Contact Lens Safety Protects Your Eyes

Contact Lens Safety Protects Your Eyes

Eye health is essential for your overall health and is especially important for nurses. For nurses who wear contact lenses, keeping your eyes in top shape takes some dedicated effort. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has elevated the importance of contact lens care to create a Contact Lens Health Week which begins this year on August 22.

Contact lens wearers know how much of a benefit the lenses bring, but it’s easy to dismiss some of the basic health guidelines around this convenient alternative to glasses. Nurses, particularly those with long shifts, are especially prone to wearing them for long periods.

Here are a few refreshers on how to keep your eyes healthy while using contact lenses.

Maintain good hygiene

Make sure anything that touches your contact lens is meticulously clean. Wash and thoroughly dry your hands before putting your lenses in or taking them out. Rinse your case regularly with contact lens solution (not water) to help reduce the chances of bacteria contaminating your lenses, and change your case regularly. Follow all instructions for how long to wear the kinds of lenses you have (some are longer-wear hard lenses while others may have daily or two-week lenses). And always remove them before sleeping (this counts if you’re on a plane as well).

Keep them away from water

It’s easy to forget that you have lenses in when they become such a routine part of your life. But if you’re near any water–such as showering or swimming in a lake, ocean, or pool–your contact lenses should be out. Water holds all kinds of germs that are normally perfectly safe for normal use, but can introduce bacteria that can contaminate your lenses and cause a dangerous infection in your eye.

Protect your eyes

Many contact lenses have UV protection, but that doesn’t mean you’re covered. Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection when you’re outside to help your general eye health. The sun’s rays, even on overcast days and even in the watery sun of northern winters, can cause eye damage and hasten conditions including cataracts, macular degeneration, or even cancer.

Take a break

There are all kinds of guidelines around the various contact lenses available today. Be aware of the recommendations for how long you should keep yours in your eyes. If your work schedule means you leave your lenses in for long periods of time, make an effort to wear them less on your days off. Ideally one day a week that’s free of contact lens use can help your eyes, but even taking them out earlier than usual (as soon as you get home) is a healthy choice.

Be ready for a change

If you’re at work or doing something fun and your eyes begin to hurt or bother you in any way (a speck of dirt getting in your eye or allergies can cause real discomfort and irritation), be prepared to remove them and use your prescription glasses. Carry a pair of glasses with you when you leave the house so you aren’t forced to leave in uncomfortable contact lenses or to remove them and leave you with uncorrected vision. Leave a stash of solution and a lens case at work and contact lens-safe rewetting drops in your bag.

Don’t skip appointments

See your contact lens provider regularly. They will check for any vision changes and will notice any other changes in your eye. They also perform a regular assessment to see if your eyes are getting enough of the needed oxygen exchange (if contact lens overuse is your fallback, this might be an issue) that keeps them healthy.

While some tips for contact lens care can seem burdensome, getting an eye infection is not only painful and potentially dangerous, but it’s also disruptive. Being mindful of eye safety while using contact lenses will help keep them healthy.

“I’m Going to Match!” A Tale of Nurses, Mentoring, and a Lifetime Bond

“I’m Going to Match!” A Tale of Nurses, Mentoring, and a Lifetime Bond

Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN, a research professor in Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, rued her nontraditional academic path until a mentor reassured her: “The teacher always arrives when the student is ready.”

That advice about timing resonated last month as she prepared to donate a kidney to her mentor, professor and faculty colleague. Professor and biostatistician Vicki Stover Hertzberg, PhD, who directs the school’s Center for Data Science, had been waiting nine months for a transplant after being diagnosed with kidney failure.

The two professors’ personal relationship is only one aspect of their remarkable story. Vicki Stover Hertzberg, PhD, FASA and Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN.

Both long ago had personal experiences that made them aware of the high need for living kidney transplants and the safety of donation. At the nationally No. 2-ranked School of Nursing, both women work on a research team that studies renal issues and other health problems related to heat exposure in farmworkers and published their findings in March. Both say their life-giving partnership reflects their school’s caring connections.

Chicas was only one of several Emory employees who answered Hertzberg’s call for potential donors in mid-2021. While others matched enough to donate, Chicas was the closest match.

“So much science has gone into it for such a long time, and to be able to use that science to help Dr. Hertzberg be healthier and live longer, it’s awesome. And I get to be a part of it.”

—Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN

“I have no words to express my gratitude for the individuals who came forward including those who ultimately, for one reason or another, could not be a donor,” Hertzberg said before the March 15 transplant surgery. “And for Roxana to do this is just phenomenal. I find it very overwhelming and very humbling.”

Most of us only need one kidney

Chicas’ first job at a pediatric office in Atlanta, when she was 18, exposed her to kidney issues and solutions. She translated for pediatric nephrologist Stephanie M. Jernigan, an associate professor of pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine.

“Children who were born with just one kidney often lived perfectly normal lives,” she says. “Other children who had kidney transplants did very well, even though it’s a very invasive surgery.”

She also learned to see her own intellectual potential.

Having come from El Salvador at age four and undocumented, Chicas had received temporary protective status that allowed her to work for the pediatricians. She helped them communicate with families who only spoke Spanish, and thought she might be smart enough to become a medical assistant so she could help them more. Pediatrician A. Gerald Reisman, MD, urged her to try nursing instead, and at age 28, Chicas enrolled in what is now Perimeter College at Georgia State University.

That educational decision led to Bridges to the Baccalaureate, an Emory program that nurtures minority students in research. With School of Nursing Dean Linda A. McCauley, PhD, RN, FAAN, as her advisor, Chicas got a BSN and went directly into the doctoral program. She joined McCauley’s team working on farmworker health, which felt personal because her mother, Maria Chicas, farmed in El Salvador. Farmworkers are 35 times more likely to die from heat-related illnesses than any other profession, she says.

“My goal is to do great science that will really improve the working conditions of agricultural workers,” Chicas says. “They are the backbone of this country and the globe. They feed us, and I think we need to value them more and recognize their worth, and they should be treated with dignity and given the same benefits that sometimes we take for granted. Many of them are undocumented and live in poverty, and I hope that I can be a part of a movement to better their lives.”

Heat-related illnesses affect kidney function, and Chicas did a postdoctoral stint in renal (kidney-related) medicine at the Emory School of Medicine. The research team measures indicators of health like core body temperature and kidney function.

“I got lucky, because I could have been working out in the field,” Chicas says. “I’m not there because of sacrifices that my mom made, and many other Latino parents have made and by having a mentor who told me that I can be a professional.”

A mentor in need

Hertzberg became Chicas’ professor and research teammate. From Florida to Mexico to Brazil, Chicas was in direct contact with farmworkers while Hertzberg worked to tell the story of the collected data.

“A wonderful mentor,” Chicas, 39, calls Hertzberg, 67. “She taught me that you can be smart and be strong in your career, and yet still be very kind.”

As the director for the nursing school’s Center for Data Science, Hertzberg is an internationally-recognized expert on “big data” and its impact on health care. She is widely known for her work measuring the social contacts in emergency departments and disease transmission on airplanes.

“Mentoring is what graduate education is all about,” Hertzberg says. “You learn a lot from each other. Part of it is just kind of a natural process because we’re engaged through research activities and part of that is just kind of understanding how the world works and what makes people tick. Roxana is incredibly driven and intrinsically kind, and always keeps me and our team focused on issues that our partner community experiences in ways that we don’t.”

On the farmworker longitudinal study, newer data relates to 25 markers of kidney function disease because of a relatively recent phenomenon called chronic kidney disease of undetermined etiology (CKDu). “Young farmworkers who had been feeling fine or really healthy all of a sudden wake up sick,” Hertzberg says. “Lo and behold, they have kidney failure and need dialysis.”

In late 2020, Hertzberg’s own bloodwork showed acute kidney injury, and when restrictive diet didn’t improve function enough, she was referred for a kidney transplant in mid-2021.

Like Chicas, Hertzberg had learned about the disease long before through a family friend and others. She reached out to her network by email and social media.

“Ideally a living donor is best,” she wrote. “A kidney from a living donor lasts on average 25 years, while a kidney for somebody who is about to have life support turned off is on average 12 years. Obviously, the 25 years is my preference…. the wait for a kidney from the person on life support will take three to seven years.”

She didn’t expect much response.

“I’m going to match”

Chicas jumped on Hertzberg’s direction for potential donors to phone the Emory Transplant Center (855-366-7989) or complete a questionnaire online.

“I knew it’s a pretty big surgery, but I was just like, ‘I have an extra kidney. I’m pretty healthy,’” she says. “And I called my mom and asked her what she thought and she was like, well, if that’s what you feel that you’re called to do, then go for it. And I was like, Okay.”

When she found out that there was competition to give a kidney to Hertzberg, Chicas told herself, “If God wants me to be the donor, then I’m going to match. So much science has gone into it for such a long time, and to be able to use that science to help Dr. Hertzberg be healthier and live longer, it’s awesome. And I get to be a part of it.”

Hertzberg even had colleagues clamoring to organize her meal train. This loyalty is partly from working at Emory since 1995, and supporting so many people and projects with her expertise. She served on dissertation committees for Chicas in 2020 and (at the University of Cincinnati) for McCauley in 1988.

Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, professor of surgery in the Division of Transplantation at Emory and former dean of the Emory School of Medicine, transplanted Hertzberg’s new kidney last month. Larsen and Hertzberg knew each other through their collaborative research. From 2005 to 2010, they teamed-up on a protective immunity project studying aspects of the immune system in kidney transplant patients.

“This is not a road I would have chosen for myself,” Hertzberg says. “So I’m trying my hardest to learn the lessons along the way and to keep being positive. I want to dance at my grandchildren’s weddings, and the oldest one is soon to be five years old.”

Chicas believes that her success, her mentors and her organ donation have proved her favorite quote.

“Mother Teresa said, ‘If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one,’” she says. “I’m not a philanthropy. I’m not a billionaire. But I feel like there are certain things that I can do.”

Brain Health: 4 Tips to a Healthy Brain

Brain Health: 4 Tips to a Healthy Brain

Many people think of a healthy brain as an aging-related issue, but nurses know how important brain health is across the life span. Some of the habits and practices people develop early in life can impact their brain health decades later. If you know of a few habits you’d like to change, it’s never too late to start focusing on small steps to get you to a goal.

There are many diseases, conditions, and stages that impact the brain–including Alzheimer’s, stroke, injury, or even menopause–so supporting your brain health is essential. Luckily, it’s not an all-or-nothing approach.

What can you do to help keep your brain healthy? Here are four easy tips you can try during June’s Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

Keep Everything Moving
Whether it’s your body with physical activity or your brain with mental activity, staying in motion and engaged with the world makes a difference. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the brain benefits from all the good things you do for the rest of your body. Keeping your body healthy with exercise also keeps your brain healthy, so continue to keep moving. And you don’t have to run marathons or bike dozens of miles. Taking a short walk on most days is more important for your brain than running 10 miles twice a month.

Stay Socially Connected
If you’re going for a walk, invite a friend. Prefer to walk alone? Call someone you’d like to catch up with this week. Even a short 15-minute phone call with someone you care about delivers important brain benefits. You’ll reduce stress, maintain those important connections, and probably laugh–one of the most healing parts of friendships.

Be Open to Learning
Our brains like new stimulation and, in fact, thrive on it.  New activities, unusual facts, a different hobby, or learning a new language all bestow a real impact on the brain. As you learn something new, you’re forcing the brain to adapt and that helps keep your mind sharp. Like the other suggestions, this habit doesn’t require a lot of time. You can spend a half hour on your commute listening to podcasts about something you know nothing about or to begin the foundation of understanding a new language. You can try a new route to a familiar place or see how well you do at crosswords or Wordle. Resist the urge to stick with what’s familiar–shaking things up rewards you in many ways.

See Sleep as Medicine
If someone said you can take a pill to help prevent memory loss, improve your mood, and even keep your weight regulated, would you do it? If you start to look at sleep as medicine, you’ll realize why prioritizing your sleep can improve the quality of your life now and in the future. Even young, busy nurses should realize that a bad night’s sleep can have a significant impact on their on-the-job tasks as it can dull your ability to remember and recall important tasks the next day. Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier and resisting the urge to watch one more show or scroll through one more post. Sleep and brain health are closely linked.

Keeping your brain healthy is important throughout your life. It’s always a good time to make changes–and any change is better than no change at all. The benefits are worth it now, and your future self will thank you.

Men’s Health: Advocating and Educating

Men’s Health: Advocating and Educating

During June, the national designation as Men’s Health Month helps highlight the need for men to advocate for their own health and that of the men in their lives. For Men’s Health Week, which runs June 13 to 19, Minority Nurse turned to an expert in men’s health to explore some of the top health issues and concerns facing men.

Jason Mott PhD, RN, associate professor in the Pre-licensure Program Director and assistant dean in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, College of Nursing, is the president-elect of the American Association for Men in Nursing and offered some thoughts about how men can live healthier lives and why addressing health problems quickly matters.

What are some of the top health concerns for men today and what are some of the implications if they are not treated properly?

There are many health concerns for men. Many of them have been around for a long period of time, such as heart disease, diabetes, etc. When those aren’t taken care of, there are significant health concerns and possible risks that can occur for men. Another topic that is gaining a lot of attention for men in low testosterone and testosterone replacement therapy. There are so many commercials for products that are supposed to help with low testosterone levels and increasing activity and stamina. Issues with men taking these supplements without needing them can lead to increased cholesterol, increased risk of stroke and heart disease as well as sleep apnea. It can also lead to increased aggression.

What are some of the barriers to addressing men’s health problems?
Men often don’t seek health care until things are in advanced stages. Too often, men feel that they are invincible until something brings their health down. Men feel that being sick brings down their invincibility. Men too often don’t know enough about their own health and healthcare, so they don’t advocate enough for themselves.

As the number of male nurses increases, how can their care have a positive impact on men’s health specifically?

I think by increasing the number of men in nursing will allow us to better get men involved in the healthcare system. Men in nursing understand many of the barriers to care-seeking behaviors that make it difficult for men to seek healthcare. We can provide education about specific diseases and their progression to help men better understand their care. Men typically want as much information as they can get so that they can manage their health on their own. By understanding this, men in nursing can help educate these needs to their colleagues.

As a nurse, what do you want patients to know about men’s health and what are some warning signs for them to pay attention to?

I would want men to understand that they have a lot of control of their own health. They need to take ownership of their healthcare. They need to be involved in their own health and healthcare. We can’t leave it up to others to make healthcare decisions for us. Some of the biggest warning signs to look out for regarding their own health are activity levels and how they are able to tolerate activity and if they notice increased hunger and thirst.

What would you like male nursing students or early career nurses to know about this career that would’ve helped you when you were a novice?

The advice that I give my current students is to take advantage of any opportunity that they have. This will allow them to get support and mentorship from areas outside of their organization or unit. I also tell them not to get drawn up into the drama that often occurs on their units. Finally, they need to protect themselves. Too often, men are used to help with lifting and transferring patients. This can put a strain on their bodies. They need to do many things to protect themselves from injury. They also need to learn how to work in areas where they are often the minority. The best thing that they can do is to maintain a professional demeanor at all times.

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.

 

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