Am I The Picture of Health? Confessions of A Stressed Out Nurse

Am I The Picture of Health? Confessions of A Stressed Out Nurse

I had never received the backhanded compliment of “oh, she has such a pretty face” until recently. That was a compliment reserved for fat women. I did not consider myself fat at all. I would describe myself as overweight, but never fat. If I could still purchase clothing out of regular department stores, I did not believe myself to be obese. Even when I was hospitalized last year and the doctor’s notes said “…obese, 47yrs old female,” it did not truly register. However, once my vanity was attacked it hit home.

Sometimes, I see myself in the mirror and wonder how did it get to be this way. I am 5’4″. I weigh 210 lbs and am a Registered Nurse! Euphemisms like “thick,”” full-figured,” and ” healthy” only mask what I know to be the truth. This body that I live in is well on its way to diabetes and hypertension. Thankfully, in this moment I do not have any of those diseases, but it is just a matter of when, not if.

Being overweight has affected my self-esteem, my sense of self-worth, my self-love. It feels like a self-inflicted punishment. When I think back to when I was slim and feeling good, it almost brings me to tears. I start asking myself how did I let it get this out of hand? Why didn’t I just get up from the table? Stop eating at fast food restaurants? Continue to exercise? I am not a fat person who does not know how I got fat. I know exactly what I did, which I think makes it all the worse.

There are times I find it difficult to teach my patients about health and wellness. I wonder if they are looking at me and finding me a hypocrite. Or are they realizing that I, too, understand how hard it is to walk that path.

The heavier I became, the more crap I accepted from the men I dated. I no longer felt I that should be respected or loved entirely. Glad that they were in my life was enough. Trust me, when you do not love you, no one else does either. I stayed with a man who told me that he did not usually date “big girls.”  So, I sat wondering, should I feel special that you chose me? I found myself always trying to overcompensate for not being thin, for not being his ideal of beauty. I was showing him that my love was not worth it because it did not come in a perfect size 4, 6, or 8. I was depleted walking out of that one.

So now at this juncture, I am ready to lose the weight. I mean do what is necessary to get to where I feel comfortable in my skin. This is not simply about my vanity, but about my life, my health, and self-love. So, I am inviting you on this journey with me. Come along.

Hi, I’m Erika.

Ciao Bella!

Why Women in Healthcare Are An Endangered Species

Why Women in Healthcare Are An Endangered Species

Women represent nearly 80% of the healthcare workforce, and they represent 77% of hospital employees. Also, 26% of hospital and health system CEOs were women in 2014. Statistics show the number of women in healthcare is rising, but there are still challenges. One of the most widely talked about challenge is gender inequality, including the lack of women in leadership positions. While gender inequality is important, this issue is not why women in healthcare are an endangered species.

Women in the healthcare industry are just as likely (if not more) to suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and other mental and emotional issues. Like most healthcare workers, women who are physicians, registered nurses, home health aides and more enter the field with a passion to help others. But if you fall into these categories, how many times have you neglected your own needs? Shouldn’t you treat yourself with the same care as a patient?

While the term endangered is normally used in reference to animals, you’re surrounded by just as many threats as a leopard in the wild. For decades, women in healthcare have suffered from stress, fatigue, strain due to schedule, insufficiency in internal training, and injuries from physical tasks. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, female physicians die by suicide at a 400 percent higher rate than women in other professions. One article posed the question “who takes care of the caregivers?”

The answer is YOU!

There are some issues in healthcare that is a work in process, but you have the power to positively influence your well-being today. Your patients need you. Your family needs you. And, you need you. So, treat yourself with proper rest, prayer, stress management techniques, supportive relationships, and be the first thing on your to-do list by adhering to your discovery checklist.

 

 

Top 5 Tips for Graduate School Success

Top 5 Tips for Graduate School Success

Top 5 Tips for Graduate school

So, you are thinking about completing your Master’s degree.  You may be just graduating with your bachelor’s, established in your career, seeking career advancement, or an overall career change.  You should commend yourself wherever you currently are in your professional journey.  Graduate school is essential for career progression and as daunting as the challenge may be it is feasible and worthwhile.  However, there are certain things that I wish I had known previously to enrolling in my first graduate courses that would have saved me a ton of grief on this grad school journey.

Learn the APA Manual

Do you briefly remember being introduced to this in your undergraduate English and Research classes?  You know, the blue book that you couldn’t wait to toss as soon as you completed those courses!  Well, don’t get too excited and toss that manual out just yet.  The APA manual will be your bible at the graduate level.  It is best to not only familiarize yourself with it but read it cover to cover.  In all seriousness, there will be no mercy for APA formatting issues at the graduate level, and failure to comply will hinder your ability to graduate.  Let’s be honest; graduate school is very expensive so do not lose points over APA errors and get your bang for your bucks when it’s time to cash in on that top G.P.A.

Proofread

Grad school will push your writing capabilities to the maximum.  When I first started, I went in under the false pretenses that I was a decent writer.  After all, my highest scores were always in English and Language Arts.  However, never underestimate the power of proofreading your document, or having someone else review it.  It is important to remember that you are not supposed to be writing as if you are talking in scholarly writing.  Read every single thing you submit out loud at least two times before turning it in.  You will be surprised at some errors you will find in your documents once you hear it out loud. I swear by Owlet Purdue, Grammarly, and PERRLA to assist with the completion of my papers.

Don’t Break

One of the biggest mistakes that I made during my Grad school journey was “taking a break”.  Apparently, life happens to everybody, but if you can help it, you should stay on the course to graduate on time.  While taking a leave of absence is certainly an option, there are some universities have a time limit on the amount of time you can spend on the completion of your master’s degree.  Taking a leave of absence sounds a nice break until you return and you are under even more pressure to complete your degree.  Stay on track and graduate on time.  Put yourself out of grad school misery.  Try not to prolong it.

Find Balance

My zodiac sign of a Libra makes finding balance very high on my priority list.  Regardless of your sign, it is essential to find a way to balance everything you have going on in life.  Many of us are career focused, have spouses or partners, children, and community obligations.  There are going to be some times that you will simply have to say no to others as well as avoid taking on too many additional duties.  You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.  Do not feel guilty about taking a step back or going on a much need hiatus to keep everything together.  Remember that this is temporary, and there will always be opportunities to restock your plate once you have graduated.

Cost vs. Reputation

This has been an ongoing debate for such a long time.  I will give you my honest opinion and say that it is best to go for value in regards to selecting a school to attend.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with investing yourself, but please do not break the bank along the way.  Try your very best to avoid debt, save up, and develop a reasonable budget that you can use to finance your educational goals.  If you are shelling out a ton of money, ensure that the institution has a reputation that fits your tuition bill.  Student loan debt is a serious problem.  Remember that you will need to pay that money back, and if this degree does not make a high paying job seem promising to you it may be necessary to scale back.  Remember, grad school isn’t cheap!

Wrapping it All Up

I hope that you avoid the pitfalls that I incurred during my grad school journey and that these tips will help ease you in your transition and prepare you for entry into grad school.  A graduate degree is totally obtainable; it’s just a different academic dynamic.  I’ll see you on the other side!

graduation photo

 

 

 

African American Women and the Stigma Associated with Breastfeeding

African American Women and the Stigma Associated with Breastfeeding

August marks national breastfeeding awareness month, and although overall national breastfeeding rates are on the rise, breastfeeding rates for African American mothers are significantly lower than other racial groups. The benefits for both mother and baby are numerous, yet some new mothers are hesitant to do so, especially in the African American community. Why are African American women less likely to breastfeed compared to their white counterparts?

A persistent discrepancy exists between African American mothers and mothers of other races who breastfeed. African American mothers have been lagging behind their white counterparts for years when it comes to breastfeeding.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the initiation rate of breastfeeding among African Americans is 16% less than whites. Multiple factors in the African American community may play a role in these discrepancies.

Lower breastfeeding rates among African American women begin with education, or lack thereof. “You can never have too much education and information,” says Joycelyn Hunter-Scott, a mom of two young sons. When asked about a stigma in the African American community Hunter-Scott replies, “I don’t think it’s a stigma; I believe it may have something to do with the lack of education and information the mothers receive during and especially after pregnancy—especially the younger mothers.”

Hunter-Scott, who was a mother who extensively researched breastfeeding when she was pregnant, is correct regarding the lack of education during the perinatal period affecting overall breastfeeding rates. According to the CDC, some hospitals within African American communities are failing to fully support breastfeeding. In a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, ten indicators that show hospitals are supporting breastfeeding were evaluated showing that hospitals in zip codes with more than a 12.2% African American population were less likely to implement three specific indicators. These indicators include: helping mothers initiate breastfeeding early on, having infants “room in” with their mothers after birth, and limiting what infants eat or drink in the hospital to only breast milk.

Renee Bell-Eddings, MSN, RNC-OB, whose main job function is to educate staff nurses within the Women, Infant, and Children’s (WIC) department in a community-based hospital in Houston, Texas, also knows education is the key for new mothers, but also attributes a social component to breastfeeding. “I believe the reason there is a stigma is simply [because of] the lack of education and support from family and friends. Often times we see that she is the only woman in her family that has chosen to breastfeed. We also have to understand that the family plays a big role in the choices that a mother will make concerning breastfeeding—that’s where we see the cycle of breakdown because she doesn’t have the support she needs to continue.” A new mother needs support from those closest to her when taking on the challenges a breastfeeding mother may face.

A two-time mother, Hunter-Scott breastfed both of her sons—the eldest for one year and the youngest for seven months. She credits the support of her mother, sisters, and husband during that time. “This [support] made an enormous impact on my decision to breastfeed for the timeframe that I did,” she says.

Although Hunter-Scott had the support of her family (and nearly six months of maternity leave), she can see how a mother not having support or having a short maternity leave can negatively affect breastfeeding rates in the African American community. “I think it is important that the health care staff initiate breastfeeding after birth and make sure not to give pacifiers or artificial nipples to infants. I also believe many African American women don’t have the luxury of staying home after they have their baby. Some have to go back to work within a few weeks, some a few days, so it’s quicker and easier to send the baby off to childcare with formula.”

Negative cultural influences in the African American community about breastfeeding can also play a role in breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding has been seen by some African American women as reverting to “slavery days” when feeding a child by breast was the only option. Baby formula as we know it was developed in the late 1800’s and soon gained popularity when feeding a baby with formula was seen as something only “elite and sophisticated” mothers do, regardless of race. These advertising campaigns led many women to believe breastfeeding was a choice only for lower income mothers.

Another issue that faces a breastfeeding mother is public breastfeeding and the potential shaming from others. Feeding a child in public from the breast is often seen as indecent and given a perverse sexual connotation. Being able to feed on demand is crucial for the continued production of breast milk in a lactating mother. The shaming some women endure is enough to discourage them from continuing to breastfeed even if they have chosen to do so initially. The indecency claims of public breastfeeding generalizations make it hard for any woman, let alone an African American woman, to nurture her child through breastfeeding. Negative portrayals by the media and in our own communities have a profound effect on the initiation and continuance of breastfeeding.

The societal and commercial pressures to not breastfeed or stop breastfeeding altogether before six months of age are evident through aggressive marketing campaigns of formula producers. Societal pressures include: not having a national maternity leave law, the shaming of breastfeeding in public, and not having enough dedicated breastfeeding areas in public establishments to encourage breastfeeding. Many mothers do not have the ability to stay home for extended periods of time after birth, further encouraging them to stop exclusive breastfeeding in exchange for formula. Working mothers in the United States need support to continue breastfeeding before their baby is even born by means of national legislation for established maternity leave, breastfeeding or pumping breaks when they return to work, and a willingness from their employer to provide a conducive environment to support a mother’s wish to continue to breastfeed.

With all racial and societal factors aside, breastfeeding offers both mother and baby numerous benefits—and this is why it’s vital that mothers attempt to breastfeed for at least six months. When formula was introduced it was touted as the “perfect food” for a growing baby, but nothing compares to a mother’s milk. Breast milk has everything needed to sustain an infant and promote lifelong health. Nurturing a newborn with a mother’s milk offers baby rich nutrients that have proven benefits for both mother and baby, not to mention the money saved from not purchasing formula.

Infant mortality rates are twice as high for African American babies than white babies, and breastfeeding is the key to saving infant lives. Health benefits of breastfeeding for baby include decreasing the risk of common childhood illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma. It also provides long-term benefits for obesity and future diabetes risk, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Mothers benefit from breastfeeding by helping get back to pre-pregnancy weight sooner (breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day!) as well as decreasing risk for diabetes and breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.

Education, education, and more education is the key to increasing breastfeeding rates in the African American community. Education has to start during the prenatal period and continue through birth and thereafter. Bell-Eddings knows knowledge is power: “Education is a big key in changing the mindset of all and allowing mom to make an informed decision.”

To Be or Not to Be

To Be or Not to Be

“ Once you know yourself, in this living stillness, there is nothing in this world that is greater than you”

One of the elements of discovery is “stillness”… I am sure you are thinking, ” What does that really mean? As healthcare professional, how can I incorporate STILLNESS into my life when I have been trained to move and move fast because it is the difference between life and death?”

Guess what, IT IS POSSIBLE! Let’s break this down a little bit more.

Many people see the word “stillness” and automatically think it means to have no movement which is true to a certain point, but from the perspective of discovery, “stillness” is the state of being or being one with yourself. Not thinking about the kids, what you have to cook for dinner, the bills you need to pay, but can’t… the job you dread, the co-worker or friend that gets on your nerves, etc. I mean you DO NOT think about any of that, just simply BE!! In the state of being is where we really and truly get to “know thyself” and not what everyone else tells us about ourselves. In stillness we allow the voice of the holy spirit, which is our GPS navigation system, to guide us through the streets called life. In stillness we learn to quiet the mind and not allow anything that is going on around us affect us. So when you are in a state of stillness, it doesn’t mean that things are not going on around you, it means that they are not going on within you. Let me make it a little clearer for you, you can be at work on a 35 bed med-surg unit with 10 physicians and 3 respiratory therapist on the unit, family all over the place, a supervisor who is screaming at staff, and a co-worker who scrolling through her social media timelines chilling while you have 10 outstanding task and not let ANY, I mean ANY of it affect you internally. The key is to create an intention of stillness which can be achieved by having some intentionality about how you are carrying yourself in a given moment and focus on what is within your control.

Now that we have what stillness means from the perspective of discovery out of the way, I can hear you saying “ Nicole I don’t have time for that”, I have to take care of my family, walk the dogs, manage all the household chores, manage the financial accounts, and I am sure that the list could go on and on but guess what you CAN practice stillness through all of this (I am not telling you what anyone told me but what I know)!! And to be honest if you want to live a life purposefully as a healthcare professional according to Gods’ will then it is a non-negotiable.

So let me share 4 tips that helped me to begin my practice of stillness and make the practice of stillness a ritual in my life.

1. Deep Breath- Yep simply deep breath! I hear you saying “and what is that going to help”? When we take deep breaths it induces the parasympathetic system and slows down your heart rate, which leads to a state of relaxation  (use this one when you have trouble going on all around you so that it is not going on in you).
2. Schedule Time to Be- Look lets keep it real we all live busy life’s that pull us in 50 directions and many us live by a Google calendar which tells where to be and when. Well guess what place your “Be Time” on there too. It has been proven that anything we do for 21 days becomes a habit.
3. Get off Social Media- Yep I said it!! Get off Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. stalking pages and looking at fairytale lives that often don’t exist and practice just “ Being” (I was once guilty of this one, LOL). With the hours we spend on these sites weekly, we can really get to “know thyself” and find our purpose as a healthcare professional.
4. Find a Location that brings you Serenity- Know I know I said the state of being can happen when trouble is all around you which means we can have stillness anywhere but to get to a place where we can do this, we can get practice by doing it in areas where we find peace. So that may be by the water, outdoors with the birds chirping, a certain room in your home, etc. Practicing stillness in a location that brings you peace prepares you to be able to do it anywhere.

These tips are the very tip of the iceberg for practicing stillness because stillness goes much deeper but I wanted to start with building a foundation for you to build upon.

 

Remember in Psalms 46:10 we were told to “ Be still and know that I am god”.

Living purposefully,

 

Nicole Thomas

GPS Navigation to Success

GPS Navigation to Success

A law is defined as a system of rules that are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviors. As citizens of our respective countries we all try our best to abide by the laws that have been set forth by our government so we can avoid any havoc in our lives and remain in a state of freedom. But what about laws for success and or to navigate this thing called life…do we have a system of rules in these capacities? According to Deepak Chopra there is a system of rules that have been set-forth to govern our path to success and life. In the book titled “ The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” we are presented with a set of laws that serve as a practical guide to the fulfillment of our dreams.

My first thought when reading the title of the book was “ok so now I have another set of laws that I must adhere to if I want to be successful and have a fulfilling life, here we go with more rules and regulations”. However, after reading the statement “ Success is a journey, not a destination” and that “the law of success and life is the process by which the unmanifest becomes the manifest; it’s the process by which the observer becomes the observed; it’s the process by which the seer becomes the scenery; it’s the process through which the dreamer manifest the dream” in the introduction alone, I knew there was something different about these laws. I had a sense that these laws were getting ready to go into a deep spiritual space in which I honestly knew needed to be rattled up within me, so I dived in head first.

After being intrigued by the introduction, there laid the seven spiritual laws to success which were The Law of Pure Potentiality; The Law of Giving; The Law of “Karma” or Cause & Effect; The Law of Least Effort; The Law of Intention and Desire; The Law of Detachment; & The Law of “Dharma” or Purpose in Life. Each of these laws made me have a “ That’s Right ”moment as they went deeper and deeper into my spiritual space.
Psalm
The law of Pure Potentiality let me know that I need to be still! Often times with the daily hustle and bustle of life and all the different moving pieces of our lives we don’t have to time to just sit in stillness. God has an assignment for each one of us and wants to give us special spiritual instructions to carry out our divine assignments, to go in the direction he wants us to go, or operate in the capacity in which he wants us to operate in but we are not in a state of stillness to hear from him.

The law of giving impressed upon me that I am not given money, joy, peace, etc. to hoard it, but rather I am given these things to share with others and every time I encounter someone I must GIVE! I must give a prayer, a compliment, a word of encouragement, or a flower. My giving can be material or nonmaterial but the bottom line is I must give something.

The law of “Karma” or cause and effect made me realize that before I perform any action, I need to ask myself two important questions, which are “what are the consequences of this choice that I am getting ready to make? and will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and those involved?” and if the answer to these questions are not favorable then I need to stop in my tracks and consciously rethink my actions.

The law of least effort made me aware that I am not obligated to defend my point of view to anyone, but rather take that energy and put it toward something more purposeful.

The law of intention and desire provided me with a sense of ease as it let me know that my attention needs to be in the present, then my intent for the future will manifest because my future state is being created in my present state, as I must accept the present as it is.

The law of detachment forced me to come out of my comfort zone and to go into the area of uncertainty which is where all possibilities are located. When we detach from the norm then we are no longer attached to the things in which we are truly fearful of because in attachment lies our fears and insecurities.

The law of dharma or purpose in life encouraged me find my divinity. I was created for a purpose that me on only me can fulfill. It doesn’t matter how many other people do what I do, only I can do it my way with the talents and gifts that I express only the way that I can express them. Once I had the courage to truly get to know thy self then I was able to serve humanity by living on purpose.

To sum up what these laws have done for me is simple, they are ensuring that I am a law-abiding citizen who lives on purpose!

Living Purposely,

Nicole Thomas