Wellness Off the Clock: How Nurses Can Stay Active and Eat Right

Wellness Off the Clock: How Nurses Can Stay Active and Eat Right

As a nurse, you provide an incredible service for your patients. However, while caring for others, it’s too easy to forget to care for yourself. If you’re in that situation, it’s time to make a change. You may be more susceptible to health issues than others, so you must prioritize your wellness, which you can do during your off-time and at work. Here is some advice for why your health is so important and how to stay active and eat right during your busy life.wellness-off-the-clock-how-minority-nurses-can-stay-active-and-eat-right

Why Wellness And Nursing Must Go Hand-In-Hand

Although most nurses spend a lot of time moving from place to place, it’s still a sad fact that obesity is more common in the nursing field than many may think. The reasons are numerous. 

While nursing is rewarding, it can also be stressful, as you have to ensure that your job is performed correctly, or the patients may have complications. Nursing burnout is a very real thing. Working in stressful environments can cause chronic stress, which can disrupt your hormonal cycle and lead to overeating. Nursing also requires long hours, which can reduce the chances of getting enough sleep at night, and a lack of sleep can affect your metabolism. 

The obesity epidemic is often more dangerous for African Americans. Studies show that African American women have the highest rates of obesity when compared to other groups in the U.S. That’s bad because people who are overweight are also more likely to suffer from different physical ailments, including high blood pressure and potential blood clots. 

There’s also an anxiety component to consider. Worrying that you’re doing what’s right one hundred percent of the time can be very stressful, and an unhealthy diet can compound those issues. Staying healthy, exercising, and being kind and helpful to others can help you stay level and mentally stable during a high-pressure job.

Exercise When You Can

When you have a busy schedule, you need to fit in some form of exercise whenever possible. Luckily, there are ways to squeeze in fitness throughout the day, starting in the morning. If you’re crunched for time and cannot go to the gym, but you have a garage at home, try doing a short workout there. 

You can maximize your garage workouts by doing quick exercises that require little to no equipment. Various programs include 15-minute core workouts, push-up variations and routines, and many beginner exercises that use no equipment. Another idea is to invest in a recumbent or upright stationary bike and put it in the garage. Then, you can work out while reviewing work and job reports to prepare for the day.

Making small adjustments in your routine when you’re at work and at home can help you perform many exercises, including ways to get more cardio. Park further away in the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do calf raises, and stand instead of sitting whenever possible, and you’ll likely notice great results over time.

There are also opportunities to exercise if you work the night shift. Like in the day, you can count your steps and walk more during your shift or practice push-ups or sit-ups during lunch. It can be hard to stick to your workout regime when you’re alone, so get your other nurses involved by having a group workout or yoga routine at some point during the night after the patient’s needs are met. You’ll be more likely to follow your exercise regime if you do it with others.

Nutrition Is Key

As a nurse constantly on the go, stopping for a healthy meal is likely challenging. Instead, you may be tempted to get a quick treat from the vending machine or fast food so you can eat and go. However, while food like that may temporarily fill you, many of those items include trans fats, which can make you feel sluggish and are also bad for your overall physical health..

What you need is a plan. You must have your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, and berries whenever possible. In addition to being the building blocks of a healthy body, many of these food groups can also give you energy to help you stay alert and active when you get to work. 

Most people need a proper routine to fit this food into their lives, so start one. Think about what you want to eat, then go to the grocery store and pack your lunch for work each day—that way, you know that you have healthy food that you can turn to throughout your shift. That way, you know that you have healthy food that you can turn to throughout your shift. It would help if you also packed your lunch with healthy snacks that you can fit in your pocket. A bag of almonds will be tasty while giving you a boost of energy. Granola bars and roasted chickpeas will do the same.

As you likely tell your patients, it’s also vital that you drink enough water throughout the day. At least 8-12 cups. Bring a reusable water bottle with you or keep it at the nurse’s station so you can be reminded to drink, stay healthy, and avoid dehydration. 

Conclusion

As a minority nurse trying to make a difference in your patient’s lives, you must take care of yourself in your off-time to stay strong throughout the day. Finding ways to stay active and eat right will make a big difference.

Laugh Your Stethoscopes Off with Nurse Comedian Kelli Dunham’s Latest Comedy Show

Laugh Your Stethoscopes Off with Nurse Comedian Kelli Dunham’s Latest Comedy Show

Laughter is the best medicine for Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN, a NYC-based nurse, comedian, and writer who has been performing comedy as a nursing side gig for 25 years to help nurses deal with the profession’s stress.Second Helping: Two Dead Lovers, Dead Funny

Dunham’s latest show she wrote and is performing in is called Second Helping: Two Dead Lovers, Dead Funny. Dunham will be performing in NYC, on the Lower East Side’s Caveat on May 18th at 4 pm (with a virtual option May 18th).

The show is part stand-up comedy, part sit-down tragedy, with love and body fluids in the cracks in between. A hilarious queer tragicomedy about death, grief, nuns behaving badly, exploding knee replacements, and the limitations of bootstraps.

“Second Helping is…a love letter to the power of community. This show is a must-see for anyone who’s ever hesitated before asking for help” -Bechdel Theatre.” Second Helping is drop-dead funny” –Go Magazine.

Get Your Tickets

Caveat is at 21A Clinton Street, New York, NY.
Tickets are $15 (early bird, one week before the event), $18, or $23 at the door.
Livestream is $8 and is available for ten days after the event.
Get tickets here.
Admission includes a zine and a special commemorative coloring sheet.
Running time for the opening act and Second Helping is 80 minutes.

Dunham’s sister, who is also a nurse, is opening for her, making it a two-nurse comedy show! She plans to perform the show in Philadelphia and is doing a Midwest tour this summer.

On the surface, the show is about losing partners to cancer, but the actual theme is about learning how to ask for and accept help. “We’re excellent at helping other people but not very good at accepting help,” says Dunham. She says all the clinical instructors she’s talked with have agreed that helping nursing students figure out how and when to ask for help is one of their biggest and most challenging tasks on the hospital floor.

Dunham says she just returned from Hiram College in Ohio, where she performed Second Helping for a group of nursing students. Afterward, they had a two-hour discussion. “They really identified with the theme,” she says.

Dunham is the author of How to Survive and Maybe Even Love Nursing School (FA Davis), the best-selling puberty guides The Boy’s Body Book and The Girl’s Body Book (Cidermill Press), and a collection of hilarious tragicomic essays, Freak of Nurture (Topside Press). Dunham also does some per diem home health.

Making Self-care a Priority

Making Self-care a Priority

As a nurse, youre empathetic and compassionate and go out of your way to ensure you provide your patients with the best possible care. But when it comes to looking after yourself, self-care may get prioritized far down the list – or not at all.making-self-care-a-priority

Such a mindset may be harmful to you and, ultimately, your patients. Nurses are great patient advocates, but “we do need to start advocating for ourselves because you can’t keep helping everyone. Then you dont have anything left in your reserves,” said Linda Roney, EdD, RN-BC, FAAN, associate professor, Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, Fairfield University.

“I think you have to be selfish, which is hard in a selfless profession to balance, but I think that is one of the ways that we can keep ourselves healthy. You have to prioritize yourself,” said Crystal Smith, DNP, RN, NE-BC, director of the medical-surgical unit at Childrens Nebraska.

As healthcare professionals and organizations celebrate Nurses Week with its theme of Nurses Make the Difference,” now is a perfect time to assess your attention to self-care. In this article, well offer practical strategies to help you care for yourself.

No Perfect Time

When it comes to self-care, one of the biggest lessons for me is that self-care is not a one-size-fits-all,” said Roney. Nurses need to be aware of their unique needs.

Another awareness is not to wait for the perfect time for self-care. Roney said you can work on small, incremental changes” for five or ten minutes that can accumulate over a day. You might try habit stacking”: combining a potentially burdensome task with something enjoyable, notes Roney.

Days Off and Zen Dens”

Smith meets with her new nurses at Childrens Nebraska in Omaha to discuss a self-care plan. If a nurse is struggling, Smith can consult the nurses plan and see the measures that might help that person.

One self-care policy at Childrens Nebraska allows nurses to take a day off if they need to recharge—if your tank isnt full enough to come in and give all of yourself that day,” said Smith. There are no negative repercussions should a nurse choose to do so.

Nurses are also encouraged to disconnect completely when they need a break. Its very hard to get away from the work when youre at work,” Smith explained. Nurses are encouraged not to take their work phones on break but to trust that the staff can handle the patients while away.

Another self-care tactic involves Zen dens.” When the hospital opened a new tower two years ago, these rooms were built into each unit. Zen dens have a lock, a massage chair, essential oil diffusers, books, and low lighting. A nurse can connect a phone to a speaker to play quiet music. You can go in there and decompress how you need,” said Smith. 

Smith noted that accessibility of these Zen dens is key. We as organizations have always had places for people to do that, but never right on the unit. It’s tough to get a nurse or even a doctor to leave the unit where their patients are without any way to communicate with them.”

Added to these measures is a Thrive” team, a department dedicated to employee wellness, noted Smith. Two members of Thrive are Howie, a golden retriever, and his handler, David. They may, for instance, join the staff for a debriefing after a difficult patient or family situation. Besides Howie and David, Thrive has a team of trained peer supporters and group facilitators available 24/7 for clinical and non-clinical team members.

making-self-care-a-priority

Howie, the golden retriever, and his handler, David, make their rounds

Whats more, staff are encouraged to go home after a death in the facility. Death in general is very hard, noted Smith, but I would say especially in pediatrics, its usually very traumatic. To expect the nurse who just went through that with a family and a patient to turn around then and take an entirely new patient, the mental load of that is really heavy. And so, to the best of our ability, we try to give them the option to go home.” At the same time, the facility understands that a nurse may want to stay at work instead of going home as a way of coping.

Back to Basics

As a nurse, you also need to take to heart the common-sense advice you probably give to patients about self-care, such as the following:

  • Sleep and downtime. You may want to spend some downtime on your phone, but be wary of it, noted Roney. You feel as if you are relaxing and having a positive experience. But all this time is going on, cutting into your sleep/wake cycle.”
  • Nutrition and hydration. If you talk to any nurse, most of us would agree we would put our needs after our patient, so there are many times we might miss a lunch break, or we may eat several hours later than we usually do because there might be something going on with our patient and we need to put their needs first,” said Roney. As a solution, really be intentional and plan on bringing your meals and snacks to work.” Stay hydrated throughout your shift, noted Roney.

Simple measures such as making sure to take your breaks, eat your meals, and use the bathroom regularly while on shift are a start for self-care, according to Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL, clinical practice specialist, practice excellence team, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). Next, prioritize quiet times and activities that bring you joy each day.

Moments of Gratitude

Practicing gratitude can also help with self-care. In talking to an experienced nurse who was struggling, Smith told her, You guys have to remember that the tiniest things you do make the biggest difference.”

Smith says, Sometimes we must find and center ourselves around those tiny moments of gratitude. Its easy to leave work and feel like your entire day was terrible. But really, you probably did many good things throughout the day.”

Integrating Holistic Approaches in Minority Nursing Practices

Integrating Holistic Approaches in Minority Nursing Practices

According to the AACA, in 2022, 80% of nurses in the United States were white/caucasian. With nurse burnout already a problem nationwide, being a minority in the industry can create even more unique challenges. That includes things like racism from patients or co-workers, discrimination, and even economic hurdles depending on your background and where you grew up.integrating-holistic-approaches-in-minority-nursing-practices

All nurses must care for themselves and infuse wellness into their daily work. However, it might be even more essential for minority nurses to integrate holistic approaches into their careers.

With that in mind, let’s explore the importance of a holistic approach in healthcare and provide actionable insights you can use to enhance patient well-being and improve overall nursing effectiveness.

What Is Holistic Nursing? 

As a nurse, you may be tempted to scroll past the ideas of holistic healthcare practices. But, holistic practices have been used for centuries to help people look inward for physical and mental wellness. Holistic nursing combines Western medicinal practices alongside complementary and alternative care solutions. Holistic nurses go beyond the physical and physiological aspects of medicine and focus on the values and beliefs of their patients. Nurses who practice holistic care also hold themselves to an extremely high standard and lean into five core values of practice:

  • Holistic philosophy and education;
  • Holistic ethics, theories, and research;
  • Holistic self-care;
  • Holistic communication;
  • Holistic caring process.

Paying attention to a person’s entire being can make a big difference in how they feel, especially when in a compromising medical situation. It’s one reason more midwives are taking holistic approaches to pregnant women. A holistic nursing approach can also help to improve your entire department, especially if you’ve been struggling with issues as a minority nurse. When holistic practices are implemented, people will start to look at you as a whole person and value your well-being rather than focusing solely on race identity.

Planning Healthy Holistic Practices

If you want to integrate more holistic practices into your career, it starts by leading a more holistic lifestyle yourself. Changing lifestyle habits and career practices, as well as even influencing your department, can feel overwhelming at first. One of the best ways to start taking a holistic approach to your work and life is to set goals for yourself. SMART goals can keep you motivated and help you recognize when you’ve hit milestones and achievements. SMART goals are:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Attainable;
  • Relevant;
  • Time-Bound.

For example, if you want to focus on specifics, ask yourself what you want to achieve with holistic practices. Why is it essential to make a change, and who will you involve?

You’ll be able to measure your goals through achievements. Maybe you’ll start to feel better, personally. Perhaps you’ll see a change in work culture or the challenges you typically face as a minority. You might even begin to see your patients differently, which can help you fight back against burnout and find more joy in your daily interactions.

As you set goals and develop a strategy for holistic approaches, keep in mind that holistic medicine doesn’t have to somehow diminish your medical knowledge. Rather, it should serve as a complementary approach beyond basic treatment. A holistic approach to healthcare can inspire you to integrate more holistic practices into your daily routine on and off the clock.

Holistic Practices That Can Make a Difference

When you look within to begin your holistic integration, it starts with self-care. Again, this is essential for all nurses. But, when you face some of the unique challenges of being a minority nurse, self-care becomes even more necessary to maintain your mental and physical well-being. Thankfully, these practices don’t require much extra time or effort. Integrate some of the following into your everyday routine:

  • Prioritizing sleep;
  • Eating a healthy diet;
  • Journaling;
  • Connecting with colleagues;
  • Deep breathing;
  • Showing self-compassion.

Daily affirmations can also make a difference, especially when you’re heading into a long shift or dealing with difficult co-workers. Say things like, “I choose to trust my skills and abilities,” or “I know I am a skilled and compassionate nurse.” It might take some time to get comfortable with affirmations, but they will go a long way in improving your overall mindset. When you are kind and compassionate with yourself, you’re more likely to pass on that care to your patients.

Practicing mindfulness is another excellent way to lead a more holistic life and career. Mindfulness can help you manage stress and anxiety and keep you focused on the present. You’ll be less tempted to think about something a patient or co-worker might have said that bothered you or worry about the “what ifs” of your next shift.

There is no question that being a minority nurse comes with a few obstacles. However, by integrating holistic approaches in your life and career, you can reduce personal stress, improve patient care, and change the course of your department and practice.

Are You Caring for Your Nurse’s Brain? 

Are You Caring for Your Nurse’s Brain? 

When it comes to brain health, nurses talk a good game with their patients, but what about the nurse’s brain? Just like all aspects of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, nurses must face up to the fact that they’re human beings, too, and their brains and bodies need thoughtful care just like anyone else’s.

How do you take care of your precious nurse’s brain?

Brain Health Basics: Not Just for Patients

Brain health is something we all need to prioritize. Since many nurses like you experience significant levels of on-the-job stress, disturbed sleep, and fatigue, it’s all the more important to consider how to keep your brain healthy and vibrant. After all, brain health isn’t just for your patients.

According to sources like Harvard Health, the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and numerous studies and articles, brain health isn’t rocket science. The brain is a sensitive yet resilient organ, and for people like nurses who need their brains functioning optimally, the basics are a great place to begin.

All of the research seems to agree that the following comprise the foundation of brain health:

  • Exercise
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Social activity
  • Novel mental stimulation

Exercise: Exercise contributes to cardiovascular health and muscular strength, of course, and it also supports sleep, mental health, and stress reduction. Making sure you get plenty of exercise (at least 150 minutes per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is enough to keep your body moving, tone muscles, and provide significant benefits to your organs, including your awesome brain.

Cardiovascular health: With one American dying every 33 seconds from cardiovascular disease, it’s no wonder it’s the leading cause of death for most of the population.

 Nurses work hard and sometimes eat and sleep poorly and fail to exercise, so this isn’t something you can ignore. Night shiftwork is associated with increased risk. Thus, many nurses who work the graveyard shift need to consider how to maintain cardiovascular health.

Nutrition: Nurses are well-versed in biology and understand that brain health depends on the brain’s hungry cells being bathed with nutritional goodness. It’s also no secret that nurses eat poorly when working long shifts without meal breaks. As such, preparing healthy meals quickly goes out the window.

How well do you eat, and how do you feel your nurse’s brain is being fed? It’s an organ you rely on to be a good nurse, and you ignore its nutritional needs at your peril.

Sleep: Good sleep is something most nurses only dream about, but its importance can’t be overstated. As mentioned above, night shifts can have damaging effects on cardiovascular health. Since humans are the only animals that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep, we must consciously protect ourselves against sleep loss.

Social activity: When we work hard, care for our families, and tend to the needs that modern life demands, our social lives can suffer. However, research demonstrates that increased social activity can lead to higher amounts of grey matter in areas of the brain related explicitly to the development of dementia.

Decreased social isolation, increased mental acuity, and other benefits directly result from your social activity. Thus, hard-working nurses still need to nurture their social lives, friendships, and other connections.

Novel mental stimulation: Research is unambiguous about brain plasticity and the benefits of novel mental activity for brain health. Reading, challenging yourself to do new things, and otherwise engaging your brain are ways to stimulate and keep your brain sharp.

As a nurse, you can read research, study for a certification, or even return to school. You can also read books that interest you, listen to music, take part in brain-stimulating activities like hobbies, and make sure you’re doing things that are cognitively engaging. Lucky for you, nursing itself is generally a very mentally stimulating occupation that requires you to respond to novel situations, interact with others, solve problems, and think critically.

Love Your Brain

Your nurse’s brain is worth much more than its weight in gold. This precious organ is the key to your success, the seat of your brilliant nurse’s mind, and the central organizing powerhouse of all human activity.

Your brain brought you to where you are, including the education, learning, skill-building, life experience, networking, job hunting, and personal and professional growth it took to make you who you are.

Your brain is essential for all bodily processes, as well as the mechanisms of communication, learning, emotion, and the processing of all external stimuli. No matter how stressful life and work, you must prioritize keeping your brain healthy and in optimal condition.

To protect your brain and overall health, you can engage in the practices and habits that will protect against dementia, stroke, heart attack, and other conditions. The rewards are innumerable, and the risks of not doing so are beyond measure. Prioritize your brain, and you’ll reap the dividends for the rest of your days.

Hand Washing Stops Infection’s Spread

Hand Washing Stops Infection’s Spread

The first full week of December is traditionally the time when national Hand Washing Awareness Week is celebrated, and it seems like it always comes at a perfect time. With the country in the middle of a holiday season that is coinciding with a rise in respiratory viruses including Covid, influenza, and RSV and also an uptick in gastrointestinal outbreaks, a reminder about proper hand washing is helpful for everyone.hand washing with soap and water

Even if you think hand washing isn’t something that’s all that important in the face of all the germs circulating, it’s actually one activity that, when done effectively, can reduce the chances of catching or spreading germs and infections in any setting.

Public awareness campaigns such as the Henry the Hand and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Life is Better with Clean Hands, help folks understand the whys and hows of proper hand washing.

From working in a healthcare setting to coming home from the grocery store, thorough hand washing is an important step in taking care of yourself, those in your care, and the wider population.

What exactly makes one hand washing routine better than another? According to the CDC timing and technique do make a difference. Here are some essential times to focus on washing your hands thoroughly:

  • after using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • before, during, and after cooking (especially if you are touching raw meat)
  • before and after seeing a patient
  • when you return home from being outside or in a public setting such a store

It might seem like you’re washing your hands endlessly, but as you pick up germs on your hands throughout the day, a good cleaning is needed. It’s easy to forget to wash your hands. No matter how ingrained it may be, a hectic work day, returning home and unloading groceries, and an unexpected interruption can all disrupt your normal routine. Repitition is key to helping you associate certain times and activities with paying attention to your hands and that routine is key.

As a nurse, being obvious with hand washing is reassuring to patients and helps set a standard of practice in your unit. As a nurse leader, making hand washing a priority for you and your team will help protect them and is also an important step for patient safety. Hospital acquired infections including staph infections and C. difficile are easily spread through contact, so keeping your hands clean at work is critical.

Since so many healthcare organizations use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, most nurses are used to that quick disinfectant when they are on the job. And while hand sanitizers are great at killing most germs, sometimes soap and water will be necessary. When your hands are heavily soiled, have a chemical on them, or what you are doing requires hands that are as sterile as possible, then soap and water is the best option. Soap and water helps you remove dirt, germs, and anything on your hands because you can lather up, scrub, and then rinse it all away.

For such a simple task, hand washing is an outstanding way to stop the spread of germs and help promote health among your team, your family, and your patients.

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