Reducing Stress in the Zen Den

Reducing Stress in the Zen Den

At the beginning of the pandemic, when so much was uncertain, Kathryn Fritze, RN, BSN, a holistic and integrative nurse for the Barbara L. Posner Wellness & Support Center at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center Cancer Institute, saw the toll it was taking on people in the health care community.

“Uncertainty, stress, and worry was at a peak, with everyone concerned about how COVID-19 would affect their work and families and home lives. Directives were changing, seemingly hourly,” recalls Fritze. “It was clear that we needed a place for our staff to feel safe, grounded, and centered in the middle of this crisis.”

The Center’s Foundation team came together with the Posner Wellness & Support Center team to brainstorm how they could create a restorative space to make employees feel better. Fritze says that within three days, the Zen Den was born.

“We transformed a community health classroom—not in use because of pandemic safety restrictions—to a sanctuary,” says Fritze. “With the financial support of our wonderful Foundation and community donors, we rented room dividers and green plants, purchased mp3 players, wireless headphones, and Himalayan salt lamps. We also included a CD player, essential oil diffusers, antigravity lounge chairs, and a massage table, borrowed from our Posner Wellness & Support Center.”

Fritze describes the room: “It was partitioned into four separate private spaces with lovely wooden screen dividers. Three stations—or individual relaxation nooks—were set up, each with its own relaxation chair, salt lamp, mp3 player, and headphones. The music players were preloaded with six differently themed 15-minute guided visualizations, narrated by male or female voices, per the guest’s choice. Between uses, for the health and safety of our staff members, all of the equipment was thoroughly sanitized.”

The last section of the room was a designated Healing Therapy space. On a massage table, health care workers at the Center could get a 15-minute personal Healing Touch session. “This is a powerful yet subtle bio-field therapy to support the body/mind/spirit in achieving a relaxed state of being. To enhance the experience, we combined aromatherapy with the Healing Touch sessions,” explains Fritze. “All employees were able to schedule these free sessions in advance using a dedicated online program accessible to all staff via the intranet, website, and mobile phone.”

The Zen Den, says Fritze, “was purposefully designed to be a respite, an oasis, in the eye of the storm. The overarching service we provided was TLC, an opportunity for caregivers to be cared for in a deep and meaningful way. We provided the opportunity, the time and the space for team members to take a break from the physical, emotional, and mental chaos, and go within to a place of peace and safety.”

When some of the safety restrictions were lifted and patients were returning to the hospital, the Zen Den had to be moved. Fritze and others are currently searching for a more permanent space option so that the Zen Den can be reopened again.

Other staff members were inspired by the Zen Den to create their own wellness spaces. “Several units within the hospital have created their own Zen Den meditation and quiet spaces—great options for busy team members who can’t leave the units during their shifts, due to PPE and safety requirements,” explains Fritze. “These units are using relaxation chairs with salt lamps and essential oil diffusers. The great thing about this is that it shows that these staff members, these care teams, are making their holistic health a priority. Each space has its own personality. Some have beautifully decorated scarves adorning the walls. Some have little fountains. Some have seashell displays on the table. Each unit is owning their health and well-being in their own way, so we can continue to be here for our patients, our colleagues and our community.”

Fritze believes that all people need to take time for self-care—to quiet the mind and to stay centered and healthy. “I am very happy to see my colleagues taking an interest in self-care and mindfulness practice. It is so very important to take the time to quiet the mind from the constant stress we are exposed to on a daily basis. Health care workers will always put their patients’ needs first, even, at times, to their own detriment,” she says. “I believe we can and should take a few moments to care for ourselves so that we can take the very best care of our patients. We all think and process information better when we are centered. It’s gratifying to be an active part of a work culture that actively encourages that we lovingly care for one another, particularly now, when health care workers need it the most.” 

Nursing Side Gigs: A Model Nurse

Nursing Side Gigs: A Model Nurse

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a nurse who is also a model.


When Sara Marlow Hunt, DNP, FNP-C, was just 12 years old, she wanted to get into acting. So when Barbizon Modeling opened a branch and offered classes near her home, her parents signed her up.

Sara Marlow Hunt, DNP, FNP-C

“It taught me about self-care, skincare, exercise, and how to break into modeling and acting. I wasn’t really interested in modeling at the time, but was told modeling was often a stepping stone to acting,” recalls Hunt. Soon after, Barbizon signed her as a model at their agency, and she got her first paid modeling gigs. At age 13, she signed with Cast Images Talent Agency, a larger modeling agency and began taking more acting classes and going on commercial auditions in addition to modeling/talent castings.

“My first paid job was as a hair model for Sebastian when I was 12,” recalls Hunt. “I loved it so much and was instantly hooked.”

Hunt quickly started working with talent agencies nationwide such as Mitchell Model Management, Soma Models, Coast to Coast, MDT Agency, Renee Godin Agency, and others. She even competed in the Elite Model Search in competition for a $1 million modeling contract and won the regional contest.

Like many other models in the United States, Hunt has a regular “day” job. A Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and licensed Public Health Nurse, Hunt works at MinuteClinic.

In terms of her modeling career, Hunt has been represented by at least one agency since she began. “If you have a professional agency, it’s a good idea to hold on to them because you may not get one again,” explains Hunt.

Maternity shot by Amy Shuman

For the past couple of years, Hunt has been having children, and although she was pregnant at the time of this interview, her agency knows that if an opportunity for a pregnant commercial print of pregnant fit model to keep her in mind. Primarily, Hunt works in Sacramento and San Francisco, California.

Hunt has done runway for brands such as Chaiken, Missoni, Dockers, and Levi’s; fitness modeling for Nautilus Fitness Equipment; promotional modeling for Pantene, CoverGirl, Olay, Febreze, and Swiffer; and she’s modeled for companies like Zobha and Charlotte Russe.

“I feel really lucky to have been able to work in this industry at all, much less to do crossover work,” says Hunt. “But my favorite is still acting, and I’ve done a couple commercials, music videos, and a short film.”

Hunt says that her biggest challenge in working as a model is that it’s always contract work, so there is no guarantee of work, no benefits of any kind, and you always risk not getting paid.

“It is risky work. If you need a reliable income, modeling and acting are not the way to go,” says Hunt. “Most people have flexible day jobs that allow them to go on castings and auditions. People always forget the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes—auditions, staying fit, audition outfits, flexibility with your time, professional photos, practice—before you even get one job. So, you can go on numerous auditions and still not get a job. Each audition/casting is a gamble and it can get expensive fast. Paying for gas to the audition, parking, commute time, and clean/professional clothes for auditions can rack up fast without a reward. Also, there is always a risk your agency could drop you and you’re out of work.”

Fitness shot by Lisa Keating

Obviously, there are rewards for Hunt. “I think the greatest reward is that it can be very fun, creative, and push you to do things that scare you,” she explains. “I would always get so nervous for runway shows or taping on camera, and I think it has been good for me to overcome those. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many great people.”

Hunt also wants to dispel a stereotype about modeling.

“People only see famous actors and models, but most aren’t and most have regular day jobs” says Hunt. “There is a stereotype that models are vapid and are poorly educated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in my personal experience. Models whom I’ve worked with have are exceptionally bright, hard-working, modest, kind, and business savvy. Some are engineers, some have been doctors, and some went to college, but chose to model full time.”

Tips for Doing a Video Interview

Tips for Doing a Video Interview

Pre-COVID-19, most job interviews were conducted in person. You may have had an initial phone interview, but having your second or third interview on video wasn’t generally done.

Welcome to a whole new world.

If you haven’t regularly used video or just want to get some good tips/strategies for looking and doing your best, we’ve got you covered.

Dina Neilsen, PhD, Senior Manager, Learner, Career and Alumni Services of Nightingale College, took some time to answer our questions about what nurses can do to improve their video interviews.

What is the first thing nurses should do when they find out they have a job interview via video?  

Think about what you want to accomplish in the interview; carefully review the job description and then perhaps make notes about those qualities and skills that might set you apart in the interview.

How can nurses properly light themselves for an interview? What should they use for a background?

If possible, try to set up your computer so you have natural light on your face. This is better than electric light for keeping your skin a natural color.

Consider background. Is there an open closet behind you? Are there stacks of boxes? Does it look like you are sitting on your couch in your living room? An “office” type of setting is best, but if you don’t have a space like that, a neutral wall in the background is better than something that appears to be too “homey.”

To prevent noise, pets, and children making entrances, what should they do?  

Be sure you will have quiet, uninterrupted time during the interview. If you have family or roommates at home, be sure to let them know what you are doing and that you need privacy for that time. Coffee shops, parks, etc., can be problematic because you won’t have any control over noises or interruptions.

Are there any colors/patterns they absolutely should not wear? Any recommendations on what to wear?  

Wear colors. Computer cameras tend to wash you out, so having some color will help you look healthy and engaging. It may be worth applying some make-up, particularly to your eyes and mouth, to avoid looking washed out.

Should they rehearse? How should they do this?

A tech rehearsal with a friend or family member can be very helpful, though it could be just as helpful to simply do a mock interview. Prepare the questions you think you might be asked and then run through them a couple of times. But remember, you’ll probably be asked something you didn’t anticipate—relax and remember your interviewer wanted to talk with you.

What are the biggest mistakes they could make that they should be aware of and try to avoid?  

Becoming flustered or nervous is common—something that might help would be to tape the job description, resume, cover letter, and questions you have for them on the wall behind your camera so you can review them without looking down at papers.

In terms of the interview itself—is there anything different they should do as opposed to if they were on an in-person interview?

Make sure you continue to make eye contact and keep your body language still and relaxed.

Because you are not meeting in person, it is important to remember to still be engaging with the interviewer as if you were face to face.

Cybersecurity: What Nurses Need to Know

Cybersecurity: What Nurses Need to Know

In the age of EHR, storing info on a cloud, and working on smart phones, it’s also a prime time for hacking. Nurses need to protect the security and privacy of their patients’ personal and health care-related info so it’s important to educate yourself about cybersecurity best practices. So, how do you go about it?

We connected with Casey Crane, a cybersecurity journalist at SectigoStore.com, who has written for a variety of cybersecurity industry publications, including Hashed Out at The SSL Store, HackerNoon, Experfy and Infosec Insights. Crane answered our questions about cybersecurity and what you absolutely need to know.

What are the best ways for nurses to protect their patients’ information?

One of the best ways that nurses can protect their patients’ personal and health care-related information is to inform themselves about cybersecurity best practices. If your organization doesn’t offer cyber awareness training, request that they do so. This type of training can help you understand cyber threats like malicious websites, phishing emails, and other tactics that cybercriminals use to carry out attacks.

Here are a few other good cybersecurity best practices that you can use right away:

Always use unique passwords for your accounts.

One of the biggest mistakes that people across all industries make is using the same password for multiple accounts. A poll from Google and Harris shows that 52% of users reuse passwords across multiple accounts, and another 13% indicate that they use the same passwords across all accounts.

This means that all of your accounts should have unique passwords. This prevents hackers from using the same password to access multiple accounts in the event that one of your accounts becomes compromised.

Never plug personal devices (or unauthorized devices) into workstations or work devices.

If a device has previously been plugged into another device infected with malicious software, then you could inadvertently infect your workstation with the same malware. This gives hackers direct access to your network.

Don’t click on attachments or links in emails without first inspecting the messages.

Check to see if the sender’s name and email match, and if any links are legitimate. If the name and email don’t match, or if the link is from some unknown web address, that should send up a red flag. For example:

  • If you normally get emails from your boss (joe.smith@yourhealthcarecompany.com) but suddenly receive an email from an email address like mynameisjoe@gmail.com or joe.smith@hospital.net, that would be suspicious.
  • If there’s a link embedded in the email, hover your mouse over the link (without clicking on it!) and it should display the true web address where the link would take you.
  • If you receive an email from a suspicious address that contains a PDF, Excel file, or Word doc, don’t click on it. It’s possible that the file may contain malware.

If you receive an unusual or urgent request, call to confirm.

A common tactic that cybercriminals use to get you to do something or to provide information is to create an urgent situation. If you get an email or phone call from someone asking (or demanding) that you send them sensitive information, tell them you’re going to call them back to confirm. Use the contact information that’s provided through your organization’s official contact directory—never respond using an email address or phone number provided by the person who reached out to you!

Be aware of what’s going on around you.

Not all data breaches occur because of cyber attacks—sometimes, they come in the form of physical security breaches. Is there someone hanging around the nurses’ station that you don’t recognize or who doesn’t belong there? Ask them if they need help. This proactive approach can help to prevent cybercriminals from gaining physical access to records and other data by accessing computers at those stations or stealing portable devices from the area.

Much like how you sanitize your hands and wear protective gear to keep yourself and your patients healthy, having strong “cyber hygiene” is what keeps your organization (and your patients’ data) safe and secure.

Why do nurses need to protect their own email accounts, social media accounts, or their phones? Why do hackers start there?

Your personal email and social media accounts are a goldmine of data for cybercriminals. They can use information that they learn about you through those channels to guess your work account passwords. It also serves as fodder for social engineering tactics.

Nowadays, people tend to use their mobile devices and apps for banking, sending emails, and for handling other sensitive data. If a cybercriminal gets a hold of your cell phone or another mobile device that you use to access those accounts, then they have control of those accounts.

What are the most common tricks that hackers use?

Cybercriminals use the tactics that demonstrate the best outcomes with the least amount of effort. Needless to say, it’s a lot easier to trick someone into handing over their credentials than it is to hack through their organization’s network security defenses.

That’s why phishing is among the most common tactics used by cybercriminals. Phishing relies on the use of social engineering tactics, which often involves them pretending to be a colleague, manager, or another authority figure. Cybercriminals use strong social skills and charm to disarm you while also evoking a sense of urgency, fear, or curiosity that compels you to act. Their ultimate goal is to trick you into doing something you’d normally never do.

For example, you’d never just give a stranger your employee credentials or a patient’s health records or personal information. But if you receive a fraudulent email from someone pretending to be your organization’s IT team saying that your password has been compromised and that you need to reset it via a link they provide, you may be doing precisely that without even knowing it.

Cybercriminals use phishing emails to get users to download malicious software or to click on malicious links. Continuing with the previous example, if you enter your username and password in a password reset form on a fraudulent website that looks like your organization’s site, then you’re giving them the ability to log in to your accounts and access any systems your account touches.

What kind of information are hackers trying to get? What do they do with it?

Hackers love all types of data. They can choose to use it themselves to carry out crimes or sell it to other cybercriminals through a market known as the dark web for profit. Some of the types of data they look for include:

  • Personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, etc.
  • Financial information such as credit or debit card information, bank account numbers, etc.
  • Protected health information (PHI) such as health records and insurance-related information
  • Proprietary data and intellectual property
  • Usernames, passwords, and other account credentials

User credentials and passwords are particularly valuable to cybercriminals. If they have your username and password, then they have the virtual keys to the kingdom. Hackers can use this information to access your organization’s network, databases, patient files, or any other systems that your account touches.

What would readers be most surprised about regarding cybersecurity?

Unless an organization chooses to eliminate everything digital within their environments, there’s no way to prevent every cyber attack. Hackers are always going to find vulnerabilities and weaknesses to exploit. But what you can do is follow cybersecurity best practices to make yourself and your organization tougher targets.

Firewalls, antivirus software, and other technologies can protect your organization from some threats but not all. You and your fellow health care providers are what constitute the “human firewall” of your organization.

Is there anything else that is important for our readers to know?

  • Cybercriminals are capitalizing on the COVID-19 pandemic to carry out phishing scams and other cyber attacks.
  • Data from Black Book Market Research shows that “Over 93% of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach since Q3 2016 and 57% have had more than five data breaches during the same timeframe.”
  • Researchers at Vanderbilt University believe that there may be a link between ransomware attacks and data breaches and an increase in heart-related deaths among patients at hospitals hit by those attacks. According to Brian Krebs, a cybersecurity expert and author: “Hospitals that have been hit by a data breach or ransomware attack can expect to see an increase in the death rate among heart patients in the following months or years because of cybersecurity remediation efforts.”
  • You can complete cyber awareness training on your own. The U.S. Department of Defense offers free cyber awareness training online in the form of its DoD Cyber Awareness Challenge.
Nursing Side Gigs: Nursing the Family Farm

Nursing Side Gigs: Nursing the Family Farm

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a nurse’s family farm.


Eileen Shlagel, RN, CEN

For 40 years, Eileen Shlagel, RN, CEN, has worked as a nurse, the last 30 of them in the Emergency Department of University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, Maryland.

“I feel honored to be able to work in a career that I love and in a hospital that I love,” says Shlagel, who now works part-time. Another added bonus? Her only daughter also works there.

That’s not Eileen’s only job, though. Since the mid-1980s, Shlagel and her husband have been operating the family farm, Shlagel Farms, LLC. Located in Southern Maryland, Shlagel Farms is a Century Farm—this is a title of recognition given to any farm that has been operating continuously for at least 100 years. Shlagel says that in the state of Maryland, there is a ceremony every couple of years, at which the Governor presents the farmers with a sign and a certificate.

By 1990, the Shlagels had five children, and they would work with their parents every day. Today, they grow many different kinds of fruits and vegetables. They raise cattle, turkeys, chickens, and a few pigs, and also grow horse-quality straw, wheat, and hay. Shlagel says that in addition to operating a farm store, they also sell their goods at 10 Farmers Markets in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area. They also provide their produce to two major grocery chains and to a broker who sells supplies to area restaurants.

Shlagel with her grandchildren

Three of her sons work at the farm full-time, and, overall, the farm supports 12 families.

 “I personally take care of the 19 bee hives, go to Farmers Markets, schedule and run the field trips that we host for kids, do payroll, keep the books, schedule the employees, and wash all of the chicken eggs. I’m in charge of the USDA Certified Food Safety Program,” says Shlagel. “When you live on a farm, you work there full time. There is always something that needs to be done—from first thing in the morning until dark.”

Shlagel believes that people would be surprised how scientific farming is. “It’s so much more than putting a seed in a hole and giving it water. We attend classes every winter to learn the latest techniques, updates, and legislative issues that could impact our business from the USDA, FDA, or the Maryland Department of Agriculture,” Shlagel explains. “A farmer must be a biologist, a chemist, a vet, a careful money manager, and you have to be really adept at prioritizing. You can do everything right, but if it’s at the wrong time, it’s worthless. Timing is everything.”

The most rewarding part of the job for Shlagel is spending time with three of her sons as well as her 13 grandchildren. “It’s rewarding teaching them how to complete jobs that will make them feel successful and proud of themselves. Recently, I took three of them to the green bean field to pick a mess for dinner. They picked them and snapped the ends off and then we cooked them together and they ate them for dinner. Additionally, I love to show them all of the beauty in nature. We take walks around the farm, and we might spot a frog or a snake or a turtle and we talk about it and then they research it later,” says Shlagel.

The Shlagel Apiary

The greatest challenge that Shlagel has faced on the farm was learning to care for and expand their Apiary. “I took a class and read two books, but that in no way prepares you to be surrounded by 50,000 stinging insects! I had assumed incorrectly that you put them in a box, and they go pollinate and everything is lovely,” admits Shlagel. “They require inspections every two weeks, which still take me five to six hours. You have to make adjustments in their living area, give them water and food in the winter, and make sure their Queen is alive and happy. Most of what could go wrong, did for me in the first year, but I have learned to fix the problems before they get bad. And I have certainly learned to take a sting!

Even though she worked two full-time jobs for many years—nursing and farming—Shlagel says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love every single day that I go to work at the hospital, and I am very happy at home, working outside with my family.”

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