Mental Health Check For Healthcare Professionals
When it became clear that COVID-19 was a pandemic in early 2020, many in the healthcare profession began referring to doctors and nurses as “like soldiers going to war.” But the truth is that managing mental health issues among healthcare professionals in the United States has always been an ever-present and tricky situation. The arrival of COVID-19 further highlighted many major issues that have always been there.
Registered nurses and other healthcare professionals willingly put the needs of others before their own under very stressful circumstances, many of which involve severe illness and loss of life. Moral injury is now a common term that more accurately describes how moral consciousness and values become injured for healthcare workers in the aftermath of horrific work events. These distressing events often produce extreme guilt and shame – and lead to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and in extreme cases, even suicide.
Over the course of my nursing career, I have seen this many times. I have often tried to explain to friends and family (who don’t work in direct patient care) about the physical and moral demands that are placed on nurses. But unfortunately, I have found that if you aren’t there to witness it directly, then you don’t have the experience to really understand it. As a result, many healthcare professionals are gaslighted and think the problem is them, and not the healthcare system they are a part of.
It helps to look at the big picture and know that you are not alone in your struggle. Take a look at the below infographic to see how mental illness is affecting healthcare workers since the pandemic started and what you can do to help yourself.
You can find additional information about resources for frontline workers struggling with moral injury and mental health amid COVID-19 here.
Take care of yourself first, always.
Graphic created by Mozzaz.
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(This post about what to wear under scrubs contains affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more info).
Many nurses and other medical personnel appreciate the gift of wearing medical scrubs to work for each shift. And who can blame them? After all, scrubs are as comfortable as a set of pajamas, and they take the guesswork out of what you should wear at work each day. They can also save you a lot of cash that you would otherwise spend on clothing over time.
Some medical institutions require that you wear a specific color and brand of scrubs. This can offer additional benifits – both for staff and visitors. Assigned scrub colors help patients and other staff understand what you do. For example, when I was a nurse at UCLA Medical Center, all of the nurses wore navy blue, the CNAs wore army green, our ER techs wore bright blue, and anyone who worked in radiology wore brown. Assigning a scrub color helps patients and family members to know what you do when you walk into their room, which can help alleviate a lot of confusion.
At the medical spa I work at now, all nurses wear Figs scrubs in black (side note, the FIGS jogger scrubs are the best scrub pants I have ever worn!). Patients automatically know who the clinicians are, and it gives the office a more professional, streamlined look.
Needless to say, scrub uniforms are great for many reasons. But unfortunately, they don’t leave a lot of room for individuality. You may even begin to feel you are lost in a sea of medical staff, and after a while, that might feel a little boring.
But there are other ways to project your own style that are both functional and fashionable. And it may also help you out if you are wondering what to wear under scrubs in winter when it’s cold on your commute into your 6 am shift.
What do nurses wear under scrubs?
There is a common term that nurses and other medical professionals use to explain what they wear underneath their scrub uniforms, and that is “underscrubs.”
Underscrubs are exactly what they sound like they would be – clothing designed to be worn under medical scrubs. They are often as comfortable as the scrubs themselves, durable to last hundreds of washes (depending on the brand), can add a flair of color, and will keep you warm in the coldest of operating rooms and medical units.
(Many underscrubs can be worn alone as workout gear. So, if you work out, you will definitely get your money’s worth on many of these items!)
What do you wear under scrub tops?
One of the best ways to make sure that you have enough under scrub tops to make it through the week without having to do laundry after you get home from a long shift is to buy them in packs of 3 or 5. That way, you know you will have one to keep you warm when you are at work. They come in 3/4 sleeves and long sleeves.
#1. Adar Long Sleeve Underscrub for Women (3 Pack)
What to wear under scrubs pants?
There are many options for you to stay warm under your scrub pants. A pair of breathable yoga pants, thermal underwear, or form-fitting spandex shorties are always a safe bet. You want to make sure that your scrubs are loose enough for the material to fit underneath your scrub pants. If necessary, you may want to size up a little on your scrub pants if what you want to wear underneath is not form-fitting.
What to wear under white scrubs?
In all honestly, white scrubs have never made a lot of sense to me. Studies have shown that when a nurse wears white scrubs to see a child on a pediatric unit, they appear scarier and even more intimidating than nurses who wear colorful scrubs with cartoon or holiday themes. Not to mention that they also clearly display every blood and bodily fluid stain, which looks pretty gross from a patient’s perspective.
Even more importantly, though, depending on the material, white scrubs can sometimes show your underwear! If that is the case, you want to wear something neutral, so underneath won’t show through.
Even though white scrubs can be a pain, many institutions and nursing schools require white scrubs as part of their medical uniform. If you are in this group, you have no choice but to wear them for the foreseeable future. But the good news is that there are still options that you can wear under your scrubs to stay warm and be comfortable.
A white underscrub will help keep you warm without breaking the rules. But if your workplace or school allows it, consider a colorful underscrub so you can stand out from your peers.
Since my early nursing days, I have been a big fan of compression socks when I worked as a novice nurse on a neuro/trauma unit. Unfortunately, I didn’t start wearing them religiously underneath my scrubs until the middle of my first pregnancy.
There is something about compression sleeves that I like even more than compression socks – I think they provide more compression. And I also wear them when I work out go running as well!
The most obvious thing that you might expect a nurse to wear underneath their scrubs is compression socks. You can find them in all different colors and patterns, ranging from the silly (like bugs bunny or polka dot) to festive (like Halloween or Christmas themed), and everything in between.
I rarely see a nurse in a boring pair of compression socks. Why would they, when it is one of the few ways medical workers can bring some unique style to their medical uniform?
I hope this article helped you answer the question, “What do I wear under my scrubs?” One final tip you might find helpful is to bring your scrubs with you to the store so you can try your underscrubs on with your uniform before you commit to buying.
If you are ordering online (and who isn’t these days), try them on with your scrubs before removing any tags. You don’t want to wear them to work before realizing that they don’t fit right or aren’t comfortable, so you can return them if necessary.
Additional recommended reading:
Effective Strategies To Combat Nurse Burnout and Moral Injury
Have you ever experienced an overwhelming amount of stress or exhaustion from work? You wouldn’t be the only one. These extreme feelings are often referred to as burnout, which is categorized by a decrease in emotional, physical, and psychological energy resulting from work-related stress. This is a problem employees face in all industries but is particularly trying for those in demanding professions such as healthcare.
How can you tell if an employee is suffering from burnout or moral injury instead of just normal levels of work-related stress? Researchers have indicated that there are three primary aspects of burnout in employees.
#1. Emotional Exhaustion
Emotional exhaustion results from the feelings of immense stress and pressure on employees that leave them feeling emotionally and physically spent by the time they’ve finished their shift.
Emotional exhaustion goes hand in hand with another aspect of burnout, depersonalization. This type of detachment reduces the amount of empathy an employee is able to expend toward the people they work with and for. In the healthcare industry, this can raise questions regarding the quality of care that nurses are able to provide when they’re experiencing burnout.
#3. Feelings Of Low Accomplishment
The final aspect of burnout is described as a feeling of low accomplishment. Employees may feel worthless despite their established skills and contribute less toward the responsibilities of their position. This can have some serious implications in the case of nurses and other healthcare professionals.
For as common as burnout and moral injury is in the healthcare industry, not many organizations feel they have a good grasp on programs to address these issues. Below are a few strategies that would serve as effective tools for combating nurse burnout.
- Creation and Implementation of Wellness Programs: programs designed to educate nurses on stress reduction and wellness strategies are a great start. These programs would provide methods that can be incorporated in their days to maintain stress levels.
- Healthy Work Environments: providing nurses with an environment where they’re respected and able to communicate about their issues openly has a positive effect on their performance and stress levels.
- Incorporation of Scheduling Software: integrated scheduling tools that provide clear information for nurses allows for a higher quality of care for patients.
- Establishing Healthy Habits: though it may seem cliché, the basics are often the most important. A nutritious diet, a full night’s sleep, and exercise go a long way in terms of positive mental health.
- Management Involvement: for the management staff, allowing nurses to bring attention to workplace issues with confidence and establishing an open dialogue will allow for a greater understanding of the employees and how they respond to stress.
For more information on how burnout affects the healthcare industry and nurses, as well as strategies to combat this burnout, be sure to review the accompanying infographic courtesy of ScheduleAnywhere.
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Online Nursing School Tips For Success
Congratulations on starting your online nursing degree program!
You can go back to school without sitting in a classroom, fighting traffic, or even finding a parking spot like you would at a brick-and-mortar university. Instead, you can go straight home after work, cook your family dinner, help your kids with homework, and then work on your studies when everyone is asleep.
Starting online nursing school is something to be proud of. But in the back of your mind, you may be thinking, “Should I have waited until the pandemic is over? Will I be too overwhelmed with online learning?”
Online nursing school is challenging no matter when you do it. But you can still be successful, even during the pandemic.
Before addressing these concerns, see if one of the following four scenarios below mirrors your current lifestyle.
Scenario 1: You come home from work after being exposed to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 patients. You have not eaten. You have not gone to the bathroom. You are going on zero sleep because your 6-month old was up all night long. You come home from work and immediately bombarded with the needs of your children. Your babysitter has left the house in disarray, and now your husband calls and says he has to work late. Your online program starts next week, and you think, how am I going to do this?
Scenario 2: You are home-schooling your children and have a one-year-old who just learned to walk. You decide to get up early to get a head start on your work. You managed to get a couple of hours of work done until your 12-year old announces he needs help with an e-learning project that is due at 9:00 a.m. – the same time you have an important meeting. You sign in to Zoom, forget to mute, and the camera is on. You can be seen running after your diaperless 1-year old screaming in delight, thinking it’s playtime. The day is long and hard, with chores needing to be done, and your online program started today.
Scenario 3: You are now in the 3rd week of your online course. The COVID surge has hit your hospital hard, and you are working 60+ hours a week. You are already behind in two assignments and lagging in the discussions. You want to stay in class, but you also need to pay the bills and put food on the table. You need your degree to keep your job but don’t know what to do.
Scenario 4: You are working from home and get a call from the nursing home that your mother has taken a turn for the worst. You get in your car and receive a call that your 16-year old is COVID-positive and is coming home to quarantine. You haven’t seen your friends in ages and abandoned your own health care needs months ago. This whole pandemic has been very hard for you emotionally, and you don’t know how much more you can take. Your degree program is the LAST on your mind right now.
I’m sure many of you can relate to all or parts of these scenarios as you continue to ponder if online education is for you. You are not alone.
Online Learning and Reflections on Your Experiences
Before you think that pursuing your online degree during the pandemic may not be a good option, consider this: Part of learning online is about reflecting upon your experiences as a professional nurse AND applying these experiences to assignments in your classes. If you wait until the pandemic is over, you might miss out on one of the best opportunities of your life for reflection, personal and professional growth.
In all universities, objectives and curricula are designed according to national standards, such as an online RN-BSN program. Curricula contain specific courses for the program and are further broken down into course content.
Course content is typically divided into two main sections: discussions and assignments. Students have an opportunity to reflect upon and apply their experiences to demonstrate how they have met the overall program and university objectives. Therefore, the experiences you have accumulated from working through this pandemic can help you succeed in meeting program and university objectives.
What Can I Do to Be Successful in the Online Setting?
Now that you’ve considered the scenarios outlined above, there are ways to overcome many of those hurdles. Whether you are thinking about going to school online or have already started your educational journey, here are online nursing school tips you can integrate into your lifestyle right now.
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Online Nursing School Tips For Success:
Support is Key
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors, advisors, and loved ones. Your school has many resources to help you, from time management strategies to writing resources.
It is important to learn about these resources right away. Find out who your advisor is and discuss any concerns you have. Communicate with your professor often. A simple email indicating that you need help, or keeping them informed about ongoing circumstances in your life, keeps the lines of communication open. You and your professor can come up with a plan for you to complete your work. Remember that they are nurses, too. They will understand.
It is recommended you do not choose an online program that does not offer this type of comprehensive support.
Create an Action Plan
Creating an action plan is vital. Why? Because you can see a snap-shot of all your roles and responsibilities from child care, employment, your study schedule, and more.
Your action plan can be just a simple sheet of paper or an elaborate spreadsheet with time-tables and prospective future endeavors. The best part of this action plan is that it is a working document. You can add or delete from your list and find more time to do the things you need to do.
Start a Reflective Journal
Many have reflected upon how their nursing roles have changed during the pandemic and pondered about where they see their professions headed in the future.
Reflection is essential in any nursing program because it allows you to apply your course content and develop new critical thinking skills in real-time. The best thing about online learning at this time is that you can use your professional experiences to help you complete your class assignments and have insightful discussions in class.
Writing down your reflections can be as simple as jotting down your experiences on a notepad, phone, or computer. Some of my best reflections occurred while listening to relaxing music and admiring nature and photography. Perhaps this strategy can work for you as well. Even just 5 minutes a day can help you gather your thoughts during these uncertain times.
Many nurses have verbalized that they may not have enough engagement in an online program. Not so!
Many online programs have innovative ways for professors and students to be engaged with one another, such as Zoom, Skype, Voki, and real-time audio and video. Most online nursing schools have discussion boards. Aspen University, for example, has the Nurse Cafe — in which you engage with your peers and professors on a variety of topics.
Online courses often have their own unique ways to encourage discussion and engagement. One of the main benifits is that online discussions are mostly asynchronous, which means you can partake in discussions anytime during the week – 24/7!
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a great deal of stress, anxiety, and burnout for many of us. Self-care activities — like proper sleep, healthy diet, stretching, and other small changes to your daily routine — are so important as you treat patients and work your way through your online degree program.
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Don’t Ever Lose Sight of your Determination and Passion!
This is true not only in nursing but also in life. The nursing courses you will be taking may ask you to focus on a topic you are passionate about – perhaps you discover that you have a great interest in developing evidence-based policy/procedures for addressing future pandemics. Whatever your passion is, make sure that you hold it close to your heart and remain determined to reach all of your dreams and goals.
But most importantly, remember this as you continue to ponder your future in higher learning through an online setting:
Passion and determination make up the core of our aspirations, and higher learning sets the stage to help you showcase your dreams.
About The Author
Dr. Linda Marcuccilli is a professor of nursing at Aspen University and a registered nurse for 33 years. She developed a research program involving persons with implantable ventricular devices, published her research in several peer-reviewed nursing journals, and presented her research across the nation.
Dr. Marcuccilli is the author of the book The Journey Through Graduate School: Flourish and Be Happy and her blog Inspiring Learners: Find the Passion Within.
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If you’re on this site, you’re either a nurse or have a strong interest in nursing. And I’m sure that if the former group had the chance to sit down with the latter, they would have a lot to say. We all remember those exciting, terrifying early days of nursing school and wanting to make the world a better place; there’s plenty we’d want to say to our younger selves. We can’t go back in time and talk to ourselves, but we can share with you what you should know before going into nursing.
What You Should Know Before Going Into Nursing
There is a lot of career diversity
When you first set your mind to becoming a nurse, what did you imagine? Scrubs, a stethoscope, and patients in a hospital or general practice? What many new nursing students don’t realize is there are a variety of careers under the umbrella of “nurse.” A few you can choose without any additional degrees are:
- Surgical nurse
- Geriatric nurse
- Cardiac nurse
- Nursing Midwife
- Nursing Administrator
Knowing this before going into nursing will give you more time to consider what areas of medicine you’re most interested in so you can make the career choice best suited for you.
Additional recommended reading: Is Nursing A Good Career For Moms?
You will make a positive difference in the lives of thousands
Unfortunately, there’s a long-standing stereotype of nurses being something of a sidekick who takes orders from a doctor. In reality, nurses are often the ones with their feet on the ground, taking care of their patients’ immediate needs. If you’re in settings such as the ICU or the ER, you could be the one to make the vital choices that’ll keep a patient in stable condition or save their life. You’ll need knowledge and confidence to make those calls.
This idea may sit like a weight on you at times, and that may even become overwhelming. We can take the classes, we can learn how to change IV tubing or take vitals, but learning how to walk around with the weight of patients’ lives on our shoulders without buckling is another thing entirely. But even if some days are harder than others, let me tell you a secret: you can do it!
It will be your responsibility to find balance
As important as understanding the weight of your position is, it’s also important to know when to lay that weight down. Putting too much pressure on yourself can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue. Try to set up healthy emotional boundaries even as you seek to be empathetic to patients.
It’s also important to find ways to leave the pressures of work at work and find people and activities that build you back up after long, exhausting shifts. Keep in mind, as much as it’s valuable for you to build confidence in decision making, you’ll always have a team on your side when you need help.
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There isn’t much time to relax when you work as a nurse, especially during the middle of a pandemic. Too much time standing takes a bigger toll on our bodies than we may believe, even if we’re not lifting heavy objects or doing vigorous exercise. The physical pain of your regular workday builds up and can affect your mood if you don’t take care of yourself regularly.
Before you hurt yourself or break down, take time to practice these self-care tips for nurses who stand all day at work.
Practice relaxation right after work
Once you leave work, you are absolutely done working. This statement might seem redundant—but I promise that it makes sense if you’re the type who can’t look away from work even when you’re at home. There are some times, especially now, when you need to have your work phone at the ready in case you get called in, but on days when you aren’t on call, it’s time to set the phone down and breathe. You deserve a break from both standing and working. Whether you decide to relax by taking a bubble bath or lounging on the sofa with your family’s favorite TV show is up to you.
Additional recommended reading: 9 Tips To Relieve Foot Pain From Standing All Day
Schedule chiropractor appointments
Sometimes, the tension we acquire from standing at work all day is more than a little at-home self-care can handle. A chiropractor is perfect for relieving back pain caused by standing and even preventing injuries related to tense muscles. If you’re a new mother or a soon-to-be-mother, chiropractors are capable of relieving back and pelvic pains related to your pregnancy as well. Trusting a chiropractor to take care of you can be difficult, but if you look for a chiropractor with trustworthy qualities and certifications, it will be worth every penny.
Purchase specialized clothing
Even though we have strict dress codes as nurses, that doesn’t mean we have to settle for shoes that fail our feet and lack support for our backs. A good pair of shoes is worth the investment and will save your back while you work. If you need extra support on the floor, consider purchasing a knee brace or compression socks or stockings.
As a nurse and a mother, it can be easy to forget that, in addition to taking care of others at work and home, we need to take care of ourselves, too. With these self-care tips for nurses who stand all day at work, you can re-energize yourself after a long shift at work and prepare yourself for the next day.
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