As an ER nurse who delivered my second baby in early 2018, I have done a lot of research about pregnant nurse precautions to be aware of when you work in a hospital. My goal was to make sure that it was safe for me to continue working in such a physically demanding environment with so many potential occupational hazards.
Fortunately, I was able to work safely right up until a few weeks before giving birth. As a per diem nurse, I did not have any maternity or disability benefits so I wanted to save up as much money as possible before I went out on leave. Thankfully, I was able to do just that. But safety was still my number one concern. I hope this information can help other nurses stay safe during their pregnancies as well.
Talk to your OBGYN
First off, it is always important that you talk to your doctor to discuss any occupational concerns you have during your pregnancy. Continue the dialog at your prenatal appointments as you move along your pregnancy. If you have questions in between your appointments then contact your doctor.
My goal in writing this is not to make pregnant nurses afraid to work in the hospital. I am so glad that I was able to safely work as a pregnant nurse for as long as I did. Still, there are no shortage of occupational hazards for the pregnant nurse within the hospital setting. Working safely is the number one goal.
It is crucial that you communicate with management and your charge nurse about your pregnancy. They cannot help you avoid potential pregnancy hazards if they don’t know that you are expecting.
Pregnant nurse precautions and hazards to consider:
Radiation from diagnostic imaging
In the ER and on most floor units within the hospital, patients often receive portable X-rays at the bedside. So naturally I was concerned about radiation exposure and how it could impact the health of my unborn child. I felt it was wise to air on the side of safety by not exposing myself to unnecessary radiation during pregnancy.
If you are in an area where x-rays are being taken, you must wear a lead radiation apron to protect yourself, especially if you are within six feet of the machine. If possible, it is also a good idea to step outside the room while the image is taken.
In my nursing experience, x-ray technicians usually notify anyone within the vicinity of where imaging is being taken. I was able to leave the area for a few minutes, whether I was wearing a lead apron or not.
- Notify management of pregnancy
- Wear lead radiation apron
- Step outside of room when portable x-rays are taking place
Dangers from working with chemo or other teratogenic medications
There is evidence that handling some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause adverse reproductive outcomes including fetal loss, miscarriage, infertility and preterm births. In addition, it may cause learning disabilities in babies exposed to some drugs if nurses are exposed during pregnancy.
Wearing protective equipment, such as gowns, masks and gloves can minimize occupational risk to a pregnant nurse. However, it does not completely eradicate it.
Nurses working in oncology or other areas where antineoplastics are prescribed may want to speak with management about the safest way to continue working. In addition, you can insist on getting help from co-workers or management to give teratogenic medications to patients. Moving to another work area may be a consideration if safety for the fetus is still a concern.
- Wear protective equipment when giving medications
- Ask for help from co-workers when working with teratogenic medications
- Consider temporarily working in another area of the hospital during pregnancy as your management allows
Risk for infection
As a pregnant ER nurse I was very concerned with the risk of infection from patients such as c-diff, tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, and influenza during my pregnancy. Since the ER is often the first stop in the hospital for sick patients I often didn’t know that a patient had a contagious infection until after they had been admitted. By then it was too late to protect myself if I hadn’t already.
Pregnant women need to be especially proactive with protective equipment and hand hygiene. It is ideal for all hospital employees to have their measles, mumps, and varicella zoster vaccinations before pregnancy (most facilities require these vaccinations to work anyway). Hep B and influenza vaccination can also safely be administered during pregnancy.
As an added precaution, I made sure to change my clothes and shoes before leaving the hospital to minimize the risk of work-to-home contamination. The first thing I did upon getting home was take a shower to rid myself of any other possible bugs I could have inadvertently carried home with me.
- Stay up to date in all vaccines including the yearly flu vaccine
- Adhere to strict universal precautions and hand hygiene
- Request job modification to minimize exposure to certain patient populations
- Minimize work-to-home contamination by changing work clothes and shoes before going home
- Shower as soon as you get home from work
Physicality of nursing while pregnant
Being a nurse while pregnant is especially hard work. Not only are we on our feet for up to 12 hours a day, but pregnant nurses are also carrying an extra 25-plus pounds towards the latter part of pregnancy. Additionally, the extra girth makes it significantly more difficult to fit into tight spaces.
Movement becomes even more awkward for pregnant nurses due to having an altered center of gravity. In addition, high serum levels of progesterone and relaxin loosen muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues. For nurses who do a lot of heavy, repetitive work requiring lifting, pulling or pushing their risk of musculoskeletal injury is increased.
It is wise for pregnant nurses to use patient transfer equipment and to ask co-workers for help with moving patients. However, if your work situation is still too physical for you to manage safely during pregnancy, you may want to consider a modified duty in a lower risk setting with a less physical patient load.
On another note, pregnant nurses also have a higher risk of developing varicose veins due to an increase in total blood volume caused by pregnancy. The added blood volume combined with being on one’s feet all day leads to poor circulation, puffy legs and swollen ankles. Compression socks or stockings can help reduce the risk of blood clots and varicose veins as well as prevent swelling.
- Pregnant nurses may want to inquire about modified duty
- Understand how the altered center of gravity and hormonal changes in pregnancy predispose a nurse to injury (despite using best lifting practices)
- Use patient transfer equipment when available
- Ask for additional staff help with transfers
- Wear compression socks or stockings
I worked in our ER psychiatric hold area several times throughout my pregnancy. There were a few incidences where I had patients verbally threaten me and/or begin to escalate towards violence. I always had a security guard with me and I stayed a good distance away from patients when I felt that my safety could be at risk. It is likely that I was overly cautious at times, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Violence against nurses is not uncommon, especially in the ER setting. Stay vigilant and keep away from any potentially threatening situations. If a patient is escalating towards violence then leave and call for help immediately.
Working during flu season
The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu shot. Not only do hormone changes during pregnancy often make pregnant women more susceptible to getting the flu, but a common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby. Getting vaccinated can also help protect a baby after birth from flu through passive immunity.
My experience: The flu season in December 2017 was unusually bad. Many patients came to our ER for flu symptoms. Unfortunately, almost every nurse was infected with the flu or a cold at least once during the season. Myself, included.
At the time I was over 8 months pregnant and I was really struggling with a how horrible I felt. I always get a flu shot to reduce my chances of getting sick during flu season. However, if I ever got pregnant again, I might consider starting my maternity leave towards the beginning of flu season. Especially, if I was that close to my due date.
An unexpected benefit of working as a nurse during pregnancy
One of the best gifts that pregnancy gave me was that it forced me to not be sedentary on days that I felt really tired. (Although while you are carrying an extra 25-35 pounds of extra weight, you may not consider it a benefit).
Many studies show that not moving enough during pregnancy is bad for both mom and baby. If fact, exercise during pregnancy can actually boost your baby’s brain development and make them smarter. Who knew that working a 12 hour shift might actually promote health for both you and your unborn baby?
Good luck to you during your pregnancy and take care of yourself mama!
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Nurse burnout is common.
As a second career RN with 7 years of experience as a med/surg, telemetry, emergency room and resource nurse I have struggled tremendously with nurse burnout. In fact, I often wonder how long I can continue working as a nurse when I often feel so spent. The caregiver burden is real.
Nurse burnout is often described as the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of nurses. Causes for nurse burnout include working arduous 12 hour shifts, working in high stress environments, dealing with sickness and death and constantly having to put the needs of others before one’s own.
Like most nurses, I am very passionate about my profession. It is a privilege and an honor to advocate for and serve my patients during some of the most difficult points of their lives. But there has to be a better way to help nurses find a better balance between patient care and self-care.
The nurse burnout problem is not going away.
Left unchecked, nurse burnout can lead to exhaustion, physical injuries, and even depression. Furthermore, disengagement caused by nurse burnout can negatively impact patient care, increase the risk of medical errors and lower overall patient satisfaction.
In addition, nurse health must be taken more seriously. Too many nurses are on their way to becoming patients themselves due to overwork.
Nursing burnout: administration can help.
Hospital administration can help.
Here are a few ideas that hospitals should consider to help nurses create more balance and achieve some self care during work hours.
1. Create a meditative space for nurses away from patients and visitors
Caregiver burden is an issue for nurses. It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families. However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads, and have a quiet moment to themselves. This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus to give better patient care.
2. Offer yoga and meditation classes
Offering yoga and meditation classes during the nurse’s lunch breaks would be beneficial. Studies show that yoga and meditation can greatly improve quality of life for nurses by reducing stress levels. In turn, nurses are able to give better patient care.
A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and reduced mental stress.
Yoga at work could also help many nurses manage the chronic back pain they have developed as a result of nursing. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. A 30 minute gentle yoga class during a nurse’s lunch break could help nurses manage this issue. Yoga stretching not only increases flexibility, but also increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
3. Make sure nurses get adequate breaks
Working for 6, 8 or even 12 hours without eating or sitting would make anyone become resentful after a while. Patient loads can often feel so overwhelming that sometimes nurses will work right through a break without even realizing it. Exhaustion from not eating or drinking enough water and being on your feet for grueling 12 hour shifts will eventually lead to nursing burnout.
4. Recognize nurses for their hard work
This should be a given, but for some reason it isn’t in many facilities. A “thank you” goes a long way. It is very much appreciated by nurses who work extraordinarily hard to keep patients healthy and safe.
Too many hospitals put little to no effort into helping nurses celebrate for nurses week every year. This sends a very strong message to nurses that management does not care about the hard work and dedication they put into caring for their patients.
5. Involve management in nurse bullying and cliques
Unfortunately, too many facilities allow bullying in their workplace. According to a 2017 survey by RN network, 45% of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses at work. Some forms of nurse bullying are obvious. However, many times the bullying is much more subtle, such as a nurse talking down to another nurse in front of a patient.
Building a supportive working environment is important to the health and well-being of nurses. Bullying should never be considered acceptable behavior and hospital management should be more involved in helping to prevent it.
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Here they are: the best holiday gifts for pregnant nurses! These gifts are perfect for both baby showers and holiday gifts. We all know that nurses are amazing caregivers by nature. Why not celebrate with a gift the reflects all of her many talents? Give your pregnant nurse mama friend something that reflects both motherhood and her dedication towards helping others as a nurse.
Best Holiday Gifts For Pregnant Nurses:
Clothing For The Pregnant Nurse
The saying is true: when a nurse becomes a mom, literally nothing scares her any more. By then, you have seen everything imaginable and then some. That’s just one of the reasons that nursing is such a great career for mothers.
The nurse mom is going to need something cozy and comfortable to wear while spending time with her new bundle of joy. These great gifts provide comfort while also reminding the nurse mom that she is capable of so many great things.
Coffee Or Tea Mugs
Once a nurse becomes a mother, sleep becomes even more scarce. In fact, it’s a little like working the day shift and the night shift , every single day! There is a very good chance that she will be drinking more coffee than ever before. These gifts will not only help her enjoy a warm beverage, but are also be a reminder of the incredible courage that she possesses.
Children’s books are a thoughtful gift for any expecting mother. These books can help children understand what mom does at work all day. There is nothing better than opening communication with a child by sharing their mother’s experiences helping humankind.
Nurse Mom Gear For Work
Many nurse moms eventually go back to work after maternity leave ends. It can be a challenging time for mothers who are concerned with being gone from their babies for 12 hour shifts. These gifts are a reminder that nurse moms have many jobs, both in the workplace and at home.
Practical Gifts For The Pregnant Nurse
Here is how to help the pregnant nurse get more sleep once she brings her baby home! Nurses are used to working crazy shift schedules and not getting as much sleep as they should. But once a baby comes along, sleep becomes the most valuable commodity there is. Help the nurse mom get the maximum amount of sleep possible with these thoughtful gifts.
*This post about nurse mom gifts contains affiliate links. You can find our disclosure page here.
Nurse moms are pretty incredible humans.
Being a nurse or a mom is hard work in and of itself. Add the two together and you have one incredibly hard-working, compassionate, multitasking superhero with skills that can save lives.
This holiday season why not give gifts that recognize both talents? The one that is raising children to be strong, capable adults and the one selflessly helping total strangers. After all, there is a fair chance that many nurse moms are not being appreciated or recognized for the dedication and hard work they put in, day after day.
The motherhood/nurse combination is a challenging balance. Next time you run into a nurse mom who looks a little tired, know there is a good chance she hasn’t slept in a week. And give her a high-five.
We hope you enjoy you holiday season and spend lots of quality time with your loved ones!
Ultimate List Of Fun Holiday Nurse Mom Gifts:
Any other nurse mom gifts you would add to this list? Leave a comment below.
Hello Mother Nurse Love friends!
I was recently interviewed on ‘Your Next Shift’, the most innovative internet show that helps nurses thrive in their careers. I have been equal parts excited and nervous to finally get to listen to the episode. And I am happy to say that it was a pretty great show. What an amazing experience! Collaborating with other nurse entrepreneurs is such a treat.
My podcast interview can be found here: https://elizabethscala.com/episode170/
In the podcast, I discussed:
- How continuing to learn can keep you from becoming stagnant;
- What routine practices can help you stay grounded in chaotic times;
- And why you should never let fear hold you back from what your want!
I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – let me know what you think by leaving a review on the show http://bit.ly/YNSiTunes.
Again, the link to listen in can be found here: https://elizabethscala.com/episode170/
In 2015 I became a nurse blogger. This venture was born out of my frustration with burnout as a registered nurse and my desire to create a more flexible work life balance.
For clarity, my niche (or at least the niche I am striving to create) is: “nurse mom lifestyle blogger with an emphasis on self-care and wellness.” My goal has always been to write about things that interest me in regards to nurse lifestyle and living a healthier, more purposeful life (with a little mom stuff thrown in).
I have been chipping away on my nurse blogging journey for about a year, and my (self-proclaimed) title has evolved a bit. I’m sure it will continue to change as I work to find my “voice.”
To explain how I became a nurse blogger, I have to take you back in time a bit…
Once upon a time I studied journalism.
Way, way back in the day, before I ever even considered becoming a registered nurse, I was a striving college student at California State University, Chico. As a journalism major with a minor in women’s studies, I wrote for our student newspaper, The Orion, and I loved it. Each week I met with other writers to discuss ideas and topics that were going to write about that week. I enjoyed the teamwork and even though I felt way in over my head a lot of the time I absolutely loved the challenge.
Each week I met new and interesting people I would have otherwise crossed paths with. I interviewed athletes, a magician, doctors from the student health center, professors, and lots and lots of students. One time I interviewed a women who made and sold her own essential oils and she gave me a few samples to take home with me. My 21-year-old brain was fascinated with the people I met.
The internet was in its earlier stages and many people still read the newspaper in print form. So, each Thursday I looked forward to walking on campus and picking up a copy of The Orion to find my name listed above my article.
A bad internship altered my career path.
I loved journalism. But my emphasis was in public relations, which I disliked immensely.
One summer break, I did a 3 month internship at a celebrity public relations firm in Los Angeles. I worked as an assistant to the the president of the firm. He had me ghost writing about how he was like Abraham Lincoln. If that sounds weird, it is because it was. I hated it. I felt used.
At the end of my 3-month internship, I left Los Angeles feeling like I wanted go in a completely different direction. As I drove back up to Chico to complete my senior year, I considered new career options.
As graduation etched closer, I also started wondering how I was going to survive financially out in the world. The thought of paying my own way in the world and paying off my student loans filled me with worry.
I went from inspired writer to salesperson.
After graduation I excepted a position selling medical equipment to hospital operating rooms. I thought it was best to follow the path that I thought lead to faster money. Frankly, it did.
Soon I became enveloped in the business of medical equipment sales. And unfortunately I didn’t write again for another 9 years.
Medical device sales is an extremely competitive and stressful industry. But I continued to work hard. In fact, I was actually very good at my job. I consistently exceeded my yearly quotas. As a result I made more money every year, which made it harder and harder to move into other more clinical roles.
I wanted to grow clinically and help my patients directly.
Those who know me, know that I’m not even the “salesy” type. However, I did enjoy talking about medical equipment that could improve the quality of life for our patients or even be life-saving in some circumstances. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I really wanted was to be an actual healthcare professional who worked with patients directly.
(On reflection, I am so am grateful for my time in medical sales and I want to go back to work on the business side of healthcare at some point. My experiences have given me a much different perspective than many of my nurse peers. Working in the medical sales industry gave me valuable business and communication skills. I met a lot of great friends with whom I still have close relationships with. My organizational and time management skills are much more fine-tuned and I learned how to be a professional in the workplace. I just think of myself as being a little more well-rounded now!)
Just for fun I toyed around with so many career ideas.
I took an amazing photography class in Venice (I’ll be a professional photographer! Yay!). I love practicing yoga so I thought becoming an instructor would be great fit (I’ll become the next big yoga guru!). I I even considered becoming a professional dog walker at one point and started writing a business plan! (Dogs are awesome, what can I say?).
After years of thinking about my professional future (and having several near mental breakdowns about it) I jokingly told my husband that maybe I should go back to nursing school. He responded with something like “you can do anything you want, but please do something because you might lose your mind!”
So, I did. And I have been working as a nurse at a major teaching facility for the last 6 years.
I went back to college for a second time.
After three years of nursing school I graduated with a bachelors of science in nursing and I had a whole new journey ahead of me. I began my career specializing on a neuroscience and stroke unit and earned certifications as a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse and Public Health Nurse. In 2017, I began a new phase in my nursing career as an emergency room RN.
I also complemented my practice by becoming an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist. My intention was to help treat my patients with a more holistic approach using yoga and in-bed movements, guided meditation, Reiki, and essential oils. (I didn’t know at the time, but these were topics that I would write about frequently as a nurse blogger!).
An itch to write came back again.
A few years into my nursing career I had an urge to write again. I missed the creatively I had when writing back in my early college days. In addition, I wanted to create a more flexible career path for myself now that I am a busy mom with two great kiddos.
I also really do have a passion for nursing. I love that I help others for a living and I enjoy the mental stimulation I get at work during my 12 hour shifts. Becoming a nurse has even helped me deal with the craziness of motherhood in some ways because it helps me distinguish things that I should be concerned with from things that are not a big deal. (I have my time on a neuro science floor and as an ER nurse to thank for that!)
Becoming a nurse blogger was a logical next step. I am having so much fun learning how to make and manage a website. However, since I am already a busy ER nurse with two small babies I am very limited on time. I only have 5-6 hours a week to spend on the blog. But as my kids grow older and go to school the time will be there. Until then, I will just keep chipping away at it after the kids go to bed in the evenings.
A nursing practice can take many forms.
As I grow older (and hopefully wiser!) I am discovering that their are so many paths that nurses can take. The sky really is the limit as long as you work hard and are open to continually learning new skills.
My goal is to create a career for myself were I can combine my journalism degree with my nursing knowledge and motherly experience. This is the first “career” I have ever had where I didn’t have to fill out an extensive application and interview for the position. For the very first time, I am warming to the idea of being my OWN boss. And I really like it!
Never in a million years would my 21-year-old college-newspaper-writing- self would have guessed that I would be a nurse blogger. But every experience I have had up until now has been an important stepping stone to this place. And I have goosebumps just thinking about what I can make happen next. Stay tuned for more…