At this time of year many nurses are wondering how to enter the busy holiday season with more intention and ease. They want to remember the important things about Thanksgiving and bounty and blessings, say, but in the midst of Black Friday madness? Those “gotta get it now” sales can turn anyone’s attention from gratitude to greed. And then the gift-giving holidays kick in, so the focus on materialism becomes even more intense.
Maybe you’ve tried some of the recommended hacks for generating heartfelt warmth, peace, and grace. Oprah popularized one such method, the gratitude journal, when she recommended that viewers write three things they were thankful for each day.
There’s good research to back Oprah but some nurses don’t like to write out their reflections— they want a more active approach. Or they’ve kept a list of three items and it didn’t change how they felt—frazzled, harried, lacking, or just emotionally flat when everyone around seems to be caught up in the spirit of the season.
There are many active and powerful ways to create an awareness (and often the feeling follows) of gratitude which is closely related to compassion. That can be a powerful duo for nurses who may wrestle with compassion fatigue all year long, but feel it especially at the holidays.
The Japanese method of Naikan (translates to “looking within”) provides one. I like to use the end of November through the end of December for this style of structured reflection. It always results in a profound sense of gratitude for blessings that were always there but went unnoticed.
It takes about me 15 to 30 minutes a day to do Naikan, and I get so much out of it that I do it every year.
Daily Naikan practice asks us to examine these three areas of living:
- What have I received? [from life, or a certain person, place, or thing.]
- What did I give? [same as above—you can time limit it to that day or year or the whole length of employment or relationship, etc.]
- What troubles and difficulties did I cause? [ditto]
The first two questions are usually pretty easy to answer and we may be able to go on and on about what we do for others. But slice up your time in uneven sections with 60% of it devoted to the third question. That’s the most difficult one. After all, it’s natural to think that problems are caused by other people while we’re hardly ever responsible for upsets.
Search your conscience for where you missed the mark, even in some small way. Here’s an example of one day’s list:
Troubles and Difficulties I Caused
- Sent thank you email a week after dinner party
- Snapped at young, inexperienced nurse
- Wouldn’t let my youngest use Pinterest
- Snide tone to husband on phone call
- Checked my social feeds while at work
- Ignored my son when he wanted to play
- Wasted water by letting shower run for 15 minutes
If you want an active reflection that’s a bit off the wall, I like to do something I call Garbage Naikan. Every time that I throw away or recycle an item, like floss and coffee filters and train tickets … I think about the service I got from that thing, what I gave it, and what problems I caused it. This may sound eccentric to Westerners but maybe not now, after Marie Kondo’s Japanese book on tidying up your home became a mega-bestseller. She recommends thanking any object that you toss out while decluttering.
So, you may feel ridiculous, but give it a go. When recycling a sock, say “Thank you sock for your service in keeping my feet warm. I treated you well by gently folding and setting you in my sock drawer. I’m sorry I caused trouble by walking around on hardwoods without slippers and wearing you out before your time.”
Finding creative ways to examine your life using psychological or spiritual methods (like Naikan) will help make you mindful of the overlooked gifts we receive daily.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing recently received a $91,500 grant from Women Investing in Nebraska (WIN) for geriatric and dementia services. The grant was given specifically to the UNMC Geriatric Cognitive and Mental Health Project for Rural Nebraska.
The project is being managed by UNMC assistant professor Dr. Nancy Meier, who teaches adult gerontology and psychiatric mental in the nurse practitioner programs. She explained that many older patients have to travel further for specialized services, which limits their access to care. “One of the reasons for my applying for this grant is that in the 11 Panhandle counties, almost 20 percent of the population is 65 or older,” Dr. Meier told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald. “That means almost 1 in 5 individuals living in the Panhandle are over the age of 65, yet there is really a lack of providers who have specialty in being able to evaluate them from a psychiatric standpoint, as well as geriatric.”
The grant will help Dr. Meier and other UNMC nurse practitioners get trained on performing geriatric assessments and psychiatric evaluations on patients in their own homes, in order to help access to care and help the nurse practitioners better see and understand their patients’ living situations, backgrounds, and other important details.
“I work with them to provide the details on what I think is the problem,” Meier shared with the Scottsbluff Star-Herald. “We are very specific into the needs of that older adult. Our goal is that they will be able to stay longer at home. Our goal is to be able to help them take care of the problem or give them a reference to another provider, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or the right resource so that they are healthy and stay healthy.”
This grant from WIN is a huge boost for the program, which will also provide caregiver assessments, dementia education, and mobile services. This comes in addition to a four year, $2.6 million grant gifted in July to the UNMC College of Nursing by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, aimed at improving engagement of registered nurses in patient management.
For more information about the grant awarded to the UNMC Geriatric Cognitive and Mental Health Project for Rural Nebraska, click here.
For the sixth year in a row, WGU Indiana delivered Night Shift Nurse Appreciation Kits to hospitals and healthcare facilities across Indiana for daylight savings time. These kits were provided to nurses who worked an extra hour during their usual, and already difficult, shifts.
“WGU Indiana is distributing the Night Shift Nurse Appreciation Kits for the sixth year, to honor the important and often unrecognized contributions of night shift nurses,” WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber shared, prior to daylight savings time. This year, roughly 4,000 nurses in 127 hospitals and health care units across Indiana received these kits on their extra long shifts. Each kit contained treats, a thank you note, sleep masks and stress balls.
In addition to the usual work challenges that all nurses tackle, night shift nurses run into problems on the job that affect more than their careers. Having their circadian rhythm thrown off by their working hours, these night shift nurses are put at risk for fatigue and other health issues.
“From my work as a night shift nurse for 38 years, I recognize that night shift nurses don’t always receive the same recognition as employees who work during the day,” said Mary Lawson Carney, WGU Indiana State Director of Nursing, DNP, RN-BC, CCRN, CNE. “Night shift work has a significant impact on the physical, psychosocial and professional lives of nurses.”
The care packages also included information about the WGU Indiana Night Shift Nurse Scholarship. There are five $2,000 scholarships available to Indiana night shift nurses who are interested in advancing their education through WGU Indiana’s College of Health Professions.
Last year Dea Gillfillan, a night shift nurse and WGU Indiana student, was one of the five scholarship recipients and is grateful to the school for giving her opportunities to advance her education. “The flexibility of my online coursework with WGU has allowed me to study on my days off and the Night Shift Nurse Scholarship made my degree that much more affordable,” Gillfillan shared.
To learn more about WGU Indiana and the Night Shift Nurse Scholarship, click here.
This month we celebrate family caregivers. The 2018 theme for National Family Caregivers Month is Supercharge Your Caregiving. President Clinton signed the first Presidential Proclamation in 1997 and every president since that time has followed his lead by issuing an annual proclamation to recognize caregivers each November, for an entire month. For this year, President Donald J. Trump says “We recognize the challenges of caregiving and celebrate the joys of bringing support and comfort to a loved one. We express our gratitude to them for the work they do daily to ensure their loved ones are able to live in their homes and communities.”
Nurses play an important role in patient care including caregivers, and this role of care will expand with the increasing number of patients needing this care. Nurses are also well-suited to assess, educate, and support family caregivers who care for their loved ones, as well as contribute to evidence-based nursing practice to improve the quality of care for family caregivers. Nurses serve as clinicians, educators, counselors, and researchers who provide support and conduct research that addresses family caregivers’ ability to care for their loved ones.
Demands on caregivers are currently growing as the health care environment changes. Additionally, the number of people with dementia and multiple chronic conditions is rising. Family caregivers can be overwhelmed by multiple responsibilities and seek guidance for taking on the responsibilities of caring and planning for a loved one. Nurses are well positioned to help family caregivers to become more confident and competent providers as they engage in the health care process. Nurses are also an excellent resource for families who need support, guidance, and encouragement. Nurses can connect family caregivers with key resources to simplify the care planning process.
Here are some useful resources to help family caregivers address and cope with the challenges of caring for a loved one.
1. Caregiver Action Network
The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is the leading family caregiver organization to improve the quality of life for Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, diseases, or the frailties of old age. CAN is a nonprofit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.
This is the leading online destination for family caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. It offers helpful content, advice from leading experts, a supportive community of caregivers, and a comprehensive directory of eldercare services.
3. National Transitions of Care Coalition
The National Transitions of Care Coalition (NTOCC) is a nonprofit organization addressing the issues and concerns related to transitions of care. The NTOCC provides tools to help health care professionals, patients, and caregivers establish safer transitions; and resources for practitioners and policymakers to improve transitions throughout the health care system. Most of these resources are available free of charge.
The holiday season has almost started and there are less than two months left in 2018. This is the time of year when we can get reflective because it’s always surprising how quickly time passes. It seems like only yesterday when we were all formulating our New Year’s Resolutions.
Are you gobsmacked by how many items still remain on your 2018 to-do list?
Nurses are go-getters. They know how to get things done at work. But sometimes they aren’t as diligent about attacking their own personal goals and dreams. There’s no need to despair if you’re not where you want to be with your resolutions, personal to-do’s, or life “bucket list” items. It’s only common sense that nurses have the option of approaching these final weeks in a couple of ways.
One: you can drive on cruise control for the final days of 2018, resigned to the fact that you probably won’t be getting much accomplished after all. You may even be in a holiday mental fog, simply looking forward to enjoying time off from work, as health care environments generally slow down during this season.
Two: you can put the pedal to the metal and accelerate to reach your goals in the final stretch of this year. And if you’ve already reached your targets (good on you!), then you will try to get a jump-start on the coming year.
That’s not much time, but it can be plenty of time to reach many goals. From buying a new winter scarf to applying for an advanced nursing degree, there’s still an opportunity to take action during November and December.
Still, the temptation is there to take it easy and not push yourself during what is already the most hectic and stressful season, with family gatherings and all the emotional drama that entails for many people.
Another common mistake? Looking to the future and dreaming about how wonderful it’s bound to be—without actually doing what’s necessary now to make it happen.
There is no easy way out, though. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn says, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”
So, take a load off of your shoulders.
Right now, pick up your calendar, a notebook, and a pen. Make a list of what you’re aiming to accomplish. Research proves that lists have power. It can help make you more organized and productive when you “think it and ink it.” Perhaps it’s because writing activates so many different parts of the brain so it’s easier to remember what you want to get done.
Some items on your list are bound to be meaningful while others will be mundane. The biggies on most people’s lists regard daily living (“conquer procrastination”), dream jobs (or how not to go bonkers at work), romantic relationships, health and wellness, family and friends, and the pursuit of happiness.
Some goals are a bit of both—for instance “drink only hot water with lemon or cold water with cucumber slices” could make a major impact on your health if it replaces sugary sodas.
In any case, you’ll feel awesome come January 1st when you’re able to cross off (check off?) your action items, and get a head start on some others for next year. That’s so much better than starting 2019 from a dead stop after six weeks of holiday frenzy or winter hibernation.
See you tomorrow.