering this type of nursing care, she answers, “Do it.”
“This is the epidemic of our generation, and we need all hands on deck. Find a mentor. Be ready to research everything known about addiction. This is a developing field. Get serious about learning that nothing is personal. Take care of yourself. Give love,” says Warnke. “Every day I get the chance to be better than I was the day before. I feel like I get paid to become a better human being. Like all types of nursing, the job is to meet people where they are at and bring them out with me.”
When dealing with patients, there are times in which nurses need to be their advocates. But have you ever thought about if the instance occurred when you had to act as your own advocate? Janetta Olaseni, RN, BA, HN-BC, CHC, administrator and director of nursing at Hands of Compassion Home Care, Inc., had to do just that.
In February 2013, Olaseni says that while performing a monthly breast self-exam, she discovered a painless lump about the size of a bouncy ball in her left breast. Of course, she went to see her gynecologist. But he told her that it was a normal cyst and that since she was young and didn’t have a family history of breast cancer not to worry about it. If it did become painful, he told her, she could have it removed. Despite what her doctor told her, she felt that something was wrong.
“I immediately did not feel good about his diagnosis and started making plans to have it removed,” says Olaseni. As time went on and life got busier, seeing a surgeon became less important.
“In the meantime, the small ‘ball’ had grown and started to hurt and fill with fluid,” says Olaseni. She quickly made an appointment to be seen. Like her gynecologist, though, the surgeon was treating the lump like a normal cyst and would drain the fluid. After three weeks of this, she requested a lumpectomy.
In September, when she woke up in the recovery room, Olanseni’s surgeon told her that she couldn’t remove the entire lump because she would have had to have taken out nearly half her breast. The once 3 cm lump had grown to 8 cm.
When the biopsy came back, Olanseni’s diagnosis was Stage 3b Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
Today, Olanseni is cancer-free, but who knows what could have happened if she hadn’t insisted on the surgeon listening to her.
“This journey made me so much more compassionate and empathetic towards my patients and their families,” says Olanseni. Ten years ago, she started a home health care company that emphasizes facilitating compassion regarding patient care.
“When you’ve been on the other side with the hospital gown on, having your hair shaved because you do not want chemo to take it out, when you’ve had your porta cath accessed daily, when you’ve had the radiation beam hit close to your vital organs, when you have undergone multiple surgeries, when you’ve gotten therapy and wound care, then you are a true patient advocate,” says Olanseni. “Not only can you say you understand, you really do understand.”
As a nurse, you spend most of your life taking care of others — but who’s going to take care of you when it’s time to retire? A Fidelity Investments Money FIT Nurses Study revealed that 56 percent of working nurses don’t feel confident when it comes to financial planning. The same study found that 41 percent of nurses who don’t have confidence about financial planning cite lack of time to focus on financial goals as the reason. Cultural differences and language barriers can further stand in the way of working nurses as they strive to save for the future.
It’s tough being a nurse because you’re pulled in different directions every day, but taking the time to put your financial ducks in a row for retirement will pay off big when it’s time to hang up your scrubs for good. Here’s how to get started or bolster your savings efforts while there’s still time.
Know the Lingo
There are several programs that can help you save for retirement. These include 401(k)s or 403(b)s in the case of tax-exempt workplaces, like hospitals; IRAs; and Flexible Spending Accounts. If you don’t know the difference, now’s the time to learn the language of personal financial planning.
IRAs, which stands for individual retirement accounts, are funded solely by you whereas 401(k)s are funded partially by you. Employers typically offer matching 401(k) plans. For example, if you elect to contribute 5 percent of your earnings to a 401(k), your employer may match that rate, netting you an extra 5 percent in savings for retirement. In 2017, you can contribute up to $18,000 to a 401(k) account if you’re under age 50. You get an extra $6,000 if you’re older than 50.
On a related note, think carefully about your health care needs in retirement, especially if you’re not quite ready for Medicare, which starts at age 65. A high-deductible health plan paired with a health savings account may help you keep monthly premiums low while allowing you to save for unexpected medical emergencies. Understanding the different benefits and drawbacks to retirement saving options can be confusing, so it’s wise to talk to a financial adviser about your choices before committing to just one plan.
Start Right Now
You don’t need to set aside thousands of dollars right away. Make small changes, and focus on simple, achievable steps so that you can reach big milestones later. Here are a few simple ways to improve your saving habits:
- Start planning – today! Writing down your savings goals is the first step to implementing them.
- Focus on eliminating debt – you can aim to get each credit card paid off individually, try transferring your balances to one card, or negotiate lower interest rates.
- Cut back on unnecessary expenses – can you eliminate some small charges here and there, like a Netflix or Spotify subscription? Are you sure you’re getting the best deal on your cell phone bill? There’s more than one way to whittle down your monthly discretionary spending, so it can pay to get creative!
Nurses may tend to think less about their own future and more about the immediate needs of their families, such as paying tuition for adult children or taking care of elderly parents. However, you can’t take care of your loved ones if you don’t have any funds after you retire. Estimate how much you’ll need to live on comfortably once you stop working, and build a plan based on that figure.
Find a Support System
It’s critical to find a financial adviser who can guide you through this process. There’s no need to settle either. Seek out recommendations, do some digging and interview prospective advisers with the same scrutiny that you’d use to find a lawyer or doctor. A good financial planner will help you sort through your current finances, identify areas that need improvement, set up a solid retirement plan and answer your questions as you go. Look for advisers with the right credentials too, such as those certified by the Financial Planning Association.
Don’t let unfamiliarity about financial planning keep you from living the retirement life that you’ve earned. As a working nurse, it’s important to find a financial adviser who understands your unique needs and can get you on the right track. Start early, do your homework and be diligent about saving. Your post-retirement life will thank you!
Have you ever thought about changing career paths and teaching up-and-coming nurses? For those of you who have, we wanted to provide you with some information about what it’s like to teach, including the challenges and the benefits.
Michelle DeCoux Hampton, RN, PhD, MS, Professor and Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Director at Samuel Merritt University School of Nursing in Oakland, California, took time to talk with us about her experiences in teaching.
Following is an edited version of our Q&A:
What does your job entail? Do you specialize in specific topics that you teach? How many courses do you teach each semester?
I started in 2005 as a full-time faculty member teaching psychiatric mental-health nursing, health assessment, and synthesis for students throughout our accelerated bachelor’s program in nursing. Later, I began teaching an online course in research in the Master’s program and then the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.
In 2013, I became the Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, and now I teach evidence-based research and several of the DNP Project courses that are geared toward providing mentorship to doctoral students as they complete their scholarly projects.
In my administrative role, 75% of my time is administrative work involving admissions, student advisement and progression, faculty support, as well as curriculum review and improvement, among other responsibilities. In my full-time teaching role, I taught about two courses per semester.
Why did you choose to teach?
My interest in teaching stemmed from my enjoyment of education from the student perspective and my many positive experiences with faculty and mentors.
I first tested myself as the Director of Staff Development in a skilled nursing facility to see how I would like being “on stage” before I ever applied for a teaching position at a university. I was able to learn a lot about adult education and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the facility staff through our orientation and continuing education programs.
I advised many of our staff nurses about how to go about continuing their formal education and found it was one of the most enjoyable parts of my role in staff development.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Compared to being a staff nurse, one of the biggest challenges in teaching is that there is often no one to fill in for you—at least not at a moment’s notice. You often find that you work when you’re ill, on semester breaks to prepare for the next semester, and on your vacations. The flexibility is nice in a lot of ways, but the tradeoff is that you’re never really off the grid.
What are the greatest rewards?
One of my favorite parts of my job is to work with my doctoral students on their DNP Projects—usually an evidence-based practice implementation project. These students evaluate best practices through critical appraisal of the research literature, design practice change programs, implement changes that involve policy and procedure changes of the staff in a variety of health care settings, and evaluate the outcomes. Through each of their projects, they have provided improved health care to individual patients, communities, and within organizations. Seeing these projects develop from an idea to influencing real people’s lives is incredibly rewarding, and it never gets old.
What would you say to someone considering this type of work?
To me, the best teachers that I’ve known and worked with take a service-oriented approach to education—providing what the student needs to progress to the next level, to continue growth. This takes good observation skills, flexibility to change your approach based on where your student is and what his/her needs are, and a willingness to keep learning. The field of education, beyond what we need to know as nurses, continues to evolve and we have to evolve with it.
Is there anything else that is important for nurses to know?
In my early years of teaching, I felt like I needed to know everything—to answer all of my students’ questions on the spot. This expectation of myself produced a lot of anxiety and self-doubt for me.
Over time, I relaxed a bit more and accepted that even if students wanted me to have all the answers, that was not possible 100% of the time. Feeling confident in the knowledge that I had and my ability to research answers that I couldn’t answer right away effectively, enabled me to say that I didn’t know, but would find out or even enlist the support of other students to find the answer. It was a turning point for me. I don’t think I would have been able to sustain a career in education long term with my previous mindset.
Nursing is a stressful job. So when you think that a patient may have been misdiagnosed by another health care worker, it’s important to know exactly what to do—especially if the misdiagnosis could cause permanent harm or death. It’s important to protect your patients as well as yourself.
Jennifer Flynn, CPHRM, risk manager for Nurses Service Organization (NSO), took time to answer in detail what nurses need to do when they suspect a patient is not receiving the care they need.
What should a nurse do if s/he thinks that a patient is not receiving the care they need from another health care worker? What are the specific steps that s/he needs to take? Are these steps different depending on the procedures of the facility?
Every day, nurses are challenged to provide patients with the safest and most effective care possible. Many factors can affect clinical performance. For example, being sleep deprived, running late, being assigned to more patients than usual, or experiencing a breakdown in communication with other providers can influence a nurse’s ability to provide safe patient care.
According to the 2015 NSO/CNA Nurse Professional Liability Exposures Claim Report, failure to invoke the chain of command was identified as a common allegation. Nurses are responsible for invoking the medical chain of command when necessary, in order to trigger a practitioner’s intervention for the patient. Closed claims involving the failure to invoke or utilize the chain of command accounted for 7.5% of the treatment and care closed claims, and reflect a higher average payment as compared to all claims in the report.
Nurses must be comfortable with utilizing the medical chain of command whenever a practitioner does not respond to calls for assistance, fails to appreciate the seriousness of a situation, or neglects to initiate an appropriate intervention.
Consider this scenario: a nurse failed to initiate the chain of command when the practitioner would not respond to her concerns of identified non-reassuring fetal distress. The nurse called the practitioner several times to give an update on the patient’s condition, which continued to deteriorate. Each time the nurse requested that the practitioner come see the patient, the practitioner said it didn’t seem necessary. As a result, the infant suffered birth-related brain injury, requiring lifelong care. The nurse was named in the malpractice lawsuit alleging failure to invoke the chain of command and failure to report changes in the patient’s medical condition. While the nurse had documented making the phone calls to the practitioner, the nurse neglected to include what was told to the practitioner and the practitioner’s response.
Nurses know that treatment and care of every patient starts with timely attention to their needs and persisting to the point of resolution. However, nurses may feel apprehensive about chain of command issues. Fear of disciplinary actions, loss of their jobs, or being labeled as a “troublemaker” are other concerns.
The following strategies can help reduce apprehension regarding chain-of-command issues:
- Proactively address communication issues between nursing and medical staffs, and identify instances of intimidation, bullying, retaliation, or other deterrents to invoking the chain of command.
- Notify leadership of individuals or areas that prevent nursing staff from invoking the chain of command or impose punitive actions for doing so.
- If the organization’s current culture does not support invoking the chain of command, explain the risks posed to patients, staff, practitioners, and the organization, and initiate discussions regarding the need for a shift in organizational culture.
Are nurses usually taught this in nursing school? What should they know about speaking up?
Education in this matter is an ongoing effort. It starts in nursing school, but it must be continuously addressed, communicated, and supported for it to become part of practice.
The first step in protecting yourself from legal action is to know and understand your facility’s policy and procedures on invoking the chain of command to resolve concerns about patient care. In many facilities, policy and procedures manuals are readily accessible. If no chain-of-command policy or procedures exist, find out who in your facility is responsible to do so.
Don’t hesitate to call the appropriate practitioner when there’s a change in your patient’s condition. Most facilities have policies that require this. However, some nurses may feel intimidated by appearing to question a practitioner’s management of a patient.
Express clearly what, if any, action you would like the practitioner to take. If you think your patient needs to be seen, say so. After the conversation, document exactly what you told the practitioner about the patient’s condition.
If you believe the practitioner isn’t taking your concerns seriously, go to the next person in the chain. If necessary, go up your facility’s chain of command until the concern has been addressed. As you contact different staff members in the chain of command, be sure to make a note in the patient’s chart.
By invoking the chain of command, not only do nurses fulfill their obligations as patient advocate, but they protect themselves from liability.
What should nurses not do if they think their patients aren’t getting the care they need?
Advocating for a patient may not always be easy, but it is part of a nurse’s responsibility. Advocacy includes the duty to invoke both the nursing and medical staff chains of command to ensure timely attention to the needs of every patient, and persisting to the point of satisfactory resolution. Not following the chain of command puts the patient’s safety at risk and exposes nurses to the potential of a malpractice lawsuit.
Document each of the steps taken, and the reasons they were taken, to advocate for the patient’s care. Refrain from speculative or subjective comments, including ones regarding colleagues and other members of the patient care team.
Can a nurse get in trouble for reporting something like this? How should they approach this so that they do what is most professional?
To be an effective advocate, nurses first need to understand the laws and regulations governing their practice. Nurses who understand their scope of practice, state practice act, and facility policy and procedure are best able to use established processes to advocate effectively for their patients while protecting themselves from retaliation and litigation.
Effective communication is key. One technique available to nurses is SBAR, which is an acronym for Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation. This communication style can be used to facilitate prompt and appropriate communication. It is a way for nurses to communicate effectively with one another, and between the health care team. It allows for important information to be transferred accurately.
Allegations of malpractice can result from miscommunication or lack of communication between practitioners and nurses. By carefully documenting the information about the patient shared with other members of the patient’s care team, nurses can significantly reduce communication-related risks.
By enhancing their communication skills, nurses can minimize the risk of claims. Some communication strategies include:
- Clearly articulate your concerns so that others are able to respond.
- Consider what information to share, when to share it, and with whom it should be shared.
- Ensure communication among caregivers is professional and respectful.
- Carefully and timely communicate patient assessments and observations to other members of the health care team.
- Read back or repeat verbal orders to the practitioner who issued them to verify accuracy and understanding.
Nurses can ask to become more involved in developing and influencing facility policy around advocacy and communication. Nurse leaders, health care administrators, and organizations can change the culture of retaliation and blame, which tends to point fingers instead of recognizing issues and problem solving.
Does your mind easily wander? Do you find yourself performing tasks at work without much thought? Research shows that people spend almost half of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, which weakens their performance, creativity, and well-being, according to Harvard researchers.
If this behavior describes your mindset, you belong to a club where membership only requires habitual ways of thinking, doing, and feeling. The bad news? It’s not a great place to be. Mindfulness – with all its benefits – is where you want to head.
Mindfulness, which means being focused in the present moment, can strengthen your job performance as well as your mind, body, and spirit. Mindfulness engages your senses to allow you to participate fully in daily tasks.
So how do you achieve it? Here are six steps to practice moment-to-moment awareness at work.
1. Reflect and plan.
Start the workday by focusing on your organization’s purpose and how you contribute to it by being present and engaged. End each day by preparing for the next to help avoid anxiety or procrastination.
Slow down. Set aside five minutes daily to breathe. For a minute or two, breathe deeply. Focus only on inhaling and exhaling. Consider adding a few minutes of stretching, which allows more oxygen into your body and encourages blood flow.
3. Walk more.
Concentrate on the sights, smells, and sounds that accompany your movement. If you can, spend a few minutes walking outside to observe nature.
4. Feel thankful.
Once a day, take a few minutes to think about an accomplishment or something else that fills you with gratitude. Practice finding joy as doing so you can change the direction of your day.
5. Enjoy your meal.
This sounds simple, but how often do you think about what you consume? Try to taste each ingredient or observe how thoroughly you chew. Pay attention to your food and how it makes you feel.
6. Breathe when there’s a ring or ping.
Instead of instantly reaching for a ringing phone or pinging computer, take several breaths before responding. Emails and calls raise stress levels, research shows. It’s important to pause and calm down before reacting.
Mindfulness is the antidote to multitasking and possible burnout. With practice, you can build your mental muscles to keep your mind from wandering and engage in what’s happening right now. That’s a win for you in and out of the workplace.