Be Thankful For What You Have

Be Thankful For What You Have

I just returned from a leadership seminar in Jamaica, which was held at a luxurious resort. The thoughts of gaining leadership knowledge and skills, while on a beautiful island was exciting. Day three of my trip was devoted to community service. It was a satisfying feeling to be able to give back to others. We had the opportunity to visit a primary (basic school), a middle school, and a hospital.

Upon arriving at the schools they were surrounded by large gates. As we drove through the entrance we saw children in uniform and they were carrying their chairs from one building to the next. Despite the condition of the school, which had no air conditioning, no chalkboard, and no visible books, the children were excited to see us. The look on their faces was priceless when we gave them gifts of pens, pencils, markers, crayons, and books. They were very eager to learn about CPR and we had mini-manikins for them to practice on. Talking with many of the kids, their dreams and aspirations were amazing. Many want to be soldiers, police officers, lawyers, beauty technicians, chefs, and a scientist, just to name a few. Even though these children did not have the luxuries that most schools in the USA have, they were still enthusiastic to learn and very respectful to the teachers.

The hospital was another experience, which was very eye-opening, tear-jerking, and gut-wrenching. Although health care is free, the condition of the hospital and lack of supplies was deplorable. Again, just as at the schools, despite the poor conditions the medical staff were very pleasant, had smiles on their faces, and were very engaged in their work. We visited the pediatric unit where there were 45 patients, which normally holds 32 with only three nurses. They did not have IV poles or monitors, things that we take for granted in our health care facilities. The staff does the best that they can with what they have and they welcomed the medical supplies that we were able to donate. Seeing the other areas of the hospital, such as the laundry and central supply was very shocking; without staff there you would not know that you were at a hospital.

I think that every U.S. citizen should be required to visit a third-world country to see the conditions that people have to live and work under. They would see how blessed we are in the United States, even though we have some poor areas here. Driving down the streets of Jamaica there were multiple unfinished buildings, trash, and junk along the road. We saw a car that had caught on fire and was completely burned and charred, the firefighters were there with a hose, but the water trickled out like it was a home garden hose.

This experience was very educational, informative, and enlightening. It made me think of how thankful I am for what I have. My goal is to stop striving for material things and gain more rewarding experiences. Every U.S. citizen needs to reflect before complaining and be thankful for what they have. Be happy with the little that you have. There are people with nothing that still manage to smile. This also reminds me of a quote from Victory Today:

While you complain about your electric bill,
there’s someone with no home.
While you complain about your job,
there’s someone praying for a dollar.
While you complain about the food in your pantry,
there’s someone praying for crumbs.
While you complain about life,
there’s someone who didn’t wake up today.
Your complaints are simply blessings to others.

Be grateful and thankful every day!

Take Care of Yourself—Find Balance

Take Care of Yourself—Find Balance

Well it has been a while since my last post, due to the “busyness” of life. Often times we let the things in our life take so much of our time, that we forget about taking care of ourselves. As nurses we are focused on taking care of others: our patients, our family, our friends, and sometimes even strangers. We have heard of the saying “Take care of yourself, so you can be there for others,” but how many of us actually practice this? This really hit home after hearing about the unexpected death of two colleagues over the past month. They both devoted so much time to their job and neglected to relax and take care of themselves.

St. Thomas, VI

Credit: Leslie McRae-Matthews

We have our plates so full with other people’s issues, cares, and needs, yet there is no room on the plate for us. There has to be a balance between work and relaxation. This is not new information for us—we just need to apply it to our lives. Many of us advise our patients about taking time to relax, meditating, and thinking about things they enjoy to decrease stress. These are some of the same principles that we can use.

When you start noticing that you are feeling anxious, moody, or depressed, these are signs that it is time to step back to refocus, recover, and renew. Many people relax by traveling, but you do not have to spend a lot of money to relax. Engage in simple activities, such as drawing, photography, taking a walk to enjoy nature, riding on a swing, or going for a swim. These activities are not an escape from reality or stepping into a “fantasy world,” but they will help you take your mind off of work or other issues, so that you can refocus. Take care of yourself and find that balance.

It’s Time to Get SMART

It’s Time to Get SMART

Wow!! Can you believe that the first month of the new year is almost over? Many of us made resolutions that are probably already broken. So, what is a resolution? It is when people make a decision to do or not do something.  It has become a ritual to make them on Dec. 31st and usually by Jan 31st they are no longer being followed. Often, those decisions are generalized and vague. Here are some examples: I plan to exercise more, I am going to eat more healthy, or I am going to save money. No wonder by the end of the month people revert back to their old ways.

Instead of making “resolutions” we need to set goals that are more attainable and realistic. An acronym that works is to set SMART goals, which can be measured and determine if they have been reached. Using this principle can be applied to anything that you do and all aspects of your life (personal or business). Following is a breakdown of the elements of effective goals:

SMARTS-specific: who, what, when, where, why; simple yet significant.

M-measurable: How will you know that it has been reached? meaningful & motivating.

A-achievable: Can this happen and how? Can this goal be attained?

R-relevant: How does this help you overall to meet the goal? Is it realistic and reasonable?

T-time-bound: set a deadline or time-frame, when will this happen?

So those same resolutions set as SMART goals would look like the following:

  1. I will walk for 30 mins. each day for one month.
  2. I will avoid sugar and eat more vegetables for one week.
  3. I will start saving $50 each pay period for two months.

Make goals and establish how you will get there. You must keep track of your progress and evaluate and review them. Goals should be things that you actually have control over. With this format you can establish goals that will hopefully last until the end of the year or longer.

Never Give Up

Never Give Up

Over the past few months there have been several postings of nurses that have passed their Board or certification exams. Congratulations to you all.  Unfortunately, there have also been nurses that have not passed and have been discouraged. This is a message to you to “never give up.” You are not a quitter, you have taken the initiative to choose a rewarding field and have studied long and hard for two to four years.

You made it through course work and clinicals so don’t let this defeat you. Everything happens for a reason, even though we may not understand it. Take this time to step back, regroup, and refocus. Most people do not realize that failure can be a stepping stone to success. During this time you learn about your life, goals, and other things that make you who you are. Failure will actually make you stronger and wiser. You will have more knowledge and will find ways to achieve your goals and success.

There have been several people that failed, but never gave up: Take Bill Gates, at an early age his first computer company failed, but he did not give up and he made billions and gave us Microsoft, Windows, Excel PowerPoint. Colonel Sanders failed at almost everything, but at age 65 he developed his famous chicken recipe that was rejected by over 1,000 restaurants, but was finally accepted by one. Dr. Seuss wrote his first book and it was rejected 28 times, but he did not give up. At the time of his death he had sold over 600 million copies of his books.

Although these people were not nurses, it shows you that even though they failed, they did not stop. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), you can retake the exam 45 days after failing and up to 8 times a year.

The real FAILURE is never trying again, so NEVER GIVE UP!!

Celebrate Nurses 365 Days

Celebrate Nurses 365 Days

We just recently celebrated National Nurses Week and everyone has returned back to their normal work routine. During Nurses Week many received breakfast, lunch, cookies, candy, pens, t-shirts, and other trinkets from their nurse managers or facility. Unfortunately, many nurses did not receive anything. Now that the week is over, does that mean that all of the celebration and appreciation is over?

It is sad that nurses have spent years going to school to obtain degrees and certifications and spend more time with their patients than their own families. Nurses work 365 days out of the year, yet they are only celebrated for seven days. Nurses focus on taking care of patients, being caregivers, nurturers, teachers, and counselors; in addition to providing treatments, performing procedures, and administrating medications. Sometimes they are yelled at by patients, families, doctors, and often by their own colleagues.

Nurses endure a lot of stress on a day-to-day basis. This is not to say that all days are bad; because there are plenty of days when you feel happy and proud to be a nurse. Although money would be welcomed by every nurse, sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. A thank you from a patient when you take the time for a brief moment just to sit and talk with them, from a family member who notices the care that you give their loved one, from a doctor who is notified by you regarding a critical lab value or assessment on a patient, or by your colleagues when they noticed you doing a task well.

Oftentimes nurses take care of others, but forget about themselves or their fellow nurses. There is no rule that says nurses should only be celebrated for one week. Nurses should be appreciated every day. Nurses should find ways to celebrate each other. You do not have to wait for one designated time of the year or wait for management to give recognition.

Although most nurses would welcome a monetary gift, sometimes the simple things are more valuable. Every nurse should start a “Nurse Appreciation” project. This can be done daily and is not limited to your unit. Make it a point to recognize a nurse daily. If you notice great customer service or patient care, let that nurse know immediately. If they help others or volunteer for special projects without being asked, show your appreciation. Create a “Nurse Spotlight” bulletin board, many people like to see their name in print and it shows other staff and patients the positive aspects of the unit. This project could also boost the morale of the unit, thereby increasing nurse satisfaction, which would have a positive effect on patient care.

Thank you all for your compassion, knowledge, and expertise. Let’s make a change and have “Nurses Year” and celebrate each other for 365 days.

You Will Never Know How Far You Can Fly Until You Spread Your Wings

You Will Never Know How Far You Can Fly Until You Spread Your Wings

I have been a nurse for 30 years and have worked in various areas of nursing: Oncology, Gyn-Oncology, Home Health, TeleHealth, Legal Nurse Consulting, Teaching, and Endoscopy. During nursing school and as a new nurse I thought that I could only work in a hospital as a floor nurse or in a nursing home. As I gained experience and began to grow, I found that there were many other areas that needed to be explored. Nursing is a constantly changing field and in order to grow, you must move and spread your wings. You should never stop learning. Nursing is a rewarding career and if you always remember why you became a nurse (other than for the money), it will help the bad days appear better. If you ever get to the point that you feel stagnate, don’t give up, GET MOVING!! Some ways to help you grow is to go back to school and advance your education, change your specialty, and gain new knowledge and experience.

Too many times nurses are quick to give up after a few years in practice, but with anything that you want to perfect it takes time, commitment, and patience. There is no rule that states that you have to stay in a certain area for years. Oftentimes, nurses stay in the same area and they become frustrated and burned out. This can have an untoward effect on the care that is delivered to patients and affects the morale of the nurse and the unit. These are the nurses that are angry and complain, but they are afraid to change. Often these are the same nurses that are selected to be preceptors for new nurses. This is not a healthy environment for the new nurse, because this can cause them to question if they want to stay in the nursing field.

So as nurses, we need to explore other options to work, without giving up on the career we worked so hard for. One positive change that needs to be implemented in nursing school is for instructors to inform students that there are multiple fields available to them. There are several non-traditional areas to choose, such as doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, school clinics, insurance companies, and you can even work with attorneys, where they rely on you for your health care background.

If I had never realized that I could work in other areas, without giving up nursing, I probably would not have been a nurse as long as I have. Even at this point in my career, I am still seeking and searching for new learning opportunities. I want to expand my knowledge and experience, and I would encourage other nurses to remember to spread your wings so that you can grow.