Endometriosis Is More than Period Pain

Endometriosis Is More than Period Pain

Although endometriosis impacts the lives of 2 to 10 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 40, it can take up to 10 years before the disease is properly diagnosed. During national Endometriosis Awareness Month, information about this condition can help women recognize the symptoms so they can seek help.

Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of the uterus, which typically grows inside the uterus, begins to grow outside the uterus. The tissue can become attached to other organs and areas including the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, and other areas within the abdominal or pelvic cavity. Because the lining of the uterus sheds during menstruation, when the lining appears outside the uterus, this process can cause intense and debilitating pain and can lead to scarring, adhesions, and even fertility problems.

Because endometriosis is a progressive disease, diagnosing it early can help prevent some of the scarring and adhesions that cause such great pain and can interfere with fertility plans for nearly 176 million women who have it. Currently the only way to confirm a suspected endometriosis diagnosis is with surgery.

Although the condition can cause pain that is great enough to interfere with a woman’s normal daily activities, many women don’t realize something could be wrong. They may chalk up the pain to intense menstrual cramps–and this can be reinforced by family members who had particularly painful periods and healthcare professionals who don’t acknowledge the reports of severe pain.

If your patients complain of unusual pelvic symptoms, finding out more information can help them if endometriosis is a potential culprit. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some symptoms that could be a red flag for endometriosis and what healthcare providers should know about this women’s health condition.

Intense pelvic pain isn’t normal

If a patient mentions periods that keep her home from work or school or that interfere with her normal daily activities, additional screening is a good idea.

The pain isn’t always during a period

Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose because it doesn’t always look the same in every person. Some women report pain outside the parameters of their periods or they may report pain during intercourse.

It can cause gastrointestinal symptoms

Sometimes endometriosis can cause constipation, nausea, diarrhea, or pain with a bowel movement.

Family history counts

Women who have first degree relatives with a history of endometriosis (or suspected but not diagnosed) are at increased risk of having the condition.

Fertility problems can result

When scarring from endometriosis becomes extensive, it can impact fertility so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as early as possible. The longer scar tissue builds up, the more difficult it is to clear it up. If a patient is having problems getting pregnant and reports any of these other symptoms, further screening can help rule out endometriosis or give a proper diagnosis.

Additional information about endometriosis can be found through the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

 

Finding a Health Routine That Fits Your Nursing Lifestyle – And Why It Matters

Finding a Health Routine That Fits Your Nursing Lifestyle – And Why It Matters

As a nurse, you know that shouldn’t risk your health while you help improve the health of others, but it can be especially hard for a health care provider to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Every day, you make a difference in the lives of individual patients and the overall well-being of the community, but while you’re focused on the health of others, you need to counter the aspects of your job that can be detrimental to your own wellness. The healthier you are, the better you can help your patients (and your loved ones as well!).

So, let’s take a closer look at what the benefits are of maintaining your physical health as a nurse. What do you stand to gain from keeping your health in check, and how can you integrate a healthy routine into your lifestyle?

Strengthening Energy and Immunity

Your job as a nurse can take a lot out of you. Some focus on building your physical wellbeing can make sure you and your patients benefit from negative impacts here. With solid energy levels and optimized immunity, you can perform all tasks to the best of your ability. Not to mention it keeps you personally on top form.

Some ways you can maintain your physical health in this area include

●      Tai-Chi and Yoga

Tai-Chi and yoga are mind-body exercises regarded as effective in boosting energy and immunity. The combination of deep and slow breathing, mindfulness, and physical stretching can reduce your fatigue and strengthen your muscles. Not to mention they can support your mental well-being. Particular poses — like the cobra and downward dog — are considered helpful for energy maintenance. These are also exercises you can take just a few minutes out of your busy day to perform.

●      Resistance Strength Training

This type of exercise involves the use of equipment such as weights and resistance bands. It may seem as though this would expend more energy than it gains you. But if you’re mindful of your limitations and build up gradually, you can experience short- and long-term boosts. It can also help you to sleep better, which can improve your energy. There is also evidence to suggest this type of regular exercise has a positive impact on the immune system.

●      Walk Outside

It can certainly be difficult to galvanize your motivation to exercise, particularly if you already have low energy levels. But it’s important to recognize that even small actions can help to begin with. Taking a couple of moments each day to step outside your hospital or clinic to take a walk in the fresh air and sunshine can do wonders. It keeps you energized, maintains your health, and can motivate you to adopt more beneficial activities.

Optimizing the Senses

Being a nurse requires you to be sharp at all times. Noting less-obvious symptoms or patient body language can influence whether you can deliver the right care to them. Not to mention it can be quite distressing to find you need to strain your eyes and ears in the course of your duties. As such, keeping your senses top-notch is a vital aspect of maintaining your physical health.

Some important focuses here include:

●      Nutrition to Protect Your Eyes

Maintaining a balanced diet is a key aspect of keeping generally healthy. But it’s important to understand how your nutritional intake can have a direct impact on your visual health. Some foods contain antioxidants that can protect you against cataracts. Foods high in vitamin C could reduce the risk of glaucoma. It’s worth taking the time to plan your meals to include these foods that play a key role in keeping your senses sharp. Many brightly colored fruits, leafy greens, and fatty fish can make a positive impact.

●      Minimize Negative Stimuli

As a nurse, many of the physical health risks to your senses are likely to involve aspects of strain. Harsh strip lighting and spending a lot of time looking at computer screens can put pressure on your eyesight. If you work in the city or busy environments, loud noises can affect your hearing over time. Taking steps to mitigate the effect of stimuli can bolster your physical health. Blue light-blocking glasses can reduce issues from computer screens. Some earplugs can reduce the loudest noises while still keeping you able to hear patients.

●      Get Regular Tests

One of your most powerful tools in maintaining the physical health of your senses is regular tests and checkups. As a medical professional, you know how important it is to identify potential issues early on. Getting your sight and hearing tested annually can mean you can benefit from early insights and professional guidance.

Enabling Full Mobility

You need your full mobility as a nurse. In most roles, you will be spending all day on your feet, sometimes rushing around and dealing with emergency scenarios. You may also be lifting and supporting patients at times. As such, maintaining your physical health can mean you benefit from a full range of motion. This also reduces the potential that you’ll injure yourself from pushing your physical limits.

Some approaches to this could include:

●      Joint Exercises

It is not unusual for nurses to find their joints are uncomfortable due to the amount of physical pressure the role entails. There are specific exercises you can perform to manage and relieve the symptoms of joint pain, even if you’re experiencing rheumatoid arthritis. Isometric lunges can strengthen the knees, while wall slides can address shoulder pain. Alongside preventing further damage to your joints, these exercises are convenient to perform throughout your workday.

●      Swimming

Regularly taking time in the water is an excellent approach to achieving full mobility. Even if you find you experience joint pain or have weight-related challenges, swimming can be a low-pressure way to keep healthy. There is a lower effect of gravity on your body and you can find you’re able to exercise for longer. As such, it is well-suited to gradually building and maintaining your continued mobility.

Conclusion

Being a nurse can put some significant strain on various areas of your wellbeing. Maintaining your physical health can mean you’re able to provide your patients with the best level of care. More importantly, there are opportunities to ensure you don’t suffer from your commitment to serving the community. With some small but impactful adjustments, you can enjoy your nursing career and peak wellness.

 

March Is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March Is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a diagnosis that no one wants to hear, but it’s a diagnoses approximately 150,000 people will receive in 2022.

According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer accounts for nearly eight percent of all new cancer diagnoses. And while it is particularly dangerous when caught at a later stage, routine screening with a colonoscopy can help catch early signs of cancerous and even precancerous changes.

With March’s designation as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, nurses everywhere can help remind their patients of the potentially life-saving benefits of prevention and early detection.

No matter what specialty you are in, you can help spread awareness about colorectal cancer with the people you treat every day.

Remind patients to get a colonoscopy

In the absence of a family history of CRC or other diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, all of which raise the lifetime risk for CRC, most people only need a colonoscopy every 10 years starting in the mid 40s. According to the American Cancer Society, people with an average risk of colorectal cancer can talk with their healthcare team to determine the best screening method for their personal health. Some people may be able to choose a stool-based test while others will decide they need a colonoscopy.

 

Talk about prevention

Screening is often thought as something to catch colorectal cancer early, and in some cases, removing any precancerous findings can even help prevent it. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance has great tips, including screening, to help prevent this cancer. Other prevention strategies include a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is known to help prevent or decrease the chances of developing certain cancers including colorectal as are cutting out smoking and reducing drinking alcohol. A plant-based diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes packs in nutrients and fiber–all of which offer protective health benefits. In particular, patients who enjoy red meats or processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, or deli meats should know those foods can up the risk of colorectal cancer.

 

Give patients the facts about risk

Guiding  patients to find out more about their family history, to the extent they are able, can help show familial patterns of colorectal cancer. While many people who have a family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps will not go on to develop the disease, some do. And many people who are eventually diagnosed have no meaningful or known history of anything that would indicate a higher risk. But remind your patients that it’s worthwhile to know the diseases that are present in their immediate and extended families. For those who aren’t able to find out anything about their family history, asking their primary healthcare about genetic counseling and screening could help.

Helping patients become aware of colorectal cancer and the importance of prevention and screening is something healthcare providers can do for their patients. People often forget about the things they can do or put off getting screening tests. Reminding them about why it’s so important can help–and may even save a life.

Be Kind to Your Heart

Be Kind to Your Heart

Nurses are known for their calm under pressure and the high-quality medical care they provide day in and day out. But they are also well known for another quality–their kind-hearted approach to the patients in their care.

Of course, sometimes the best nurses have to give a little tough love, but even that comes from a place of concern and care. For all their kind-hearted ways, nurses can remember they need to share that kindness with themselves, particularly when they are talking about their own heart health.

With February’s American Heart Month wrapping up, now is a good time to take stock of small changes you can make that can have a big impact on your own heart health. As a nurse, you already know all the big ways to make changes, but it’s a lot easier to focus on small steps for lasting effect.

Because your heart health has a ripple effect throughout your body, keeping your heart in good shape leads to overall health improvements. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about putting yourself, and your own health, front and center.

Look at Your Food Like a Nurse

If one of your patients had your diet, what would you think of it? Would you give it high scores for overall excellence, a mediocre score for “could do better,” or a flat-out failing grade? How would you  convey the news that a diet needs an overhaul to a patient? Nurses would tend to offer compassion to their patients because they know how challenging it is to change. That’s how you should approach assessing your own eating habits. If you’re stress-eating chips or chocolate, you’re not going to feel at the top of your game. And if you’re skipping meals because you’re too busy, you won’t have enough energy to manage everything.

Need to make a few changes? You already know what a heart healthy diet looks like, so just set the bar at a low point–make it easy to reach your goals. Bringing a bag of baby carrots to swap for your afternoon crunchy go-to like chips or crackers. Do that once or twice a week. Toss an apple and a couple of cheese sticks in your bag so you can have something healthy when you have a second to spare to eat.

What Do You Tell Patients About Rest and Heart Health?

Nurses aren’t resting enough right now–forget about sleeping enough. But you know how a body can’t recover unless it can rest. The same goes for overworked nurses. Just like your diet, set a low bar–aim for getting a more restful period once or twice a week. Start with 15 minutes of sitting with your eyes closed (a beautiful spot would be ideal, but if it’s in the bathroom with the door locked, so be it). If you can take a 30-minute nap, great; if you can’t, just a few peaceful moments can reduce your blood pressure and help your heart.

How’s Your Network?

A network of supportive folks–not your professional network, although that can help–makes your burden lighter. When you feel you have people who you can talk to, who support you, who listen and don’t judge, then you have some excellent protection for your heart. You may not see them much, but you know they are there and that gives your heart health a real boost. Make small improvements here, too. If there’s no time to see your favorite people, have a group call or Zoom or check in with a group text. Funny videos, supportive sayings, or beautiful photos go a long way toward bringing people on the same page. If you need more connections, check out a local group with a common interest.

Move It

If you’re on your feet all day, the thought of a workout can seem like a chore. But if you find something that’s fun and that you like (and if you’re social, find something you can do with others), getting more movement won’t feel like the last thing you want to do. Like before, start with a small goal and see how you do. Walk around the block once on a beautiful evening or do some gentle stretching before you go to bed. Yes, getting your heart rate up is most beneficial by far, but the benefits of gentle movement can’t be overlooked. Smaller movements are relaxing and can help lower blood pressure. Stretching can decrease the stiffness in your arteries and help improve blood flow–all good for your heart.

 

Jerome Stone Helps Nurses Reduce Stress

Jerome Stone Helps Nurses Reduce Stress

Jerome Stone RN knows about stress. As a nurse, he understands the particular stressors of healthcare professionals. But he’s also learned a few things about stress that can help nurses make it through even the most difficult times.

As author of Minding the Bedside and the Minding the Bedside blog, Stone says getting rid of stress isn’t practical or necessary. The way we react to and cope with stress is what gets people into trouble.

Nurses, in particular, know stress is part of their job. “Working as an RN, with others’ health issues in our hands, and the necessity to help alleviate others’ suffering, adds a greater impetus to learn how to deal with stress,” says Stone. “However, we need to develop a way to work with stress in all aspects of our daily lives, whether we’re at work, or with our family, dealing with health issues, or finances.”

Stone says approaching stress in a way that is helpful and healing requires some understanding and a lot of awareness about what’s happening. But it doesn’t take as much time as you would think.

“My interpretation of what causes stress is the key determinant of whether and how I experience stress,” he says. “And to some extent, this interpretation depends on our mislabeling stressors as the actual stress.”

The distinction might seem minor, but it’s critical to how you can begin to change how stress affects you. “Stressors are the triggers in life, in our environment (external and internal), that cause us to experience stress,” says Stone. “They’re the things at work or in life that can elicit a stress response from us. Whereas…stress is a state– it’s what we experience physiologically when a stressor triggers an emotional response in us. And as a state, it’s also changeable and malleable – we can work with it.”

With so much attention focused on stress itself, Stone says it’s easy to confuse stressors with stress. “People constantly try to ‘fix’ what’s ‘out there,’ rather than realizing that it’s how they deal with what’s out there that determines whether and how they experience stress,” he says. “This is so important!”

And while it’s unrealistic to expect to eliminate stress or that you’ll get to a place where it won’t impact you, Stone says nurses can learn tactics to separate the physiology of stress (the churning stomach, the shaky hands–the flight, fight, or flee reactions) from how the mind reacts to those feelings. He refers to it as ‘turning down the volume’ of stress when you feel those stressors ramping up so that you’re not reacting to stress in negative ways.

What can nurses do to actually help themselves when they are in the midst of a chaotic situation? Stone says becoming aware is the first step. “If we are unaware, we get into patterns or habits and we switch to our habitual responses,” he says. “Then our ability to mediate becomes less. It’s a slow process. It starts with awareness and with awareness, we need to find compassion and mercy for ourselves.” Recognize that no one is perfect and give yourself compassion when you feel overwhelmed.

Once you know what your stressors are and how those stressors make you feel, you can look to ways to cope. And Stone, a firm believer in and follower of meditation, says you don’t even have to commit to a time-consuming plan to begin to help yourself. We all have had stress-free moments, so we are hard-wired to have those experiences, says Stone. The key is to increase those stress-free moments.

Because mindfulness brings in awareness of breath, Stone says nurses can begin with just taking one mindful breath. “One single breath, in and out, can alter the physiology just enough to return to the present moment,” he says. And anyone can practice that one breath anywhere–walking down the hall, in the bathroom, before going into a patient’s room, in line for lunch.

“It can feel like one breath won’t make a difference,” he says, “but if you do that 10 or 50 times a day? It adds up. If we do it enough, it is making a difference.” Of course the more you can do that, the better you’ll build a resilience to the stressors of your day.

With taking those mindful breaths, you can also give yourself a needed balance. Choose a simple phrase as a mantra for when you feel overwhelmed. For example, Stone says repeating “I can do this” is a direct reminder that you are facing difficulty right now, that you have the resources to get through it, and that you can focus on the present moment to do so. It’s affirming, and it also helps you disengage the pattern and negative feedback loop of thinking you can’t handle what you’re faced with, he says.

“Find balance in the small things,” says Stone. “Practice balance when you’re eating, when you’re showering, when you’re driving. Bring mindfulness and awareness of your stress response into how you deal with long wait times for customer service, or bad drivers, or cranky kids. The opportunities to find balance are all around us.”

In your work environment, it helps to advocate for resources like better staffing or salaries and basic needs for breaks or vacation. In the end, organizations must realize that stress isn’t good for nurses or for patient safety. Stressed nurses are more forgetful, more prone to mistakes, less likely to have the resources to work to their full capacity, and much more likely to quit.

Nurses can begin to help themselves as they learn to respond to stressors in a new way. “People say they don’t have that much time to devote to this, but everyone showers, brushes their teeth, sits in the car,” says Stone. “Every one of these is a minute where you can sit. Then celebrate each time we do it.”

Mental Health Resources for Nurses

Mental Health Resources for Nurses

So how’s your mental health?

A year ago, most of us thought COVID would be long gone or at least a much less of a threat by now. Widespread vaccine access was on the horizon, and it looked like an important corner was being turned. But COVID had other plans.

 

As 2022 dawns, nurses are feeling a squeeze that’s unbearable and caring for patients who are desperately ill. Patients who are coming in for routine care aren’t out of the woods, and the psyche of the nation is suffering.

As the pandemic drags on, physical and emotional exhaustion is rampant. When it gets too much, reaching out for help will bring you to a better place. Helps looks different for everyone, but understanding when and how to get it is exceptionally important.

If you are in a mental health crisis or know someone in crisis, please

 

For a comprehensive list of mental health resources check out the Mental Health First Aid website. You’ll also find excellent resources and information in the Well-Being Initiative of the American Nurses Foundation and its partners.

Here are some resources to help you. You can also read Minority Nurse’s Strategies to Maintain Your Mental Health as a Health Care Worker for additional advice on self care and well-being.

Professional help

Recognizing that you’re not feeling yourself and that you need helps is the first step. Mental health professionals offer excellent support. Talking with someone helps you get things sorted out and will give you an opportunity to talk about everything that is weighing on you. Finding a therapist is difficult right now, but keeping up the search is worthwhile as it can bring back some balance to your life. And you don’t have to commit to a big schedule–find what works for you , even if it is just once or twice a month. If your employer offers an employee assistance plan (an EAP), find out if you have short-term access therapists for no cost.

To find a therapist, ask your insurance company who is accepting new patients or use this online tool to help you find someone in your area.

Medication

For some people, talking helps but they also need medication to manage the imbalance in their brain chemistry. Have you tried medication and didn’t find the relief you were hoping for? It can take a few tries with different medications to get the right results. Medication management requires a  comprehensive approach to consider other medications you’re taking, conditions you have, your response to the drug. Don’t give up.

Faith community

Community and faith leaders are often looked to as pillars of support in times of crisis, and faith communities are frequently excellent supports and resources for those in struggling times. If you have a person in your life who can act as a confidant while also offering the reassurance that matches your beliefs, then maintaining that connection can give you the comfort and guidance you’re seeking. If a prayer group or a meditation group gives you solace, make sure attend whenever possible.

Family, friends, furry companions

The pandemic is affecting each of us in a different manner. Your family and friends might not understand the things you do and see every day at work, but they will recognize that you are struggling. If you have close, dependable family and friends, lean on them for companionship or comfort. If you have a pet, they can offer great solace without any judgment at all. They also are often highly tuned into your moods so just having them close by feels good. If you aren’t able to get a pet but would like to interact with animals more, pet shelters always need volunteers.

Practices

Find what makes you feel calmer with a goal of just taking care of yourself and relieving your stress. Nurses take care of so many other people and often forget the very basic need for self care. Exercise, meditation, faith practices, or being in nature are all excellent ways to lower your blood pressure and keep you moving forward. But making time for other things that make you feel good count too– binge watching movies, cooking, puzzles, crafts, coffee with friends, video games, a book club night, skateboarding, or  spending a day exploring a new place–if it helps you feel some relief, do it.

 

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