Nurses have enormous impact on lives and in ways they can probably never imagine. Although neonatal nurses care for newborns and infants, their lasting impact is often remembered over decades.
Today is National Neonatal Nurses Day and the end of National Neonatal Nurses Week, and is a tribute to the ways these nurses change the lives of the tiniest patients. But it’s not just the babies these nurses save—the families of those babies never forget the nurses who cared for their children when they were at their most vulnerable.
If you’re a neonatal nurse, today’s a good day to reflect on how your efforts have a ripple effect. As you care for your patients, think of all the families you have worked with and helped over your career. Then think of all the people who loved those babies as that child grew to a toddler, teenager, or adult and went out into the world.
If that’s an emotional thought, that’s the reason why neonatal nurses are so passionate about and committed to the sometimes joyous sometimes heartbreaking work they do. They care for the newborns who need medical care for a range of medical issues. Their life-saving work is generally done in neonatal intensive care units (NICU), but they may also work in varied level nurseries. Some of these nurses will also make home visits and work in the community to care for sick infants. The infants can range from the tiniest premature baby to a full-term baby born with a critical illness.
If you are interested in a career in this nursing specialty, the National Association of Neonatal Nurses is an excellent resource. Nurses can work as a registered nurse or as a neonatal nurse practitioner. Your educational path will include a master’s degree and potentially a PhD if you want to work as a neonatal nurse practitioner, while a bachelor’s if often sufficient as a registered nurse level. Responsibilities increase between the registered nurse and nurse practitioner levels, as do salary rates.
Neonatal nurses are expected to have a high level of technical competency, and they must remain up-to-date on the constant advances in the field. Certification, as with any nursing field, is always recommended. Certification gives you the advantage of keeping your skills and your knowledge current. The American Assocation of Critical Care Nurses offers three separate certifications for neonatal nurses: CCRN (Neonatal), Acute/Critical Care Nursing; CCRN-K (Neonatal) Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional; ACCNS-N (Neonatal), CNS Wellness through Acute Care. There’s no shortage of the ways you can continue your professional and academic path after you earn your degree.
Nurses in this specialty must also have a level of empathy and compassion to care for the tiny babies and the people who love them. You are, in essence, treating the entire family. Helping them navigate the scary ups and downs of daily life in the NICU isn’t easy and is sometimes distracting, but families look to neonatal nurses to guide them. The bond many nurses develop with the families they work with are often strong and lasting. Some of the biggest rewards are hearing back from families years later of the positive effect you had in their lives.
The third round of the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS3) promises to reveal information as transformative as the first version of the study. But this time around the revolutionary study is looking to make a change that will resonate with minority nurses nationwide. To better reflect the nation’s increasingly diverse population, the study is especially interested in the participation of minority nurses—both ethnic and racial minorities and also male nurses.
“We need nurses,” says Dr. Jorge Chavarro, the principal investigator of NHS3. Chavarro became involved in the third round of the study 15 years ago, with a special interest in infertility and reproductive health.
When the first Nurses’ Health Study launched in 1976 (and the second in 1989), the scientific focus was to follow women for clues to breast cancer. Specifically, the study wanted to find out if there was any correlation between birth control pills and breast cancer risk, but it also gave more general information about cardiovascular heath and diabetes as well. From there, the information gathered has revolutionized areas of healthcare.
“Interestingly, the nurses’ study has always been defined by an occupation, but it has never been an occupation cohort,” Chavarro says, noting that NHS3 will now include occupational health issues such as heavy lifting, radiation exposure, or exposure to cleaning agents. Study investigators recruited nurses to participate because they were excellent responders who had a thorough understanding of specific medical terms and could participate with less margin of error.
What’s new in NHS3?
- a targeted effort to recruit more minority nurses
- a targeted effort to recruit more male nurses
- a new participation option for Canadian nurses
- a focus to capture occupational exposure concerns and understand how that impacts a nurse’s health
- an entirely web-based participation
“We want to involve as many minority nurses as possible,” says Chavarro, “and it’s the same for male nurses.” Canadian nurses are also welcome to participate, and many of them have already been long-term participants. Chavarro says the team realized it’s not difficult to continue collecting information from nurses who have moved to Canada, and so opening the study to all Canadian nurses is only going to be helpful for study results..
The Nurses’ Health Study collects vast amounts of data on lifestyle, nutrition, exposures, and health events. The study’s history is revealing in itself and shows the vast changes over the past decades. Nurses were the designated cohort after some trial and error in the first study. Initially, doctor’s wives were going to be the chosen cohort in the pilot study as birth control pills could only be prescribed to married women then and most physicians were men.
“The second choice was nurses,” says Chavarro, “and it was the best decision ever. It changes the questions you can ask.” Nurses are going to be very clear about any medical events that happened to them and that makes all the difference in evaluating the data, he says. They can also do other tasks that are extremely valuable and that are primarily unavailable to the general population. For instance, collecting varied biological specimens is something nurses can, and do, perform with ease and accuracy.
Chavarro says nurses who participate are making a change in the health of future generations and that’s often why they get involved. The time commitment is fairly low and the benefits to humanity are significant.
“To continue being impactful, we need all nurses, but especially those who give us a picture of how the US looks as a whole,” says Chavarro. “Nurses are amazing and are the best participants ever. This is a definite opportunity to join this study and make enormous contributions as they have done in the past and will continue to do for many decades to come.”
Find out more information about signing up for NHS3.
If you’re a nursing student, now is a good time to start thinking about your post-college budget. Believe it or not, finding a budget plan that works for you now will help you stay on track financially after graduation.
What can you do now that will make a difference when you are out of school? Educating yourself and trying out different methods of saving (and, yes, even spending) money is the first step in a successful post-college budget. There are many approaches to budgeting and what works for your parents, your best friends, or your classmates might now work for you.
Here are a few things you can do now to help get you ready.
1. Know Your Student Loan Amounts
This means more than knowing you have a certain dollar amount that you will owe once you are done with this round of school. You’ll need to take a look at your loans to understand when you need to start paying them back and what kind of interest you’re committed to. Some loans are fixed, meaning the interest rate you pay will remain the same for the life of the loan. Others are variable, meaning the interest rate can fluctuate over the course of the loan, and that means your monthly payments aren’t always going to be the same. Know the total amount you owe, when your payment begin, and how many months your loan is expected to take to pay back. Even more importantly, understand how much money it is going to cost you every month to pay your loans.
2. Think About Cost of Living
Once you know how much you’ll owe every month, start planning for other costs for your post-college budget plan. Think about what you spend money on every month now and if that will change. How much will it cost to find a place to live (including utilities and parking)? Figure out how much you will need for necessities like groceries and transportation (public or a car). There’s also the less fixed costs of entertainment, travel, clothing, and toiletries and household supplies to consider.
3. Plan for an Emergency
Unexpected costs happen. Cars break down, Living situations change. Health issues crop up. It’s a good idea to have the equivalent of three to six months of living expenses in a fund you can access. It’s probably hard to think of getting that amount now, but starting to build up that emergency fund now is good. Even five dollars a week will add up.
4. Consider Job Options
What’s the job market like in the area you plan to live? If you’re in an area where there are few options, consider looking at other locations. Decide how much of a commute you’re willing to have or if you want to move to an area where you can have more choices at jobs and salaries.
5. Estimate Your Salary
Now that you have a target amount of your costs, that helps you decide on how much of a salary you’ll need to live without going into debt. You should be able to make enough money to cover your expenses, have some savings, and (hopefully) have some left for fun. If you’ve got sticker shock from the first amount, this gives you some time to think of alternative ways you can still have the life you want. If you live in a high-rent area, getting a place with roommates can drastically reduce your living costs. With rent and utilities divided among many people, the savings is likely significant. Is there a way you would get a second job to make up the slack if you need to? What would work for you?
6. Look at Budget Styles
Get online and poke around to see what kinds of post-college budget plans are out there. From Pinterest to Debt.org to Money Under 30, you will find plenty of options to try out.
Budgeting isn’t the most fun task, but it makes an enormous impact on your life. The more you know before you graduate, the more control you’ll have over your choices.
The financial challenges of those in the current “sandwich generation” (generally those in the GenX generation), can derail retirement plans and the emotional fallout of being stretched so thin also takes a toll. When you’re in the middle, self-care can help you manage all the demands.
Journalist Carol Abaya, who has studied aging and care giving, even went a step beyond the term sandwich generation. With a nod to the complex and complicated situations in so many families, she coined some new phrases for this kind of caregiving.
- Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
- Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s, sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. OR those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
- Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care.
No matter where you fit, you are going to feel some additional stress in trying to take care of the needs of so many people. Here are some tips to help.
Talk to Others
You aren’t the only person going through what you are going through. Other people who are also juggling so many things will have some tips that will help you navigate these sometimes confusing paths. Whether it is a friend, a coworker, a faith leader, or a professional, talking with others and sharing experiences helps.
Getting help doesn’t always mean paying for help. Look for assistance by asking what’s possible. If they are old enough, get your kids to help with tidying up your parents’ home. Enlist coordinators to help set up driving help—those can come from senior centers, volunteer organizations, or even the medical community. If you can afford help, paying for someone to do yard work or clean the house can be a huge time saver, as can grocery delivery services.
Try to Care for Yourself
In the middle of so much caregiving, any time for you seems impossible. And sometimes, it will be impossible to take care of your own needs when so many others are depending on you. But if your tank runs dry, there’s nothing left for the people you need to help or for the career you love or for the relationships you want to nurture. Because burnout is damaging and pervasive, it’s important to recognize when you need a break and what that means for you. A break can encompass a whole range of experiences—figure out what will bring you relief. Even the smallest break can offer huge benefits in recharging your outlook,
The Usual Suspects
It is repeated so often because it’s important. The trifecta of nutrition, sleep, and exercise keeps you on an even keel. Look at your pillars on a weekly basis so you don’t feel like each day has to be perfect. Overall, try to fit in some more movement, more sleep, and nutritious food that gives you energy. Being aware is half the battle and the small efforts add up.
Being in the sandwich generation means you are taking care of the needs of many people all while trying to juggle your own family and work life. It’s not easy, but taking care of yourself is an essential part of managing this time successfully.
Are you part of today’s “sandwich generation?” If you are in Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) you very likely are. And if you are, a recent study notes that you might want to pay extra attention to your retirement planning.
A recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, found that Generation X-headed families are more behind on their retirement than previous generations were at the same life juncture.
Each generation goes through the time in their lives when they are likely caring for parents while also caring for children at home, often paying for college expenses, and working at the same time. All of this happens right when retirement planning becomes more urgent. The squeeze from all sides, hence the “sandwich” name, creates all kinds of pressure and stress.
And while many in the sandwich generation don’t bemoan caring for those they love, the emotional, physical, and financial struggles that come with it are very real. Some families have three generations (or more) under one roof and others are trying to balance parents who live nearby with kids at home. Either way, there is a lot of running around and reshuffling priorities depending on health, living situations, and financial needs.
Some of the biggest findings showed that the best off GenX families showed remarkably little discrepancy with prior generations. But those who were at the biggest financial disadvantage had such a drastic reduction that it influenced the study results overall.
These are findings that are worth noting for many in GenX. Although GenX sandwich generation families might have some retirement accounts in place, there are other important factors that are missing. For instance, the study found, “Generation X families in 2016 were more likely to have an individual account (IA) retirement plan than families of Millennial and Baby Boomer generations, but they were less likely than the Baby Boomer families to own a home or have any type of retirement plan.”
That means they are losing money to rent instead of investing in a home that would give them equity and hopefully additional funds upon selling the home. But the market crash of 2008 threw many in GenX into a financial turmoil, giving them less job stability and income. Without either of those, a down payment and loan approval for a home were out of reach.
And while many in the new sandwich generation in GenX are on track for retirement, the unexpected financial challenges of caring for parents and kids can take a big chunk out of retirement savings. Parents may require extra funds for health challenges, home repairs, and living expenses, particularly if they did not have enough put aside. And as children go to college, tuition expenses can be more than what was planned for.
What can families do? Even in an emergency, it’s important to remember that retirement can’t be put off. You will reach retirement age no matter what and being financially prepared is a gift to you and to your children who will not have to support you. Your savings make take a hit or drop off as you help your loved ones financially, but keeping your eye on the goal of growing your retirement will help.