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.
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.
Have you heard about the annual health event called Movember (“Moustache” plus “November”)? Men pledge to grow the facial hair above their upper lips and to get donations from their friends, family, and coworkers to fund efforts to address the men’s health crisis.
In addition to fundraising, the Movember Foundation aims to raise global awareness of male-specific diseases such as prostate and testicular cancer, as well as conditions that often hit men especially hard, such as depression, other mental illnesses, and suicide. Their stated mission is simple: to stop men dying too young.
Since Movember was launched in Australia in 2003, the event has grown into a powerhouse health charity and one of the fastest growing non-government organizations. The founders of Movember were inspired by how women had spearheaded fundraising and research efforts towards finding a cure for breast cancer. They sought to do the same to address male health and longevity disparities, and they have—with good humor and tremendous imagination.
In the last 15 years, the Movember Foundation has invested $200 million in 120 research projects to improve health outcomes for American men. They’ve also funded over 1,200 projects in more than 20 countries, with the financial support of over 5 million men and women.
The Movember Foundation will launch their 50 Million Men campaign in early 2019 to empower 50 million American men to self-manage their health in the next five years. Among other disparities, American women outlive American men by an average of five years.
(Worldwide, health outcomes among men and boys continue to be substantially worse than among girls and women.)
Through free digital resources, trackers, and health promotion initiatives, the organization aims to educate American men about healthy living, and to encourage them to seek preventative care and early treatment.
Movember gives nurses a wonderful opportunity to get involved in the effort to close the gender health gap and ensure that men live long lives, with the support of their peers and families. More healthy men mean healthier communities and ultimately, a healthier world.
November isn’t the only national health observances this month. According to Healthfinder.gov, there are many others. Here are a few that may greatly impact men:
- Lung Cancer Awareness Month
- Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
- American Diabetes Month
- Great American Smokeout (American Cancer Society)
- National Child Mental Health Month
Though men may have traditionally been more likely to smoke, drink heavily, or eat convenience foods, that may be changing. With increased awareness, men are starting to be more proactive about taking charge of their own health. By educating men about these issues, whether during Movember or the Great American Smokeout, nurses can help to save 50 Million Men.
To learn more, visit www.movember.com.
It’s a fact: Nurses are caretakers, but do they take care of themselves? Nope. That’s probably why we see the high numbers of nurses with depression, anxiety, burnout, and fatigue. Ultimately, that leads them to leave the bedside or the nursing profession altogether.
Maybe you’ve been seeing the term “self-care” a lot recently but aren’t totally sure what it means. Basically, it relates to ways to take care of your time, your body, and your health, which is essential if you’re to remain strong enough to take on whatever life throws at you.
It may be especially difficult for nurses to think of “looking after number one” in terms of taking care of yourself. But remember that when you take care of your own needs, your patients will benefit, and ultimately, so will your family and other loved ones.
It’s like what flight attendants say in their airline pre-flight safety speech—“put on your own oxygen mask on before attempting to assist others”—in case of an emergency. The same safety strategy applies to self-care. It takes the most consistent and conscientious acts of kindness to self before you’re rested enough to handle the crushing patient load you sometimes must carry.
What exact type of act constitutes self-care will vary from nurse to nurse. Each individual has to try to wrap his or her mind around this slippery concept, but know that you’re not the only one to struggle with something so seemingly simple. A Swedish massage with warm, scented lotion may stress you out while a sweaty, muddy mountain-bike ride may make you feel positively pampered.
How do you know where to begin your self-care efforts?
Choose an area of life that will make the biggest impact: Weight-bearing exercise, healthy eating, managing stress, getting more shut-eye, connecting to your values and dreams, etc.
Then try to determine what self-care activities would be rewarding as well as pleasurable. Psychologists at the University of Plymouth in England found that there is a “pleasure zone” or life satisfaction we experience when regularly engaging in those activities that combine reward and pleasure.
Here are some common examples which hit the sweet spot: Volunteering, praying, meditating, time with children, cooking, exercising, socializing, reading, Internet use, and outdoor activities.
Compare those items to the two most often-cited activities that are neither pleasurable nor rewarding: Shopping and commuting. (For most of us, these are two of the top time drains, too.)
Unfortunately, it’s usually not possible to radically change your schedule or commitments to pump up self-care—though if you can swing a shift change or house move for a shorter commute, more power to you! For the rest of us, we can get the best results from being creative and exploring simple ways to create positive new routines for a happier, healthier life.
But try not to become frustrated or disappointed with yourself if you sometimes aren’t able to get off the hamster-wheel and achieve some work-life balance. Self-care is all about taking positive and sustainable action and shouldn’t cause you more anxiety or require you to upend your life, either.
The beauty of nursing is that no two career paths are going to be exactly the same, which is why we get such a variety of responses whenever we ask nurses why they love being a nurse.
If you’re feeling a bit burned out in your current role or maybe just need some inspiration to remind yourself why you got into this amazing career in the first place, check out what some of your fellow nurses had to say about it.
1. “Nursing is a profession that keeps on giving, with endless opportunities for specialization. I became a nurse in 1982. At that time, the scope of work was much more narrow. Today, clinicians can choose exactly what kind of care they want to provide and where they want to provide it, such as in the home working with patients one-on-one.”
—Kathy Pfeiffer, RN, BSN, Director of Pediatric Clinical Operations, BAYADA Home Health Care
2. “It’s great to be a nurse in 2018 because the health care system in the U.S. is changing rapidly and nurses are in a position to not only be part of this change, but to be leaders. The opportunities for nurses at this time in history have never been greater.”
—Nancy Brook, MSN, RN, CFNP, Nurse Practitioner/Mentor, Stanford Healthcare
3. “I have never been bored as a registered nurse because I never know what the day will bring. With a nursing degree, you can go anywhere in the world and help anyone—it’s universal.”
—Kelly Hebel, RN, BSN, MBA, Kaiser Permanente in Aurora, Colorado
4. “I have been a nurse for 24 years and currently work as a pediatric clinical manager. It’s a great time to be a nurse because as technology advances, so does the profession. Better technology leads to better patient care, and when you can make a difference, it’s easy to love what you do.”
—Crystal Joan Lee, RN, Clinical Manager, BAYADA Home Health Care
5. “I appreciate the variety it offers. You can choose to nurse at the bedside, be a teacher and mentor, or manage in a hospital or clinic. You can roll out programs or coordinate patient care as part of a multidisciplinary team. I’m also grateful that I can be part of a dedicated team of people who all want the best for our patients.”
—Catherine Parsons-Goudberg, RNC, MSN, Roseville Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Northern California
6. “It’s great to be a nurse in 2018 because nurses are standing on the edge of greatness. The demand for nurses in the coming years is going to be incredible and will put us in a position to make positive changes for health care and our patients. The awesomeness of nursing is starting to be recognized by industries and policymakers that previously had overlooked us. We are starting to stand up and show our value in solving the problems we face in health care and innovation. The future of nursing is bright, so watch out!”
—Joan Spitrey, RN, MSN, CCRN, TheNursingTeacher.com
7. “It’s great to be a nurse in 2018 because in a world that is changing so fast, a nurse is sometimes the one person to hold a hand and explain all that is happening in terms that the anxious—and sometimes confused—patient can understand.
Nursing is as old as time and ever-changing to meet the needs of complex patients. Nursing is part of the health care team that has the skills and compassion to make even the scariest of situations seem better.”
—Kathy Reda, RN, BSN, Emergency Department, Newton-Wellesley Hospital
This week we’re featuring Resisting the Slow Undoing of Human Rights, a Nursing Knowledge Activities column from the journal Research and Theory for Nursing Practice. Author Debra R. Hanna, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, provided some insight as to how she prepared this column to write about the Transcultural Nursing Society. Read more below:
The column about Nursing Knowledge Activities, is intended to inform readers about events and developments in nursing knowledge. Having had a long-term interest in theory and research I wrote a series of columns to showcase different professional organizations dedicated to nursing theory activities.
Usually I write the Nursing Knowledge Activities column about 4-6 months before it appears in print. In October 2017 I began writing the May 2018 column. Having already written about several nursing theory organizations, I wanted to write about the Transcultural Nursing Society started by Madeleine Leininger. That Fall, I was doing background reading about twentieth century American history for a book I am currently writing. Each evening, the national news mentioned Congress wanting to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Also, there were news stories about refugees fleeing crisis situations from several parts of the world. Our politicians seemed divided about wanting to help refugees. That news broke my heart since it seemed that some politicians were not interested in helping humanity.
My first column for May 2018 was focused on a different topic. But then things came together on December 12, 2017. I decided to write a completely different column for May 2018. That morning I had read President Kennedy’s speech during my background reading. It reminded me of Leininger’s approach to human beings that was so nurturing, caring, and respectful of human dignity. The stark contrast between Kennedy’s approach to humanity and current political conversations, created a clear insight. I then examined the Transcultural Nursing Society’s website equipped with that insight. Once I saw the rich treasures that the Transcultural Nursing Society has to offer nurses today, I scrapped my other column. Within a half hour I wrote May’s column from beginning to end.
You can ready Dr. Hanna’s column, Resisting the Slow Undoing of Human Rights, here. To subscribe to Research and Theory for Nursing Practice, click here.