During the holidays, one of the biggest things most people lack is time. With so much extra squeezed into these weeks at the end of the year, it’s hard to finish up all the tasks on your list let alone find time to enjoy yourself.
But all that holiday hectic rush can seep into your work day making you feel like you are on a hamster wheel. At work you worry about everything you have left undone on the home front, and at home you worry about all the things you need to finish up at work.
How can you calm this cycle and make your work day more efficient? Here are a few tips to keep you on track.
State Your Intention
As you transition from work to home or home to work, make a conscious choice to refocus your energy. It might sound silly, but stating your intentions for the day out loud can help you shut out all the nagging details of one area of your life to focus on the details at hand.
As you walk into work, you can say, “Today I am going to focus on being the best nurse I can. I especially want to _______ (fill in the blank with your intentions—comfort my patients who are melancholy because of the season, nail my big presentation, mentor the student nurse who will be on the floor).
When you head for home, review your day and then bring your home life to the front. State your intention with a simple, “I am going to give my home life my attention now. I will use my time tonight to ________ (reconnect with myself or my family, enjoy time with friends, focus on my classwork, finish my holiday shopping).
Make a List
Leaving one place behind to focus on the other is a lot easier if you feel like you aren’t forgetting something vital. Keep a list of what you want to accomplish each day, each week, and even each month if that’s possible. At the end of your day, review your list and cross off what you managed to get done. Break it down into an order that works for you. You can accomplish one big task (finishing the unit’s schedule) and five small tasks (booking a conference room for a meeting, checking your vacation balance, remembering to tell a patient a funny story) or you can choose two big tasks. Maybe your day needs to be filled with lots of tiny details that need to get done, but understand that a big task will be impossible to fit in. List even the small tasks like booking a dentist appointment or the long-range ones like thinking about your upcoming annual review. Those are the details that get lost in the shuffle and can cause you to feel less in control.
Use a Timer and a Calendar
Being realistic about what you can accomplish means being able to manage your time efficiently and effectively. It’s unrealistic to devote 30 minutes to shopping for presents and visiting a friend. At work, you can’t expect to write a thorough report in a four-hour block if you have two meetings in the same time frame.
For a while, time how long you spend on a task so you can more accurately plan your time. Have no judgment or expectations about being faster or doing more. Just knowing how you work can make your life easier.
When you have that down, start using your calendar to plan blocks of time when you can realistically get things done. Book specific time to accomplish the smaller things and use your calendar to remind you.
Staying on track and on top of all you have to do at work and away from work can be overwhelming. But there are plenty of ways you can take control and make your life easier. See what works best for you and stick with it.
Being a nurse, we are often required to work long shifts. When nurses work extended hours, most of them do not have time to eat properly. This can adversely affect their health and well-being. Some nurses even develop long-term medical conditions, such as heartburn, indigestion, and peptic ulcer disease. Previous studies have shown that jobs with high stress and responsibility and shift work contribute to peptic ulcer disease and metabolic disorders. Eating for good health is one way that nurses can reduce the impact of stressors on the body and promote their health while working the night shift.
Here are four steps to help you maintain healthy eating and improve your nutrition when working a shift schedule.
1. Eat before going to work.
It is important that you have your main meal before going to work. If you are on the afternoon shift, you should have your main meal at mid-day around noon. If you are on the evening shift, eat your main meal at about 6 pm or 7 pm. You should also have a small meal or healthy snacks such as nuts, apple, and crackers during your shift. Try to avoid eating large meals during the night as it can cause heartburn, gas, or constipation.
2. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Bring a bottle of water to work. Water can help you to stay alert and not feel so tired during your shift. Avoid drinking sugary soft drinks and alcohol before, during, and after work. Unsweetened herbal tea and low sodium 100% vegetable and fruit juices are other nutritious beverages that you can drink.
3. Avoid fatty, fried, or spicy foods.
Try not to eat greasy foods or foods with high fat, such as cheeseburgers and fried food, before going to work because these foods may lead to discomfort and indigestion.
4. Limit (or moderate) your caffeine consumption.
Try to limit caffeine intake at least four to five hours before the end of your shift. Since caffeine can stay in your system for many hours, this can affect your sleep when you are ready for bed.
As families and friends gather for Thanksgiving Day this year, there will likely be oft-repeated tales about favorite recipes or the family stories that always make everyone laugh. In the midst of these gatherings is an excellent opportunity to learn more about what makes your family unique – in every sense of the word.
In 2004, the Surgeon General, through the Department of Health & Human Services, designated Thanksgiving as National Family History Day. This is an opportunity for all families to learn more about the common and rare diseases that can run through several generations.
As you all reminisce about holidays gone by, it’s a good time to begin documenting the various health conditions family members have. If you have high blood pressure and other relatives do too, it’s a great opportunity to educate the younger family members about the disease in an open, honest, and informed manner. The teens in the family don’t need to be terrified about the potential for heart disease or diabetes, but they should be armed with information about how they can help keep themselves healthy.
National Family History Day gives families a chance to uncover common threads they might not have realized. While the Surgeon General’s office found that most Americans believe in the important of knowing a family history, only about one-third have ever tried to document their own family’s health history.
What should you ask about? Really anything that might help you. Once you know the common threads, you can all learn about how to stay healthy or manage those specific conditions. For instance, are there relatives with breast and ovarian cancer (especially early onset) from generations ago? What about testicular cancer? When everyone is together, you can act as an educated group to make sure family members are getting appropriate testing or monitoring.
Because the Surgeon General considers family history as such an important health indicator and screening approach, the office has created the My Family Health Portrait online monitoring tool to help families document conditions and diseases. This tool means the documented history can be shared among family members and updated as health changes occur. Family members can even bring a copy of the document to healthcare visits to help inform their health team about important information.
Nurses don’t need anyone to tell them what kind of a predictor family history is. Each day, they see families with shared conditions. But if they don’t discuss their own detailed family health histories and if they don’t always ask the right questions, they could be missing some important health information of their own. Many families don’t talk about things like reproductive health problems or of mental health issues. Some might not discuss alcoholism or addiction. But each of these health conditions provides an essential piece of a family’s health picture.
Before you begin this process, the Surgeon General’s office has prepared some tips to help you. You’ll want to be ready to get the information, but realize you might not get everything on the first try. Make sure you are clear about what you are doing and why. Some people don’t like to talk about their health issues, but if they realize it could help save a loved one, they might look at your information gathering in a very different light.
Consider this an ongoing conversation among family members, and that Thanksgiving is just a start. Realize not everyone will be on board. Get as much information as you can without upsetting anyone. Be encouraged by what you can find out – you are helping your family now and for generations to come.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, and nurses are in an excellent position to notice when patients might be suffering from a mental health condition.
Nurses have the knowledge and authority to offer patients the facts about mental health, and they can normalize conditions like depression or anxiety. They can convey the important fact that, like any other medical condition that needs to be treated properly, mental health conditions are a physical and chemical imbalance and not a character flaw.
Although the general attitude toward mental health conditions is gaining more mainstream discussion and acceptance, the attitudes vary greatly. Factors like location or family culture can either normalize depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder make it a forbidden topic. Knowing a little about how your patient sees mental health conditions can help you adapt your approach.
On World Mental Health Day, nurses worldwide can spread the word by offering access to online screening tools through places like Mental Health America or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They can offer referrals to area mental health providers if appropriate. This year’s theme focuses on mental health in the workplace, so it’s also a good time to open up discussions in your workplace about paying attention to our own mental health and how it impacts job performance.
But nurses can also just talk about mental health issues in a nonjudgmental manner to put patients at ease. If someone is struggling with something like racing or unusual thoughts, severe anxiety in public places or about specific topics, or experiencing significant impacts to daily life because of sadness, they want to know they are not alone. Nurses can fill that role with care, compassion, and expertise. They are also there to offer hope that with treatment, the person can feel better and can begin to resume a life they are happier with.
Of course, some patients are reluctant to talk about their mental health directly, but they might bring it up in ways that are less obvious. Nurses can ask direct questions or they can listen for clues in conversations. What are your patients saying? Are they gaining or losing weight? Having trouble sleeping? Becoming more argumentative or less engaged with their family and community? Are they missing work or getting in trouble at work for being late or making errors? Are they drinking more or using recreational drugs?
It’s good to remind patients that a mental health condition doesn’t always require medication, although that is often a good option, and it isn’t always a lifelong condition. Other treatments like therapy, stress reduction, and healthy living basics like exercise, quality sleep, and a good diet also help lesson some symptoms. Sometimes problems are a result of a different condition or a side effect of a medication—factors many people don’t know. Getting to the root of the problems will help a patient find the right treatment plan.
The important message is that help is available, treatment works, and that first step can bring them enormous relief. Your positive attitude and compassion can make a big impression and can influence how people see their condition and think about treatment.
On World Mental Health Day, remain alert to what your patients are telling you. You may be able to help change their lives in a way you didn’t expect.
Nursing students are a disciplined bunch. They balance coursework in both classrooms and labs, clinicals, a social life, and essential self care in a fast-paced and structured environment.
As a new nursing student, how can you make sure you keep everything moving forward but still take care of yourself? Set good habits and now and get your year off to a good start.
1. Be Open to a New Approach
The most successful students aren’t always the smartest ones. The students who do the best are often the ones who learn how to manage their time best and know what their strengths and weaknesses are. You might have been a top student before, but nursing school is a whole new game. Find the best method of time management for you by experimenting, researching time management approaches, and even taking a seminar (almost all schools offer these). One or two hours of learning a new approach can save your hours and hours of lost time and unnecessary stress.
2. Rethink Getting Help
Nursing students don’t always like to ask for help. But if you don’t ask for help when you’re struggling with an assignment or with an overall course load, you risk falling behind or getting grades that aren’t what you expected. If you’re reluctant to ask for help, look at getting help in a new way. Consider the effort as learning from the best. Ask people to let you in on their secret to success. You are asking to make yourself better, not because you lack skills or knowledge. Assistance doesn’t show your failings, it shows your strength.
3. Learn the Delicate Balance
Anyone in nursing school has the potential to burn out. There is always something more to do, another paper to finish, another exam to study for before your head hits the pillow. If you don’t take time for you, no one is going to do it for you. Now is the time to learn your limits and to respect how caring for yourself makes you a better person. Get enough rest and eat well, but also take time to spend with friends and family. Block off some time for solitude if that’s how you thrive. Be good to yourself now and you’ll reap the benefits throughout your career and your life.
4. Be Proud
You are going to have bad days. Nursing school challenges each and every student—that’s why we have excellent nurses. But it won’t always be fun and your confidence is going to take some serious hits. Throughout it all remember to be proud of yourself. Not everyone can make it as far as you have. Remember that and use that to fuel your fire to become the best nurse you can be. When a bad day knocks you over, just get up and keep going.
When dealing with patients, there are times in which nurses need to be their advocates. But have you ever thought about if the instance occurred when you had to act as your own advocate? Janetta Olaseni, RN, BA, HN-BC, CHC, administrator and director of nursing at Hands of Compassion Home Care, Inc., had to do just that.
In February 2013, Olaseni says that while performing a monthly breast self-exam, she discovered a painless lump about the size of a bouncy ball in her left breast. Of course, she went to see her gynecologist. But he told her that it was a normal cyst and that since she was young and didn’t have a family history of breast cancer not to worry about it. If it did become painful, he told her, she could have it removed. Despite what her doctor told her, she felt that something was wrong.
“I immediately did not feel good about his diagnosis and started making plans to have it removed,” says Olaseni. As time went on and life got busier, seeing a surgeon became less important.
“In the meantime, the small ‘ball’ had grown and started to hurt and fill with fluid,” says Olaseni. She quickly made an appointment to be seen. Like her gynecologist, though, the surgeon was treating the lump like a normal cyst and would drain the fluid. After three weeks of this, she requested a lumpectomy.
In September, when she woke up in the recovery room, Olanseni’s surgeon told her that she couldn’t remove the entire lump because she would have had to have taken out nearly half her breast. The once 3 cm lump had grown to 8 cm.
When the biopsy came back, Olanseni’s diagnosis was Stage 3b Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
Today, Olanseni is cancer-free, but who knows what could have happened if she hadn’t insisted on the surgeon listening to her.
“This journey made me so much more compassionate and empathetic towards my patients and their families,” says Olanseni. Ten years ago, she started a home health care company that emphasizes facilitating compassion regarding patient care.
“When you’ve been on the other side with the hospital gown on, having your hair shaved because you do not want chemo to take it out, when you’ve had your porta cath accessed daily, when you’ve had the radiation beam hit close to your vital organs, when you have undergone multiple surgeries, when you’ve gotten therapy and wound care, then you are a true patient advocate,” says Olanseni. “Not only can you say you understand, you really do understand.”