Looking for a Way to Rejuvenate This Spring? Consider a Digital Detox

Looking for a Way to Rejuvenate This Spring? Consider a Digital Detox

There’s good reason to take note of the emerging, digital detoxing trend that’s making its way through health and wellness circles. Many of us are glued to our phones, tablets, or computers at all hours of the day and night. With spring in the air, many people yearn for change this time of year, and a digital detox might be just the step you need to replenish yourself.

But are our social media habits taking a toll on our health and well-being? Research suggests this may, in fact, be the case. In the last few years, several studies have shown a link between social media usage and depression, anxiety, and loss of sleep, among other things. Nevertheless, our smart devices are almost never out of our sights.

“Every new notification or text triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives us to seek rewards, so you keep coming back for more,” explained Levi Felix, cofounder of Digital Detox, in an interview for Shape Magazine.

If you’re looking for a way to rejuvenate this season, consider unplugging and spending more time away from your digital devices each day. At first, the thought of disconnecting from the rapid-fire way people communicate may invoke a bit of panic, but a few digital detox strategies will help you feel calmer, less distracted, and more present in your day-to-day life.

Although you may not be able to forgo communication devices for long periods of time due to the nature of your job, here are three tips to get you started.

1. Use an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake up.

It’s common for people to use the alarm clocks on their phones to wake up each day. But if you awake in the night, you may be tempted to check your notifications, texts, or emails. When you do this, the blue light that’s transmitted from your electrical devices can disrupt your melatonin production, making it hard for you to fall back to sleep. Instead of using your phone, consider using an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake you up. You’ll be less inclined to check your messages and more likely to get a good night’s sleep.

2. Turn your phone off during breaks or meals whenever possible.

When you’re on a break with others, what do you notice? Most people’s eyes are fixed on small screens as they scroll through one post after another. The lack of meaningful conversations can make you feel detached from colleagues. Rather than pulling out your phone, try to engage more deeply with the people around you. You just might find that by strengthening your bonds with your coworkers, you begin to feel more engaged and excited about the work you’re doing.

3. Deactivate your push notifications.

If you receive push notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other apps, you might notice your free time is quickly gobbled up as you tend to the storm of information hitting you.

To regain some spare time in your day, deactivate or disable these notifications, and designate specific times when you’ll check your various social media accounts. By doing this, you’ll soon notice most things don’t require your immediate attention; you might even discover you feel less stressed out and tense when you minimize your 24/7 availability to the world.

As you get used to creating a more tech-free life for yourself, consider scheduling days where you unplug entirely. Take this time to read a book, visit a museum, or watch a movie. Adding more fulfilling activities into your life can be paramount to nurturing your overall mental and physical health.

Navigating Occupational Hazards for the Pregnant Nurse

Navigating Occupational Hazards for the Pregnant Nurse

Nursing is a vocation rife with occupational hazards. On a daily basis, nurses come into contact with sick patients, infectious agents, teratogenic chemicals, and radiation, to name a few environmental risks. Additionally, nurses are constantly on their feet, walking several thousand steps per shift. They are expected to help lift, move, and transfer patients several times per day, and face many potential musculoskeletal injuries from strenuous physical labor.

It is not surprising, then, that many nurses worry about the risks inherent in their daily job descriptions once they are expecting. Many nurses are women of childbearing age, and a pregnant nurse has to take certain precautions to keep herself and her growing baby safe. Below are some of the hazards pregnant nurses may face and suggestions for mitigating those risks.

Infection. Perhaps one of the most obvious risks to a pregnant woman and her fetus is infection. A nurse in the emergency department (ED), for example, may encounter patients sick with potential pathogens, from strep throat to tuberculosis to the flu. A pregnant nurse should follow standard precautions with all patients, and may also wish to wear a surgical mask around patients with a fever or suspected respiratory illness. A pregnant ED nurse may also wish to limit exposure to pathogens by reducing time spent in triage, if possible. Pregnant nurses may wish to avoid taking care of patients with active shingles or varicella zoster infections, as well as patients on airborne precautions.

Pregnant nurses should be immunized against influenza; the vaccine is safe for women in all stages of pregnancy. The live attenuated flu vaccine is unsafe for pregnant women. As an added benefit, flu antibodies are also passed to the fetus. If a pregnant nurse cares for a patient with influenza and later suspects she may have contracted the flu, she should speak with occupational health at her hospital to possibly receive a prescription for Tamiflu. Tamiflu works best when taken within 48 hours of symptom onset.

Drugs and chemotherapeutic agents. Because several drugs and pharmaceutical agents have known fetotoxicity, great care should be taken by the pregnant nurse when administering those and any medications to patients. Medication preparation is risky, and pregnant nurses may be exposed to hazardous drugs through skin absorption, inhalation, accidental contact, or needle-stick injuries. Sometimes while drawing up medication, the liquid can splash or make contact with the skin. Nurses should at the very least wear gloves while drawing up any medications or handling drugs, and at the most, should avoid handling known chemotherapeutic agents such as methotrexate.

Nurses should also weigh the risks and benefits of continuing their particular field of nursing while pregnant. Cancer treatment drugs, for example, have known effects of infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and low birth weights. 

Ionizing radiation. Radiation for diagnostic imaging is common in nearly all hospital departments, and nurses are at risk not just of background radiation but also of direct ionizing radiation. Nuclear medicine departments in particular are of high risk to a pregnant woman. Effects of radiation on a fetus depend in part on the dosage of radiation and on the baby’s gestational age. The thresholds of safe exposures are not well investigated, but research has demonstrated an “all or none” effect; that is, significant exposures cause either no effect or a fetal loss. Although dosimeters are used in areas where high radiation exposure is expected, other areas of high ionizing radiation (e.g., the emergency department) are rarely monitored. Expectant nurses should be very aware of their surroundings.

Stress, physical labor, and shift work. It may be necessary for nurses later in pregnancy to modify their shift schedule or behaviors to help accommodate their needs. Nursing is already a physically rigorous vocation, but add in the fatigue of pregnancy and it can be extremely physiologically demanding. In the first trimester, many women experience morning sickness, which to the pregnant nurse can be debilitating. Later in pregnancy, back pain and sciatica can also interfere with nurses’ ability to continue working until their baby is full term. Additionally, the 12-hour shifts typical for most hospital nurses become more taxing later in pregnancy, and it may be necessary for the pregnant nurse to request a modification to shorter shifts or part-time hours. The best solutions for pregnant nurses are to enlist colleagues for help when possible, to always use safe-lift equipment when available, and to speak up when requiring assistance.

If you are pregnant and struggling to perform your duties, certain pregnancy complications are covered by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Pregnant nurses should also be familiar with their state and employer’s Family Medical Leave Act policies and eligibility requirements.

For more information about the hazards to pregnant health care workers, you can browse the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s website about the effects of workplace hazards on female reproductive health.

3 Yoga Poses to Jumpstart Your Day

3 Yoga Poses to Jumpstart Your Day

Sometimes, you just can’t squeeze an entire exercise session into your hectic schedule. But, if you can carve out five minutes before work, these three yoga poses can ease muscle tension, invigorate you, and jumpstart your day no matter how jam-packed your calendar is.

So, grab your yoga mat and get moving!

 

1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

From a kneeling position, move your knees apart so that they’re about the width of your mat and keep your toes together underneath you. Next, place your chest on your thighs and lay your forehead on your mat. Then, stretch your arms long in front of you and let your whole body rest in this position.

While you’re in child’s pose, slowly inhale through your nose and fill your lungs with air. Notice how your back widens as you deepen your breath. Slowly exhale through your nose and try to sink deeper into the pose. Repeat this cycle of breaths five to 10 times. For additional ways to tailor this posture to your needs, check out Howcast’s video, How to Do a Child’s Pose.

2. Cat-Cow Pose (Bidalasana)

From child’s pose, press into a tabletop position with your shoulders and wrists in alignment and your hips directly above your knees. Activate your abdominals by drawing them towards your spine to support your back and press your shoulders away from your ears. Inhale as you arch your back, tilt your tailbone to the sky, and lift your head. Then, exhale as you round your spine, point the tailbone towards the ground, and curve your neck. Repeat this sequence of movements five to 10 times. Feel the muscles of your spine release as you flow from one position to the other.

To learn ways you can modify this pose and build core strength, view Howcast’s video, How to Do Cat-Cow Pose for Energy.

 

3. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

From tabletop, tuck your toes under and raise your hips to the ceiling. Stretch your arms straight, but don’t lock your elbows. Make sure your fingers are spread out wide (like starfish), and evenly distribute your weight between both hands. Aim your chest towards your thighs as you keep your hips lifted; you’re body will create a triangle with the floor as its base. Don’t worry if your heels don’t make it all the way to the mat—your form is more important than how far you can stretch in the pose. Inhale deeply through your nose, and then, exhale through your nose as well. Remain in this pose for five to 10 breaths.

Downward-facing dog is a common pose you’ll encounter in almost every yoga practice. This Downward-Facing Dog Yoga Tutorial by YogaApproved takes you through a series of do’s and don’ts to achieve the maximum benefit from the posture.

After you’ve completed the last pose, come to a standing position. Take three deep breaths and roll your shoulders backward three times (or whatever feels good to you). Now, you’re ready to go about your day with a positive, calm mindset.

 

Eating Hacks for the Busy Nurse

Eating Hacks for the Busy Nurse

As nurses, and even nursing students, we all know how difficult it can be to balance eating at work. It should be easy to eat, right? You may be a nurse if you relate to any of the following:

  • What’s eating? There is no time to eat. None. Zilch. Zippo.
  • After you cath someone, insert a rectal tube, and empty a fresh wound vac you simply have no desire (or need at this point) to eat.
  • The cafeteria has served the same taco salad for the last four days that you’ve worked. Does anyone else notice that?
  • You wear Invisalign (like me) and have no desire to put your MRSA covered hands in your mouth to remove your retainer or brush your teeth in a hospital bathroom after you eat.
  • The doctors have been next door rounding for an hour and your patient is next (cue the jeopardy jingle).
  • Your favorite hall buddy has been on her 30 minute break for an hour and 10 now. (The jeopardy jingle continues…)
  • Who even has time to pack a lunch when you get home at 8:30 and have to be back the next day?
  • You get full-blown judged by the “normal suit and tie” people when they see you walk in with a cooler containing a breakfast, a lunch, a snack, an afternoon soda, an afternoon sweet, and a partridge in a pear tree.
  • By the time you finally do get to eat at 3 pm you’re as good as drunk and you go for whatever is in sight in the break room: cake, cookies, chips—and topped off with a grilled cheese and tots from the café.
  • Your “normal suit and tie” friends post IG stories eating an Açaí bowl or a fresh Chipotle bowl or a kale salad with their coworkers (who are also wearing the cutest Banana Republic outfits) while you eat applesauce and PB&J in the break room while everyone around you complains about poop.

So, my friends, it’s time to fix this problem. Here’s another list for you, because all blogs are more fun to read in numerical list form, right?

1. Avoid eating in the break room.

Tag team with a buddy and go eat outside. Seriously, it’s amazing what 30 minutes in the fresh air does for your mind. Northern friends: I have no clue what to tell you right now.

2. Meal prep.

Nothing crazy, but keep reading to learn some legit good and easy meals you can make at home and have ready for three in a row.

3. Order takeout once a month.

Not everyone can get on board with the meal prep, so treat yourself to a real meal once in a while if you are eating sandwiches and café food all the time (and even if you are meal prepping!).

4. Plan a potluck.

Best way to celebrate a holiday as a nurse? Potluck, potluck, potluck. All the luck transfers to your patients so it’s a win-win.

5. Plan your breaks ahead of time if you can with your hall mates.

If you have a mate that doesn’t do too great (ah, poet and I didn’t even know it) with coming back on time, suggest that you go first after you finish this and then you’ll be back by xx:xx. Letting your buddy know that you respect her break might awaken her to reciprocating.

Pro tip: Nursing students everywhere, please don’t be afraid to tell your preceptor you need a break. I almost passed out once waiting for my preceptor to finally take a break. You are a student and you are totally allowed to pull that card and take a full 30-minute break. Believe me, you’ll have your days of missing your break and starving.

And finally, some of my favorite “easy to eat” things to meal prep and pack for lunch include:

  • Egg muffins! One of my friends taught me this recipe. Simply mix up some eggs, ham, cheese, tomatoes (or whatever you like), and pour it into a greased muffin pan for a yummy take-with-you breakfast. If I’m bringing breakfast to eat at work, I usually make breakfast burritos and freeze them or simply make a big batch of scrambled eggs, mixed veggies, and sausage to eat! It’s a small enough meal that can be eaten quickly with roughly the same nutrition in some of these super dense granola bars that aren’t always the healthiest.
  • Pasta and veggies. Pasta sauce and mix veggies (spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) go great together and make a super easy lunch. For a healthy mix up, try pairing it with black bean pasta!
  • Sweet potatoes. Every week I make two sweet potatoes, a big bowl of stir fried veggies, and bake two chicken breasts. Mix it up! Shred the chicken and put it over a sweet potato with barbecue sauce and goat cheese…weird, but delicious! Or chop up your chicken breast and make a southwest bowl with mashed sweet potatoes, corn, black beans, salsa, and lettuce. It’s all about finding foods that you can use for multiple things.
  • A salad bar in your fridge is a great way to mix it up as well. Put items like strawberries, blueberries, slivered almonds, pepitas, dried cranberries, hard-boiled eggs, carrot slices, etc. into tupperware and have your lettuce washed and dried in a big container in the fridge. You can pull out the toppings you want and instantly make a delicious salad and save $7. Pro tip: the cafeteria usually has little 2 oz containers you can use to pre-package your salad dressing!

Hope you enjoy these tips! Please share your favorite recipes with us in the comments.

5 Self-Care Activities to Try Today

5 Self-Care Activities to Try Today

It seems like self-care tips and tricks are everywhere these days—blogs, social media, online articles, and more. If you’re pressed for time, it can be challenging to incorporate self-care activities into your daily routine. After all, who needs one more thing to add to an overflowing plate?

But as a nurse, it’s important to nurture yourself, so you can have the emotional and physical capacity to continue to care for others. We’ve gathered up a list of self-care activities that you can easily incorporate into a busy workday, and they give you a minute to breathe, think, or be alone. Below are five self-care activities to try today.

1. Sneak exercise into your day.

No time to exercise? No problem! Studies show that three 10-minute workouts can be as effective at helping you achieve your fitness goals as long bouts of exercise. To sneak exercise into your day, park further away from the entrance to the building so that you can enjoy a brisk walk to and from work. During the day, take the stairs whenever possible to burn calories, build muscle, and maintain cardiovascular health. Finally, when you’re home, use an opportunity like cooking dinner or washing dishes to make room for some calf raises, squats, or lunges. Before you know it, exercise will be ingrained in your daily life.

2. Step outside.

Whether you have two minutes or five minutes, stepping outside during the day may be just the self-care activity you need to feel revived. Listen to the sounds around you and feel the sunshine on your face. Even a brief time with nature can help you clear your head and feel calmer.

3. When you receive a compliment, embrace it.

When a colleague offers you a compliment, is your first reaction to reject it? The next time someone pays you a compliment, embrace it. Knowing that your coworkers notice your efforts can go a long way toward boosting your confidence and job satisfaction.

4. Say some positive affirmations to yourself.

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed during the day? Take a moment to say some positive affirmation to yourself. Ronald Alexander, PhD, suggested five ways positive affirmations could work for you in a Psychology Today article.

First, Alexander recommended developing an awareness of the negative thoughts and qualities you believe to be true about yourself. Next, he advised writing down a powerful, positive affirmation about yourself. For example, instead of saying, “I’m a hard worker,” you might choose to say, “I have a compassionate heart towards others, and I’m an excellent listener.” Then, begin to speak this affirmation out loud during the day. In as little as five minutes three times a day, you’ll start to reprogram your mind and bolster a healthy mindset.

5. Breathe deeply.

A quiet moment to yourself to breathe deeply can almost instantaneously reinvigorate you. While there are many styles of breathwork you can implement, one, simple approach is to inhale through your nose to the mental count of five. Then, exhale through your mouth as you silently count to five. Repeat the cycle of breaths eight to 10 times. Notice how your body feels, and try to release any excess tension that might be present in your muscles. With practice, you’ll reduce unwanted muscle tension and feel more relaxed.

The goal for any self-care activity is to sustain your mind, body, and spirit. It’s an opportunity to connect with yourself and feel rejuvenated. Plus, you don’t need to take hours out of your hectic day to see results—short, but consistent self-care activities will improve your overall sense of well-being, lower stress, and help you beat compassion fatigue.

New Safe Staffing Legislation Introduced to Congress

New Safe Staffing Legislation Introduced to Congress

On February 15, 2018, the newest safe nurse staffing bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress. The bill (H.R.5052 and S.2446) has bipartisan support, and is championed by Reps. David Joyce (R-OH), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), as well as Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

In the past, several safe staffing bills have been presented in previous Congresses but have failed to pass committee. This bill, the Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act of 2018, is slightly different than previous iterations. Under this staffing legislation, Medicare-participating hospitals would be required to form committees that would create and implement unit specific, nurse-to-patient ratio staffing plans. At least half of each committee must comprise direct care nurses.

“It is so important for nurses on the front lines to be able to have a say in what they believe is safe staffing,” says Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, the president of the American Nurses Association (ANA). “This bill benefits bedside nurses by giving them decision-making power, control, and the ability to influence the delivery of safe care,” Cipriano continues.

A committee made of staff nurses—who would make staffing decisions that directly affect their own units—is so important because it is nurses who can best assess patient needs and the resources required to provide safe patient care. Staffing committees would be able to address the unique needs of specific units and patient populations by involving specialty nurses in the decisions, and would have the ability to modify the hospital safety plans as needed.

Overwhelmingly, research supports adequate nurse staffing. Over the last several decades, literature has demonstrated a decrease in patient morbidity and mortality and an increase in patient safety when units are well staffed. “With adequate amounts of staffing we see mortality go down and patient complications can be prevented or diminished,” Cipriano says. “It is important for nurses to have sufficient resources to care for patients, because nurses experience moral distress when they cannot provide the care they know a patient needs.”

Short-changing patients also contributes to nurse burnout, and low nursing retention is expensive. Additionally, adequate nurse staffing leads to reduced health care costs, as a result of fewer hospital readmissions, hospital-acquired infections, medical errors, and other significant measurable patient outcomes. “Patients deserve to have the right care,” Cipriano says. “They need to be kept safe, and the best way to prevent problems and complications is to have the right nurse staffing.”

Is there hope that this bill will pass, when so many previous iterations have not? “It may be difficult to pass the legislation, even this time around,” Cipriano admits. “But the most important impact is that every time we have an opportunity to have this legislation discussed, it’s another opportunity to educate another decision maker. Whether it is congresspeople, their staff, or other leaders in their communities, it gives us the opportunity to continue to reinforce why it is so important to have the right nursing care.”

It is ethically challenging when a nurse is asked to take staffing assignments that do not feel safe. On many units, nurses are expected to care for several acute and critically ill patients at a time, and are given patient loads that stretch them far beyond their reasonable care delivery capabilities. What should a nurse do when faced with an unsafe assignment? Nurses should raise immediate concerns by following the chain of command, and talking with immediate supervisors to express that they believe the situation is unsafe. “The first obligation is to make sure that no patient is left uncared for,” Cipriano says. “Short term, use the chain of command and do everything you can within in your power to make sure that you’re providing at least the minimum care the patient needs.” Longer-term, if nurses truly believe that their organization is not supporting the right staffing ratios, the ANA encourages an active dialogue with leadership, such as a conversation with responsible nursing leaders, quality directors, or patient care committees or councils to focus attention to the issue.

“Nursing care is like a medication,” Cipriano says. “You wouldn’t withhold a life-saving medication, so why would you withhold the right amount or right dose of nursing care?”

If you are passionate about safe staffing laws, consider calling or writing your congressperson and encourage them to support the Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act of 2018.

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