She didn’t know her words would haunt me for years to come. It was a night like any other night. I stood at the bedside of a relatively stable patient, and I was dutifully giving him his meds. The floor was quiet, patients and nurses preparing for the night shift a few hours away.
Like a fire klaxon, a voice cut through the relative peace of the hospital floor. “My husband is dying! My husband is dying!”
Instinctively, I dropped the medicines and darted out of the room. In the middle of the hall, a middle-aged woman ran toward me, screaming about her husband in the room across the hall. “He’s dying,” she yelled into my face.
Mouth dry, heart pounding, I pushed past her and entered the patient’s room. Of course, he was unconscious, blue, and not breathing. I started CPR, but the craziness was not over.
I wasn’t exactly a new nurse. I had been through a few codes, and they all went rather smoothly. I never experienced the stomach-churning nausea of having a family member witness their loved one dying.
The patient wasn’t mine, but I knew about him. He had recently had coronary artery bypass grafting surgery and was due to be transferred to the ICU any minute because his heart rate and rhythm were abnormal. His doctor was on the floor, writing the paperwork for the transfer.
Others had heard the wife call out in anguish, and everyone came running, including the doctor. He burst into the room, shouting, “I need an intubation kit! Get me an intubation kit!”
I could hear the rumble of the crash cart coming down the hall, but it hadn’t quite reached the room yet. The doctor continued to yell at me, to point, to spit. His hands shook, but I had been here before. I yelled back, “Hold on a second! It’s coming!”
I realized then that the doctor was more afraid than I was. The cart arrived, the patient continued to code, and the doctor got his intubation equipment. Although we managed to get a sustainable rhythm on the patient, he soon died in the ICU.
Of all the codes I experienced over my years as a nurse, this one sticks out as the most horrible. When codes start, nurses become the ultimate professionals. No one runs. No one yells. Everyone works as a team.
As a relatively new nurse, I never experienced the terror that “normal” people experience when someone starts to die. For me, I knew how to handle it. A patient going south deserves my close care, but the emotion is usually not high during care involving advanced cardiovascular life support. Afterward, I would cry and shake, but not when I needed my faculties about me to do everything I could to save a life.
This code was different. In fact, I can live it over and over in my mind, and I still feel as scared now as I did then. The wife and the doctor were breaking the rules. They didn’t know how to deal with death, and I don’t really blame them. I just know their actions scarred me deeply.
Trauma is a real problem in nursing, and situations like these can cause a nurse to relive moments that didn’t go well. This is especially true of new nurses. New nurses make mistakes, and they haven’t developed the ability to be the calm professional yet. This means that the trauma of extraordinary events can stay with them forever.
I never dreamed that I would face a family member who was screaming that her husband was dying. I can only imagine the torment she was going through, the heartbreak of knowing that her loved one was slipping away before her eyes. She reached out for the only help she could.
And that help was me.
Her terror has stayed with me all of these years. In that moment, I became her. I empathized with her, as any good nurse will do. I felt her sorrow, and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t save her husband. I find myself imagining how she felt when he actually passed away.
I will admit that this situation scared me, and I have dwelt on it more than I should. Nurses, especially new nurses, have to develop a sense of detachment from the patient and family. But what about the human side of the equation? Too much distance leads to too little caring.
I am happy to say that I took part in codes after this one, and I did the best job I could. In fact, I was praised for my work in situations where a life was on the line. But I never forgot the distraught woman in the hallway, or the surreal feeling of dread that her words—”He’s dying!”—caused in me.
It remains a trauma that has impacted my life forever. Nurses need to realize that they experience traumas, too, and that it is okay to talk about them. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to reflect on the situation and examine the emotions the trauma awakens. Without this reflection, the emotions become buried. Ignored emotions manifest as substance abuse, out-of-control feelings, and hatred of the job.
My trauma is just one example. Almost every nurse has a story of when she or he was scared and traumatized. Talk about it. Don’t pretend to be so strong that you don’t need to ask for help.
I wish I could have saved that man. I wish I could have wrapped that wife up in my arms and made it easier for her. I couldn’t, but it will stay with me forever as the trauma in my career that haunts me, because I couldn’t hide behind the façade of the calm professional.
I am the calm professional, but I am human, too.
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.
When you’re a nurse, you know your day is going to have some stress. It’s the nature of the work, one that nurses accept so they can can have a career doing the incredible work they do.
But when stress gets to you at work, you aren’t just impacting yourself. When a nurse is running on empty and feeling the pressure build, it changes everything from their focus on medication math to patient interactions.
When you feel a particularly stressful day turning into an even worse one, what can you do to stop it or at least make it less awful?
No, this isn’t one about stopping and taking nice cleansing breaths. That would, of course, be ideal and would go a long way toward helping bring down your stress levels. But very few nurses stop for anything in their day. You can do this one without even having to slow down, since you probably don’t have that option anyhow.
Breathe means focus – focus on your breath, focus on your feet walking in the hall, focus on a color. If you struggle with this, rub your hands together to bring your attention to one thing and ground you. Gaining that focus can help you stay in the moment and not become overwhelmed with a task ahead of you.
2. Walk Away
If you can escape to a quiet area – yes, even a bathroom stall works in a pinch – to close your eyes and count to 60, do it. Removing yourself from the stressful situation (obviously you can’t walk away from a patient you are caring for or responsible for) for a quick break can snap you back to a better place. Walk outside, walk down the hall, pop into the supply closet if that’s the only place–just pull yourself away so you can get a little perspective.
3. Think Ahead
When your mood is particularly bleak, plan something enjoyable. Whether that means looking forward to picking up a gossipy magazine, planning a charity run, taking your family out for an ice cream, or working on a puzzle, thinking about something you enjoy and can look forward to doing can make your current day a little more bearable.
4. Listen to Something
You can’t blast your favorite tunes at work, but you can listen to some that are especially meaningful or calming. If you need energy, there’s nothing like an old-fashioned rock anthem to pump up your mood. One song on your headphones can take you to another place. If music isn’t your thing, try a comedy channel to give you a laugh instead.
5. Plan for Stress
You’re a nurse and your job is stressful. You can’t get around that. But it’s not a surprise, so you can plan for ways to help combat the potential for crashing and burning when you have a bad day.
If your company offers any kind of wellness benefits, take advantage of them. Can you get a quick 15-minute chair massage to ease your aching muscles? Do they have yoga classes, nutrition seminars, or even lectures on how to reduce stress? Take advantage of these benefits because they can help you. Do you have a coworker who always says the right thing to cheer you? Seek that person out.
One of life’s hardest lessons is when you realize no one else is going to take care of your stress for you. When you show up for work, you’re needed immediately and entirely. If your well is running low, you need to take steps to fill it up again. Try a few things to see what works best to dampen your stress and then keep doing it.
When you think of being successful in college, you know lots of hard work, hours of studying, and a dedicated commitment will pay off. But if you’re heading into nursing school this fall, there’s also another essential, piece of the puzzle that will help your college years go as smoothly as possible.
What else can you do to help you make the most of your time in nursing school? Get a team together—one filled with other students you can rely on, professors who can teach you, advisors who can guide you, and college services offices filled with information.
While many students enter college thinking this will happen naturally, planning for the right kind of team is almost a strategic business move. You aren’t going to pick your friendships and associations with an eye on getting ahead, but knowing where to go for help and developing relationships with people on campus will always help you.
Friendships Are Your Foundation
Good friends will be a life saver when you are in college. Not only will they be right in the trenches with you and understand what you’re going through, but they’re also a steady source of sage advice, on-target observations, and, hopefully, some comic relief. Friends aren’t all good for the same thing all the time. You might find you develop friends to study with, friends to blow off steam with, others who help you reach your fitness goals, and others who’ll binge-watch Netflix with you the day after your last final.
Professors Motivate You
Some professors will make you pull your hair out and others will push you to make yourself better. Reach out to your favorite professors to cultivate a good relationship. They will help you when you are struggling with a class, offer you career advice, and will serve as references when you are seeking internships, externships, or a job.
Academic Advising Introduces You to the Possibilities
The most successful students are the ones who seek out help. You may have never needed a tutor or needed extra help in a class, but nursing school is a whole new situation. You aren’t expected to know everything, and keeping up the intense pace of nursing school is difficult—even for the best students. Get to know your school’s academic advising office and staff. Ask them for help with classes, difficult professors, or time management. They are an important part of your team and the sooner you develop a relationship with them, the more likely you are to avoid pitfalls like burnout, poor grades, or procrastination.
Health Services Watches Out for You
If you have any kind of chronic medical condition—from diabetes to depression —college is not the time to manage it all on your own. Health services will help you with getting medication, finding outside providers, and checking in to keep your health on a steady course. When you get to campus, start getting acquainted with the people and routines of the health services center. If you ever need to take any time off for medical reasons, they will be a big help with the process. The first time you see them shouldn’t be an emergency.
Career Services Takes You to the Next Level
All nurses have an end goal of a career in nursing, but that final career will look different for so many students. Career services will help you figure out how to narrow down your best career path, but they will also help you take steps to get there faster. Start early to get a resume in order, explore career options, and even develop a plan of outside experiences (volunteer work, summer jobs, internship or externship opportunities) that can help you get there.
Nursing school is a step toward independence and your career, and surrounding yourself with people who can help you will make your experience that much better and more successful.
“ 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”.
If there’s one question that I frequently get asked by nursing students, it is how to properly study to pass nursing tests and exams and make it out of nursing school alive. During nursing school I tried different ways to study and it took trial and error for me to finally find what worked best for me. Here are my top study habits to help you get those A’s and tackle nursing school exams.
Best Study Habits:
1. What type of learner are you?
First and foremost, determine what your learning style is. It’s imperative that you’re honest with yourself about the type of learner you are to get the best results from studying. Learning styles typically fall into 3 categories: visual, auditory or tactile/kinesthetic learning. Each learning style retains and processes information differently. So before signing up to be a part of that study group session find out if it works for you. Some students are able to study in only quiet places while others can concentrate around loud noise. Here are two educational websites that offer free learning assessments to help you determine which learning style fits you the best: https://www.how-to-study.com/learning-style-assessment/ and http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-quiz.shtml
2. Be organized.
Before you begin studying collect all of your essential tools such as notecards, pens, highlighters, coffee, and wine (just kidding). There’s nothing worse than being in your groove when studying and you realize that you’ve forgotten your favorite pen or highlighter. Have a plan of what you want to study for each session and a realistic expectation of how long it will take to go over the material. Give yourself adequate time to review each subject and include break times for each study session. According to a study recently done by Microsoft the average adult has a concentration span of only 8 seconds. That is less than that of a goldfish! So studying straight for hours without any breaks will not help you retain the information more.
3. Set goals.
You had a goal to get into nursing school and you have a goal to graduate, so why not set goals when studying? If there is a particular topic that is a weak area for you take out your planner and set a goal for when you want to fully master that material. Create a study outline with exact dates, time and even the location for when you will study each material. This will help you avoid having to cram for exams. Your class syllabus should have dates for when exams and texts will take place so don’t wait until you’re two weeks into the class to begin setting your study goals.
4. Less is more.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when studying in nursing school is using too many books or resources at once. Determine which resources are necessary for each exam and study that content. Professors typically outline which books or resources are appropriate to use for each course so use that as a guide on what to use when studying. If not you may run the risk of studying information that contradicts what you were taught in the classroom. Seek guidance from your professor when choosing to use other resources aside from what is required.
Nursing school is probably one of the most stressful and rewarding things you’ll ever go through in life. Help make things easier for yourself with the four study tactics I listed above to help you prepare for every test and ace those exams. Always remain positive and remember to relax before an exam. You’ve got this!
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