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.
Congratulations! You did it; you sweated through your years of nursing school, passed the NCLEX, and have earned your well-deserved title of registered nurse. Now that the dust has settled and real life is about to begin, you will need to decide which career path within nursing you would like to pursue, and there are plenty to choose from!
We all know that some specialties pay better than others, but as nurses we also know that although we are usually working to support ourselves and our families, money is still not everything. It is so important to work at a job that we truly love, and feel a degree of satisfaction that will help you thrive in your environment.
So, how do you decide which field suits you best, which one you will enjoy, feel accomplished, and truly make a difference?
Some nurses take their career path with a specific dream in mind, often knowing exactly what type of work they want to do in the nursing field, either based on a role model they always looked up to or a fascination and interest in a particular area of nursing. Like the little girl who always idolized her school nurse and always dreamt that one day she would spend her days tending to little children’s boo-boos that occur in the school setting. But most people are not so clear on exactly what they want to do with their nursing degree.
Although the most common nursing career is found within the walls of the hospital, there are still plenty of opportunities for nursing jobs in other settings. “They also have to think about opportunities outside of the hospital,” says nursing career coach Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, referring to nurses on a quest for the perfect nursing career. Did you know that there are over 100 nursing job opportunities out there that require an RN degree? The locations can vary from nursing care facilities, prisons, hospitals, military bases, schools, doctors’ offices, to administrative positions such as working for an insurance company, or as a legal nurse. There is truly a job type to match the personality and needs of every nurse out there!
Know Your Strengths
The first thing you need to do is figure out what your strengths are in order to know which field you will perform best in. You will need to look for a job within an environment that is in sync with your personality and temperament. Do you thrive on challenges and adrenaline? If the answer is yes, then it may be a good idea to look for a job in the emergency room or as a trauma nurse. If you are slower paced, methodical and detail oriental, a research nurse may be the ideal career for you.
Another question to ask yourself is “what role I would like to play in my job? Am I a natural leader? Or would I rather be the one taking the order and following what others dictate to me?” This will help you decide if an administrative position is best for you, or it would you be better for you to deal directly with patients.
One more thing to keep in mind is that different positions come with different levels of pressure and responsibility. Often higher salary positions are more demanding and require you to give more of yourself. You have to honestly ask yourself if you feel that you are up to the task, and are ready to deal with the constant pressures that come along with this kind of role.
Although some people are very in touch with their inner selves and know exactly what they want, not everyone is so self-aware, and that is totally okay as well. There are many online resources for nurses to help them discover which specialty suits them best based on a list of questions. But it is still highly recommended to do some inner homework by asking yourself the above questions to truly find the job where you will thrive.
Assess Your Options
Once you figure out where your interests lie, you will have to go to the next step; seeing the available options within your location area. Not only does the physical location matter, but the hours and working conditions are important as well. Do you have children at home who need you to be home at a certain time? Make sure to discuss all your needs with your potential employer to avoid any miscommunications and unpleasant situations from occurring later down the line.
Get Acquainted with the Job
It is also a good idea to intern or do some shadowing in a job setting that interests you. That way you can see if you actually enjoy the work, not just envision yourself liking the job. You should also talk to those in that particular field and hear them out about the general work, and ask them any specific questions that you might have.
Also, keep in mind that if there is no available job in the specific department that you want, it still may be a good idea to take a job in another department since it is easier to later be transferred to your desired department within the facility than get hired as an outsider.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are not married to your job. It may be good idea to just start out as a general nurse without a specialty, just to “get your feet wet”, and get a feel of what you enjoy and in which area you excel in. Also, as time goes on you may feel that you are ready for a change, and that is totally normal. You may want to change your field of nursing work, and many even continue their education for a specific specialty after being a nurse for years.
The bottom line is, it is important to be passionate about your work and love what you do. As the famous saying goes, “love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life.” When you truly love what you do, you feel accomplished and you are actualizing your potential and using your talents and strengths in the best possible way. And what could be better than that?
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.
Culture is everywhere—and it defines almost every aspect of our lives in one way or another. That can be true across a variety of dynamics, including how someone functions within a family, relates to others, or responds to stress. Nurses encounter patients and families with myriad cultural influences every day. That’s why understanding and practicing cultural sensitivity is so important for building relationships and providing excellence in patient care.
The Importance of Building Relationships
In any setting, trusting relationships are important. However, some patients may hesitate to trust health care providers because of several factors—such as a history of discrimination, disparity in representations of diverse people as care providers, and lack of recognition of the particular challenges that some patients face.
According to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA), individuals with low incomes or those from racial or ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience severe stress than others, a dynamic that can lead to poorer mental and physical health outcomes. Unfortunately, such individuals may be less likely to pursue medical care because of financial concerns or fear of discrimination from a provider. However, if clinicians learn to build trusting relationships, then those who need care may feel more comfortable in accessing it.
The Role of Cultural Sensitivity
Previously referred to as “cultural competency,” cultural sensitivity requires that nurses possess the needed skills to affirm diversity and embrace the values of people from different social or cultural backgrounds. Practicing cultural sensitivity is essential to building relationships, since it helps nurses step outside of their own perspectives to better understand the unique needs of the patients and families for whom they provide care.
The shift in language from “competency” to “sensitivity” underscores the role of culture across an individual’s life and care continuum, and the need for clinicians to recognize the importance of this dynamic. Thus, when nurses become educated about different cultures, they are better equipped for building relationships with patients and families, which can help to improve outcomes of care.
Strategies for Building Trust
In addition to learning about different cultures, nurses can make use of empowering strategies to help patients and families feel understood and accepted; such strategies are included in The National Education Association’s Diversity Toolkit:
- Use inclusive language in written and verbal discussions.
- Ask each client for their preferred pronouns, even when you feel sure of their gender.
- Take time to learn proper pronunciation of each person’s name.
- Ask for permission before touching or hugging each person.
- Learn cultural customs for any community or group with whom you are working closely.
- Encourage patients to have a family member accompany them if privacy is needed.
- Offer to translate information or rewrite it in more understandable terms if someone is having difficulty reading or understanding complex medical information.
- Know the cultural or diversity-related resources in your community.
To learn more about the role of cultural sensitivity in building relationships, see “How To Be Culturally Sensitive Working with Clients with a Range of Identities.”
If you want a promotion, you need to be ready for one. As you move through each step of your nursing career, change is the one constant companion. Your job will change, your patients change, technology and evidence-based practice will change. Being ready for those fluctuations is the best way to have a successful career.
If you plan for change and actually take steps to make sure you’re prepared to move your career in the direction you want, your choices will be more on target.
Because promotions are the way to increase your pay, assume more responsibility, and move you toward your career goals, you have to be an active participant in the process. Waiting for a promotion doesn’t always mean it’s going to come your way—even if you deserve it.
Here are some ways to actively plan for having a chance at getting that promotion.
Position Yourself for Leadership
Whether you want a promotion that is an advancement or a lateral move that gives you new skills, making sure your superiors know you’re open to something new is your first step. This one is important—don’t assume people know what you want.
Take on Responsibility
Seek out ways to take on more responsibility at work. If you don’t see anything obvious, find it. Ask your supervisor if you can help in a different area or ask what’s needed to advance in your organization. Become knowledgeable about a specific practice so that people on your team begin to rely on you for that task.
Getting certification shows the leaders in your organization that you’re serious about being the best nurse you can be. The time and effort it takes to get certified isn’t just a minor thing, so the work you’re putting in is for your own professional development. Becoming certified is a clear signal that you want to remain at the top of your nursing specialization and that you’ll take steps to achieve that goal.
Become Prominent in the Community
Join a professional organization and become an active member. You won’t gain anything by just joining—you really have to become involved. Lead a committee or speak at a conference. Offer to mentor a new nurse or seek out a mentor for yourself. Actively connect with the available networks and become someone who has something to offer, not just to seek out something.
Document Your Success
Keep track of your successes so when it’s time for your next review and potential promotion, you will have it all available. It’s easy to forget what you have done or when you were praised for a job well done, so keeping track of it all means nothing will slip through the cracks. You want to come to your review prepared to tell your story of how well the year went, where you want to go, and in what ways you’ll continue to work to make your efforts worthwhile to your organization.
With some strategic goals and actions on your part, you’ll be ready when the next opportunity comes up.
As Men’s Health Month closes out, it’s worth noting the disparities that exist among men of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Although some health advice like eating well, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and exercising are across-the-board good measures, men experience distinct health challenges they should be aware of. And among minority men, there are even more serious health challenges as well.
Here are four men’s health problems that minority men might want to pay extra attention to. Knowing what health issues they are more prone to, being aware of early detection, and having a plan to help mitigate these health threats can reap huge payoffs.
Many factors influence heart disease, and racial and ethnic minority men tend to experience this condition at higher rates than whites, according to the American Heart Association. Trying to track and control blood pressure, cholesterol, and other lipid levels like triglycerides will help. It’s always a good idea to remind anyone, male or female, that high blood pressure and high cholesterol don’t always come with symptoms, but are especially problematic.
Prostate cancer is one of the top men’s health issues. Black men receive a disproportionate number of new prostate cancer diagnoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black men experience 160.5 new cases (per 100,000 men) of prostate cancer for every 91.9 new cases for white men. Hispanic men experience a slightly lower rate than both groups at 79.5, but the risk for all men increases with age. Regular checks can help with early detection.
The American Diabetes Association states that while minorities deal with diabetes at higher rates, they also are more likely to suffer complications from the disease. Getting tested is essential to keep track of blood sugar numbers. If someone has diabetes, keeping on top of treatment is key to lessening the chances of complications. Like heart disease, diabetes can have life-altering and life-threatening complications if left untreated.
Cultural taboos around mental health issues can actually contribute to the problem. If men are uncomfortable or feel ashamed about their mental health struggles, they won’t seek treatment. A report by the American Psychological Association noted that of men reporting depression symptoms lasting longer than a year, black men are in a much higher bracket. In that category, 56 percent of black men vs. 38 percent of white men report those symptoms. The same report also states findings that show American Indian/Alaskan native men had the highest suicide rates of all ethnicities of men. This is a slow but steady struggle, but normalizing mental health to deal with it as the physical disease it is, and not a weakness, can help remoe the stigma. Many more minorities lack access to mental health care, so helping patients find care that is accessible might remove a barrier to getting help.
Minority men face specific men’s health struggles, and as a nurse just opening up the conversation around some of these topics can be a game changer.