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Animal therapy not just for patients

We hear all the time about how nursing is one of the most stressful professions in the country. This combined with the struggles with nurse retention has led a few hospitals to get creative with helping out their stressed-out nurses: Animal therapy sessions.

Animal therapy has been used with patients for years, particularly to help patients with trauma and mental health disorders. Inspired by these results, executives at University of Pennsylvania hospital and Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) instituted regular animal therapy sessions for their employees. Penn’s “pet a pooch” program was instituted by ER nurse Heather Matthew, brought in dogs from local shelters to spend time with their employees. In addition to helping the stressed-out staff, over a dozen dogs have been adopted since the program started three years ago.

After seeing the positive effects of Penn’s program, RUMC started their own program called “Pet Pause.” Hospital staff immediately reported feeling less stressed after their animal therapy sessions, and an internal study confirmed that the sessions lowered participants blood pressure and increased staff morale. Studies elsewhere have shown that animal therapy reduces stress hormones, and management researchers have found improvements in employee satisfaction and productivity when dogs are allowed in the workplace.

Do you have paws program at your facility? Let us know in the comments!

For more information, check out the Chicago Tribune article.

Rock Your Health: Cleaning Up Your Act

As we enter the Spring Season, I feel the need to clean up my act.  Everything now feels better – more light at the end of the day, waking up to a light sky, chirping birds, walking outside again without slipping on the ice or worrying about walking in the dark, seeing sprouts of greenery and color once again.

That good feeling and renewed energy even compelled me to clean up one shelf in my office and now I not only feel better and more organized, but the empty places on the shelf makes me feel like I can even breathe easier.  Interesting how these simple things have powerful rewards.

So what can you clean up that will provide you with more relief and less stress?

Need support with cleaning up your act?  Email me at carol@carolebert.com and I’ll give you a complimentary laser coaching session.

Rock Your Health: 90% of Managers Have Digestive Health Issues

When your stomach speaks to you – LISTEN UP! Your gut is trying to tell you something.  After recently returning from a “life-changing” and “stomach-changing” visit to the first accredited Functional Medicine Hospital and Holistic Healing Center in the world, I am compelled to share some takeaways that have made a significant difference in how I view and treat my digestive system. First – you need to know that about 80% of your immune system and ½ of your nerve cells and neurotransmitters involve your digestive system.

I had no idea that my gut is THE top priority when it comes to healing myself.  And I can tell you that even I, as a role-model for wellness, have some things to do to repair some of my digestive shortcomings. Can we now give our gut some love and respect? Let’s begin the process with some simple action steps you can implement right away. There is more to do of course, but this will get you on the right path.

  1. Drink lemon water first thing
    Start your day with the juice of a half of a lemon in a cup of warm water with a dash of cayenne pepper. Lemon can stimulate elimination of yesterday’s food, help destroy bad bacteria in the mouth and intestines and does many other great things. My grandfather used to start his day this way so it is an old-time remedy as well as used in Chinese medicine.
  2.  Eat in happiness and calm
    The process of digestion starts with your brain so when you sit down to eat, take three belly breaths in thru your nose and exhale slowly. This will engage your parasympathetic system that slows you down and disengages your sympathetic nervous system that speeds you up. Remember when the tradition was to say a prayer before you ate a meal? That is a practice that works in the same way.
  3.  Chew-Chew-Chew
    Food starts digesting in your mouth as soon as you start chewing. There is a digestive enzyme in your saliva that starts to break down the food but you need to chew longer for that to happen. So chew 25-50 times per bite of food to prepare the food for its trip down to the stomach.
  4.  Protect the acid in your stomach
    Your stomach contains HCL (hydrochloric acid) which is ready and willing to break down the food even more so it can be absorbed by the body. HCL also kills bacteria, viruses and potential antigens from making you sick. Because of these two important roles, you don’t want to dilute the acid and prevent it from doing its job. Therefore – don’t drink water when you are eating.
  5.  Drink water in between meals
    Consume half your body weight in ounces “daily” in order to aid your digestion, replenish your system, prevent dehydration and detoxify your body. Add a pinch of natural sea salt to each 32 ounces of water.

So far so good? Can you start doing these things? Need more guidance? Let’s talk! Just email me at carol@carolebert.com  and we can create a digestive health strategy to help get your gut in tip-top shape!

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: When comfort becomes uncomfortable

This may seem like an unusual question to ask nurse managers and nurse leaders, but it’s one that is worth thinking about. Is your job too comfortable? Is it not stimulating enough? Are you stuck in a rut?

Being in your comfort zone is comfortable, but it may not be the best place for you. If your goal is to have a more joyful existence, then take some risks. [more]

Enter our nursing survey: You could win a team-building handbook!

Our mission is to provide you with essential tools, articles, tips, and books to support your practice… and we want you to tell us what you need. What kind of challenges do you face? What subjects excite you? Please take a few minutes to answer our 10 question survey, and give us your wish list!

THINTN coverTo thank you for participating in our Nurses Week survey, you also
have an opportunity to win a copy of Kathleen Bartholomew’s
Team-Building Handbook: Improving Nurse-to-Nurse Relationships.
Just complete the survey between now and midnight on May 27, 2015, and provide your contact information on the last page.

Click on the link below to begin the survey:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/hcpronurses2015

All of your answers are confidential and anonymous, and your contact info will only be used to let you know if you won a handbook. If you have questions related to the survey, please contact cmoore@hcpro.com.

Thank you!

——RECENT POSTS——

⇒ 5/4: Who inspires you? There’s still time to submit your favorite quotes in posted comments, here.

⇒ 5/6: You can still use the 20% Nurses Week discount offered in this post.

Rock Your Health: With Carol Ebert, RN, wellness specialist

Hello! I will be writing a weekly blog for YOU, the professional nurse leader in the second half of your career, anticipating what’s next and wanting to embrace a wellness lifestyle. I’m the perfect partner for you as you embark on this journey since I am already in the Boomer Retirement Zone myself. So let’s get acquainted!

I am not a nurse in the traditional sense—a patient care expert—though I did do that some. I am a nurse in the global sense, caring about the total health of the human condition: mind, body and spirit. Luckily, my nursing path led me to wellness, my true passion, where I spent the majority of my career. Even within my passion, however, I still found a need to reinvent myself regularly.

Why this desire to change? Born with a creative brain, I am often plagued with frustration when working in a structured and predictable environment. I can do it if I have to, but it is not my true nature, which I discovered once I reached adulthood when I could fully express who I was.

[more]

Introducing a new weekly column!

Please join me in welcoming Carol Ebert, RN, to the StrategiesForNurseManagers.com and The Leaders’ Lounge blog community!

Carol is a health and wellness expert and devotes much of her time to helping nurses focus on their own health and wellness, as well as preparing for retirement and the later part of their careers.

Carol will pen the “Rock your health” column each Wednesday on The Leaders’ Lounge. Be sure to stop by and check out her latest helpful tips and advice!

Injured Nurses: Who has your back?

In 2013 your nursing staff faced a
15% greater chance of spine injury
than firefighters.

Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics Table 18 for the spine injury picfinal tabulated 2013 rates of musculoskeletal injuries for FT workers, compared by occupation. Firefighters—who lug heavy ladders, people, and equipment daily—had a rate of 232 per 10,000. For nursing staff, the total was 264 per 10,000 full-time RNs and nursing assistants. A spine injury can end a career in the blink of an eye. But how can these injuries be prevented?

Your mother’s admonition to “bend your knees” while lifting something heavy may not be enough to protect the backs of your nursing staff. In an ongoing article series entitled Injured Nurses, NPR takes a look at what can happen when nurses depend solely on proper body mechanics (essentially, keeping your back straight while following mom’s advice) for moving patients. As of this writing, you’ll find three installments on NPR.org that explore the problem, possible solutions, and how some hospitals may or may not “have your back.”

On a positive note, the Baptist Health System reports that the Transfer and Lift with Care program it introduced in 2007 has reduced patient-handling injuries in their organization by 81%. One important factor in their success? Investing in assistive equipment and devices in each of its five hospitals.

If I can get specific statistics and practices from Baptist, I’ll post them here for you to share with your peers and hospital administrators. I’ll also post a link to a PDF of Table 18, which should be a little easier on the eyes than the official version.

In the meanwhile, if you’d like to share ways your organization has your back, feel free to comment below.


 

UPDATE> 4/4/2015. Here’s a highlighted section of Table 18, with the RN/nursing assistant and firefighter statistics highlighted.table excerpt