This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlighta nurse who participates in online studies and focus groups.
As his full-time job, Charles Prendergast, BSN, RN, works as a registered nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. But in his spare time, he has a side gig, participating in online studies and focus groups.
We asked him about his part-time work so that other nurses can learn about it too.
How did you get interested in doing online studies and focus groups? When you do an online study, what exactly does that involve? With a focus group, same thing.
I have been participating in online studies and focus groups for five years. I became interested in online studies and focus groups when a nurse colleague of mine introduced me to Focus Insite, and I started following them on their social media platforms.
When I am chosen to do an online study, I am contacted through email with very detailed, but clear, instructions on how the study will be performed. Once I receive and reply to the initial email, the next steps are given to me on how a study will be carried out.
Online studies are very reliable and easy to do because they are done at your convenience at home.
With a focus group, they start with a similar email and are followed up with a time that you choose and a date that works for you! The locations are convenient and are in or close to metropolitan areas. Once a date and time are agreed upon, I travel to the location and complete the survey.
How often can you participate in online studies and/or focus groups? How much time does each tend to take up? For focus groups, are they being done virtually right now?
I can participate in multiple online studies and focus groups in a year. How many studies I participate in depends upon if you fit the criteria the surveyor is looking for. This past year I have participated in about 10 studies and have made a considerable profit. Each study takes roughly one hour to complete. Some studies are two-day surveys and usually are less than two hours total. Some studies are being done at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic and they are very easy to do! All supplies are shipped to your home and all you need is your computer to hook up the camera they supply and a video Zoom call takes place walking you through each step.
What types of surveys do you do? Can you give me a ballpark idea of what they’re about? What kinds of topics they cover?
Primarily, I complete medical studies. Qualitative market research is my focus. They range from numerous topics from injection devices, nursing concepts and ideas, to new drugs on the market. Comparing new products to the medical field to products in use now is a fun and easy way to make money for your own opinion!
If nurses are interested in getting involved in this kind of work, what would you suggest they do? What kind of fee can they expect to make for each survey or focus group?
If you are interested in getting involved with focus groups and surveys I would suggest following @focus_insite and @getpaidmedical on Instagram and Facebook. Go to their web page www.focusinsite.com and sign up to part of their mailing list to hear about new and innovative market research studies. Once you sign up for their mailing list and complete your profile, they will reach out to you via email and/or phone call. Compensation is very generous for these surveys and each study pays roughly $250+ for an hour’s worth of your time. They will also compensate you for parking costs if needed.
Why do you enjoy doing online surveys/focus groups? What do you get out of it beside the money?
Besides earning some serious cash, I enjoy participating in market research studies because it keeps me up-to-date on the latest new equipment and nursing concepts that will be coming to our field. Being able to give you opinion on how a product looks, feels, and performs before it is distributed to the market is incredible, and you can say you had a lasting impact on products that you and your colleagues will use every day.
Lastly, I would like to recognize Focus Insite Group for giving me an opportunity to express my ideas and opinions on products I use in my professional career. The Focus Insite employees are always professional, helpful, reliable, and respectful. They are a pleasure to work with to get you set up with making a little extra income and provide you with a pleasurable experience. A relationship with Focus Insite is key to long term success!
People tend to think of the New Year as a time to ponder—about ourselves, our lives, and our careers. It’s also a great time to think about your personal career goals.
While it may seem difficult during the pandemic to think about what’s next in your nursing career, it’s still important to consider. After all, with the vaccines being administered, there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Kiley Griffin, RN and Andrea Hipolito, both Talent Advocate Leaders at Incredible Health, took time to answer our questions about how nurses can set career goals for themselves.
What are the first steps nurses should take in order to outline their career goals for the New Year? Should they have one, five, and ten-year plans? If not that way, then how?
Griffin: It’s always important to have career goals and be ready to adjust and adapt given the changes COVID-19 is having on health care. Nurses should continue to outline their goals for the next year as well as long-term—where they want to be in 10 years. COVID-19 will have an impact on health care, and it may create more opportunities for nurses, so identifying future career goals now is important to plan.
Should they be based on their dream jobs, money, educational goals, etc.?
Hipolito: The motivator for why to switch jobs or why to choose a specific job is different for everyone. It is a very personalized decision based on what is important to that person, at that time in their lives. I tell my candidates to take the time to evaluate what terms are most important and why.
Suppose they feel overwhelmed don’t know how to start? What are some tips they can use to start defining what they want to do?
Hipolito: The first step is to figure out not only where you want to be right now, but where do you want to be in 1 year? Or in 5 years? 10 years? Are you comfortable in the role or specialty that you are in now, or do you want to make a change?
Once you have the answer to those questions, you can choose a facility that aligns with those career goals. For example, you can choose an academic medical center that pays tuition for career advancement and offers a culture of learning if you plan on going back for your BSN or MSN. Or, if you decide that you are settled in where you live and are not looking to relocate, you can find a facility that is close to your home that offers great perks within your community.
Certain facilities are great at promoting from within so they are a good option for a nurse who is looking to enter into a leadership position as the next step in their career path or switching into a specialty like the OR.
Once they have their overall goals, what should they do then? Come up with a timeline to achieve them? Break each down into manageable pieces?
Hipolito: Once you have pinpointed what your personal and professional goals are, the next step is to do your research on the facilities in your area (or the area you desire to be in). Go to their websites and visit the “about” and the “career” pages. Check out their mission and values. These resources give great insight into what makes this hospital a place where you would want to work. They highlight the benefits and culture along with any impressive awards or accolades that the hospital is known for.
Don’t fall into desperation mode and choose the first offer that comes along. Be patient and flexible with your timeline for the right position.
What are the biggest mistakes nurses should be aware of when they begin to outline their careers?
Hipolito: Being money motivated sometimes excludes nurses from fantastic opportunities to advance their career or live a happier and more fulfilled life. When it comes to career satisfaction, there is more involved than money alone. The culture of the facility, the alignment of the facilities mission and values with your own, and work/life balance are very important factors in choosing one’s “dream job.”
Is there anything else important for our readers to know?
Griffin: Goals need preparation. Work on your resume and cover letters. Practice interviewing skills so that when you do find your dream job, you will be confident and prepared. Obtain any certifications or qualifications that will help you achieve your career goals. Network and seek out opportunities in the specialty or field you want to be in and use other nurses as resources and support.
Although it may not happen often, there could be times when a patient comes into your department at the hospital or the health care office you work in, and they have a service dog.
Would you know what to do? Do you acknowledge the dog or not? If it’s an emergency situation, can you move the dog?
We interviewed two experts to get their opinions on what nurses should do when patients have service dogs: Wallis Brozman is an Outreach and Advocacy Programs Specialist for Canine Companions for Independence as well as a three-time recipient of Canine Companions service dogs, and Jennifer Swank is a Service Dog Instructor for America’s VetDogs.
How should you act/perform when a patient has a service dog? Suppose a patient is admitted to the hospital or comes to the ER, and their service dog is with them? What should nurses do?
A service animal is limited to a dog and, rarely, a miniature pony (usually for guiding a person who is blind), that has been individually trained to perform tasks or work that directly mitigate the handler’s disability. Health care workers should ignore the dog unless the dog is out of the owner’s control, behaving in an unsafe manner, or preventing the care of the patient. Service dogs are permitted in all areas of a hospital that the general public is permitted, with the exception of sterile environments such as operating rooms, sterile storage, or burn units.
As long as the service dog is behaving safely and under control, the service dog can join the patient in admission. Hospital staff are not expected to manage the dog’s needs, so the handler may need to locate family or friends to take the dog outside or assist with its care for the duration of the admittance.
If a patient is unable to handle the dog, the hospital is responsible for finding alternative care for the service dog. The service dog owner should be given the first opportunity to identify alternative care for the dog.
Suppose a patient is brought into the hospital in an ambulance and their service dog is with them. If the doctors/nurses need to be working on the patient, what should a nurse do with the service animal? Do they have information on their collars or anything that will give a phone number or someone to contact?
If a handler needs urgent care and the dog is in the way, ask the handler if you can move the dog (even if they are unresponsive). Let them know that the dog will be with a specific staff member or the patient’s contact while they are receiving critical care. While this isn’t a requirement, there is a lot of potential anxiety for a patient if the whereabouts of their service dog is unclear.
If the handler is unable to provide direction on alternative care for the service dog, check the dog’s ID tags or equipment for contact information. If an immediate contact cannot be reached (i.e., a family member or friend), the dog’s equipment may indicate a program or organization that trained the dog, such as a logo. Get in touch with the organization if possible, as there may be volunteers or staff members who can assist in finding someone to care for the dog.
As the last option, the dog should be kenneled at a veterinarian or animal shelter with clear instruction that the dog is a service dog whose owner will be returning for the dog—not surrendering the dog.
Swank advises on the following questions:
What about this same scenario in a regular doctor’s office? If someone comes in for an appointment and uses a service animal, what are the health care workers required or expected to do? Not do?
Again, there really isn’t anything for anyone to do—the dog should be ignored, and the handler should be spoken too as if they are any other patient without a service dog. Asking the handler if there is anything special that they need such as placement in a room to allow space for their dog or simply inquiring how the staff should interact is appreciated.
Suppose the person at the doctor’s office is sent to the hospital. What should nurses do with the service animal?
If the handler is conscious and able to command the dog, then the dog should go along. If not, then the emergency contact person for the handler should be contacted.
What are some of the biggest mistakes nurses can make when they work with a patient who has a service animal?
I’d say the biggest mistake would be to distract the dog by talking to them, trying to pet them or treating the person differently because they have a service dog.
What else is important for our readers to know?
Number one thing is to always ignore the service dog and talk to the handler. Talking to the dog, making noises towards them, or trying to pet can potentially cause harm to the handler. Some service dogs are allowed to be interacted with while working, but never assume so. Always ask the handler before petting or distracting the dog.
Many stories about frontline workers have come out since COVID-19 began. But Anna Slayton’s story as a relief nurse is quite different. Slayton, BSN, RN-BC, works as a registered nurse with two hospital systems in the DFW Metroplex—Baylor Scott and White Emergency Hospital as well as Methodist Health System. She’s also building her own business, Kardia Wellness, through which she will provide holistic-based virtual health coaching, as well as some in-person consults, to people who either don’t have access to or need a more optimal way to see a health care provider. She’s also working on earning her Master of Science in Nursing from Walden University.
While all that is quite a lot, Slayton did more. She left her family in Texas to work in NYC, where COVID-19 was worse. She answered questions about her story. The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
What made you want to leave and work in NYC as a COVID-19 relief nurse? How did your family take it? Did you have to take a leave of absence from your current job? Were they supportive?
My husband and I were coming home from vacation with our kids over Spring Break in March 2020. As we were driving home from Gulf Shores, social media began to flood with news of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. We listened to the news station on the radio while driving home—about cities starting to shut down and the case numbers increasing.
I started to become so nervous about returning to work the next week. I work at a micro-hospital where staffing is minimal and patient ratios are smaller. I knew if the facility began to see COVID cases, it would all be on me. We did end up having two positive cases that gave me experience in caring for COVID patients and the ability to see the effect it was having on them. Thankfully, that helped me start to understand the treatment plan and protocols that were unfolding. Since everything was so unknown at the time, my family and I decided it was best to keep some distance while I had to work in case I were to bring COVID home.
While watching the news at work, I saw the USNS Comfort pull into the New York City harbor and knew that as a wife, a mom, and a nurse, this was my opportunity. Several of my colleagues had taken the call, so I decided to as well. I have a skillset that not everyone does that could be utilized to help save lives, so I ultimately knew it was my duty. As far as logistics, everyone was supportive and my kids have a great dad and stepdad, so I knew they were in good hands during my absence. My husband and I have six children between us, the youngest three who live with us are 16, 11, and 8.
I did have to leave my job to take the assignment in New York, but they graciously took me back when I came home. As far as being a nursing student, I had just finished the clinical requirements for the course I was taking at Walden University before leaving and was able to work on the didactic portion of my class after work as usual. I just continued to press on in my MSN degree program.
Explain the particulars to us.
I left on April 15, when everything was still so overwhelming at the hospitals in New York. Staffing agencies were being used to staff the FEMA crisis needs. This was a paid position, but it was not easy whatsoever. We did not have a choice where we would work. The initial contract was for 21 days, but I extended for a full 11 weeks. All the nurses were accommodated in different hotels close to Times Square. I flew back home to Texas on July 2, after my 77-day assignment.
Did you work in the ED or in another branch of the hospital?
We were not assigned to a particular unit before leaving, so flying in, you didn’t have a clue what type of unit you would be assigned to work in. My assignment ended up being in a long-term care facility on the COVID-assigned floor for residents who tested positive for COVID or those who were there for rehabilitation after being hospitalized for COVID.
On a crisis assignment, you are expected to work every day until further notice, so for several weeks straight we had no days off. As a night shifter, we were expected to be on the bus on the way to our assignment by 6 p.m., report by 6:45 p.m., stay on patient assignment until 7 a.m., and then return back to our hotel to sleep and repeat.
I have worked night shift for the majority of my nursing career. I’ve always been a night owl. Honestly, working nights has been the only way to spend the most time with my kids as a working mom. When I had my babies, I was able to nap and breastfeed during the day. As they have gotten older, I slept while they were in school and drank my coffee waiting in the school car line, rocking my pajamas and sunglasses. Life as a nurse isn’t glamorous at all, but it is a great career to have when you are supporting and raising a family.
What were your biggest challenges during this time as a relief nurse?
There were also a lot of very sad cases on our unit, which is always difficult. One was a woman, in her late 80s, who had several comorbidities and was in the dying process. I had to help her daughter say goodbye to her mother over the phone, listening as she sang her mother songs and said her goodbyes. Since she wasn’t able to be there in person, I made it my priority to be there in her place.
Over a few days, I held the woman’s hand and stayed at her bedside as much as possible until it was finally her time. It was a night of grieving, not only for my patient and her daughter, but in memory of all the loved ones I had lost not long before my son passed away. In only three short years, I had lost two uncles and both of my maternal grandparents, then shortly after, my youngest son, Gavin at 2 and a half years old.
I am not a stranger to death, but because I am around it so often, it doesn’t always sting the way that it does with most. Many nurses can understand this. Being next to this dying woman, I wept and cried over my own losses, holding her hand in place of those that I wasn’t able to. Once she took her last breath, I called her daughter and wept with her as well. I won’t ever forget that night.
What were your greatest rewards?
I’m grateful for the time this journey gave me to heal after the death of my youngest son, Gavin, and to reflect on my own personal self-work and journey. I made friendships and connections that I will never forget, and I had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. There were staff and residents from China, Haiti, Jamaica, the Philippines, Mexico, and more. It was rewarding to know that I was able to work and help in this crucial moment of history. I am so thankful that I was able to gain so much insight into COVID-19 by being immersed in the epicenter, in a medical mission that God brought directly to me.
Many states are going into red zones again and shutting down. Would you work as a relief nurse again?
I would, but I would stay local instead. The hospital systems in the metroplex are being overrun right now, and my current jobs are so short-staffed. Giving back to my own community and being available here is my priority.
What would you say to other nurses who may be thinking about helping at hospitals in states or cities with the greatest need? What should they know and keep in mind?
I think they should absolutely go for it, but don’t follow the money. Working in this COVID crisis is hard work. They must be ready to face frustrations against a virus for which we are still trying to find a treatment that will work.