Weight Management for Nurses: The Why’s and How’s of Losing or Maintaining Weight

Weight Management for Nurses: The Why’s and How’s of Losing or Maintaining Weight

weight management

As you well know, America is in the grips of an obesity epidemic. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, over 70% of adults are considered overweight or obese, which is associated with multiple medical conditions. Nurses, as role models, advocates, and educators, are poised to make a difference in reversing this trend.

Unfortunately, nurses are not immune to weight problems themselves. In fact, research suggests the rate of overweight and obesity within the profession is on par with the general working-age population.

Here nurses and wellness professionals offer savvy advice for managing weight and fitness.  Even for those working long, stressful, rotating or night shifts that offer few healthy food and exercise options.

Becoming a Healthy Role Model    

Many nurses feel hypocritical telling patients to exercise and eat right if it’s obvious that they don’t walk the talk. Maybe that’s one of the reasons nurses enjoy a stellar reputation for honesty and trustworthiness, according to annual Gallup polls.

Yes, nurses are role models for patients, but there’s another professional reason to take care of one’s weight and fitness—the health and longevity of your career. The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses includes several mentions of the importance of self-care (e.g., “The nurse owes the same duties to self as others”).

Nurses Helping Nurses

Many nurses know about the power of a group for establishing healthier habits like eating better and moving more. Most of those groups are comprised of people from all walks of life. But you may find there’s even more power in teaming up with fellow nurses who understand the struggle, especially if they’ll be around regularly to hold each other accountable.

Victoria Randle, MSN, NP-C, is a family nurse practitioner in the Atlanta area and cofounder of Nurses 4Ever Fit. Since January of 2018, the organization has held monthly in-person events at venues such as a nurse-owned yoga studio. “We all have a special bond that only another nurse can understand. It’s a platform for like-minded individuals to talk together, it’s a form of therapy, a form of camaraderie, and you can get your fitness in,” she explains.

Randle says the emphasis is on fitness, rather than diet, because “I see a lot of nurses who are vegan, for instance, and they don’t seem healthy. The element that’s missing is movement. When you’re 90 and you don’t have good muscle tone or you have brittle bones, that’s not healthy.”

Also, many women say they are “fearful of going to a gym because ‘I’m afraid people will look at me and judge me’ but here we’re all learning, and it’s a judgement-free zone,” she adds.

Saturday morning fitness sessions are only part of the Nurses 4Ever Fit experience. “We’re going to do an annual retreat. We take a weekend away and it’s a form of therapy. It includes a massage or a hot tub together,” she explains.  “Exercise is good, but it’s not everyone’s idea of self-care. The nature of a nurse is to care for others and put the patient first. So, when it comes time to care for yourself, you don’t have much left. That is embedded in you—the workplace culture needs to change. Nursing school actually taught that if you get a 30-minute break in a 12-hour day, you’re lucky!”

Healthy Workplaces Equal Healthy Nurses

Some hospital systems have started programs to ensure that healthy food and fitness opportunities are available to their nursing staff.

MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, is lauded as an outstanding example of a wellness workplace. Evan Lee Thoman, MS, PMP, CWP, wellness specialist in the HR Wellness and Recognition unit has been in health promotion field for 13 years.

He works to find out what other employers at other top hospitals and universities are doing to engage employees toward a healthier lifestyle. And he investigates what his own hospital’s employees want before offering up a range of at-work health initiatives.

“The program is different for every unit. I go in and have a conversation with the leadership and we may do a needs and interest survey. We’re asking: ‘What do nurses need?’,” Thoman says. For instance, “we had many questions in one unit regarding how to make use of dental insurance. Who would not have guessed that medical consumer information was a top concern?”

But it was, so the wellness department set up a program to fill the knowledge gap. They aim to provide education and services to every shift ranging from an on-site fitness center and gym membership to ergonomic assessments and resources to address compassion fatigue, resiliency, and spiritual care.

Workplace leadership that buys into a wellness culture will reinforce the healthy behaviors that nurses must adopt. Thoman helps nurses to create those wellness habits, without overwhelming them. He asks them: “Who’s going to be your support system? Who’s going to hold you accountable?” The wellness team is there, of course, but so are fellow nurses and nurse leaders. “We get the best results and greatest engagement when we have a leader who walks the talk,” he says.

For example, nurses are notorious for neglecting to take meal or water breaks. “If you eat lunch it’s almost like you’re the weak one on the unit,” he says. “We’d been talking to nurses about planning their meals but then we thought, maybe we can bring something to the nurses. So now we try to take snacks to each department—‘Here’s a little something, a granola bar or piece of fruit, to fuel you during the day.’ We also stress micro breaks and encourage them to find five minute for a snack, go for water.”

When overworked and overstressed nurses complain that they don’t have time to take care of themselves, Thoman suggests gardening, journaling, or even coloring as a way to decompress.

Because nursing is a predominantly female occupation, Thoman notes that rest and relaxation may be difficult for women who do double-duty as caretakers at work and at home. Then there are the biological factors that may hamper a woman’s weight management efforts.

“From a weight-loss perspective, men tend to have more lean muscle than women, which burns more calories than body fat at rest, so, at the onset, men may lose weight a little faster,” explains Thoman, who was previously a university strength and conditioning coach.

Exercise Early, Exercise Often

Cara Sevier, RN, codeveloper of Nurses 4Ever Fit and the CEO of Cara Sevier Industries in the Atlanta area, knows that exercise isn’t always convenient for busy nurses working crazy shifts or living in extreme weather zones.

When nurses tell her that they have difficulty finding time to exercise, she asks them to challenge that belief. Even nurses with legitimate time constraints, such as parents of young children. “They call it a time barrier or challenge, but we say it’s a self-care issue; they feel guilt over finally taking care of themselves first,” she says.

Sevier has personally experienced that challenge and now meets it by waking up at 3:00 a.m. to drive to a gym 30 minutes away. Though the gym is open only Monday through Friday, she maintains her schedule seven days a week. “I found out I had to be consistent or I was thrown off. It gives you a peace in your body that you’re doing something for yourself—getting up at 3:00 a.m. for a 4:00 a.m. class,” she explains. “It takes discipline, forcing yourself, forcing my body to get to my highest physical self. On the weekend, I will find a cycle class or something else to do. Is it easy? No. It’s a lot of sacrifice, but it’s worth it.”

On the other hand, we do need adequate sleep to stay slim—and to stay sane. One study at Columbia University suggests that getting less than four hours of sleep a night could raise your obesity risk by an astonishing 73%. (Seven hours a night is the sweet spot.) Nurses who work overnight or pull 12-hour shifts are also at greater risk for weight gain, according to a University of Maryland study. Scientists suspect that when circadian rhythms get thrown out of whack, so do hunger and fat hormones, which results in excess pounds. Or perhaps lifestyle factors lead tired nurses working off-hours to make poor food choices and avoid exertion.

Become a Healthy Living Warrior

Uniqua Smith, PhD, MBA, RN, NE-BC, associate director of nursing programs at MD Anderson Cancer Center, slowly gained weight after transitioning to an administrative role. But with the help of a fitness boot camp and workplace wellness challenges, she started making healthier food choices and exercising consistently.

“On Sunday, you had to send in a picture of all the groceries you just bought—to show that there are no snacks, no high-sugar foods,” she explains about a challenge with friends, using a social media app for accountability. “For the weekly weigh-in, you had to take a picture of your feet on the scale.”

“Workplace weight loss challenges, like the March Madness challenge, keep you going when you have a month-long goal,” Smith explains. “You’re also motivated because you don’t want to let your team down.”

A little over a year later, she’d lost 40 pounds through calorie-cutting, portion control, and cardio exercise. Only 10 more pounds to reach her goal weight, but then came a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“I truly believe everything happens for a reason: 2017 was about getting myself together health wise,” she says. “It got me ready for 2018, when I had to fight for my life. It gave me the strength to fight cancer.”

After six months of chemotherapy, she underwent three separate surgeries over the next several months.

“I went through 16 cycles of two different types of chemotherapy. It takes a big toll on someone—I lost my taste buds and energy,” she says. “It took me literally an hour to take a shower, which before that took 10 minutes.”

She started exercising again slowly, at the beginning of 2019, after the last of her surgeries. From walking to running and then completing a 5K, she challenged herself to get to her previous state of fitness.

Smith is now a healthy living spokesperson and encourages everyone to eat clean and condition their bodies so they’re strong enough to fight any disease that comes their way.

Don’t Fool Yourself

For many nurses, weight gain happens slowly, and they may not even notice it at first. Or they have a pattern of yo-yo weight loss and gain, with pregnancy, holidays, or shift work.

Sevier knows what that’s like. “Even at my highest weight—I reached 188 lbs—I told myself every story in the book. ‘Maybe these scrubs had shrunk in the hot water. Oh, wait, is this the U.S. size or the European size?” But those excuses didn’t hold up under examination and soon she started working out with a trainer at a gym. “Now scrubs that were once tight on me are loose,” she adds.

Though it may be painful to face facts, research shows that being aware of and tracking certain behaviors can help drive healthy habits. A daily food log, whether paper or digital, can help some people to lose weight or keep it off. You can’t argue with the truth, when it’s detailed right in front of you, in black and white.

Feed Yourself Healthy Meals, Healthy Snacks

If you’re like most nurses, you struggle to plan, shop, and cook yourself nutritious meals and snacks. Regular meals may go out the window, replaced by chaotic eating habits. But simple meal planning strategies can help nurses to eat well.

Tiambe Kuykendall, BSN, RN, a clinical nurse at MD Anderson Cancer Center, does everything she can to fight off chaotic eating. “I work in pediatrics and our [patients’] parents want to feed us all the time. Nobody ever buys us a fruit basket, though we would enjoy it,” she notes. “I’ve realized that I have to pack a healthy snack to make sure there is one at work.”

But desserts, junk food, and other caloric gifts and treats aren’t the only landmines threatening your waistline at most nurses’ stations. “In my unit, someone will bake chocolate chip cookies two or three times a shift. We’re surrounded with unhealthy snacks—chocolate, cookies, chips, pizza, and other junk,” she explains. “But the wellness department brings snacks on a weekly basis—granola bars, bananas, apples, and popcorn. When everyone is trying to be healthy it makes it so much easier.”

Kuykendall notes that when she works out in the morning, her level of energy is much higher later. She’s made other changes in the a.m., too: “I don’t drink energy drinks anymore, just green tea in the morning before I go to work, and sometimes in the afternoon.”

She avoids the cafeteria even though there are healthy food options there. “We have a 30-minute lunch break and MD Anderson is huge, so the cafeteria lines are long,” she says. “Yesterday I planned meals for the next three days and will bring my own lunch and snacks. You can make small changes, like eating grapes instead of candy. I don’t advise that you deny yourself all the time, but indulging should not be the norm.”

Ditch Dieting in Favor of Mindful Eating

Most nurses are familiar with programs such as Weight Watchers, and in fact, some hospitals hold on-site meetings. But there’s been a nationwide shift in attitudes away from dieting and toward a focus on healthy living. Mindful eating is one such approach.

“We don’t promote any particular diet, or if you don’t follow a diet, we want to teach people to simply be aware of why they eat,” explains Mark Mitchnick, MD, CEO of MindSciences, Inc, a New York City developer of digital therapeutics apps. “Right now, it’s keto, but we don’t want to chase fads.” The company’s Eat Right Now app teaches users about the habit loop and how to navigate triggers to eating.

Most of us eat for a variety of reasons, most often the trigger doesn’t have anything to do with physical cues. “Sometimes it’s that you’re hungry, and sometimes it’s that you’re stressed, or you’re tired, or it’s a fight with your significant other,” Mitchnick says. “You can learn to separate the trigger from inappropriate behaviors and do something more productive. If you’re stressed about an upcoming test, study, don’t eat.”

The app helps people to break the habit loop through educational content in a highly sequenced series of 28 modules. It’s constructed to deliver a module a day, which takes only eight minutes, and which can be repeated as desired. A user can also access lessons when on a just in time basis. When feeling a craving, they can bring up a short series of questions to help shape their response to it.

A scientific study showed a 40% reduction in craving-related eating—eating for reasons other than hunger—after use of the app.

In addition to the mindful eating app, there is one to relieve anxiety and one for smoking cessation. “A lot of behavior people would like to change in a high-stress field like health care—smoking and eating—is actually stress-related. Ask yourself: ‘Do I have an eating issue or an anxiety issue?’,” Mitchnick  advises.

It’s not easy for nurses to stay slim, but it’s worth doing. Shift work, long hours, sedentary lifestyle, heavy lifting, high stress, and fatigue can be overcome with a mindful approach.

Mindfulness and Wellness Programs for Patients

Mindfulness and Wellness Programs for Patients

Nurses, like other health care professionals, have been hearing the buzz about mindfulness. Technology corporations, like Google, are instituting mindfulness programs, as are health care and wellness-related workplaces. Lifestyle magazines like Oprah and Yoga Journal are covering the topic, but surprisingly, so are Harvard Business Review and other business publications.

Perhaps you’re wondering what the term actually means, and whether it’s been proven effective in treating patients and those who want to be proactive in warding off illness and disease.

In this article, nurses and mindfulness experts will explain their unique approaches and how they help patients with health challenges. You’ll learn about the evidence behind the practice, so you can comfortably introduce it to your patients. You might even want to incorporate it into your own work and personal life.

What is Mindfulness?

Simply, mindfulness means that you direct your mind to the present versus having it wander aimlessly. You practice an awareness of your thoughts, and a focus on the here and now, not the past or future.

The opposite state, “mindlessness,” is what happens when you drive home at the end of a 10-hour shift, suddenly arrive at your front door, and can’t remember how you get there.

 

Are You Interested in Trying Mindfulness for Yourself?

The mindfulness and health site, DrJud.com, offers a free online course for health care professionals. The seven-module video course answers common questions about the practice and the evidence supporting it.

Continuing medical education (CME) credits are available through Brown University.

To learn more about the course and sign up, visit www.drjud.com/health-care-provider-course.

Though mindfulness meditation is thousands of years old, with its roots in Buddhism, today’s mindfulness practices are often not spiritually centered. Scientifically-based mindfulness programs are meant to be used by patients of all faiths (or none).

That awareness may help boost patient emotional well-being and help strengthen their immune system. One example of the benefits of mindfulness, the Cleveland Clinic reports that 20 randomized trials reviewed in 2011 show improvement in overall mental health.

Mindfulness is a drug-free tool that can help optimize neural processing, boost immune system function, address the epidemic-level of chronic pain, reduce insomnia, and even caregiver burnout.

In new research, mindfulness shows promise in reducing the incidence of physical diseases or managing existing conditions. Examples are diabetes and hypertension. Mindfulness can also be an aid in breaking unhealthy habits, such as smoking, and averting the associated risk of disease.

One Nurse’s Research on Mindfulness and Hypertension

Eunjoo An

Eunjoo An, MSN, RN, a PhD candidate in nursing at UCLA, studied ways to reduce hypertension, which is the number one risk for stroke, she says. As a nurse, An knew that simply telling people what to do—eat right, exercise, etc.—wasn’t enough. She suspected that mindfulness training along with a health promotion program could have beneficial results.

Earlier research showed that mindfulness has a calming effect on the fight or flight response, leading to blood pressure and heart rate reduction, An says. “The difference in my research is that it’s looking at not only blood pressure but habits; most patients have difficulty changing diet and exercise,” she explains. “Mindfulness brings focused attention to body. During those times you’re more likely to say to yourself: ‘I should eat better,’ and then that translates to that behavior. No study has taken that to the next step.”

An used the UCLA mindful awareness program beginner’s course, which is not as extensive as some approaches, but more approachable than others, she says. The mindfulness group was told to practice at home. She hoped that the training would help calm patients and that reduced stress would translate to behavior change.

Her research was applied to hypertension in an independent living facility that is primarily African American. She was the instructor for the health promotion group, using the six-week program modules on a government website. Both groups received information about healthy diet and the importance of exercise.

The results? “The mindfulness group, with stage 1 hypertension, reduced their systemic blood pressure to normal range at the end of the 12-week study,” she says. While blood pressure did go down in both groups, “in the mindfulness group it dropped into the normal range whereas in the health promotion group it stayed in the high range.” Mindfulness practice was beneficial in helping patients to eat and exercise in such a way that their blood pressure dropped 40%.

To learn more, watch An’s three-minute presentation about her research on the benefits of mindfulness available on YouTube.

Beyond Mindfulness for In-Patient Care

Menna Olvera Feder

The Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) program brings mindfulness plus yoga, Reiki, essential oil therapy, and contemplative end-of-life care to patients and providers. Started in 2009 by fashion designer Donna Karan in New York, it soon expanded nationwide with the launch of the UZIT teacher training program.

“UZIT-trained therapists provide a variety of care, in a wide range of settings, to patients, staff, and caregivers, plus the community,” explains Menna Olvera Feder, UZIT acting program director.

Services can be accessed through a number of hospitals, rehab centers, senior-care and hospice facilities, as well as yoga studios offering drop-in stress-management class.

Research has been conducted at multiple facilities, including Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and Wexner Heritage Village in Columbus, Ohio, showing significant health benefits. Patients experienced fewer symptoms of pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, constipation, and didn’t require as much medication for relief from those conditions.

When a UZIT-trained nurse “sees a patient isn’t breathing well, or is in pain, or is exhausted, they have what they need in their toolbox to address it,” says Olvera Feder. The UZIT protocol “adds a level of care to nursing that drew the nurse to be a nurse to begin with.”

The holistic program is used in health care environments with a diversity of patient populations. “We want to attract people of different cultures and those who are bilingual. We’re always looking for nurses who are Spanish-speaking or who speak Chinese,” says Olvera Feder.

Simple, clear terms are used to introduce the care modalities to patients and their families. For instance, “yoga,” is explained as “mindful movement to address respiration, digestion, and circulation,” Olvera Feder says. “Because when you’re in bed, you’re not doing downward dog.” Mindful movement in that case may mean that pillows aren’t stacked too high, and the patient is positioned in simple supported postures to bring them into a more comfortable state.

Anna Dermenchyan

The UCLA Health has a number of UZIT trained health care professionals, among them is Anna Dermenchyan, RN, MSN, CCRN-K. An Armenian American, Dermenchyan was an ICU nurse before transitioning to a quality role in 2013, with the aim of improving patient care. She is also pursuing her PhD in nursing at UCLA School of Nursing.

“Urban Zen is meant for patients who feel pain and anxiety—that’s pretty much any patient in a hospital—they feel so much better after,” she says. One of the moving examples of UZIT’s effectiveness was when Dermenchyan sought to help a family say their final farewells to a brain-dead patient. “We provided Reiki and essential oils to them and a sad experience was made less painful,” she recalls.

Though always aware of stress in the health care workplace and how it affects nurses and patients, “I realize now how stressed everyone is, including physicians and administrators, and how vulnerable they are to fatigue and burnout,” she adds.

Mindfulness Class in Your Pocket

Mark Mitchnick

Not every organization has a mindfulness program available for patients, and not every patient has the money or time to attend formal training sessions. That’s where digital mindfulness apps come into play.

“We consider ourselves the leader in evidence-based, digital therapeutics for mental health,” says Mark Mitchnick, MD, CEO of MindSciences, Inc. “It’s pretty easy to put an app out in the health care space, especially in mental health, but do they have evidence behind them? We get grouped with some very scientific, rigorously researched” companies, and some that are not.

Currently the company offers three apps: Eat Right Now to address emotional eating, Unwinding Anxiety to relieve anxiety and stress, and Craving to Quit for smoking cessation. They are based on the work of Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, a leading mindfulness researcher, $11 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and input from thousands of users in clinical trials, and later as subscribers.

Many users first learn about this brand of apps because their health care provider recommends them. “It’s offered to individuals through organizations and insurance providers, such as Humana,” he explains. “We wanted to offer [mindfulness] as something scalable and very affordable—and today that’s an app.”

For example, MindSciences is “working with coal miners in Appalachia, using our smoking app in a pulmonary clinic,” says Mitchnick. “Folks are enrolled in a clinic but still smoke.” Using a hybrid model of delivery—digital app plus the participation of health care professionals—they aim to help patients kick the smoking habit.

Similarly, they’ve started working with bariatric surgery clinics to help patients avoid regaining weight lost after surgery. “We’re not a willpower-based system,” he says. “In the case of eating, you have to separate out ‘I’m feeling hungry’ from ‘I’m feeling anxiety,’ and find a more appropriate behavior for that.”

Interested individuals can independently download the app, try it out free for three days, and later subscribe. In the case of Craving to Quit, the program is $24.99 a month, which includes the mobile app training modules, an online support community, and weekly live expert video group coaching sessions. The program has been shown to be twice as effective as a leading smoking cessation treatment, and it’s backed by a limited money-back guarantee.

Mindful Yoga-Inspired Tools for Patients

Kimberly Carson

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon, offers a number of mindfulness programs to its patients and staff members. Kimberly Carson, MPH, C-IAYT, E-RYT, is a mindfulness educator and yoga therapist. She is considered a leader in the therapeutic use of mindful yoga for people with medical challenges.

Carson offers an ongoing drop-in class, Breath by Breath, as an introduction to mindfulness-based stress reduction methods. The class is free of charge to OHSU patients and any interested members of the community.

“Breath by Breath is a combination of mindfulness practices and yogic tools,” she explains, for cardiac, oncology, chronic pain, and other patients, plus their caregivers. “Sometimes people come once, sometimes a few times, or sometimes for years.” The class is held twice a week, for hour-long sessions, in conference rooms offered by participating departments.

Along with instruction in a variety of relaxation and mindfulness practices, Breath by Breath incorporates yoga-inspired adaptive movement, “We don’t take people to the floor,” explains Carson, “these movements are appropriate for most people—the postures are skillful to a medical or aging physiology.”

Group discussions and sharing make up an important component of the session. “At the beginning of the class, “I use what I call the ‘quickening question,’ which is totally spontaneous, such as ‘What inspired you today?’” she says. “The question helps give voice to people’s experience.”

She also facilitates Mindful Yoga for Chronic Pain, a five-week, drop-in series, “which is more asana heavy,” she explains. Gentle postures help patients develop mindful awareness of bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions in this evidence-based intervention.

Beyond classes, Carson offers “bedside mindfulness” in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit to address pain, agitation, insomnia, and existential distress. “I go in and lead patients through a mindfulness process,” she explains. “It quiets the nervous system, so they get relief right then. We do a body scan and breath awareness exercise. That’s the face-to-face introduction to the skill, to give them a taste of what’s available.” Later, patients can access more training modules on “the mindfulness channel” via OHSU’s digital education platform.

Mindfulness for Minority Communities

Jeffrey Proulx

Jeffrey Proulx, PhD, is a Native American who has been studying mindfulness as a way to reduce psychological stress and improve physical health in underserved communities. A K99/R00 award from the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is currently funding his contemplative-based program to reduce diabetes in Native communities. He has also done culturally based mindfulness research with other ethnic minority communities.

Proulx believes that psychological stress needs to be viewed in a wider context that includes historical oppression. “They wanted to wipe Native Americans off the face of the earth, and African Americans were enslaved,” he explains. “So, for these populations, daily stress is compounded by historical stressors.” But instead of focusing on cultural trauma and the associated poor health behaviors, he works with communities to explore their resiliency and strength.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction [MBSR] is the landmark evidence-based program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979. Many health care mindfulness programs and health apps are based on this intensive, eight-week training series. Proulx has facilitated these classes for patients and health care providers at OHSU, as has Carson.

“But MBSR isn’t really geared to address cultural trauma, intergenerational trauma, people getting sicker from generation to generation,” he explains. “I’m approaching it from another way. The bigger, overall issue is how people carry on.”

One way Proulx makes sure his offering is culturally competent is by using the term “stress reduction” rather than “mindfulness.” That only goes so far, he warns: “You can call it different things to sand down the edges,” but it doesn’t change the basic shape, and what he’s trying to create “is a program to get at stress in your community, not just the upper class white community.”

The development process is long for his years-long studies in these communities who may be suspicious of him or medical professionals generally. To head off prejudice, he enlists the endorsement of community leaders (e.g., the tribal council or church pastor) and forms a small advisory group for guidance and assistance.

Proulx aims to create a safe, open, and accepting environment among community members. “You do that by learning about the history of the community, the culture, and becoming part of the neighborhood,” he says. “It’s an effort to develop trust, show trustworthiness, and embody trustworthiness.”

Their own culture then informs how these involved community members experience his mindfulness and stress reduction training. “‘Oh, it’s like Proverbs,’ I often hear,” says Proulx. “Or ‘It’s like Christian charity and compassion.’”

Underserved populations can also be a source of future trainers and greater diversity in the mindfulness field. “I encourage people in those communities to become teachers,” he explains. “Brown University is paying for that training.”

The Entrepreneurial Nurse: Unusual Side Hustles and Career Transitions

The Entrepreneurial Nurse: Unusual Side Hustles and Career Transitions

The Entrepreneurial Nurse: Unusual Side Hustles and Career Transitions

 

Many nurses have answered the call to entrepreneurship, starting successful part-time endeavors or profitable full-time enterprises. The nurses profiled here started interesting businesses that are unusual, creative, or outright quirky.

Learn from these nurses as they describe their start-up experiences, and from some business development experts who advise nurses. They will likely spark ideas for your own entrepreneurial adventure.

 

Michelle Podlesni, RN

President of the National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA)

 

What do you advise nurses who want to start a business?

I always ask them: What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? Nurses are creative, and there are always ways to express more of who they are. You can design a workstyle around your lifestyle. We’re more than one thing—we may be moms, sisters, executives, fundraisers. Don’t limit yourself, and your potential. There’s no secret to business—it’s simple but, it’s not easy.

To make anything a business you need to make sure you have three things: Somebody who wants, needs, and desires it—and who is willing to pay for it. You have to be able to produce your widget, content, or product. You also have to administer money effectively and profitably. I always advise nurses to identify the fastest path to cash. Bigger than your money investment, even, is your time commitment.

 If a nurse doesn’t have a strong interest or passion, then what?

Some nurses don’t want to do their own thing, they want a business in a box. Franchises are well-suited to nurses. And there are all kinds of opportunities out there. I do have one big caveat —always test your assumptions before investing. Nurses don’t do enough due diligence. Do proper investigation before putting money in anything, whether an MLM, franchise, or a website design service.

What does the NNBA offer someone new to that path?

About 50% of our members are nurses who are aspiring entrepreneurs. We have many resources and tools on our website and Facebook page. Nurses interested in more freedom, flexibility and financial rewards can also attend our Nurse Entrepreneurship & Career Alternatives Conference. It will be held September 27-29, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

Lolita Korneagay, RN, BSN, MBA, LNC

Nurse Medical Cannabis Consultant and Founder of Cansoom

 

Tell us about your unusual new venture.

I started Cansoom in 2017, and my business is all about teaching people to use cannabis in a healthier way. There are two types of people that I teach: Regular people and medical professionals—that’s the train-the-trainer portion of my business.

Cannabis is important because there are 40 million people in the U.S. who use it. (It’s legal in over 30 states for medicinal use, and for recreational use in 10 or 11 states right now.) Year by year, the users are increasing, and medical professionals need to be prepared. But there are not a lot of opportunities for them to learn.

What was the genesis of your business?

It grew out of a personal need. I was diagnosed with a condition and was in a lot of pain. I had surgery, but the pain continued. I thought: If medical marijuana can help cancer patients, maybe it can help me. It took 22 months to come up with a treatment plan. There were no authoritative books, so I tested everything on myself. Then I put it in a handbook, and later I put together classes.

What’s your advice for a nurse who wants to become a medical cannabis consultant?

If you don’t have a passion for a certain business, you won’t be able to keep going. We need nurses to be patient advocates and to dispel myths. Within the African American community, for instance, marijuana has negatively affected it because people were imprisoned for just possession. But that’s not the case anymore.

 

Gwen Jewell, RN, BSN, CWS

Founder of Jewell Nursing Solutions

 

How did you come up with the idea for your wound care pillows?

I worked on a med-surg unit and started asking: Isn’t there anything better for bed sores? Most professionals say to turn patients and reposition them every two hours. But there is so much more to it than that. It’s not easy. No wonder we get more and more pressure ulcers.

I know a nurse who has been a nurse for her whole life and she’s in her 80s. The whole time she never saw a pressure ulcer. At least 50% of what I see now as a wound care nurse is preventable. A nurse’s day is getting more and more crowded with technology. There is less time to do the simple, basic stuff like turning a patient.

My side hustle has been trying to figure out how to make a support cushion that honestly works, as comfortable as possible, without touching the bedsore.

How did you design and develop your invention?

I called up a foam manufacturer and they gave me chunks of foam. I bought a knife to cut the foam and sew the cover. I tested it on myself and others like my brother who is paralyzed from a spinal cord injury.

It’s hard to get this information to the people who need it. There’s a long learning curve. I finally bought Google ads and sell them, mostly to patients at home. I work on it whenever I can before going to work. (I work swing.) It’s become a passion to put it out in the world. I want to leave a legacy and make a real impact toward creating a world where pressure wounds are a thing of the past.

What’s your advice to nurses with a product idea?

Just do it! We have a whole industry around nursing innovation. Like the woman who developed the colostomy bag, way back near WWI time. She did it for her sister, a young woman with chronic Crohn’s who fell into a depression after surgery. She struggled for 10 years to get anyone to listen.

If you have a good idea, then lean into it. Don’t quit your day job. Test it out first. Fear is the biggest deterrent. We’re in a nursing shortage, so we are always needed and can always get work. So, don’t be afraid.

 

 

Clifton Joullian, RN, BSN

The Nurse Farmer

 

How did you come to start this venture?

In studying for my bachelor’s and gathering data, I found some research related to the health benefits of gardening. I was a backyard farmer, so I asked myself: What if I could teach people how to grow their own food organically and how that could help promote health? I had a conversation with Michelle [Podlesni] at the NNBA and she told me it was a great concept, to go to Facebook, create a page, and see where it goes.

How do you fit it in with your nursing job and family life?

My husband and I both grew up in Mobile, Alabama—when I took a job as a travel nurse, we went to Vallejo where we had a large—by California standards—farm and grew citrus, vegetables, and kept hens. That’s where our two sons were raised. We adopted them when they were 4 and 6—and they’re now 18 and 20. For them, gardening was more of a chore. But children will eat more fruits and vegetables if they raise them and those habits go with them into adulthood. It’s like a piece of art: if you raise it, you’re going to share it with others and eat it.

What’s next for you as The Nurse Farmer?

I’m not making money yet, but I plan to kick it up a notch. After both our sons graduated, we moved back to Alabama last year, onto a 10-acre farm. The climate is different, and I made some poor choices, but I’m getting back into Alabama mode. We’ve already got some vegetables; next is herbs and flowers to attract pollinators.

I’m working on a collaboration with The Nature Nurse, Susan Allison, that we hope to launch next year. I’m working with a new local farmers market doing free BP checks. I’m hoping to do cooking demonstrations, like showing people how to process tomatoes, turn them to Creole sauce, but without the salt.

 

Nancy Joyner, RN, MS, APRN-CNS, ACHPN

Owner of Mya & Me therapy dog team and author of Through Myas Eyes

 

How did you start your entrepreneurial journey?

I’ve worked for 40 years as a nurse—I tell people I’m seasoned, not old! I also work as a nurse mentor for a group of diverse nurses. I’ve done everything in nursing—from NICU to hospice—but my specialty is palliative care. When I incorporated Mya as a therapy dog in my practice, she brought so much comfort and joy. I’m retirement age and was having physical and other medical issues so I wanted to try something less demanding.

What was helpful to you in launching your book?

I found the [NNBA] and started a five-year plan there. A booklet was the easiest thing to publish, so I wrote What If the Doctor Asks Me About CPR? My second book was a “real book,” Through Mya’s Eyes, which is told from her point of view. The unique thing about my book is that includes color artwork, drawings, and paintings from students ages 14 to 18. The book is for a younger, family-oriented audience.

You have a multidimensional enterprise—what else do you do?

I own Njoy Publishing, Nancy Joyner Consulting [palliative care consulting service], and a pet sitting business, too. Mya, my therapy dog, is part of my practice. A therapy dog has to go through a lot of training so she can go to the scene of an accident or she can be around during an assisted activity. A therapy dog has to be invited, and there can only be one dog at a time. Mya is a favorite with patients with dementia: They can be mute, and then all of a sudden, with her, they will talk.

 

 

Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN

The Nerdy Nurse and Cofounder of The Health Media Academy

 

What’s the best way for a nurse to explore entrepreneurship?

I always recommend nurses start a business as a side hustle, because it’s too stressful otherwise. If you start off full-time, it’s too hard, especially if you’re the primary breadwinner, which many nurses are. Figure out something you can do part-time on the side and do that. As a nurse, you can work three days a week on the floor and one on your business, and the rest can be for your family. You have to make time for your family—if not, your family will resent it and you really need their support to succeed.

How do you get so much done, with a corporate job, a blog, and now the Academy?

You have to be focused. A lot of people aren’t strategic; they fly by the seat of their pants. That little bit of time that you’ve devoted to your business, you have to be 100% focused to write that blog post. Ask: Is it a task that will produce revenue? However, sometimes a business just finds you. I didn’t start blogging with the intent to produce revenue. I started my blog because it was fun, it was my hobby, like other people crochet. At first, my blog didn’t make money. If it’s not fun, you might as well work more hours at your job.

With so many business options, how does a nurse decide what to pursue?

Don’t begin with deciding if you’ll be selling essential oils or CBD oils. I started my business by focusing on making connections. It’s better to build a personal brand first and cast a net that’s a little wider before niching down. Focus on general wellness, healthy eating, and healthy living; get known for that, then after you’re trusted, later you can sell oils. Build your brand first and your revenue later. Know that it’s a long game, and you may not earn income for six to nine months. It’s been said that “there are riches in niches,” but you don’t want to start out so hyper- focused that you have no ability to pivot if you see a business model isn’t right for you.

What part of the entrepreneurial journey is hardest for nurses?

Nurses are used to hard work, but business is marketing and sales and they’re not comfortable with that. But think about it: everything you do in nursing is a sales pitch—time to ambulate after surgery—that’s a sales pitch. Nurses are masters of persuasion and educating patients on the benefits of completing a task. They just don’t realize that’s what sales is and that they already know how to make a sales pitch; they just call it education.

 

Jon Haws, RN, BSN

Founder and CEO of NRSNG

 

Do you find that any particular skillset or mindset is crucial for entrepreneurs?

One of my favorite quotes is “you are only as successful as the level of problem you are able to solve.” I have no idea who said that, but it has had a profound impact on growing NRSNG. To me, it means you have to be able to take on greater and greater challenges as you grow your business. So, to answer the question, I believe that one of the most important skills a business owner can possess would be the ability to manage chaos and roll with the problems and punches. Just like in nursing, there are 1,000,000 things you can focus on, but only a few matter. Being able to identify those few problems that matter and solve them will help you and your business grow.

What tips do you have for nurses employed full-time who want to make a total transition?

Patience. Many people think they have to “win” today. This mindset will lead them into doing things that simply make money versus doing things that benefit their customers. It’s all about building something that brings real value to the world . . . not about just quitting your job. I think when the customer really becomes your focus versus just trying to make enough to quit a job, this will reflect in your business. Customers will notice that you really do care and you are fighting to solve their problem.

Any other advice for our minority nurse readers about entrepreneurial life?

At NRSNG our mission is to end the nursing shortage. This is a global problem with a huge scale. We respect the enormity of what we are trying to do and that drives our decisions. If we had small goals, we would make small decisions. Instead, we adopt a world-changing goal and make all of our decisions from that vantage point.

There really isn’t anything “easy” about the entrepreneur life, but it truly is the most fulfilling journey in the world. Watching users find success with your product, watching employees buy into the mission, watching your kids find love for the company. It’s incredible. Find a big mission and chase it like hell!

 

 

Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP

Founder and President of Exceptional Nurse

 

How did you come to start Exceptional Nurse?

Lauren, my daughter, was born in 1986 and later diagnosed with autism, OCD, epilepsy, and a host of other autism-related challenges. I quickly became an advocate for her, and overtime expanded my advocacy efforts to include nurses and nursing students with disabilities.

Is it a business, or a nonprofit, or a passion project?

Exceptional Nurse is a nonprofit resource network for nurses and nursing students with disabilities. The nonprofit provides information, support, mentors, employment opportunities, social media, and related articles. It also awards scholarships to nursing students with disabilities.

What entrepreneurial lessons have you learned?

Do what you love! Being a risk taker is important along with being resilient… moving past setbacks and criticism. A strong work ethic is also important—being an entrepreneur isn’t a 9-5 job! It takes hard work and perseverance to succeed. Continue to learn new skills, network with others, and ask for help when needed. Give as much as you take. Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people. Manage money wisely.

What advice do you have for our readers?

To my fellow nurses and nursing educators, I would stress the importance of recognizing that disability is part of life…for everyone! Nurses with disabilities have knowledge, experience, and skills to share. They have walked the walk and gained insight into patient care. Their experiences inform and benefit their practice. Many have a passionate desire to care for others. Nurses with disabilities can be the best role models for patients.

 

Paul Scrivens

Founder of Dare to Conquer

 

What productivity tips do you have for nurses who are employed full-time but want to launch a side hustle?

It’s tough. Mentally, the idea of making it all work is easy, but the execution is really hard. Usually it isn’t because of time. You can always make time. The biggest problem is willpower. At the end of the day, after working your tail off, you usually don’t [have] the willpower to get more things done.

The best thing you can do is come up with a long-term gameplan and lay out the tasks that you need to get done. Then break those tasks down as much as possible into smaller chunks. Now that you have these small chunks, take a look at your schedule.

For about a week, keep a journal with you at all times and every hour that you’re up, write down what you did for that hour. What you’ll usually notice is that the times you aren’t working or sleeping, there are lots of gaps where you’re not really doing anything.

Fill those gaps with bursts of effort where you get your tasks done. If you find that at the end of the day you mentally can’t do more things, then wake up earlier and get them done. Diet and exercise also go a long way.

 

A Nurse’s Guide to Understanding Digital Recruitment Trends

A Nurse’s Guide to Understanding Digital Recruitment Trends

A Nurse’s Guide to Understanding Digital Recruitment Trends

 

 

More and more health care organizations are using big data, predictive analysis, and data metrics to streamline the process of recruiting nursing talent. Over one-third of human resources departments rely on analytics to manage staffing, according to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report. That trend has exploded over the last few years, as organizations lean on technology in earnest. For example, approximately 95% of hospitals use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is like a gigantic digital filing cabinet full of resumes, according to industry experts.

Big data (or people data) may sound intimidating to nurses who aren’t tech savvy, but the information that they refer to is often quite simple. “Facebook, Google, the U.S. government—even my own tiny website has its own big data,” says Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN, an informatics expert based in Nashville, Tennessee who owns the popular blog The Nerdy Nurse

Big data usually means extremely large data sets, which help reveal patterns and associations, especially relating to human behavior or that look at trends and systems and help make a determination, explains Wilson.

“Data is everywhere and almost all of it is discoverable. I always tell nurses to not post anything online that they wouldn’t put in front of a recruiter when they’re applying for a job. You have to assume that someone is scraping that data and applying it to an algorithm,” she adds.

How Organizations Collect People Dataand What That May Mean for You

In a recruiting context, a nurse’s personal information can be culled from social media profiles, consumer data, and public records, in addition to a hospital’s personnel data or those of a third-party recruiting program vendor. That nurse’s individual data points can then be merged into bigger data sets, so analysts can create algorithms or statistical models that aim to predict which candidates are equipped to succeed in a given role.

For example, automated systems can spit out resumes from applicants in a certain zip code, based on an algorithm set to predict turnover. Perhaps previous employees with that zip code may have been short-timers, due to a grueling driving commute or unreliable mass transit.

Then even if nurses knew why they were getting the cold shoulder from a piece of software, there’s not much they can do about it. Their home address data is out there and available to hospitals, even if they attempted to hide it by using another street address, through a UPS or other office forwarding service, say.

But what if that undesirable zip code is for an area with a large minority population? Recruiters and IT folks are starting to realize how digital “gates,” based on zip code and such, may adversely impact underrepresented populations. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission frowns on practices which essentially “profile” applicants and employees.

“We need to attract more racial and ethnic minorities to nursing,” says David Wilkins, chief strategy officer of Woburn, Massachusetts-based HealthcareSource, a provider of talent management systems for hospitals. “We’re thin in labor supply and there’s a high labor demand.” The unemployment rate in health care is so low—RNs at 1.4%, and NPs at 1.1%, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. “With such an acute shortage, it’s hard to believe that people are consciously turning away any candidates.” Wilkins wonders if unconscious bias, such as when an applicant has an ethnic sounding name, may be at play.

Crowdsourcing, One Surprising Cyber Trend in Recruiting

Relode is an innovative crowdsource referral platform for health care recruiting. “In 2014, we saw there were lots of inefficiencies in the hiring process and wanted to use software to solve this problem,” says Joe Christopher, chief technology officer at the Brentwood, Tennessee-based firm. “The platform allows our small team to work on thousands of jobs. Health care is profession-centric, so staffing agencies are ultimately working with the company. We’re trying to help you, as a nurse, to take your next step.”

A nurse can sign up on the Relode portal, then work with a talent adviser who will set up a profile and then make a match with an appropriate job opportunity based on the nurse’s experience, skill set, goals, and other desires. “As a new grad, you may have to take what’s available, but if we know you ultimately want to go back to California, we can help. What if we can connect you to this great employer [in another state] who can train you? And then after a year or two, you can go back home to California or wherever. Or you might like it and want to stay longer.”

Relode offers nurses a way to earn side income through its crowdsourcing platform. “Nurses are used to thinking, ‘if I need extra money, I need to work an extra shift.’ But we believe the best nurse knows another best nurse. So as a travel nurse, for instance, you may know nurses in Dallas and Phoenix, and if you connect us and that person gets hired, we pay $3,500 directly into your account,” says Christopher. In fact, one nurse signed up with Relode and referred seven other nurses, earning money for connecting people she already knew to new opportunities, he adds.

Make Sure Your Online Application is Optimized for Search Engines

Human resource experts claim that very little recruiting happens without technology anymore. “Your first point of entry is very likely going to be a piece of software, an applicant tracking system. It has to determine the degree of fit between you and the job. So, make sure your resume is well-structured, clean, and easy to parse for an applicant tracking system,” says Wilkins. “Focus less on making it look pretty, and instead, make it very scannable and readable. The average time someone is going to look at it is six seconds.”

A big part of what applicant tracking systems search for is keywords and phrases. Recruiters may be carrying 100 plus openings at one time so they can’t look at all the resumes for each position. “In order to be seen, yours must be in the top 10 or top 20 ranking,” he says. “You should have multiple resumes to make sure the keywords match. Most of the time organizations tailor job titles and descriptions to a particular opening.”

A Travel Nurse Weighs in on High-Tech, Low-Touch Recruiting

Jake Schubert, RN, BSN, travel nurse and owner of Nursity.com, an online NCLEX prep course, is no stranger to the recruiting process and shares a few key insights.

1. The nurse-recruiter relationship is becoming less and less personal.

I get hundreds of emails from travel nurse recruiters all saying basically the same thing: “would love to work with you… would love to work with you… would love to work with you…” Don’t spam nurses with phone calls and emails. You don’t like it when people do that to you, so why would you do it to them? But if you really want to be effective, stop with the spam and make your message personal. For example, you can go to my Instagram and you’ll see that I love to scuba dive. Then reach out to me there with something personal like, “Hey I noticed you like to dive. We have contracts with three hospitals in Florida that are close to some great dive sites.” But no, they don’t do that. Instead they fall back on the same line: “Let me know when you you’re ready to start traveling with the best recruiting company!” I feel like responding: “Let me know when I’m relevant to you.”

2. Many nurses are naïve about a recruiter’s role and motives.

New graduates and some other nurses may think: “This recruiter is really on my side.”  But they’re not—they’re being paid by their company so that’s where their loyalty lies. They know when you’re not asking for enough money, for instance, but they won’t tell you where you’re leaving money on the table. It’s not like other industries where people are required to disclose a conflict of interest—when real estate brokers represent both sides in a transaction, they’re legally required to disclose their dual agency.

3. Nurses have the power to create better relationships with recruiters.

I’m one of the thousands of nurses working with Kaiser Permanente right now. You go online and create a profile on their portal, and they email you when an appropriate job pops up. But that’s not how all jobs get filled in a hospital. It’s all about relationships. Managers are always asking me “Jake, do you know anyone who’s looking for a job?” Every hospital is looking for good nurses, and nurses who have good communication skills are hard to find. If I had one piece of advice for new graduates, it’s “Don’t text a recruiter, and don’t think of email as a long text. Email is an online version of a letter, so don’t leave out the niceties.” When you communicate fully, you show that you’re different and that you have professional communication skills.

So, for instance, if you were applying for a job as a dialysis nurse, Wilkins would advise the use of a preponderance of keywords related to that specialty. “Of course, use the word ‘dialysis,’ but also all the words alongside it and related terms and synonyms.

Dialysis in an elder-care, or long-term care setting, is different than working with general patients at an outpatient dialysis care clinic. Use senior care words, long-term care versus outpatient care words. The care job is probably the same but the stuff on the edges is different.”

Wilkins offers a final caveat regarding online application systems, which sounds basic, but could torpedo your candidacy if ignored. “The average completion for an online application is around 15%, which means 85% of online applications are never completed. While in some cases, this is because a candidate changes their mind mid-process, most of the time it’s just because the process is long and complex,” he explains. “But the really scary data is that 15% of people think they’ve actually fully submitted their application when they really haven’t. Sometimes they just miss the ‘submit’ button at the end. Go back and make sure you completed all the steps.”

Nurses shouldn’t forget to update their own employer’s human resource portal—it makes it easier for the department (or a hiring manager) to identify internal candidates. When there’s a job requisition for an assistant nurse manager with a master’s degree and a set of relevant experience, for instance, a recruiter can look through the hospital’s internal database of qualified nurses before posting the job publicly.

How to Protect Your Online Privacy When Job Searching

“We need to educate nurses that when you put your resume out there on any career site—upload it to CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed—you’re selling access to that resume,” warns Christopher. An applicant may upload a resume and forget about it, but when they get an email or call from a recruiter, wonder: “How did they get my number?!” When you trace it back, almost always it was that uploaded resume and the terms of service that allow recruiters to contact you.

There are workarounds though, that will protect your privacy without hampering your job search. “Lots of people are able to set up an email address specifically for this use—you’d check it once a day if you’re in the job market, or once a week if you’re not,” says Christopher. “Sometimes the systems also require a phone number. You may be able to set up a Google voice number or use another solution like that.”

When using online job engines and portals, be aware that there are games that some unscrupulous recruiters play, says Christopher. For instance, “a staffing agency that does lots of work with nurses may put up a job listing for an opening that doesn’t exist” at the moment. That gives them a running start for handling hard-to-fill roles, “so that when an employer asks for an ICU nurse, say, they already have 10 nurses that have applied for that. Indeed will no longer host agency jobs, the listing has to be from the employer,” because of recruiter abuses. “Even now Indeed offers applicants a way to filter jobs—there’s an employer of record option.”

Present Your Best Cyber Self to Snag a Job

Nurses and talent recruiters are both figuring out the new communications etiquette, with some stumbles along the way. “I get text messages from recruiters pretty frequently. I was shocked the first time because they contacted me on a very non-professional manner, in my opinion,” says Regina Callion, RN, MSN, travel nurse and owner of ReMar Review, an NCLEX review program.

“Greetings will be skipped, and it will pretty much say ‘Make 10,000 dollars in a month! Sign up today for xyz.’ The lack of formality and information provided is a turnoff.”

That anti-text sentiment is common, even among some Millennial, digital native nurses. “My cell number is the last bastion of privacy for me,” Wilson says. “I don’t want to get a text from a recruiter without my consent. It feels like you entered my living room and sat on the couch and don’t even know who I am.”

But recruiters say that reaching out to nurses in the traditional way isn’t efficient, so they have to employ new channels. “Our team has found that texting is a really great way to communicate for nurses. They’re busy and so instead of leaving a message and waiting for a call back, a text is a brief but direct conversation,” says Christopher. “Obviously, you have to know who the person is and agree to it, but texting is a really efficient way for us to say: ‘Here’s a great opportunity that meets three out of four of your criteria. Do you want to talk about it?’ Or if there’s a simple question from an employer, we can get a quick answer: ‘Are you licensed in California? I know you graduated from school there but …’”

The nurse-recruiter dance requires sensitivity and cooperation from each partner. Recruiters do a service for nurses, exposing them to opportunities they might not otherwise discover and fast-tracking their applications through the hiring process. Nurses can help recruiters by making themselves easier to find and by being open to approach. “It takes a lot of energy to look for a job, and it’s a lot like dating—when you’re not looking, that’s when you’re most desirable,” explains Wilson. “My job before this one was with a startup who found me because I’d SEO’d [search engine optimization, or the process of affecting the visibility of a web page] my profile online so well… I always tell people—take a phone call. You never know.”

Taking a Baby Step Toward Self-Care

Taking a Baby Step Toward Self-Care

Are you like most nurses, filling your days with taking care of everyone else but yourself? That may seem heroic, but putting yourself last ultimately leads to a dip in on-the-job productivity and career burnout. But when you take care of your own needs first, not only do you benefit, and so do your coworkers and patients.

Is there a secret formula to boosting your health and happiness? Fortunately, there is no secret. It’s simple, though not easy, to make yourself a priority in your own life.

By attending to your own self-care, you’re more likely to head off the symptoms of overload which can cut your nursing career short. But where do you start, when there are so many components of a happy, healthy life?

Self-care is easier to establish if you know what’s most important to you at this particular point in time. You may want to focus on a major life activity—eating, exercise, sleep, or relationships—because they seem like obvious drivers of well-being. Improvements in any of those important areas can certainly yield major benefits, but they’re usually tough to crack.

Even if you highly prioritize self-care, it’s difficult to say “No” to that big slice of cheesecake, fit in workouts, or turn in for bed on-time. Especially when your schedule is already jam-packed, your shifts are long, or you work nights.

Why not try another tactic? Consider setting a self-care habit in motion by starting with baby steps toward your ultimate goals. Improvements don’t have to start in your “hot zones” either. Like dominoes, a shift in one habit or routine will cascade down to every other area of your life.

Here are two powerful ideas to spark your thinking:

1. You Need a Budget.

Who even uses a budget anymore? It sounds so old-school, like playing music on 8-track tapes and paying with paper checks at the supermarket. But sitting down to crunch the numbers, and getting a grip on your income and outgo, can be an effective stress-reliever. Your financial situation may remain the same, but seeing the actual facts can stop the free-floating anxiety that’s fueled by imagination.

Your budgeting system doesn’t have to be fancy, either—just use a notebook and pencil to note and track your household expenses and income. Some people like to allocate cash to specific purchases, using an envelope system popularized by Dave Ramsey. One envelope for cafeteria lunch money, another for…

And don’t forget to plan for seasonal outlays (holiday gifts or taxes) and emergencies. That way if you need to replace a dental crown, you’ll have a buffer fund to cover it, and won’t panic as much.

There are also many apps out there for budgeting, including the grand-daddy, You Need a Budget (YNAB).

2. Do a Digital Detox.

Are you always texting, Skyping, Tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise deep in your digital stream? That’s the case for many “social media natives” and even for their oldest colleagues.

Even if you’re following social media guidelines for nurses in your workplace, you may find that digital is a distraction, always in the back of your mind, ringing, buzzing, or vibrating to get your attention. You could get relief from all sorts of social media ills, from text neck to FOMO, by choosing a set time to disable it, for hours or days.

Some people like to set aside long weekends to go away on formal retreats, like the ones offered by Digital Detox while others simply reduce everyday use. Digital refers to all smartphones and computers (sometimes TV’s too), so resolving to stay away from electronics and screens after 8:00pm could be enough to calm your down, and make it easier to get to sleep at a decent hour.

Oh, but wait, what if you ditched your alarm clock? There are all kinds of new devices for improving your sleep hygiene that you may want to check out. One example is the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise Simulation, which costs less than $50. The light on this clock slowly gets brighter over a 30-minute span, to gently awaken and welcome you to the new day.

It’s important for you (and your patients) that you engage in self-care every single day. So resolve to take a baby step toward making yourself a priority in your own life.

Why not start today?