5 Winter Time Sleep Tips

5 Winter Time Sleep Tips

Sleepiness can be a big problem in the winter, especially for nurses.  Dreary weather combined with late night shifts or erratic on-call schedules can often lead to tired, drowsy days.  One of the best ways to fight this sluggishness is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.  Here are five tips you can use now to rest well and wake up alert on winter mornings.

1. Ease up on the heat
It’s tempting to turn up the thermostat before heading to bed on a cold winter night.  However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, your bedroom should be relatively cool–between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit–for the best comfort.

2. Pay attention to diet and exercise
Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full at night.  The discomfort from either could make it hard to fall asleep.  In addition, avoid stimulants like caffeine right before bedtime.  They could take several hours to wear off, which would make it difficult for your body to settle down and rest.

 3. Create a bedtime routine
Have a pleasant and relaxing night time ritual to help you wind down in the evening.  Try reading or listening to soft music in dim light.  These activities help signal to your brain that it’s time to shift from active mode to sleep time.

Once you are in bed, avoid distractions such as the TV, laptop, smart phone and other devices, which could cause you to stay stimulated and awake.  If necessary, consider using sleep aids such as “white noise machines”, blackout curtains and (if you have a snoring partner) ear plugs.  Also, consider using a humidifier if the winter air is uncomfortably dry in your room.

This time of year, less sunlight could affect your circadian rhythm and make it harder for you to fully wake up in the morning. A lighted alarm clock could help brighten your bedroom when it’s time to rise.

Regardless of what you choose for your routine, keep it consistent. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each morning and night, even on the weekends.

4. Inspect your bedding
The average mattress life is eight to ten years.  If you’ve noticed that you sleep uncomrtably on your existing mattress and pillow, it may be time to replace them.  If you suffer from allergies, make sure your linen is washed regularly in water that is hot enough to kill the allergens.

5. Learn more about sleep issues
Take this interactive quiz from the National Institutes of Health to see how much you know about sleep problems.  If you think you may have a sleep disorder, be sure to see your doctor.

Nights are longer this time of year, but it can still be difficult for nurses to feel well-rested and alert on winter mornings.  By following these suggestions, you can help your body wind down at night, feel comfortable and get the rest it needs.


Ebola Prevention – Learning from Other Countries

Ebola Prevention – Learning from Other Countries

One of the biggest issues in health care today is stopping the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Nurses are playing a huge part in this effort.  However, a recent study from National Nurses United revealed that as of at least several weeks ago, 80% of nurses said their hospital had not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola.

Nurses need to know as much as possible about the virus, and how to effectively treat patients.  Here is what we can learn from other communities who have been affected by Ebola.

Be guarded. When a 1995 Ebola outbreak occurred in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), the first case appeared in January, but it was not recognized until April.  Many health officials believe that an earlier recognition and response might have prevented widespread transmission of the virus.

According to the CDC’s Checklist for Patients Being Evaluated for Ebola Virus Disease in the United States, health care workers should suspect Ebola if fever or compatible Ebola symptoms are present in patients.  Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Isolate if necessary. The CDC reports that isolation precautions along with early suspicion can help prevent future serious outbreaks of Ebola.  This means isolating a patient in a single room with a bathroom.

Reports coming from Nigeria seem to suggest that the country is controlling the current spread of Ebola within its borders, in part because its medically advanced hospitals have isolation wards at the ready in every state.

Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Doctors and nurses at hospitals in Nigeria have reportedly have been given special rooms to carefully put on and take off protective gear when evaluating potential Ebola patients.

The Ebola virus can enter the body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes, so it’s important to adhere to protocols for wearing protective clothing. According to the CDC, this include gowns, masks or respirators, goggles or face shields and gloves.

Make sure you know your hospital’s guidelines.  There may be additional measures required, such as the use of double gloving, disposable shoe covers, and leg coverings.

The CDC also recommends using the buddy system to ensure that personal protective equipment is put on and removed safely.

Understand sterilization and disposal guidelines. Many of the countries that are experiencing an uncontrolled Ebola outbreak are known to have medical facilities with poor sterilization processes.  This should underscore the importance of using proper guidelines here, each and every time you interact with a patient.

When someone is suspected of being sick with Ebola, the use of needles and other sharps should be limited as much as possible, according to CDC guidelines.  When they are used, they should be handled with extreme care and disposed of in puncture-proof, sealed containers.  In addition, only essential evaluations and laboratory testing should be considered, to the minimum necessary for diagnostic evaluation and medical care.

Communicate clearly and often. There is a lot to learn about Ebola, and as we find out more about how it is spread and how to treat it, we must continuously share information with those in our community.

In the medical setting, learn if patients who have symptoms have traveled to areas affected by the Ebola outbreak, including the countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

CDC guidelines state that health care workers must also let health officials know if they have had direct contact with the blood, body fluids or secretions of a patient who is sick with Ebola.

If you are not sure what your hospital’s procedures are, ask leadership for clear direction.

It is important for nurses to be prepared to treat patients who may have Ebola.  By learning what other affected communities have done in reaction to the virus, you may be able to help prevent a crisis from rising in your own community.

Preventing Ebola Infection in Nurses – CDC Guidelines

Preventing Ebola Infection in Nurses – CDC Guidelines

News that a second nurse in Texas has been struck with the deadly Ebola virus is likely to send an unprecedented sense of alarm through the public and health care community.  It also renews focus on the CDC’s recently updated Ebola infection prevention and control guidelines for U.S. hospitals.  

Nurses need to now how to treat patients and prevent the virus from spreading. Here’s a summary of the CDC guidelines: 

Patient protection. Suspected Ebola patients should be placed in single patient rooms that have a private bathroom. The door should be closed and hospitals should maintain a log of everyone who enters the patient’s room. 

Visitors should generally not be allowed to visit patients who might have Ebola.  However, exceptions could be made on a case by case basis.  If a visitor is allowed, they should be screened for Ebola and should also be given instruction on precautions, hand hygiene, and how to use protective clothing.

 Personal protection equipment (PPE).  Everyone entering a patient’s room should wear—at the minimum—gloves, a fluid resistant or impermeable gown, eye protection and a facemask.  After exiting, the PPE should be carefully removed, and hands should be sanitized. 

Patient care equipment. Wherever possible, dedicated, disposable patient care equipment should be used.  Non-dedicated, non-disposable medical equipment should be cleaned and disinfected according to manufacturer’s instructions and hospital policies.  The use of needles and other sharps should be limited as much as possible. 

Monitoring and managing potentially exposed personnel.  Nurses who have skin or membrane exposure to a suspected Ebola patient’s bodily fluids or secretions should stop working immediately and wash the affected skin surfaces with soap and water.  (If contact was made through a membrane, such as the eye, the nurse should irrigate with water or eyewash).  The nurse should also immediately contact health authorities. 

Nurses who have unprotected interaction with a person who has Ebola (for example, if a nurse isn’t wearing PPE at the time of patient contact) should be evaluated and monitored for fever twice a day for 21 days after the last known exposure.

If a nurse develops symptoms of Ebola, including fever, he or she should notify a supervisor immediately.

Every hospital should have its own policy for dealing with patients suspected of having Ebola.  As we learn more about this virus, the CDC’s guidelines and recommendations will likely be updated.  Stay informed so that you can know the latest about how to help control this deadly disease.

Adding Antioxidants to Your Diet

Adding Antioxidants to Your Diet

Are you getting enough antioxidants in your diet?  We know that it’s important for nurses to set an example when it comes to healthy eating, and that means making good food choices even if we have a busy schedule.  Antioxidants are important in helping our bodies fight disease and manage stress, and since the body doesn’t make its own, we have to make sure we’re getting them with each meal. 

Fortunately, there are easy ways to eat more nutritiously, even if you’re a busy nurse who is pressed for time.   Here are four tips to incorporate more body-healing antioxidants into your daily diet. 

1. Add berries to your cereal bowl.  Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries (or whatever is in season) can all add a nutritious antioxidant boost to your fiber-rich cereal. That’s because in addition to providing Vitamin C, berries contain anthocyanin, an antioxidant that gives berries their color and is thought to help fight disease. 

 Remember that as a general rule, the more colors you have in your diet, the better.  So add a cup of the colorful berries to your bowl of cereal for breakfast and you’ve easily added antioxidants to help give your body a vitamin boost.  

2. Munch on healthy nuts for a mid-afternoon snack.  The hours between lunch and dinner can become a diet minefield if you’re tired, hungry and prone to mindless munching.  But keep some nuts around, such as walnuts or almonds, and you can help satisfy your appetite while also getting a powerful punch of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps body tissue heal and can fight the effects ultraviolet rays from the sun.

In addition, nuts contain healthy fats that can help you feel full in the middle of the day, so you aren’t as tempted to reach for sugary snack food.

3. Eat your leafy greens.  Make a point to include dark, leafy green vegetables as part of your regular diet.  Eating just a few servings each day of these veggies, such as kale or spinach, can help you get a power pack of Vitamin A, C, and E, as well as calcium and magnesium.  Mix them into a salad, or blend them into a healthy green smoothie.

 4. Relax with green tea.  End your day with a relaxing cup of hot tea, which releases antioxidants known as flavonoids.  There are particular flavonoids called catechins that are released when hot green tea has been steeped for several minutes.  The catechins are thought to reduce damage to the body’s cells.  Green tea is also associated with heart healthy benefits, and the antioxidant parts of the beverage are thought to be a major factor.  So brew or cup or two to help de-stress after a long day.

As nurses, it’s important to pay attention to nutrition in your diet.  Because you’re a busy health care professional, be sure to follow these simple tips easily get more nutrients and antioxidants into your system while you’re on the go.

Is Magnet Certification Worth It for Nurses?

Is Magnet Certification Worth It for Nurses?

Do you work at one of the more than 400 Magnet-recognized hospitals around the world?  It has been said that minority nurses who work at these recognized facilities have the benefit of flourishing in a positive environment with employers who value their skills and career goals.

However, the results of Minority Nurse’s 2014 best companies survey suggest that nurses value other qualities far more than Magnet status when it comes to selecting an ideal employer. The survey, which was conducted late last year, asked nurses how important certain qualities (such as salary, benefits, and flexibility of hours) were to them when considering an employer. The results revealed that Magnet status ranked near the bottom of the list, only ranking ahead of one category: workplace size.

For some health professionals, the question of whether or not Magnet status is important can’t be fully answered until they know more about the designation, and that includes those nurses who work at Magnet-designated facilities, says Kristin Baird, RN, a hospital consultant.

“In some programs, people talk about ‘Magnet’ but people don’t understand it,” she says.  In turn, they may be less likely to advocate for it or share its benefits with their colleagues. If a facility has already achieved the designation by the time a nurse is hired, then the nurse who didn’t go through the certification process may have a harder time understanding its importance and impact, especially when speaking with fellow nurses, Baird argues.

“If it’s just part of who [their hospital] is and people stop talking about it, and they don’t embrace what it means, they’re not going to be promoting it,” she says.

However, many nurses who work at Magnet hospitals and who do understand the program believe that it is a very important ideal. “Having Magnet status heightened our visibility in the community and state for being a leader for health care,” says Cabiria Lizarraga, RN, manager of telemetry at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego, California. Sharp Grossmont Hospital first received Magnet status in 2007.

Other hospitals likely receive positive coverage in their communities as well, Lizarraga adds. In fact, according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), 15 of the 18 medical centers on the 2013 US News Best Hospitals in America Honor Roll and all 10 of the US News Best Children’s Hospital Honor Roll for the same year are recognized by the ANCC as Magnet-recognized organizations.

“It’s very important to have because it shows we are committed. When people see we are a Magnet facility, they know the employer is committed to nursing excellence,” says Lizarraga.

Patients who are seeking hospitals may also look for the Magnet designation as an objective benchmark to help them choose where they’ll do business, says Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN, a nurse anesthetist in Pensacola, Florida. Angelis has worked at Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals throughout his career.

Understanding the Magnet Designation

According to the ANCC, which is the Magnet credentialing organization, there are three goals for the program:

• Promote quality in a setting that supports professional practice;

• Identify excellence in the delivery of nursing services to patients/residents; and

• Disseminate best practices in nursing services.

The process to achieve Magnet status is identified by the ANCC as the “Journey to Magnet Excellence.” Facilities have to show that they have strong nurse leaders who are able to guide teams, develop professionally, take the lead in research efforts, and can show good empirical outcomes and the impact of those results. The certification lasts for four years, after which time the facility can re-apply.

Angelis, who has served on several committees on hospitals seeking Magnet status, says it is an expensive and time-consuming process, but it’s a good way for hospitals to prove that they value nurses. “A Magnet designation can be a hint that a hospital has a culture that respects the contributions its nurses make,” he explains.

Enhanced Recruiting

“Nurses want to work for an organization that really strives to empower them, one that has opportunities in place for them to do research or advance their degrees,” says Lizarraga. Facilities that have Magnet status can attract some of the best nurses available, she adds. “It is used as a recruiting tool because nurses would know about Magnet nursing excellence.”

Angelis says that if a hospital has low morale among nurses, achieving Magnet status can provide positive motivation. “It’s an opportunity for the hospital to change their culture,” he says. “Facilities that empower their nurses can improve morale, and that can help with job recruiting and retention.”

Some Nurses Left Behind?

Having an environment that encourages professional development among nurses is a positive, but there is a concern among some professionals, particularly those who don’t have advanced degrees, about where they fit in under a Magnet facility, explains Lizarraga.

Will the jobs be there for LPNs and for associate degree and diploma nurses? “There is some concern about whether or not they’d be able to practice in an acute care hospital or Magnet facility,” says Lizarraga. It may be understandable why many Minority Nurse survey respondents viewed Magnet status as only “somewhat important.”

But that issue is bigger than Magnet certification, Lizarraga argues. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine released a report recommending that the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees be increased to 80% by 2020. This recommendation affects all nurses, not just those at Magnet hospitals, she adds.

However, many nurses who have more advanced degrees obviously have an advantage, states Baird. “It’s not to say there’s not a place for LPNs, but if you’re a Magnet hospital you’re looking at advancing nursing as a profession and making sure you’re finding nurses who want to be at the peak of the profession,” she explains.

Find the Best Match

So what’s a nurse to do? According to Baird, nurses of all education levels should first identify their career goals and factors that are personally important, such as career growth potential, flexibility options, and income. Then, identify an employer that seems to offer the best environment.

“I’m a big advocate of hiring for fit and choosing a job for fit,” says Baird. “Identify your core values, then find an organization that’s in alignment with those values.”

If you plan to obtain an advanced degree or would like the opportunity to go into research or academia, working at a Magnet facility may be able to provide you with more opportunities than a non-Magnet facility, she says.

However, if a potential employer is not a Magnet facility, but has other benefits that may be important to you—such as more flexible scheduling or a generous tuition reimbursement program—that could be the way to go, says Baird. Whether nurses work at Magnet hospitals or not, identifying employers aligned with their values puts them in the best position possible to benefit their patients and their careers.

Margarette Burnette is a freelance writer based in Georgia.