Minority Nurse Inventors: Improving Patient Care Through Unique Clinical Solutions

Minority Nurse Inventors: Improving Patient Care Through Unique Clinical Solutions

Ernesto Holguin, RN, BSN, CNN, dialysis clinical coordinator at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, was saddened to see his elderly patient arrive for her dialysis appointment in 2003 with a foot infection caused by a diabetic ulcer.

“Diabetes had affected her eyesight and caused her to lose feeling in her feet,” says Holguin. “It was only when she smelled a foul odor emanating from her foot that she realized something was wrong.”

Wishing there was a tool that could assist diabetic ­patients in preventing foot ­ulcers from ­developing, Holguin decided to invent a device.

Holguin is one of many nurses across the country who have envisioned inventions they ­believe will help improve ­patient care. One of the earliest nurse inventors, Bessie Blount Griffin, an African American nurse, invented a feeding tube during World War II to help feed paralyzed veterans. Since then, many more nurses have tapped into their natural problem-­solving skills to invent ­devices to ­improve the patient ­experience.

Ernesto Holguin, RN, BSN, CNN

For Holguin, that meant finding a way for patients to avoid diabetic foot ulcers or in the event they did develop a foot ulcer, to prevent it from becoming infected. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) says that foot ulcers are one of the most common complications in patients with diabetes and if not treated properly, can lead to infections and in some cases, diabetes-related amputation. According to the APMA, foot ulcers occur in approximately 15% of diabetic patients and are commonly located on the bottom of the foot. Among patients who develop a foot ulcer, 6% will be hospitalized due to infection or ulcer-related complications, and 14–24% of patients with diabetes who develop a foot ulcer will ­require an amputation.

“The current protocol for prevention of diabetic foot ­ulcers involves patients ­checking their feet on a daily basis for cuts, cracks, blisters, and signs of an open wound,” ­Holguin says. “Patients who have trouble viewing the bottom of their feet are often told to stand over a mirror at home, but this can be difficult for patients who are overweight, arthritic, or elderly and don’t have good balance.”

Holguin envisioned a ­device that patients would use at home to prevent and effectively monitor their diabetic foot ulcers. The apparatus would inspect, dry, and take pictures of a patient’s feet and then send that information to their clinician.

His idea began to gain traction in 2007 when the first iPhone was released, and the idea of doing remote patient consults became a distinct possibility. In 2015, Holguin was invited to a workshop that the MakerNurse program was holding in Texas. Founded in 2013, MakerNurse works with nurses to bring their ideas for inventions to fruition, believing the best ideas for patient care are often developed by those on the front lines who work directly with patients.

“I told Anna Young and Jose Gomez-Marquez, the cofounders of MakerNurse, about my invention and they were very enthusiastic and encouraged me to build a prototype,” ­Holguin recalls. “Even though I’ve always liked to tinker, I never imagined I would one day design and build a device that could help my patients.”

Gomez-Marquez says MakerNurse launched in 2013 with support from the ­Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. MakerNurse provides the tools, platform, and training to help nurses like Holguin make the next generation of health technology. Two years ago, MakerNurse partnered with the ­University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to open their first MakerHealth Space in John Healy Hospital.

“Too often nurses have a great idea on how to but aren’t sure how to make it a reality,” says Gomez-Marquez. “We encourage nurses who have an idea for an invention to build a ­prototype and run with their idea.”

Working out of his garage in El Paso, Holguin recently finished the fourth prototype for his device. The first three he says were too large and cumbersome for patients to use. The U.S. Patent and ­Trademark Office recently certified ­Holguin’s patent, and is now working with a local medical incubator to turn his idea into a medical grade device.

“The next step is to have the device tested in clinical trials, and if successful, to submit it to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval,” ­Holguin explains. “I’ve talked with several doctors who believe my invention could be part of an important part of a diabetic patient’s treatment plan.”

In addition to making it easier for diabetic patients to monitor their feet for foot ulcers, Holguin believes his invention would reduce ­hospital readmissions. And more importantly, it could also help patients maintain a better quality of life.

“Some diabetics are only in their forties or fifties when an infected foot ulcer leads to amputation and disability,” says Holguin. “I’m confident this device can help diabetic patients to remain employed and live fulfilling lives.”

 

Making Your Idea Reality

Do you have an invention you think would improve ­patient care? Here are some tips on how to get started.


Conduct Due Diligence

It’s ­important to research whether there are any similar products in development, and also to decide whether you want to sell your idea to a company or to start your own business. Organizations such as the Small Business Administration can help you with these decisions.


Design a Prototype

Ideas are great, but you need to have something tangible to demonstrate how your invention works. MakerNurse can help nurses learn how to sketch and design a prototype and test out their ideas.


Seek out Support

MakerNurse has MakerHealth Spaces across the country that provides nurses with direct access to tools, materials, and expertise to build prototypes and test their ideas. Interested hospitals can host a MakerNurse workshop or invest in a MakerHealth program for their hospital. Visit MakerNurse.com to learn more.

Additionally, companies like Edison National Medical lend their expertise to help inventors to make their ideas a reality. The company says inventors will never pay more than $25 so it’s low-risk.


Consider a Patent

After you’ve developed a prototype for your idea, consider getting a patent to protect your invention. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Nurses as Makers

Roxanna Reyna, BSN, RNC-NIC, WCC

Roxanna Reyna, BSN, RNC-NIC, WCC, a wound care coordinator at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, calls herself “MacGyver Nurse.” True to her moniker, she invented a unique skin and wound dressing for infants with abdominal wall defects.

Reyna’s workplace, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, was one of five “expedition sites” initially launched at hospitals in California, New York, and Texas, by MakerNurse.

Reyna got the idea to make a dressing for children born with omphalocele, a type of birth defect that leaves intestines protruding from the body and covered only by a thin layer of tissue. Surgery repairs the defect, but in the interim, the infant is at risk of infection.

“There weren’t any ­dressings or bandages made for kids that provided the same level of healing,” says Reyna. “So, I started experimenting with bandages, sponges, and tape.”

Reyna’s invention not only helped her colleague and young patients, but she was also invited to the White House in 2014 to meet ­President Obama and to take part in an event honoring “makers.”

Since Reyna’s product is tailored to a specific group of ­patients and there’s not enough demand for it to be manufactured on a large-scale basis, she did make directions on how to construct her dressing through MakerNurse.


A Path of Beauty

Monique Rodriguez

Monique Rodriguez was working as a labor and delivery nurse in Indiana when she ­decided to launch her own beauty company, Mielle ­Organics.

“While looking for natural solutions for my own hair challenges, I began creating products in my kitchen and blog about my hair journey on social media,” says ­Rodriguez. “I gained an audience and people began to

ask if they could purchase my concoctions. A light bulb went off and Mielle Organics was born.”

Rodriquez initially stayed in her nursing job to save money to fund the company.

“I strongly believe in speaking things into existence. I wrote my resignation letter in May and dated for November and was actually able to quit my job sooner,” she says.

Although she had little entrepreneurial experience when she started her company, ­Rodriguez did have drive and determination. In an effort to learn as much as she could, Rodriguez read books, listened to podcasts, and scoured the Internet to obtain as much information as possible.

“When I launched my business in 2014, natural hair products for black hair was an emerging market and I was attempting to stay on the cutting edge,” she says. “Today, the market is much more competitive, and although there’s room for all brands to succeed, we strive to be number one.”

Rodriguez, who worked as a nurse for nine years, says one of the biggest barriers she faced in launching her own business was not letting fear overcome her.

“It was very scary leaving my career as a RN, because of the fear of the unknown,” says Rodriguez. “I also wish that I had a business mentor or someone to talk with in the beginning.”

Rodriguez says her ­background in nursing also proved helpful in developing the ­Mielle Organics line.

“I understood the importance of using high quality ingredients that are effective for hair growth,” she says. “When we formulate our products, we don’t just focus on hair care, but also how healthy are the ingredients.”

Today, Rodriquez leads a corporate staff of 13 and her business is thriving. Mielle Organics are now sold at Sally Beauty, Target, and CVS ­locations.


An Invention Leads to a New Business

Lisa Vallino, RN, BSN

Lisa Vallino, RN, BSN, still remembers when she and her nurse colleagues would turn plastic cups into makeshift intravenous (IV) covers for their pediatric patients. Although it worked to prevent patients from accidentally dislodging their IVs, Vallino thought there had to be a ­better way.

“Nurses are inventors by nature,” says Vallino. “I looked at these IV cups we were using to keep our young patients from snagging and pulling out their IV tubing, and it occurred to me that someone should invent a pre-cut IV insertion site cover.”

Vallino mentioned the idea to her mother Betty Rozier, and the two worked to design their own version of an IV site protector. They started with a specimen cup and tweaked the dimensions into a prototype they called “IV House.”

“The first feedback we received from nurses was that the device was too big,” says Vallino. “We went back to the drawing board and made a smaller size, as well as providing ventilation so we weren’t providing a warm, dark, and moist environment under the IV House.”

She and her mom then worked with a plastics manufacturer to produce the product in bulk.

“The first attempt was a disaster,” explains Vallino. “The manufacturer delivered the IV House shipment to the hospital without labels and we also discovered the finished product was full of flaws.”

The experience taught ­Vallino to fully vet and test a prototype with a manufacturer before committing to the process. While continuing to work as a nurse, Vallino spent her off hours developing her invention.

“We started with the UltraDome for pediatric patients, a clear, plastic IV site protector designed to shield, secure, and stabilize the catheter hub and loop of tubing at an IV insertion site,” says Vallino. “Since then, we’ve invented a new and improved UltraDome that is used in hospitals around the world.”

Since her first invention, Vallino has gone on to develop 19 other products under the IV House name and to also work with other nurses to develop their inventions.

“Several years ago, a nurse friend had an idea for an invention that I bought,” says Vallino. “That idea resulted in the new TLC UltraSplint, featuring an ergonomic design and see-through openings. We found that with traditional arm boards there were injuries occurring that could be avoided.”

Vallino says she still hears from a lot of nurses who have ideas for inventions. Many just want to know if their idea is viable. After signing a nondisclosure agreement, Vallino offers feedback on the ideas, and for those that show promise, she encourages those nurses to find the right buyer.

“Our business is concentrating on working to create the most effective and highest quality products available to IV therapy patients,” says Vallino. “In addition to maintaining our current products, I have ideas for an additional five to six inventions I’d like to roll out in the near future.”

Emotional Rescue: How to Protect Yourself from Stressful Work Experiences

Emotional Rescue: How to Protect Yourself from Stressful Work Experiences

The stress of nursing can take quite a toll on nurses emotionally and psychologically. Learn to recognize the signs, what to do, and when to seek help.

Abbegail Eason, RN, remembers some of the most devastating moments she’s witnessed as a nurse: a teenage girl learning she would never walk again after being shot by a gang member, a mom who gave birth but then died from a cerebral aneurysm just days later, and a baby who was left in a store’s parking lot and ended up dying.

“In these types of situations, it’s almost impossible not to be affected after your shift is over,” says Eason, a holistic coach at Abbegail Eason, LLC.

“Every nurse is susceptible to suffering from emotional distress,” explains Lucia M. Thornton, RN, MSN, AHN-BC, a consultant, educator, and author of Whole Person Caring: An Interprofessional Model for ­Healing and Wellness. Thornton and other sources we interviewed say that while all nurses can be affected emotionally, those in particular specialties may be more apt to experience this kind of issue. Some of the areas where nurses are especially at risk: emergency departments and trauma, ­intensive care unit (ICU), hospice, ­oncology, ­pediatrics, HIV clinics, homeless medicine, high-risk pregnancy clinics, palliative care, and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), among many others.

“Anyone who is empathetic and works in a caregiving role—including nurses and ­certified nursing assistants—are at risk for developing compassion fatigue and increased caregiver stress, which affects emotional health,” explains Karen Whitehead, MS, LMSW, DCC, CCFP, who provides counseling in the greater ­Atlanta area and at TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation. “Nurses who over-identify with patients and blur boundaries, as well as nurses with personal trauma histories, poor social support, isolated working conditions, or a previous history of unmanaged anxiety are at greater risk. Feeling a lack of control about your work environment—­including schedule, lack of recognition, or sense of community—can also contribute to caregiver stress.”

“Working in these areas with these types of patients triggers the sympathetic nervous system and keeps the body in fight or flight mode. This heightened stress reaction can, over time, lead to compassion fatigue and ongoing emotional distress,” she adds.

It can also be especially difficult for nurses because they are on the frontline of patient care, says Carl J. Sheperis, PhD, NCC, CCMHC, MAC, ACS, LPC. “Aside from the ­ongoing stressors of variable schedules, budget cuts, and constant technology changes, nurses are faced with a broad range of emotions experienced by patients,” explains Sheperis, a licensed professional counselor as well as the program dean for the College of Social Sciences at the University of Phoenix. “According to the American Nurses Association 2011 Health and Safety Survey, over 56% of participating nurses had experienced some type of threat or verbal abuse from patients. All of these stressors compound and result in high incidences of compassion ­fatigue and burnout for nurses.”

Compassion Fatigue, Moral Resilience, and Burnout

Mary Bylone, RN, MSM, CNML, president of Leaders Within, LLC, and a former board member of the ­American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) often lectures and writes about the AACN’s healthy work environment standards. Bylone says that while compassion fatigue, ­moral resilience, and burnout are terms often used interchangeably because they do have a lot of overlap, they also have some differences.

“Burnout is best used to describe a situation in which an individual feels overwhelmed and exhausted. It can be seen when people sacrifice ­themselves for work or become overwhelmed with the feeling that the work is never done. Compassion fatigue refers to the weariness that develops from caring for individuals when the caregiver feels saddened that they cannot change the situation and give of themselves in the hope of relieving pain or suffering in the patient,” explains Bylone. “Moral resilience refers to the aspect of an individual’s character to rise above situations creating moral distress, such as being asked to provide futile care or care against a patient’s wishes. ­Resilience comes when the nurse is able to restore and maintain their integrity by challenging or pushing back when asked to do things they do not feel are right. It involves using one’s bold voice to speak up when others would remain silent—to ensure that the morally right thing is done.”

For the past decade, the AACN has addressed all these issues. Its National Teaching Institute recently held a special interactive session during which more than 300 nurses spent an afternoon sharing the types of experiences that would cause these feelings and sharing their solutions with their colleagues as well. “The AACN puts a lot of energy into hope and resilience rather than dwelling on the negative,” says Bylone.

Recognizing the Signs

“Experiencing emotional reactions is human and ­appropriate,” says Sheperis. “The key is recognizing when the emotional reactions are out of proportion to a situation or when they have a negative impact on you or others around you. Nurses are often good at compartmentalizing emotional reactions, but sometimes the compartments become full, and the emotions spill out.”

Some of the signs that a nurse is experiencing negative effects from emotional overload are: using a greater number of sick days and/or dreading going to work; ­feeling exhausted; problems ­sleeping; using drugs or alcohol to sleep; having work-related dreams, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts; being angry a lot either at work or home; yelling at patients or families; changes in mood or behavior at work; crying all the time; feeling angry at supervisors or coworkers; developing fears about the safety of friends or family; feeling less engaged in their personal and/or professional life; the inability to think clearly; headaches; gastrointestinal problems; irregular breathing patterns, feeling devalued, and losing the capacity to care about themselves, their patients, their family members, or really anyone.

This doesn’t even touch on the signs of clinical ­depression, which nurses may also ­experience. The point is that if nurses notice vast changes in themselves or in their coworkers, they may need to seek or suggest help.

Taking Action

The first action that nurses can take to keep their emotional health intact is to set boundaries, says Gail Trauco, RN, BSN-OCN, a grief mediator, owner of Front Porch ­Therapy, and author of Conquering Grief from Your Own Front Porch. Nurses can do small things to make themselves happy. “Be sure you have things that you visually see which create an immediate ‘happy sensation,’” suggests Trauco. “This can be a favorite coffee mug, bright-colored scrubs, flowers on your desk, or even a funny stethoscope cover.”

One of the biggest problems nurses have is that they tend to put everyone else’s care above their own, says Jill Howell, MA, ATR-C, LPC, a board-certified registered art therapist, professional counselor, and author of Color, Draw, Collage: Create Your Way to a Less Stressful Life. While she works at Pocono Psychiatric Associates, ­Howell worked with many nurses at the Pocono Medical Center. “It’s all about self-care—nurses will, of course, react by saying that they don’t have time,” says Howell. “Please ­remember what they say on the airplane—put your oxygen mask on first before you try to help others.”

When working with nurses, Howell would check in with them to see how they were dealing with work, give them an opportunity to vent, and make small self-care suggestions. She would also do quick guided meditations with them, teach a relaxation technique, or set up large sheets of mural paper and have them draw out their frustrations.

“I have found that most nurses, while they can care for others continuously, have a very difficult time in caring for themselves,” says Thornton. “Self-compassion is an important and useful practice for nurses to develop.”

“Nurses are givers. We go into the field because we are caretakers,” says Eason. “Many of us feel we are at our best when taking care of others.” She says that it’s important, though, for nurses to understand that they have to take care of themselves first. “­Ensure you are getting ­adequate, quality sleep. You are eating a well-balanced meal. You are getting adequate exercise. You are spending time cultivating a life that is meaningful, rich, and deep outside of work,” says Eason.

After a particularly stressful experience at work, Lisa ­Radesi, DNP, CNS, RN, ­academic dean at the School of ­Nursing, College of Health ­Professions, ­University of Phoenix, says that nurses and other staff should have a ­debriefing session and ­remember that, ­despite all of the “bad” that occurs in their jobs, the “good” is the most rewarding part of what they do.

“Nurses should work together to ensure that they are okay after an incident. If a nurse notices a coworker is not doing well, they should talk with the coworker and bring it to the attention of the supervisor or manager,” says Radesi. “Above all, nurses should feel comfortable ­seeking treatment and communicating about emotional issues they may experience. Keeping this information ­bottled up can lead to issues and stress that have long-lasting effects. Know that it is not weakness, but strength, to acknowledge emotional disturbances and respond to them accordingly.”

If you see a coworker in ­distress, you can do something as simple as strike up a conversation with her or him, advises Bylone. “Use open-ended ­questions to find out how they are doing. Sometimes hearing the other person’s story really puts things into perspective. Let them know you care, and you are there to help, if only to listen. Please do not watch them suffer alone. Left ­unattended, these feelings only deepen and create lasting ­impact, often causing them to leave the profession,” she says.

Seeking Professional Help

Let’s face it: there are times when a spa day, time out with friends, or a bubble bath just won’t cut it in alleviating emotional problems. That’s when nurses need to seek ­professional help.

“If you are experiencing distressing symptoms over an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to check in with a professional therapist or counselor,” says Whitehead. “Whether it is distress from work or something related to your life outside of work, connecting with a professional can help you be a more effective caregiver and build your own resilience to mitigate the effects of your chosen population at work.”

If you need professional help, first see if your workplace has a program for staff members. If not, Sheperis says that the National Board for ­Certified Counselors has a ­directory of board-certified counselors across the ­United States (visit nbcc.org for more info). PsychologyToday.com also has a therapist ­directory that includes ­profiles of providers who can help.

There’s no shame in ­seeking help to get better. Sheperis says, though, that all nurses should do whatever they can to prevent their emotional stress from getting to this level. “Most people only seek ­professional help after ­something in their life had caused significant distress. While it is important to seek help if you are reaching a level of burnout or compassion ­fatigue, it is much better to take ­proactive steps and to work with a counselor to build resilience prior to hitting an emotional wall,” he says.

Sheperis also suggests that nurses focus on wellness practices at the onset of their careers. “It is easy to become engrained in a high-pressure system and to become emotionally overwhelmed if you don’t have a set of wellness practices in place.”

Adapting to Overnight Shifts: 5 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Adapting to Overnight Shifts: 5 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Working overnight shifts is a big change for many nurses, but it’s also extremely common. With the 24-hour demands of the bustling, modern health care system, there’s a good chance you’ll have to work the night shift at some point in your career, especially when you’re starting out. But don’t fret! There are many ways to ensure that the transition from day to night goes as smoothly as possible.

All nurses need to be on their A-game with technical medical skills and emotional resilience no matter what time of day they’re working. Night shift nurses have to shoulder even more burdens because they often work mostly or entirely alone for their shift. While there’s no one “right” way to adapt to the night shift, there are several common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid to build good habits.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Switching to the Night Shift

Going against your circadian rhythm is no small task. However, resorting to quick fixes will only make your shifts more difficult in the long run. Avoid these five common mistakes and you’ll adapt to the swing of a night shift quickly.

1. Not getting enough rest before starting a shift.

As a nurse, it’s important to always be sharp on the job. The staff at Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation Center emphasize that not getting enough rest is the number one mistake that new night shift workers make, and it’s one of the most dangerous. Since shifts are often upwards of eight hours long, there’s no safe way to “power through” on too little sleep. This goes for both on-shift work and driving when sleep-deprived.

How to Avoid It:

  • Install blackout curtains where you sleep and get a fan or white noise generator.
  • Turn off your phone, get a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and inform loved ones of your schedule.
  • Staying up for a few hours to relax and take care of yourself may be easier for some nurses than going straight to bed at the end of a shift. You’ll figure out what works for you with time, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Take proper care of your legs and feet while on your shift, so you won’t be troubled by pain or soreness when you’re trying to sleep.
  • Light soothing candles and practice stretches to relax yourself before bed.

2. Leaning on sugary foods, alcohol, or caffeine instead of proper nutrition.

It can be tempting to snack on chocolate or chug coffee to keep yourself going through your night shift. Keep in mind that, if consumed in excess, coffee can lead to jitters at first, followed by a crash. You’ll be far better off if you instead focus on getting more sleep.

How to Avoid It:

  • Plan and pack your meals ahead of time to avoid relying on vending machines.
  • Schedule your heavy meals so they won’t interfere with sleep.

3. Letting your personal life fall into disorder.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your personal life in order while working the night shift. Errands, social gatherings, and childcare all battle for your attention when you’re not at work. This reduces your ability to get good sleep and, in turn, to focus at work.

How to Avoid It:

  • Yoga and meditation help you relax and leave work behind so you can be present when you’re engaging with family or friends.
  • Establish a schedule for sleep, chores, and activities. This will reduce the stress of missing out on things.
  • Plan gatherings ahead of time with friends and family to ensure you can make it to fun gatherings.

4. Not asking for help or feeling like you have to “do it all.”

Yes, there are fewer resources available overnight at the hospital. This can lead to superhero-esque thinking, where you refuse or even genuinely forget to ask for help. Being honest about needing a hand is better than dropping the ball because you’re juggling while tired.

How to Avoid It:

  • Get to know the others who work nights so you can trade favors.
  • Get to know the resources available to you during your shift.
  • Ensure that your roommates or family are sharing the load with you at home.
  • Choose sleep over chores when possible at home. Others can help you with chores, but they can’t sleep for you!

5. Missing out on workplace bonding, training, or resources due to night shifts.

It’s easy to feel forgotten when working the night shift. Try not to miss out on opportunities for bonding, continuing education, or extra support because of your schedule. It can be hard to make time or schedule changes for these opportunities, but they’re integral to your career development down the line.

How to Avoid It:

  • Check announcement boards and learn about opportunities available at your workplace.
  • Make it known to your boss and coworkers that you’re interested in additional training, support, resources or team bonding even if you work the night shift.
  • Ask if there are online resources available for any opportunities that you simply cannot attend.

Your job as a nurse is important. Don’t let working the night shift get in the way of providing the best care possible to your patients and yourself. Getting enough sleep is integral to your job performance and personal health, but that’s not always enough. You also need to make sure you’re practicing good self-care and focusing on your health along the way. With these great tips, you’ll adapt to the night shift in no time!

Shortcuts to Boost Your Nutrition

Shortcuts to Boost Your Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month and offers up a good time to think of tweaking your diet.

Nurses are especially prone to falling into an eating-on-the-run trap. With long shifts that barely offer time to sit, nurses rarely have the luxury of taking the time to eat a relaxing meal when they are on the job. No one recommends eating quickly, but, let’s face it, most nurses have to eat quickly or they won’t eat at all.

During National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics helps people focus on making nutritious choices. Knowing that nurses have short bursts of time in which to get the most nutrition possible, they have to plan ahead to map out what is the best eating plan for them. Leaving it all to chance means fast food that might be higher in fat and salt and lower in things like fiber.

What makes sense for nurses? Figure out what and how you eat throughout the day and try to find foods that can fit that pattern but that offer a nutrition boost. Do you make a coffee run and add in a danish or a roll? Is lunch whatever is left in the vending machine and that you can eat in the few minutes you have?

Packing your food at home and bringing it with you is an easy option. Once you get into the habit of prepping your food at home (beware – it can feel like a chore until you get into a groove) you’ll have an instant fallback of food you like to eat, that gives you energy, and that provides you with the most nutrition possible.

Salads are an excellent way to pack in vegetables, fruits, and some great protein, but they take a lot of time to eat. You can keep the focus on the nutrition a salad provides and bring other foods that are healthy but take less time to eat. One of the easiest ways to pack in all those veggies and fruits is with a smoothie. Throw all the ingredients into a blender, add some protein powder or high-protein Greek yogurt, and you have an easy-to-digest and quick-to-eat option.

Lots of granola bars in the supermarket offer wholesome ingredients without extra sugar or added binders. With pure ingredients like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, these bars are easy to tuck into a bag, don’t take a lot of time to eat, and offer energy-boosting nutrition. You can also make your own trail mix to bring. Customize it to include the ingredients you like and you’ll get an even more pure (and less sugary) small meal. Pair it with a yogurt drink, a hard boiled egg, or a few slices of rolled deli meat and you’ll feel more energized for a longer time.

If you think it will fit into your day, pack smaller portions, but eat more frequently. A small bowl of brown rice or quinoa, lentils, beans, or chicken, and some finely chopped veggies takes less time to eat than a bagel with cream cheese and offers a powerhouse of hunger-fighting fiber, protein, and nutrients.

And one of the best ways to keep yourself energized is to stay hydrated. Instead of fueling with caffeine all day, add in some other beverages. Try to swap out soda with flavored seltzers (add in some juice if you need more flavor) or throw a couple of fruit-flavored herbal tea bags into your water bottle with a little lemon. Being even slightly dehydrated quickly saps your energy and makes your body work harder at everything.

With a few small changes, you can give your body the energy and nutrition to have a more productive day and better overall health.

Reassessing Male Behavior in the Workplace

Reassessing Male Behavior in the Workplace

I’m orienting as a charge nurse at a clinic. A middle-aged gay man (well, late middle age), surrounded by young women. Something odd happened that I want to share. My clinical partner, a charge nurse with 35 years of experience, pulled me into a room. “I’m going to tell you something awkward. Some of the nurses have said they feel uncomfortable when you touch them on the shoulder.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I honestly didn’t remember ever touching anyone and said as much. However, later that same day I actually caught myself just as I was about to touch a coworker on the shoulder and say, “Thanks for helping me with that patient.”  So I had touched someone….without their permission, without thinking about it.  I really had to rethink my behavior toward the opposite sex in the current climate.

Women are finding their power. Things that might have slipped by in the past are no longer going to get a pass. Frankly, I think it was a long (centuries) time coming. I hope it continues. I know it will. I’m excited to live in a time where women’s rights and female empowerment is in ascendancy.

I guess I just thought that being gay somehow made me immune from charges of sexual harassment (from women at least). This is just not the case. Harassment is in the eye of the beholder. If someone is uncomfortable with something, he or she has a right to their feelings, even if, from the other side, he/she/we may feel that nothing was done wrong (or at least intended). It’s hard to grasp, but important. Harassment is whatever someone says it is.

I admit, my feelings were hurt. I did not intend to make a coworker uncomfortable. My being gay or straight has no bearing on the issue of someone else’s feelings. I won’t argue that I didn’t mean to. I won’t say that I’m a hugger, or come from an affectionate family. Whatever my reasons for touching someone without their permission are not pertinent. All I can do is identify the behavior that caused the problem and fix it going forward.

Some might argue that the pendulum of women’s rights has swung too far. Anyone can say they feel harassed about anything. Any innocent touch, a pat on the back, is harassment and it’s just too crazy. That’s not the way to look at it. The #MeToo movement did not happen in a vacuum. It takes place in the context of an entire human history of women being treated as property and all that entails. There was a time when gay-bashing was, if not a national past-time, at least a frequent diversion, and I’ve been the victim of it several times. Gay rights didn’t happen in a vacuum, either. The broken body of Mathew Sheppard brings to mind exactly why we are fighting. Now, women are fighting.

What I’m saying is that I understand that women have a right to be seen and heard, respected, and not touched in the workplace. They have a right to pick and choose how they will be interacted with and what is appropriate. They fought for that right and continue to do so.

I’m glad that someone thought enough about me to point out something I could improve upon in my work life. I’ll keep an open mind, and my hands to myself in the future.

4 Reasons Why You Need More Sleep

4 Reasons Why You Need More Sleep

It might seem ironic that the kickoff of the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week starts with an hour less of precious shut eye.

While Daylight Savings Time has most of us springing our clocks ahead one hour early in the morning of Sunday, March 11, it also means we are losing that extra hour of snoozing.

But paying attention to your forty winks is nothing to slack off on. Nurses, traditional whirlwinds chameleons thanks to long shifts, nighttime hours, family and school obligations, and just plain stress, are typically fairly sleep deprived. Known to fit amazing amounts of tasks into one day, nurses often accomplish these things while shorting their bodies of necessary sleep.

Here are four reasons to pay more attention to your sleep.

1. Your Work Performance

According to the American Sleep Association, lack of dreamtime contributes to big problems on and off the job. You know you’ll feel sleepier during the day, and that’s a problem for nurses when they are working. Given the fast pace of the job and the critical thinking necessary to dose medications or provide care, chronic sleepiness will impact your patient care negatively.

2. Your Health

Not getting enough slumber can also lead to potential health problems. A body that is sleep deprived gets the hormones that regulate appetite mixed up. Not only are you awake extra hours, but you are hungrier during those hours as your body tries to stay alert. If you aren’t careful, this can quickly lead to weight gain and associated problems like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Lack of sleep can even trigger an improper processing of glucose and can make you more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes.

3. Your Mood

Sleepiness can easily turn to crankiness as your body craves needed rest. Sleep gives you the extra cushion against the things in the world that irritate you. When you haven’t had enough good rest, your mood takes a nosedive and everyone around you notices it. You might be more short-tempered with your friends and loved ones, but it can also impact your attitude with your patients and with your colleagues.

4. Your Quality of Life

As a nurse, you work hard for everyone else’s well being. You spend your days taking care of other people and other needs, often while neglecting what you need. Not getting enough sleep is a sure-fire way to put a wrench into your forward momentum and finding a balance that is sustainable.

The next time you find yourself skimping yet again on crawling into bed, think of how often you tell your patients they need rest to heal and rest to recover. Treat yourself the same way and see if it makes a difference in your life.

Just Published!

The Minority Nurse Spring 2018 issue is now available.

Improving Patient Care Through Unique Clinical Solutions

How Nurses Can Make Better Financial Decisions

 How to Protect Yourself from Stressful Work Experiences

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