A Broader View of Patient Care: Effective Communication

A Broader View of Patient Care: Effective Communication

Ask anyone about a memorable experience they had as a patient and they will invariably describe an interpersonal one:

“The team was nasty. They rolled their eyes when I asked for anything, talked about their vacations while putting in my IV as if I wasn’t there and in pain, and chatted loudly near my room at all hours of the night.”

“My nurses were the best. They always gave a report to each other in front of me, including me in the plan, they checked on me often, and patiently answered my questions.”

In both of these examples, the concern of the patient is less about the skill level with which the injury or disease was managed, but rather the care team’s ability to communicate effectively and considerately with the patient. Furthermore, evidence suggests patients who have a good rapport with clinicians do better overall. And it doesn’t end with the patient. Effective communication among members of the care team is just as essential to the patient’s well-being as direct interaction with the patient themselves.

Communication and Outcomes

A fundamental feature of quality patient care is bedside manner. Although this implies the inpatient setting, it includes all interpersonal engagement with patients. Practicing empathy and establishing trust are two benefits of effective communication that not only makes the experience more pleasant for the patient and the team, but also it improves clinical outcomes.

It’s not difficult to understand why. A patient with less stress is physiologically better off. A patient who trusts their providers may be more candid about sensitive and pertinent health history information, such as recreational drug use and sexual behaviors. Similarly, a transparent interprofessional care team may be more willing to admit mistakes or ask questions without fear of ridicule.

Guidelines for Effective Communication

Although the specialized skills of all clinical professionals are essential, the importance of effective communication with and about the patient cannot be overlooked. Consider the following guidelines for effective communication:

  • Greet patients and colleagues.
  • Inform the patient before touching them or undertaking tasks.
  • When in doubt, ask.
  • Reserve casual conversation for breaks and non-clinical areas.
  • Act with integrity: treat patients as if their loved ones are around.

Such simple considerations can have a tremendous impact on the patient encounter, in addition to making it a more pleasant and fulfilling experience for everyone.

Careers In Nursing Informatics

Careers In Nursing Informatics

It’s not an exaggeration to say that technology has become the driving force behind every industry and health care is no exception. Clinical informatics is a thriving field for all types of clinical professionals who have expertise in information technology. For nurses, it presents the opportunity to improve patient care by participating in the evolution of health care on a systematic level.

Most nurse informaticists have nursing experience and an advanced degree, either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), with a focus on clinical informatics. Most nursing schools offer these types of degrees today.

The Role of Nurse Informaticist

More rigorous experience and education requirements are warranted for nurse informaticists because often they fill leadership and consultant roles. For example, a nurse informaticist may be part of nursing administration within a hospital, serving as a liaison between staff nursing and the executive team. In this instance, the nurse informaticist serves as a resource for both: educating nurses on effective and efficient use of electronic health records (EHR) and other relevant technology, and translating any issues or insight into a pertinent context for leadership, some of whom may be non-clinical.

Some nurse informaticists find themselves working in the business and technology sectors, completely removed from the clinical setting. In such cases, nurse informaticists are often considered consultants, whereby they serve as clinical experts advising and overseeing the development of new technology relevant to nursing. For instance, companies that develop EHRs hire nurse informaticists to analyze if the implementation and evolution of their technology are feasible in the real world of nursing. Because health care technology is in a state of constant progression, these nurse informaticists often find themselves with permanent positions within these sectors.

Indirect patient care

One consideration for every nurse interested in informatics to consider is the cessation of direct patient care. Although nurse informaticists in clinical settings may interact with patients, there are few if any informatics positions that include typical nursing tasks. Instead, the nurse informaticist’s prior experience as a nurse serves as a boon to implementing positive changes in care that benefit nurses and patients alike. In this way, the nurse informaticist can be considered a provider of indirect patient care, as they are empowered to improve patient care on a greater scale than they otherwise could as bedside nurses, especially as technology has an increased role.

How to Create Change in Your Unit

How to Create Change in Your Unit

One way to stand out as a leader in your organization is to make a positive change in your unit. It may not be easy, but changes can make a drastic impact on patient care and staff satisfaction. If you are thinking about making a move into leadership in the future, bringing about change is a great way to set yourself up for job advancement.

First, you need a problem to fix. Identify an issue that is creating problems for staff or patients alike. It really should not be too hard to find an issue. What are staff or patients complaining about? What practice doesn’t make sense because it is overly complicated and inefficient? Brainstorm some solutions to consider.

Next, share some well thought out ideas with your manager or member of your leadership team. Create a SBAR (situation, background, action, recommendation) to give them that will outline the problem and what you’re going to do about it. If you have an idea that your manager supports, you could get dedicated paid time to work on the issue.

Once you garner support from your manager or another leader, you must take a deep dive into the problem so you can determine potential solutions. You’d be surprised that many fixes or solutions are cost-effective meaning they require little to no money to implement a change. After developing a potential solution, you will want to clearly articulate the potential impact this change would have. In other words, you have to understand why this change is important. This will help you gain buy-in from staff when implementing that change.

Lastly, you want to do a pilot test or test the change. This is the do or die time for the proposed solution. You will create data and implement that change to see if your solution solved the problem or not. Were patients more satisfied with their care? Did a process take less time? Did fewer errors occur? If the data didn’t change, you will have to go back to the drawing board and determine a more effective solution. If you made a drastic impact, then you should make the change permanent.

When you go through the process and make a permanent change, add this to your resume and CV! These are great experiences to reference in job interviews. The difference you make for your team and workplace will set yourself apart and can also benefit your day to day work as well as your future opportunities.

The Entrepreneurial Nurse: Unusual Side Hustles and Career Transitions

The Entrepreneurial Nurse: Unusual Side Hustles and Career Transitions

 

Many nurses have answered the call to entrepreneurship, starting successful part-time endeavors or profitable full-time enterprises. The nurses profiled here started interesting businesses that are unusual, creative, or outright quirky.

Learn from these nurses as they describe their start-up experiences, and from some business development experts who advise nurses. They will likely spark ideas for your own entrepreneurial adventure.

 

Michelle Podlesni, RN

President of the National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA)

 

What do you advise nurses who want to start a business?

I always ask them: What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? Nurses are creative, and there are always ways to express more of who they are. You can design a workstyle around your lifestyle. We’re more than one thing—we may be moms, sisters, executives, fundraisers. Don’t limit yourself, and your potential. There’s no secret to business—it’s simple but, it’s not easy.

To make anything a business you need to make sure you have three things: Somebody who wants, needs, and desires it—and who is willing to pay for it. You have to be able to produce your widget, content, or product. You also have to administer money effectively and profitably. I always advise nurses to identify the fastest path to cash. Bigger than your money investment, even, is your time commitment.

 If a nurse doesn’t have a strong interest or passion, then what?

Some nurses don’t want to do their own thing, they want a business in a box. Franchises are well-suited to nurses. And there are all kinds of opportunities out there. I do have one big caveat —always test your assumptions before investing. Nurses don’t do enough due diligence. Do proper investigation before putting money in anything, whether an MLM, franchise, or a website design service.

What does the NNBA offer someone new to that path?

About 50% of our members are nurses who are aspiring entrepreneurs. We have many resources and tools on our website and Facebook page. Nurses interested in more freedom, flexibility and financial rewards can also attend our Nurse Entrepreneurship & Career Alternatives Conference. It will be held September 27-29, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

Lolita Korneagay, RN, BSN, MBA, LNC

Nurse Medical Cannabis Consultant and Founder of Cansoom

 

Tell us about your unusual new venture.

I started Cansoom in 2017, and my business is all about teaching people to use cannabis in a healthier way. There are two types of people that I teach: Regular people and medical professionals—that’s the train-the-trainer portion of my business.

Cannabis is important because there are 40 million people in the U.S. who use it. (It’s legal in over 30 states for medicinal use, and for recreational use in 10 or 11 states right now.) Year by year, the users are increasing, and medical professionals need to be prepared. But there are not a lot of opportunities for them to learn.

What was the genesis of your business?

It grew out of a personal need. I was diagnosed with a condition and was in a lot of pain. I had surgery, but the pain continued. I thought: If medical marijuana can help cancer patients, maybe it can help me. It took 22 months to come up with a treatment plan. There were no authoritative books, so I tested everything on myself. Then I put it in a handbook, and later I put together classes.

What’s your advice for a nurse who wants to become a medical cannabis consultant?

If you don’t have a passion for a certain business, you won’t be able to keep going. We need nurses to be patient advocates and to dispel myths. Within the African American community, for instance, marijuana has negatively affected it because people were imprisoned for just possession. But that’s not the case anymore.

 

Gwen Jewell, RN, BSN, CWS

Founder of Jewell Nursing Solutions

 

How did you come up with the idea for your wound care pillows?

I worked on a med-surg unit and started asking: Isn’t there anything better for bed sores? Most professionals say to turn patients and reposition them every two hours. But there is so much more to it than that. It’s not easy. No wonder we get more and more pressure ulcers.

I know a nurse who has been a nurse for her whole life and she’s in her 80s. The whole time she never saw a pressure ulcer. At least 50% of what I see now as a wound care nurse is preventable. A nurse’s day is getting more and more crowded with technology. There is less time to do the simple, basic stuff like turning a patient.

My side hustle has been trying to figure out how to make a support cushion that honestly works, as comfortable as possible, without touching the bedsore.

How did you design and develop your invention?

I called up a foam manufacturer and they gave me chunks of foam. I bought a knife to cut the foam and sew the cover. I tested it on myself and others like my brother who is paralyzed from a spinal cord injury.

It’s hard to get this information to the people who need it. There’s a long learning curve. I finally bought Google ads and sell them, mostly to patients at home. I work on it whenever I can before going to work. (I work swing.) It’s become a passion to put it out in the world. I want to leave a legacy and make a real impact toward creating a world where pressure wounds are a thing of the past.

What’s your advice to nurses with a product idea?

Just do it! We have a whole industry around nursing innovation. Like the woman who developed the colostomy bag, way back near WWI time. She did it for her sister, a young woman with chronic Crohn’s who fell into a depression after surgery. She struggled for 10 years to get anyone to listen.

If you have a good idea, then lean into it. Don’t quit your day job. Test it out first. Fear is the biggest deterrent. We’re in a nursing shortage, so we are always needed and can always get work. So, don’t be afraid.

 

 

Clifton Joullian, RN, BSN

The Nurse Farmer

 

How did you come to start this venture?

In studying for my bachelor’s and gathering data, I found some research related to the health benefits of gardening. I was a backyard farmer, so I asked myself: What if I could teach people how to grow their own food organically and how that could help promote health? I had a conversation with Michelle [Podlesni] at the NNBA and she told me it was a great concept, to go to Facebook, create a page, and see where it goes.

How do you fit it in with your nursing job and family life?

My husband and I both grew up in Mobile, Alabama—when I took a job as a travel nurse, we went to Vallejo where we had a large—by California standards—farm and grew citrus, vegetables, and kept hens. That’s where our two sons were raised. We adopted them when they were 4 and 6—and they’re now 18 and 20. For them, gardening was more of a chore. But children will eat more fruits and vegetables if they raise them and those habits go with them into adulthood. It’s like a piece of art: if you raise it, you’re going to share it with others and eat it.

What’s next for you as The Nurse Farmer?

I’m not making money yet, but I plan to kick it up a notch. After both our sons graduated, we moved back to Alabama last year, onto a 10-acre farm. The climate is different, and I made some poor choices, but I’m getting back into Alabama mode. We’ve already got some vegetables; next is herbs and flowers to attract pollinators.

I’m working on a collaboration with The Nature Nurse, Susan Allison, that we hope to launch next year. I’m working with a new local farmers market doing free BP checks. I’m hoping to do cooking demonstrations, like showing people how to process tomatoes, turn them to Creole sauce, but without the salt.

 

Nancy Joyner, RN, MS, APRN-CNS, ACHPN

Owner of Mya & Me therapy dog team and author of Through Myas Eyes

 

How did you start your entrepreneurial journey?

I’ve worked for 40 years as a nurse—I tell people I’m seasoned, not old! I also work as a nurse mentor for a group of diverse nurses. I’ve done everything in nursing—from NICU to hospice—but my specialty is palliative care. When I incorporated Mya as a therapy dog in my practice, she brought so much comfort and joy. I’m retirement age and was having physical and other medical issues so I wanted to try something less demanding.

What was helpful to you in launching your book?

I found the [NNBA] and started a five-year plan there. A booklet was the easiest thing to publish, so I wrote What If the Doctor Asks Me About CPR? My second book was a “real book,” Through Mya’s Eyes, which is told from her point of view. The unique thing about my book is that includes color artwork, drawings, and paintings from students ages 14 to 18. The book is for a younger, family-oriented audience.

You have a multidimensional enterprise—what else do you do?

I own Njoy Publishing, Nancy Joyner Consulting [palliative care consulting service], and a pet sitting business, too. Mya, my therapy dog, is part of my practice. A therapy dog has to go through a lot of training so she can go to the scene of an accident or she can be around during an assisted activity. A therapy dog has to be invited, and there can only be one dog at a time. Mya is a favorite with patients with dementia: They can be mute, and then all of a sudden, with her, they will talk.

 

 

Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN

The Nerdy Nurse and Cofounder of The Health Media Academy

 

What’s the best way for a nurse to explore entrepreneurship?

I always recommend nurses start a business as a side hustle, because it’s too stressful otherwise. If you start off full-time, it’s too hard, especially if you’re the primary breadwinner, which many nurses are. Figure out something you can do part-time on the side and do that. As a nurse, you can work three days a week on the floor and one on your business, and the rest can be for your family. You have to make time for your family—if not, your family will resent it and you really need their support to succeed.

How do you get so much done, with a corporate job, a blog, and now the Academy?

You have to be focused. A lot of people aren’t strategic; they fly by the seat of their pants. That little bit of time that you’ve devoted to your business, you have to be 100% focused to write that blog post. Ask: Is it a task that will produce revenue? However, sometimes a business just finds you. I didn’t start blogging with the intent to produce revenue. I started my blog because it was fun, it was my hobby, like other people crochet. At first, my blog didn’t make money. If it’s not fun, you might as well work more hours at your job.

With so many business options, how does a nurse decide what to pursue?

Don’t begin with deciding if you’ll be selling essential oils or CBD oils. I started my business by focusing on making connections. It’s better to build a personal brand first and cast a net that’s a little wider before niching down. Focus on general wellness, healthy eating, and healthy living; get known for that, then after you’re trusted, later you can sell oils. Build your brand first and your revenue later. Know that it’s a long game, and you may not earn income for six to nine months. It’s been said that “there are riches in niches,” but you don’t want to start out so hyper- focused that you have no ability to pivot if you see a business model isn’t right for you.

What part of the entrepreneurial journey is hardest for nurses?

Nurses are used to hard work, but business is marketing and sales and they’re not comfortable with that. But think about it: everything you do in nursing is a sales pitch—time to ambulate after surgery—that’s a sales pitch. Nurses are masters of persuasion and educating patients on the benefits of completing a task. They just don’t realize that’s what sales is and that they already know how to make a sales pitch; they just call it education.

 

Jon Haws, RN, BSN

Founder and CEO of NRSNG

 

Do you find that any particular skillset or mindset is crucial for entrepreneurs?

One of my favorite quotes is “you are only as successful as the level of problem you are able to solve.” I have no idea who said that, but it has had a profound impact on growing NRSNG. To me, it means you have to be able to take on greater and greater challenges as you grow your business. So, to answer the question, I believe that one of the most important skills a business owner can possess would be the ability to manage chaos and roll with the problems and punches. Just like in nursing, there are 1,000,000 things you can focus on, but only a few matter. Being able to identify those few problems that matter and solve them will help you and your business grow.

What tips do you have for nurses employed full-time who want to make a total transition?

Patience. Many people think they have to “win” today. This mindset will lead them into doing things that simply make money versus doing things that benefit their customers. It’s all about building something that brings real value to the world . . . not about just quitting your job. I think when the customer really becomes your focus versus just trying to make enough to quit a job, this will reflect in your business. Customers will notice that you really do care and you are fighting to solve their problem.

Any other advice for our minority nurse readers about entrepreneurial life?

At NRSNG our mission is to end the nursing shortage. This is a global problem with a huge scale. We respect the enormity of what we are trying to do and that drives our decisions. If we had small goals, we would make small decisions. Instead, we adopt a world-changing goal and make all of our decisions from that vantage point.

There really isn’t anything “easy” about the entrepreneur life, but it truly is the most fulfilling journey in the world. Watching users find success with your product, watching employees buy into the mission, watching your kids find love for the company. It’s incredible. Find a big mission and chase it like hell!

 

 

Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP

Founder and President of Exceptional Nurse

 

How did you come to start Exceptional Nurse?

Lauren, my daughter, was born in 1986 and later diagnosed with autism, OCD, epilepsy, and a host of other autism-related challenges. I quickly became an advocate for her, and overtime expanded my advocacy efforts to include nurses and nursing students with disabilities.

Is it a business, or a nonprofit, or a passion project?

Exceptional Nurse is a nonprofit resource network for nurses and nursing students with disabilities. The nonprofit provides information, support, mentors, employment opportunities, social media, and related articles. It also awards scholarships to nursing students with disabilities.

What entrepreneurial lessons have you learned?

Do what you love! Being a risk taker is important along with being resilient… moving past setbacks and criticism. A strong work ethic is also important—being an entrepreneur isn’t a 9-5 job! It takes hard work and perseverance to succeed. Continue to learn new skills, network with others, and ask for help when needed. Give as much as you take. Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people. Manage money wisely.

What advice do you have for our readers?

To my fellow nurses and nursing educators, I would stress the importance of recognizing that disability is part of life…for everyone! Nurses with disabilities have knowledge, experience, and skills to share. They have walked the walk and gained insight into patient care. Their experiences inform and benefit their practice. Many have a passionate desire to care for others. Nurses with disabilities can be the best role models for patients.

 

Paul Scrivens

Founder of Dare to Conquer

 

What productivity tips do you have for nurses who are employed full-time but want to launch a side hustle?

It’s tough. Mentally, the idea of making it all work is easy, but the execution is really hard. Usually it isn’t because of time. You can always make time. The biggest problem is willpower. At the end of the day, after working your tail off, you usually don’t [have] the willpower to get more things done.

The best thing you can do is come up with a long-term gameplan and lay out the tasks that you need to get done. Then break those tasks down as much as possible into smaller chunks. Now that you have these small chunks, take a look at your schedule.

For about a week, keep a journal with you at all times and every hour that you’re up, write down what you did for that hour. What you’ll usually notice is that the times you aren’t working or sleeping, there are lots of gaps where you’re not really doing anything.

Fill those gaps with bursts of effort where you get your tasks done. If you find that at the end of the day you mentally can’t do more things, then wake up earlier and get them done. Diet and exercise also go a long way.

 

Choosing a Nursing Career: How to Choose One That Suits Your Needs

Choosing a Nursing Career: How to Choose One That Suits Your Needs

Congratulations! You did it; you sweated through your years of nursing school, passed the NCLEX, and have earned your well-deserved title of registered nurse. Now that the dust has settled and real life is about to begin, you will need to decide which career path within nursing you would like to pursue, and there are plenty to choose from!

We all know that some specialties pay better than others, but as nurses we also know that although we are usually working to support ourselves and our families, money is still not everything. It is so important to work at a job that we truly love, and feel a degree of satisfaction that will help you thrive in your environment.

So, how do you decide which field suits you best, which one you will enjoy, feel accomplished, and truly make a difference?

Some nurses take their career path with a specific dream in mind, often knowing exactly what type of work they want to do in the nursing field, either based on a role model they always looked up to or a fascination and interest in a particular area of nursing. Like the little girl who always idolized her school nurse and always dreamt that one day she would spend her days tending to little children’s boo-boos that occur in the school setting. But most people are not so clear on exactly what they want to do with their nursing degree.

Although the most common nursing career is found within the walls of the hospital, there are still plenty of opportunities for nursing jobs in other settings. “They also have to think about opportunities outside of the hospital,” says nursing career coach Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, referring to nurses on a quest for the perfect nursing career. Did you know that there are over 100 nursing job opportunities out there that require an RN degree? The locations can vary from nursing care facilities, prisons, hospitals, military bases, schools, doctors’ offices, to administrative positions such as working for an insurance company, or as a legal nurse. There is truly a job type to match the personality and needs of every nurse out there!

Know Your Strengths

The first thing you need to do is figure out what your strengths are in order to know which field you will perform best in. You will need to look for a job within an environment that is in sync with your personality and temperament. Do you thrive on challenges and adrenaline? If the answer is yes, then it may be a good idea to look for a job in the emergency room or as a trauma nurse. If you are slower paced, methodical and detail oriental, a research nurse may be the ideal career for you.

Another question to ask yourself is “what role I would like to play in my job? Am I a natural leader? Or would I rather be the one taking the order and following what others dictate to me?” This will help you decide if an administrative position is best for you, or it would you be better for you to deal directly with patients.

One more thing to keep in mind is that different positions come with different levels of pressure and responsibility. Often higher salary positions are more demanding and require you to give more of yourself. You have to honestly ask yourself if you feel that you are up to the task, and are ready to deal with the constant pressures that come along with this kind of role.

Although some people are very in touch with their inner selves and know exactly what they want, not everyone is so self-aware, and that is totally okay as well. There are many online resources for nurses to help them discover which specialty suits them best based on a list of questions. But it is still highly recommended to do some inner homework by asking yourself the above questions to truly find the job where you will thrive.

Assess Your Options

Once you figure out where your interests lie, you will have to go to the next step; seeing the available options within your location area. Not only does the physical location matter, but the hours and working conditions are important as well. Do you have children at home who need you to be home at a certain time? Make sure to discuss all your needs with your potential employer to avoid any miscommunications and unpleasant situations from occurring later down the line.

Get Acquainted with the Job

It is also a good idea to intern or do some shadowing in a job setting that interests you. That way you can see if you actually enjoy the work, not just envision yourself liking the job. You should also talk to those in that particular field and hear them out about the general work, and ask them any specific questions that you might have.

Also, keep in mind that if there is no available job in the specific department that you want, it still may be a good idea to take a job in another department since it is easier to later be transferred to your desired department within the facility than get hired as an outsider.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you are not married to your job. It may be good idea to just start out as a general nurse without a specialty, just to “get your feet wet”, and get a feel of what you enjoy and in which area you excel in. Also, as time goes on you may feel that you are ready for a change, and that is totally normal. You may want to change your field of nursing work, and many even continue their education for a specific specialty after being a nurse for years.

The bottom line is, it is important to be passionate about your work and love what you do. As the famous saying goes, “love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life.” When you truly love what you do, you feel accomplished and you are actualizing your potential and using your talents and strengths in the best possible way. And what could be better than that?

Retirement Planning for Nurses

Retirement Planning for Nurses

Are you saving for retirement? Here’s your guide to getting on track with securing your financial future.

Saving for retirement can often feel so daunting that you push it to the back of your mind. When trying to manage your career and other personal finance goals such as buying a house and paying down debt, retirement planning and investing often takes a back seat. You know you should ask your HR department about the 401(k) plan your company offers, but you never get around to it. But it’s worth the effort now so that you are well-prepared for the future.

The truth is many Americans are not saving for their golden years. According to a 2018 survey by Northwestern Mutual, one in five Americans has nothing saved for retirement. And 78% of Americans are “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about affording a comfortable retirement. One in three Baby Boomers (33%), the generation closest to retirement age, have between $0-$25,000 in retirement savings.

Generations X and Y are often saddled with student loan debt and stagnant wages, making it a struggle to save.

While these are scary facts, the good news is that once you take the time to educate yourself on the basics of retirement planning and you take a few smart steps to invest, you can largely put retirement investing in the back of your mind and not feel guilty that you aren’t taking necessary action.

Jane Bryant Quinn, author of How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide, says many people don’t want to think about retirement planning. She also says that making projections and calculating retirement budgets can be a pain but is important to do.

“You have to add up your savings, estimate what you’ll get from Social Security, make an investment plan, estimate how much income your investments will provide, and estimate your retirement expenses,” says Bryant Quinn.

To help figure all of this out, Bryant Quinn says to create budgets. “If you’re married, make three estimated budgets—one for you as a couple, one for you if your mate dies first, one for your mate if you die first. For example, married couples get two Social Security checks (one for each). When one of you dies, the survivor will get the larger check but lose the other one. So, you have to plan for all circumstances,” she says.

Daniel Burke, CFP, ChFC, president of Burke Financial Group, LLC, says nurses spend their entire working careers caring for the needs of others, but often by doing this, they tend to neglect important planning components for themselves.

Are you ready to take action? Below are answers to the most common questions about retirement planning and investing to get you started on the road to a secure future.

What Are My Retirement Dreams?

Start with finding your why. What motivates you when you dream about your retirement? Do you want to spend a year traveling around the country in an RV? Do you want to move to a new city? Do you want to spend more time on hobbies such as gardening, crafts, or learning to speak Spanish? Or perhaps you want more time to devote to friends and family or a cause close to your heart.

Identifying the life you’d like to retire to can serve as a strong motivator as you start down the path of savings. It’s much easier to devote 15% of your income to your retirement account versus spending that money on something fleeting when you can envision the life you’re saving for.

How Do I Get Started?

“Benefits through the employer are a great place to start as nurses begin planning for themselves and their families,” says Burke.

Educate yourself on the retirement benefits offered by your employer. If your employer offers a 401(k) or 403(b) option with a matching benefit, sign up for the match immediately. If you are not taking advantage of your employer’s match, you are literally leaving free money on the table.

If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) option, then open a Roth IRA through a brokerage such as Fidelity or Vanguard. Contributions made to a Roth are after-tax contributions, but your money and earnings grow tax-free (meaning you will not pay taxes on any returns you earn from your investments).

What If I Haven’t Been Saving?

If you haven’t been saving anything for retirement, it’s important not to beat yourself up. You can’t go back and change the past, but you can commit to saving going forward.

Bryant Quinn offers the following advice, depending on your age.

New Grads: “Start a savings account, to have a little cash on hand. Put a little into your employer’s retirement plan, despite your student loan. If you change jobs, don’t cash out the amount you saved, take it with you to a new job,” says Bryant Quinn.

Mid-Career: Higher earning years means higher savings. “In your retirement plan, chose funds that lean heavily to stock market investments. It doesn’t matter if stocks go down. Throughout history, they have always come back,” says Bryant Quinn. “You have the time to wait. It’s your best shot at a nest egg. Keep contributing to your plan, even if your kids are in college (or at least try to).”

Near Retirement: Time to plan. “Keep investing in stock-owning mutual funds,” says Bryant Quinn. “You will probably live another 30 years (or more—my mom made it to 103). Over such a long period of time, stocks always go up.”

How Much Should I Save?

If you’re starting from scratch, a good starting point is to invest enough to get any company match offered by your employer. This is essentially free money and everyone should take advantage of it. For instance, if your company offers a 5% 401(k) match, you should invest no less than 5%. But that’s just a starting point.

Another strategy that Bryant Quinn suggests is to simply start by taking at least 5% out of every paycheck and putting it into your 401(k) or 403(b). “If you’re already contributing, increase the amount. What will happen when you get a slightly smaller net paycheck? Nothing will happen. We all tend to spend whatever money we have in our checking accounts. If there’s less in your account, you’ll spend less—even without a budget,” she says. “You’ll make small adjustments without realizing it. It’s the only magic I know in personal finance.”

If your company does not offer a 401(k) program or a match, you can open a Roth IRA through a brokerage service on your own.

“If you have no plan [at work], Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) can be purchased at low-cost no-load mutual fund groups such as Vanguard. They’re available at banks, too, but usually with higher fees. Always choose low-cost investments,” says Bryant Quinn.

Once you start gaining some confidence in your knowledge and are eager to save more Bryant Quinn suggests utilizing financial resources, such as online retirement calculators and budgeting tools to estimate retirement living expenses.

Overall, determine a percentage goal that works for you and challenge yourself to increase it incrementally (e.g., every six months or annually). You can also boost your savings effortlessly by automatically investing any annual or performance raises you receive. If you were living on what you made before you got a raise, just keep living off of that amount and invest the extra income.

Do I Need A Financial Planner?

If all of this sounds complicated and you would like a helping hand, consider working with a financial advisor. But choose wisely as many financial advisors get paid by selling you on specific mutual funds, often with high fees. These fees will eat away at your nest egg.

Your best bet is to hire an independent advisor who is fee-only or paid directly by you by the hour. Your company may provide consultations with an advisor from the administrator of your 401(k)/403(b) plan, but it’s important to remember that their loyalty is first and foremost with their employer, not you.

What Is the Biggest Mistake I Could Make?

“Not saving enough,” says Bryant Quinn. “You can save money, even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

You have Successfully Subscribed!