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?
Are you about to start a job search and confused by all the changes within the world of nurse recruiting and not sure who to ask?:
“A recruiter sent me a DM on Snap—what do I do?”
“I got a recruiting text from a bot—what do I do?”
“I submitted a ton of online applications to hospitals but I’m not getting call backs—what do I do?”
Well, who better to advise you on your job search than a nationally-known recruiter? Nick Corcodilos, publisher of the popular website Ask The Headhunter has all the answers. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, The New York Times, Fast Company, and PBS NewsHour.
In this Q&A interview, Nick delivers hints and tips specifically for minority nurses, who may have unique roadblocks along their job search journey.
For example, there is some evidence of name-based discrimination in recruiting. So, a resume with a “white-sounding” name will result in calls 50% more often than one without. The University of Chicago study is titled: “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” Though not a health care employer-focused study, the researchers do note: “The racial gap is uniform across occupation, industry, and employer size.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital unemployment is at an extreme low of .9%. And yet, discrimination may be so unconscious that it continues, even in a market where health care employers are scrambling to fill long-empty positions.
Ask the Headhunter Nick Corcodilos
Is there anything a minority nurse applicant can do to sidestep hazards of the current recruiting landscape?
Digital “recruiting” and job hunting create special problems for minority job seekers because—and I’ll be very blunt about this—it enables biased employers to waste your time. If you get selected from an online application and then invest your time for an interview, only to find that the employer suddenly realizes you’re of a certain race or the “wrong” sexual preference or other characteristic, you get suddenly rejected out of hand.
You’ve wasted your time because their bias never allowed you to really demonstrate your abilities and value so that you might be chosen for what you can do.
How should a minority nurse go about applying for a job, if not through a hospital career portal or a recruiter’s texts/emails/calls?
The smart alternative is to invest some time tracking down either the hiring manager, or at least someone who works for or with that manager.
(Studies, again and again, suggest that up to 70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, not random digital applications.)
Of course, bias can be introduced into the hiring process all kinds of ways, but I find that doing this person-to-person also helps you quickly identify people who are more interested in your abilities than your sex, race, or football team preference! They’re the people who will speak up and personally recommend you.
This is the only way I know to avoid the almost random, rote digital process of recruiting that often results in rejection due to discrimination and bias that surfaces too long after you’ve already invested your valuable time.
Employers don’t realize how this process hurts them, too, because it costs them potentially great hires.
For tips on how to make professional connections, Nick recommends his blog post: “Network, but don’t be a jerk!” Also, read his post on working with recruiters: “How to Judge A Headhunter”.
Any final food for thought for minority nurses embarking on a job search?
All those conversations you have with people who surround the manager will build a very personal picture of what you can do—and that’s how you get presented to a hiring manager as a great worker who’s worth hiring for their abilities.
I would rather have an early opportunity to recognize biased and discriminatory employers so I can avoid them, rather than let them waste my time.
Of course, the very powerful option you always have is to file an Equal Opportunity complaint. But my job is to help you identify and meet worthy employers. And the best way to do that is to get introduced to them by people they know and trust. Your challenge is to cultivate relationships with those “friends and associates” of the hiring managers—people who are not biased and who will recommend you for your skills and great work ethic.
Did you greet 2019 with so much enthusiasm that you set big, audacious New Year’s goals? Maybe you thought: A fresh year to grow (and glow) personally, an exciting new beginning, with endless opportunity to slay professional goals!
So, what happened to those goals?
If you’re anything like most of us, they were ditched (long-forgotten, even) way before Valentine’s Day rolled around. That feeling of inspiration that struck on January 1st, which is symbolic of unlimited potential, turned into discouragement, apathy, and dismay.
So, what can you do now if you still really want to do and be your best self this year? You can still look forward to making the most of the coming months, even if that means starting over again with resolutions and goal setting.
In fact, you may have seen the meme taking over social streams that says: “I’ve decided 2019 doesn’t start until February 1st. January was just a free trial.”
Consider mid-February your chance for a do-over. Only this time, go with something other than the traditional goal-setting systems, which may work for productivity gurus, but don’t for the majority of us regular folks.
One offbeat method you may want to try that is to choose one word for the coming year, to represent what you want versus listing specific actions or results. That single word will guide you and help you focus, so you live more intentionally day to day, month to month.
Here’s how to choose your word for the year.
First, brainstorm a long list of words that feel meaningful to you and “hang out” with them for a while. You’ll find that some relate more closely to goals you’ve had in the back of your mind for a while. They may even suggest some action steps that you can do in the coming months that will bring you closer to your dreams. Soon, one will present itself as the clear winner.
Some examples of word of the year, culled from recent conversations about this “right-brained” goal setting method: Positivity, Intention, Simplify, Pause, Restore, Build, and Believe. Other popular choices that show up year after year include: Balance, Focus, Organize, Grow, Gratitude, Grace, and Finish.
Okay, now that you’ve picked a word for the year, write it down wherever you will refer to it often during the day. A good place to add it is on the front of your paper planner (or write it out in fancy lettering, with doodles even, at the top of every page, to really drive the message home). Type it up, print out, and slap it up on the wall above your desk, or on the fridge, or your bathroom mirror. Use it as part of your login password, like L1Ve_L0Ve<3, so that you’re reminded of your focus word everyday.
You’ll be amazed at how your subconscious mind gets to work, suggesting actions to further your intention. For example, say you chose the word “Build” as your focus word for 2019. You’d like to build community, build connections, and build trust. You find yourself inspired to join a local nursing organization and regularly attend their meetings. At the end of the year, you might be surprised at how you have indeed built strong, trusting relationships. And that it happened without setting specific, quantifiable, time-sensitive, or sensible goals.
We hope you had a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and maybe even a three-day weekend! The U.S. celebrates it as a federal holiday annually on the third Monday of January, but not every nurse or health care employee in a 24/7 workplace gets that time off.
There were many celebrations around the country to commemorate the life and achievements of this great American leader. Some events, sadly, reminded the nation that we’re still struggling to achieve Dr. King’s dream of racial harmony.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to once again listen and reflect on, Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. His legendary civil rights-era address to the nation is ranked by scholars as one of the greatest American speeches in modern U.S. history. Most of us can easily recognize parts of it, such as this famous line:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
You can hear audio and read a transcript of the entire “Dream” speech that Dr. King delivered in 1963 at the March on Washington, here.
As a nurse, you no doubt hold tight to similar dreams of equality, justice, and compassion for the patients and communities you serve. You might also feel called to lead the charge on social justice issues that impact every level of society. Nurses are caretakers, but they’re often also change-makers at heart, educating and empowering others by sharing powerful, informative, and inspiring messages of healing and hope.
You might have sparked change by taking part in the wave of social and political activity we saw in 2018. As you already know, a record 113 million people are estimated to have voted in the November midterm elections. That’s an incredible number—the highest since 1966, when Dr. King was expanding the campaign for civil rights from the South to the northern cities, like Chicago.
Additionally, a record 117 women won political office in what has been called the “Year of the Woman” and now about one in five members of Congress are women. This 116th Congress is also the most racially diverse, with 42 women of color, including Native American and Muslim congresswomen. These are great advances, but not nearly enough in a nation where women make up over 50% of the population.
Nurses have always advocated on behalf of patients, their families, the community, and the entire nation. Sometimes that advocacy is on the front lines of politics, as we recently reported in a magazine feature, Nurse Legal Rights in the Workplace.
One such nurse, Martese Chism, RN, a Chicago-area nurse had a role model in her great-grandmother, Birdia Keglar, a civil rights activist that marched in Selma with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and lost her life because of it. Chism felt called to advocacy as a nurse, and with the support of her union, has spoken out about the closure of public hospitals and other health care facilities in minority communities.
There are so many ways to affect social justice as a nurse, even if it’s in a small, quiet, and non-political way.
What’s your dream for patients and nurses in 2019? We’d love to hear about it.
As you probably already know, a cluttered home can lead to alarming levels of anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. Professional organizers encourage us to clean off a cluttered desk because it decreases productivity. And decluttering the physical environment is a crucial practice for running a well-kept and smoothly operating life.
But, your closet is not the only thing you need to declutter!
You need a way to untangle your messy mind, because nursing is a stressful occupation and nurse burnout is a real thing. A simple “brain dump” is the best decluttering tool for that job. What’s a brain dump? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the act or an instance of comprehensively and uncritically expressing and recording one’s thoughts and ideas (as on a particular topic).”
Here’s why you need to do a brain dump at the start of the new year.
When your thoughts, priorities, and plans are disorganized, it can send you into a state of overwhelm that’s hard to climb out of. New Year’s is the perfect time to declutter your mind and gain some fresh ideas to set new goals and plan new projects in 2019. Like most nurses, you probably have loads to do and as weeks and months pass, your to-do list continues to grow. Your brain is like a computer, and can only store or process so much information before it slows to a crawl or freezes altogether. You may have experienced a human version of the dreaded computer spinning wheel or slow loading progress bar. It may have been a case of mental brain fog (confusion), or total brain freeze (panic!), or a brain on an endless loop of obsessive thought. But there is a way to speed up your own “operating system” when you’re faced with a mile long list of priorities and tasks.
Here’s how to do a brain dump, quickly and easily.
The technique is as simple as taking a notebook and a pen and writing down everything that’s clogging up your mental space. Allow all your thoughts, feelings, tasks, and notions to spill out onto the page, where you can see them. Write quickly and freely. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. If you like, you can set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and write as fast as you can to beat the alarm. You might wind up with a page or two, or if you have a lot on your mind, ten pages worth of material.
Here’s what to write about when you do a brain dump.
You can choose a general writing prompt, like “The most important things that happened to me in 2018.” Or you can make a long list of routine to-do’s that are weighing you down. Or vent your feelings of frustration or rage in scrawled red ink. Feel free to explore at length in a rambling, stream of consciousness style, how you feel about your life in a private shorthand that only you can read. The trick is to treat the process like psychotherapy and spill out your thoughts and feelings without censoring them. Let your subconscious mind have its say and give your conscious mind (the nice, orderly, good citizen) a well-earned break.
Phew! You should feel much better now that you’ve untangled your mind and cleared some space for fresh inspiration.
Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year for all you superhero nurses out there!