A Gift Guide for the Nurse in Your Life

A Gift Guide for the Nurse in Your Life

The holidays are coming! Chances are you need a gift idea for a colleague or work gift exchange, or there’s a special nurse in your life who needs a treat! Below are my holiday gift ideas for nurses. Whether it’s for a sister, friend, or colleague, the nurse in your life deserves something special! Here’s what may be on his or her wish list this year.

A new stethoscope, or a stethoscope charm.

Stethoscopes grow legs and walk away nearly every shift. Perhaps a doctor grabs it for an exam, or he leaves it in a patient’s room and it’s never seen again! If you want to splurge for a new one, the Littmann brand is generally renowned, but other ways to keep it from disappearing are with cute name charms or ID tags. The website Etsy has many retailers that feature such personalized tags.

Hand cream and a manicure.

Nurses winter hands can look like something from a horror film. Dry, cracked skin is mutilated by the hand-hygiene regimen, and the winter air makes everything worse. Treat her to some pampering with a manicure (most nurses can wear clear polish) or a really heavy duty hand cream.

A funny mug for her coffee, and a bag of nice coffee beans on the side.

We nurses love our coffee. A tough, spill-proof travel mug with insulation for hours, or a humorous nurse-themed coffee mug are both gifts that would probably get used often! Add some high-quality ground coffee or K-cups on the side and make it a complete set.

A day to relax.

I’m going to make a large generalization here and say that any nurse—any age, any gender—would love to get a gift certificate to a spa for a treatment or massage.

An etched wine glass and a bottle of wine.

Perhaps my favorite nurse gift I’ve ever gotten was this wine glass. Funny and useful!

Compression socks—with style!

There are several brands of compression socks and stockings that are in the market for making stylish, functional footwear. Check out Nabee or Vim & Vigr.

An “adult” coloring book and some colored pencils.

In whatever free time the nurse in your life has, he or she might enjoy coloring some funny pictures to unwind!

5 Ways Journaling Improves Your Mental Health (and Makes Your Job a Little Easier)

5 Ways Journaling Improves Your Mental Health (and Makes Your Job a Little Easier)

If you’re like most nurses, you probably got into the nursing profession to help people and make a difference in their lives. At times, however, the constant demands of caring for patients can feel overwhelming and exhausting. By making your personal, self-care activities a top priority, you can help ease the burden that often comes with advocating for the health and well-being of others.

One such self-care activity is journaling. With just a few minutes a day, journaling your thoughts and feelings can help you cope with day-to-day challenges, work through difficult situations, and create a positive outlet for you to express yourself. Here are five ways journaling can improve your mental health and help make your job (and life) a little easier.

1. Journaling provides a safe space for your feelings.

It’s easy to be overly critical, wondering if you should have done or said something differently during a situation in your place of work. You might be upset, angry, or frustrated by the outcome; and you may think you have no one to talk to about these feelings. Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to keeping your feelings bottled up inside. Through the magic of a pen and some paper (or your computer), the University of Rochester Medical Center endorses journaling as an avenue for honest, positive self-reflection and a private place to help you pinpoint negative thoughts and behaviors that might be holding you back.

2. Journaling can help you locate the source of your stress.

Once you’ve identified a problem or pattern in your life, journaling can help you recognize the cause of your stress and develop more desirable solutions to combat those stressors. When you write about troublesome experiences, you release the emotional magnitude of those feelings. The act of releasing intense feelings will leave you calmer and more in control.

3. Journaling helps lowers your stress levels.

Your journal is a place for you to be truthful about the things you’re struggling with while also honoring yourself for the brave choices you’re making towards self-improvement. Although it might seem more natural to journal about your problems, don’t forget to write about your successes. By recording the moments of victory in your journal, you’ll also reduce stress and be able to reflect back on your experiences when you need some encouragement.

4. Journaling helps you understand yourself better.

Psych Central, the Internet’s largest and oldest independent mental health social network, recommends a routine writing practice as part of your self-care activities. “You will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you—important information for your emotional well-being,” says the website.

5. Journaling has been associated with significant health benefits.

You already know that journaling diminishes stress. But did you also know several studies have shown its effectiveness at decreasing anxiety and depression, enhancing creativity, increasing problem-solving abilities, lowering blood pressure, and boosting the immune system? That’s right! So set aside a few minutes every day, and let your thoughts flow onto the page. There are no rules, and you’ll soon discover it’s one of the cheapest and most nurturing acts you can do for yourself.

Senior Nursing Students at University of Kentucky Use Peer Support to Fight Mental Health Stigma

Depression in nurses is considered a silent epidemic, with nurses experiencing depression at twice the rate of others individuals according to a 2013 initiative from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. When University of Kentucky (UK) senior nursing student Sarah Wise started to feel stress, anxiety, and depression due to the pressures of nursing school, she realized she might not be the only student feeling the mental health effects of a rigorous nursing curriculum.

Many students feel a pressure to perform well academically. With expectations to master clinical skills and classroom material simultaneously, nursing students must find a balance between academics, clinical hours, and personal relationships. Coupled with learning how to cope with the pain and suffering that comes with spending time in a medical setting, the stress of nursing school can take a toll on the mental wellbeing of even the most seasoned student.

When Sarah decided to share her mental health struggle with her friends and classmates in the nursing program, she realized she wasn’t alone. With the help of classmates Kayla Combs and Cassie Snodgrass, the three nursing students organized a research project exploring the prevalence of mental health conditions in their fellow undergraduate nursing students. They decided to survey 160 sophomore nursing students at the University of Kentucky based off the fact that clinical rotations begin sophomore year.

According to UKNOW, their study found that 27 percent of sophomore students were taking medications for mental health disorders, 30 percent were dealing with mental health conditions, and most students rated their stress level as an eight or nine out of ten. In addition, they found that few students were utilizing on-campus mental health resources.

These results led to the creation of SMASH – Student Mentors Advocating for Student Health. SMASH uses peer advisers to teach coping methods and stress management skills, letting students know that they have a support system for dealing with mental health issues. The students who created SMASH hope to make a difference in fighting mental health stigma and inspire other college campuses to implement similar programs.

Can Coffee Help Avoid Holiday Weight Gain?

Can Coffee Help Avoid Holiday Weight Gain?

Welcome to the holiday season—a time for treats in the break room, holiday parties, cookie exchanges, and festive family meals. Sounds fun, but too often all this merriment prevents weight loss and leads to weight gain. Even worse, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, most people NEVER lose the pounds they put on over the winter holidays. Which mean’s it’s much better to avoid gaining them in the first place.

Could coffee and other caffeinated beverages help?

Order yourself a nonfat full-caf latte and read on because the research is promising.

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, caffeine can reduce your desire to eat in the short term—perhaps helping you to avoid those calorie-dense finger foods and buying you time to find a healthy alternative.
  • If you actually fit in a workout this holiday season, researchers from Japan suggest adding caffeine to your pre-workout preparations. Their results, published in Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, show that caffeine consumption (about two cups of strong coffee) before exercise promotes more fat burning.
  • A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who lose weight and manage to keep it off tend to drink significantly more coffee than the general population.

Of course, we wouldn’t be nurses if we didn’t consider the potential pitfalls of too much caffeine. Rest assured that 83% of adults in the United States are already drinking coffee and experts say that when used in moderation (400 milligrams or less per day, about the equivalent of four cups of coffee) caffeine is generally safe. But too much can, as you know, cause nervousness, insomnia, and other problems. If you’re new to caffeine, please let me know how you made it through nursing school. But seriously, if you’ve generally abstained until now, start slow and see how your body reacts.

Meanwhile, in the coffee shop, remember that those fancy holiday brews (like gingerbread cookie lattes, mint mochas, and eggnog decadence) can come with a hefty calorie count (not to mention the price tag!). Stick with the classics to avoid negating any potential caffeine benefits.

Now, please pass me my mug. It’s time for a coffee break.

Spirituality in Nursing: The Neglected Ethic of Care

Spirituality in Nursing: The Neglected Ethic of Care

Nursing has long hailed holistic care as its cornerstone. If one thinks of giving holistic care, then the focus needs to be not only on physical care, but also on emotional, social, and spiritual care. Yet, the spiritual dimension of care tends to be neglected for many cited reasons: lack of education about how to incorporate such care into practice; lack of competence in incorporating spiritual aspects of care; confusion about what spirituality really is; perceived lack of time to address such care, and so on. However, if nurses are to fulfill the value and intent of holistic care, they must incorporate the spiritual dimension into their practice. This brief article will provide the rationale for spiritual assessment and care.  Clear rationale should provide the motivation and commitment to not neglect this important ethic of care.

Why have I proposed in the title of this article that spirituality in nursing is a neglected ethic of care, or in other words, why is spiritual assessment and care part of ethical care? All nursing codes of ethics assume that spiritual assessment and care is part of nursing practice, and refer to spirituality as “an obligation of care.” For example, the International Council of Nurses Code of Ethics states that the nurse is to “Provide an environment in which the human rights, values, customs, and spiritual beliefs [of the client] are respected.” Inherent in these statements is the assumption that the client’s spiritual and religious beliefs are to be ascertained by the nurse. Otherwise, how can there be intentional sensitivity and respect for such beliefs? Furthermore, if you were to peruse the nursing literature, you would find that there is much discussion about going beyond the ‘respecting’ and ‘supporting’ of clients’ spirituality (as phrased in codes to ethics) to actual intervention in this dimension of care.

Other than fulfilling the mandate for holistic care and codes of ethics, there is ample rationale for incorporating spirituality into nursing practice:

1. There is significant interest and discussion of the topic in health care and nursing: in articles, books, and dissertations focused on spirituality; in conferences related to client care; in a number of websites devoted to the topic; and in nursing education curricula.

2. In Western society, much attention has been devoted to the topic, in particular with respect to non-religious spirituality: multiple books have been written on the subject; workshops for the general population often include spiritual aspects; book clubs focus on spiritual matters; and movies and television shows abound with references to the spiritual. If nursing is to respond to the needs of the broader society within which it is situated, then it must address spirituality and the diversity of understandings of spirituality in society at large.

3. A focus on the spiritual is addressing the nature of what it means to be human. Spirituality is an integral part of being human and in fact, some would say that it is the essence of being human. This implies that all people have spiritual needs which need to be addressed in care.

4. Spirituality is a well-recognized concept in all known cultures. Culturally sensitive care is one of the hallmarks of good nursing care.

5. Spirituality and the religious expression of spirituality have been shown through research to have positive impacts on both health and illness. Health and illness are the ‘business’ of nursing; therefore, anything that contributes positively to health and illness would also be the ‘business’ of nursing.

6. Spirituality is a known protective factor that serves to foster resilience, one of the goals of nursing practice.

7. According to research, many clients desire for their health care professionals to address spiritual/religious concerns that they may have – as well as to support their spirituality/religiosity. If spiritual/religious needs are not met, then the client may experience spiritual distress.

8. Addressing the spiritual dimension of care is consistent with the nature, values, and goals of nursing. For example, nursing focuses on what strengthens and helps clients, seeks to provide holistic and comprehensive care, and values compassion, social justice, and recognition of the sacred, to name a few.

9. Many nurse theorists have spirituality as either a central concept in their theories/frameworks (for example, Watson and Neuman), or as a subconcept (for example, Rogers and Roy).

10. Nurses are in an ideal position to address spirituality with clients as they are the largest group of health care providers, have the most frequent contact with clients, and are involved with people at all points across the life span, including during their most vulnerable moments.

11. Nursing diagnostic taxonomies address spiritual distress as a recognized nursing diagnosis, for example, NANDA-I.

12. Various nursing education bodies endorse the importance of nursing education on the spiritual dimension of care, for example the American Association of Colleges of Nurses in the United States, and the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing in Canada. Many nursing education programs include spirituality as a curriculum theme or, less frequently, include a course devoted to spirituality in nursing.

13. The nursing profession is generating an increasingly important body of knowledges on the relationship between spirituality/religion and health/illness with some proposing that it is the health care profession that is most advanced in this area. Nursing has contributed a number of spiritual assessment tools and intervention models that can be used in incorporating spirituality into practice.

14. Professional mandates require spirituality to be incorporated into client care, for example, the Joint Commission on Accreditation in the United States, the Oncology Nursing Society in Canada, and the World Health Organization globally.

15. Nursing standards and competencies dictate that spiritual assessment and care are essential to nursing practice, for example the Canadian Nurses Association’s Framework for the Practice of Registered Nurses in Canada and the American Nurses Association’s Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice.

As can be seen from this brief outline, there is ample rationale for the inclusion of spirituality into nursing practice. You are encouraged to read further on each of these rationales so as to more fully understand each reason for the inclusion of this important aspect of care. Understanding the evidence for the inclusion of spirituality into nursing practice is a critical first step in advocating for and developing this most important concept into care of clients.

4 Pilates Exercises to Ease Back Pain

4 Pilates Exercises to Ease Back Pain

From athletes to those undergoing rehab, people from all walks of life have seen the therapeutic nature of Pilates firsthand. While people are most familiar with Pilates from their gym, it’s the subtle elements of Pilates that make this method different from all the others. Pilates improves coordination, spinal alignment, stamina, flexibility, balance, eases aches and pains, and reduces stress–all valuable components when being a nurse demands you remain on your feet for long periods of time. Thankfully, Pilates can be performed anywhere, even in a busy workplace. With back pain being a common complaint among nurses, the following basic exercises will help reduce back pain, strengthen your core, and improve your posture.

1. Activate your powerhouse.

The powerhouse consists of abdominal, spinal, and gluteal muscles. It’s important to engage these muscles throughout the day to protect your back. For this exercise, stand up and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Try your best to equally distribute your weight through both feet. Keep your spine in a neutral position–the point in which your pelvis is neither tucked nor arched. Stand tall and tighten your glutes. Place one hand on your belly and the other hand on you back. Inhale and let your stomach fill with air (your front hand will move forward). Exhale and “scoop” your abdominals toward your spine while releasing as much air as you can. Complete eight repetitions. You can use this exercise throughout the day as a reminder to engage your core muscles.

2. Elongate the spine.

Place your back against a wall, and move your feet about a foot out in front of you. Gently press your head against the wall, draw your shoulders back, and keep your backside in contact with the wall. Pretend there’s a string extending from your tailbone through the crown of your head to help you stand tall. Take an inhale, and as you exhale, scoop your abdominals toward your spine (as in the first exercise). Repeat this eight times to help elongate the spine. Try to keep your ribcage relaxed as you engage your abdominals.

3. Circle your arms.

Remain in the elongated spine position against the wall. Draw your abdominals toward your spine to support your lower back. Inhale as you raise your arms overhead, and exhale as you bring them out to the side and around in front of you to make a big circle. Repeat four times, and then reverse the direction of the circles. When you add movement to this exercise, you’re challenging your postural alignment. Try not to disrupt the position of your spine against the wall as you circle your arms.

4. Strengthen your neck.

Sit in a chair with your feet firm on the floor and your back comfortably upright. Place one hand on top of the other and lift your hands to your forehead so that the back of the top hand is touching your head. While trying to maintain a neutral position with your neck, push your head firmly into your hands as you simultaneously press your hands into your head. Hold for two deep breaths and relax. Repeat the process five times to help strengthen your neck and improve your posture. It can be helpful to try this exercise in the mirror first to avoid hyperextending or flexing your neck.