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Tips for recommitting to nursing in the new year

The new year is often a time for retrospection and reflection, especially when it comes to your career. If you’re starting to feel burnt out on nursing but not quite ready for a career change, here is some advice to freshen things up in the new year.

  • Reflect on your past: Sometimes the best way to go forward is to look back. What drew you to nursing in the first place? Why was a career in nursing right for you? Think about the positive experiences you’ve had as a nurse that reaffirmed your career goals. Treat your next shift like it’s your first day; what excites you? What makes you nervous? Sometimes asking these questions can reinvigorate how you approach your work.
  • Connect (and disconnect): If you’re feeling down about your job, sometimes the best solution is to ask for help. Reach out to your peers and develop a support system to help yourself and others. If you think there’s something that could make you happier at work, talk to your managers about it; sometimes a small change can have a profound effect.

    It’s also important to let go sometimes. Being a caregiver, interacting with patients at some of the worst times in their lives can negatively impact your outlook and make your job even more difficult. Try to focus on the good you’ve done for patients and don’t take it personally when a patient struggles or suffers.

  • Commit to the new: Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, taking on new challenges can be a great way to energize your career. Seek out new experiences and opportunities; take the frustrations of the day and channel it toward learning a new skill or pursuing additional training options. Reflecting on your weaknesses can be difficult at first, but identifying them and working towards improvement can be satisfying and build you confidence.

    Another great way to embrace the new is working with nursing students or new nurses. They bring energy and enthusiasm to the job, and becoming a preceptor or informal mentor can be a great way to grow your own enthusiasm while furthering your career.

For more articles about avoiding burnout and developing your career, check out the Health & Wellness section of the Strategies for Nurse Managers Reading Room!

Sleep vital to nurses’ performance

For many nurses, sleep is an afterthought. With long shifts and busy schedules, it can be hard to make the time for a full night’s rest, particularly for night nurses. But it might be worth the effort, both for nurses and their patients.

Most importantly, not getting enough sleep can put patients at risk. Without proper rest, your decision making and reaction time decreases significantly, which can make the difference in in an acute care setting. It can also affect your recall, which might lead to preventable mistakes like incorrectly assessing a patient’s condition or a medication error.

Beyond the patient safety concerns, lack of sleep can also make it harder to perform all of your duties. Amount of sleep has a corresponding impact on your mood. Without enough sleep, you can feel more anxious and stressed out, making it harder for you to communicate with your coworkers and patients. Additionally, sleep is key staying healthy and in shape; so after a long shift, your sore feet and back won’t recover properly unless you get enough sleep.

Nurses learn about the negative effects of sleep deprivation, but never take the time to take care of themselves. So the next time you think about staying out late or taking an extra shift, maybe consider getting some extra rest instead.

For more information about sleep deprivation, visit the National Institutes of Health’s site.

 

Combating depression in nurses

Nurses are twice as likely to experience clinical depression than the general population. Why aren’t we talking about it?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) found that 18% of nurses exhibit symptoms of depression, compared to the 9% found in the general public. Nurses are happy to talk about their staff shortages or their back problems, but we almost never see serious discussions about mental health issues.

Minority Nurse suggests that nursing culture exacerbates the depression issue. Nurses take great pride in their survivability and toughness; they often see trials facing new nurses as a proving ground, a way of weeding out those who are not cut out for the job. This leads nurses struggling with depression to bury their feelings and work twice as hard, which will make things worse in the long run.

There’s also the idea that mental health issues are seen as a weakness. Nurses rely on each other to be reliable and trustworthy, and someone who is struggling might be easily dismissed as unreliable. This puts their job at risk, and can affect their relationship with peers. Additionally, the nurse mentality is to put the care of others first; many nurses might not release why their suffering, as they so rarely address their own needs.

If admitting they have a problem or asking for help is often the last thing a nurse wants to do, how do you help them? The process starts with nurse managers. Educating managers about the warning signs of depression, and they in turn train their staff to recognize the condition in themselves and their peers. Coming up with strategies to help depressed nurses that aren’t punitive and making sure their staff have resources available to them can help alleviate the fears associated with mental illness.  Showing the staff that it’s okay to talk about mental illness and that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness will help change the “tough it out” culture of nursing.

Addressing mental health issues can help improve nurse retention as well. Instead of “weeding out” the weak links, supporting new nurses through a crisis and encouraging them to get help will keep them at their jobs longer, and make them better nurses for the rest of their career.

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Take Five: How renewal rooms revive stressed out nurses

With long shifts, hard work, and close contact with the sick and the dying, it’s unsurprising that many nurses are burnt out. One study found that nearly one-third of oncology nurses exhibit emotional exhaustion and 50% report levels of emotional distress. Despite the fact they might be hurting, nurses are often expected to “tough it out,” hiding their stress from the eyes of others.

Compassion fatigue is a huge issue for us all in bedside nursing, and we as leaders need to look into and address that,” says Jacklynn Lesniak, RN, MS, BSN, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, IL.

In response, CTCA Midwestern created several “nurse renewal rooms,” with one in each inpatient tower, surgical department, and outpatient care area. The rooms were designed by Jillianne Shriver, RN, BSN, HN-BC who studied relaxation techniques and holistic nursing for three months for the project.

Only one nurse is allowed in the room at a time, giving them much needed private time away from the eyes of patients and coworkers. Each room is laden with relaxation material and décor: aromatherapy and meditation material, a yoga mat, a sand garden, books for reading and journaling, and music therapy.  When a nurse feels he or she needs to step back, they inform their charge nurse that they need to use the room. Then they hand over their communications devices and go into the renewal room for a couple minutes to decompress.

“I decided that I really wanted somewhere for the nurses to take that time to renew, rejuvenate, and recharge,” Shriver says. “To step out of whatever situation they may be in, whether that be a stressful or busy day, and have five to 15 minutes to themselves to be able to focus, ground themselves, take a deep breath, and then step back into practice.”

Not only did the renewal rooms work, they worked well. CTCA Midwestern reported that the first renewal room was used 422 times in the first three months and 96% of nurses said they felt better after using it. Which is pretty impressive when you consider the first renewal room was just a supply area with a massage chair and some relaxing decorations.

To read more in-depth about nurse renewal rooms, check out the original article at HealthLeaders.com.

Rock Your Health: Avoid New Year weight gain with a clean sweep!

Weight gain is common during the first months of the year despite our New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Small yearly weight gains of one to two pounds may be a significant contributor to the high rate of obesity in America, and weight gain over the holiday period may be responsible for much of this yearly weight gain.

A study published in PLOS ONE shows that despite people’s best intentions to eat less in the New Year, they may actually be taking in more calories during the first three months of the year.

Our good intentions may be resulting in us buying more healthy foods, but we are also buying the same unhealthy foods and therefore eating more of both. For me, that means we need to do a clean sweep of all the unhealthy stuff before re-stocking with the healthy choices.

This clean sweep needs to happen at home and at work. A good first step is to team up at work and re-start the New Year with new food choices that support healthy lifestyles and focus on using healthy foods for celebrations and not always cakes!

Contact me if you want for find out how to do a Clean Sweep. carol@carolebert.com

Rock Your Health: Asleep at the wheel?

Are you and your nursing staff ready for a nap after lunch? Why do we get so sleepy after we eat and can’t seem to think straight? And what did we eat that causes this feeling?

The latest information might interest you. Low glycemic food has a positive effect on brain function after a meal. In a recent study of normal weight adults, a meal consisting of low-glycemic carbohydrates improved cognitive function after meals better than a high glycemic meal. (A Nilsson et al. Effects on cognitive performance of modulating the postprandial blood glucose profile at breakfast. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012) 66, 1039-1043.)

Looks like the guilty party is eating high glycemic foods. The whites: White bread, white pasta, white rice, white potatoes, and, of course, the usual processed fast foods and sweets.

Want some help finding low glycemic tasty alternatives? Check out this website www.glycemicindex.com.

Rock Your Health: Self-sacrifice no more!

Are you caught in a web of putting others ahead of yourself? Nurses have a tendency to be codependent—admit it—and we thrive on giving it all to our patients, our colleagues, our families, our parents, and even to our worthy causes. Consequently, we’re spent and have nothing left for ourselves.

I challenge you to try a new way of being for this next phase of your fabulous life. It is an opportunity to reprogram that self-sacrifice tendency into a new, improved you who is focused on self-care. It might be awkward at first, but this is your time to shine and the quality of your life may depend on it. [more]

Rock Your Health: My favorite wellness tips for the holidays

1. Determine the primary health goal that you want to keep alive and well during the holidays.

Write it in BIG LETTERS on BIG PAPER so that you can see it every day and so that it will keep you on track. Don’t give up on yourself and all the great work you’ve been doing to stay healthy by caving in to over-indulgence.

2. Stay nourished while you are on the go so you will avoid fast food temptations.

I love a smoothie to go that is packed with nutrition. Let me know if you need recipes.

3. Have a healthy snack before you go to a party to avoid overindulging. [more]

Rock Your Health: Got the sugar blues?

Depression is predicted to be the second-leading burden on society among all diseases by the year 2020. At the same time, global consumption of refined high glycemic index (GI) foods is steadily rising and there is some evidence that these trends may be related.

A study I recently came across in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that the incidence of depression in postmenopausal women may be linked to an increased consumption of high glycemic index foods, added sugars, and refined grains (Gangwisch, J., et al. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103846).

Now that we are entering what may be termed the Sugar Season, it is a good time to pay attention to this message. Ask yourself these questions: [more]

Rock Your Health: Nurses can trade in the old for the new

As a nurse manager or nurse leader, are you hanging on to old behaviors that once were useful but now are not?

For example, do you not speak up when you have the opportunity because you think what you have to say is not important, you are not eloquent, or you think you are not good enough.

To overcome this, first write down one old behavior you cling to that isn’t getting you what you want. [more]