My “About Me” Page and Our Huffington Post Interview

My “About Me” Page and Our Huffington Post Interview

My “About Me” page

If you have taken a peek over at my About Me page you may have read that nursing was NOT my first career.  If fact, I did’t even discover that I had a calling for nursing until after I had been working in the medical sales field for about 9 years.

Ill press rewind for just a minute…   Once upon a time, I worked in the competitive field of surgical equipment sales for a fortune 100 company and a few medical device startups.

I knew I didn’t love the career, but I made a pretty good living.  It also allowed me to travel for work and I was able to afford to take a lot of incredible overseas trips.  After a few years in the sales grind, I knew I wanted to do other things.  The problem was that my resume said I was a medical device salesperson.  So what was I supposed to do?

That voice in the back of my head continued gnawing at me, little by little.  Every day a small piece of my soul was being eaten up by working in a career that I had no real passion for.

Until finally one day, after a near mental break down I made the difficult decision to leave the field.  I went on a quest in pursuit of greater clinical medical knowledge and a desire to help humankind.  After years of scratching my head I had finally discovered my new path.

I was going to become a Nurse!

It has been 9 years since my near mental breakdown that forced me to make an incredible life change.  Nursing school was one of the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  But I am so thankful everyday that I did it.  Ultimately, it was the best decision for myself and and for my family.

nurse power

Here I am showing off my badge bloom…

Our Huffington Post Interview

My whole point in writing this post was to talk about a really cool experience that I had recently…

A journalist at the Huntington Post recently contacted me through my blog.  She asked if my husband and I would be interested in being interviewed for a piece that she was doing about what it was like being married to an ER nurse.   Of course I said yes!

(I was a journalism major in college and still have an itch to write, which is one of the reasons I blog).

Nursing is challenging.

I want to be an advocate for nurses because I think we tolerate things that would never be tolerated in any other field (but we do it anyway because we’re awesome).   I also really, really want to find a way to help nurses take better care of themselves.  Plus, I am extremely passionate about being a nurse and have a passion for helping others.  So, I was excited to share some of my thoughts (and I was also intrigued to see what my husband had to say about being married to an ER nurse).

If you are still reading this and want to take a look at our Huffington Post article you can read it here.

Thank you for reading my blog and free free to leave a comment.  I appreciate that your took the time to read this!

Sarah

Top 8 Pumping Essentials You Need

Top 8 Pumping Essentials You Need

(This post about pumping essentials contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure policy here.)

So you have made it through the first few months of breastfeeding a newborn.  Congratulations!  You are doing a great job, MamaMama!

But now a new change is looming on the horizon:  your maternity leave is slowly creeping to an end.  And you are wondering how you are going to continue providing your dear baby with their primary source of nutrition, breast milk.

And, like me, there is probably a big question going through your head right about now:

What pumping essentials do I nee when I go back to work?

I had so many concerns about being a “pumping mom,” and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was going to make it happen without a ton of stress.  But I knew I needed to be prepared.  I am a registered nurse, and I work hectic twelve-hour shifts.  Like most pumping moms who work, I don’t have time not to be prepared.

I am happy to share that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last four months.  And I still can’t believe how well it is going!  Sure, there have been a few minor hiccups along the way (like forgetting my breast pump at home, whoops!).   But overall, the experience has been way better then I would have thought.

I now know that I will be able to continue pumping breast milk for my baby for as long as I desire.  I want other working moms to know that they can do this too.  (Read more about what I have learned about pumping at work as a nurse).

Pumping essentials for pumping at work

Pumping essentials for pumping at work

Top 9 pumping essentials you need when you go back to work:

1. Portable Breast Pump

This pumping essential is the highest on the list, for obvious reasons.  Without it, you have no way to access your milk!   I am using the Medela Freestyle portable pump because it is the one that my insurance covered, and it works great.  You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.

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Check with your insurance to see if they cover a portable breast pump before you buy one.  I live in California, and my insurance gave me a breast pump free of charge!

(Just a note, the different brands do not work interchangeably with each other.  So you want to make sure you find one brand you like and stick with it!  Otherwise, you will end up with a bunch of parts that don’t work with one another.  You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)

2.  Bottles

You will need breast milk collection storage bottles to store your milk until you get home from work.  I use the Medela bottles because I already use the Medela pump, but there are several other brands you can use as well.  Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (it’s a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).

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I also like the Medela screw-on lids better than some other brands because they are leakproof.  (I tried a different brand and had an issue with leakage all over my packed lunch!).  You can wash them in the sink, and they are also dishwasher safe.

3.  Clip and Pump Hands-Free Nursing Bra

I like this nursing bra accessory because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with both hands.  Once you start pumping, you will find that having to keep the pumps in place is annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.  This pumping essential will just make your life easier!

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This ingenious contraption can hook on to almost any nursing bra and make it a hands-free pumping bra as well!  That way, you can still do other things like check email or scroll through your phone.  Because let’s be honest, pumping can be pretty dull after a while!

4.  Breast Milk Storage Bag

After you pump, you need to make sure you have a place to store your breast milk until you get home.  I always pack a lunch for work, so I just use my insulated lunch bag to store my milk.  You can use any insulated storage bag.

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5.  Reusable Nursing Pads

Engorgement is no joke.  There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule, and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it but still!).  As a result of that embarrassing experience, I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.

I use reusable nursing pads made of bamboo because I have read that many disposable pads contain absorbent chemicals that come in direct contact with your skin.  They also run the risk of trapping moisture, especially if you are leaking. This can increase the risk of mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that will make you sick and can be dangerous if untreated.  Disposable pads can also be expensive over time if you are frequently using them.  I have 12 reusable nursing pads, and I run them through the washer and dryer with all my other clothes.

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6.  Breast Milk Storage Bags

The beautiful thing about pumping is that you can store your breast milk in the freezer!  So even if you have a surplus of milk, you can put it away for later use.   These little breast milk storage baggies are great because you can write the date on the top section, so you know how long they have been in the freezer.

Place them in the refrigerator for 12 hours before you need them to thaw them out.  Or place them in a bowl of hot water for quicker use.  These are on the high list of absolute must-have items to pump at work that you will need: I have used over 200 of them already!

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7.  Milk Storage Organizer

My freezer got a little overloaded with breast milk within the first few months that I was back at work, and this milk storage organizer helped me to keep things more organized.  It also helped me keep the milk organized by date, so I make sure to use the oldest milk first.

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8.  Newborn Bottle Feeding Set

Your baby is going to need a way to drink your breast milk when you are not there, right?  I tried so many different brands of bottles for our baby (there are so many!), but I finally settled on Dr. Brown’s newborn bottle feeding set.  Different brands are NOT able to be used interchangeably with one another, so its a good idea to find a brand you like and stick with it.  Otherwise, you end up spending a bunch of money on bottles and parts you don’t even need.

In the beginning, your baby will only need the 4-ounce bottles because they won’t be drinking as much milk.  But as they grow, you need to switch to the 8 oz size.  My son is six months and can take an entire 8 oz bottle in one feeding very easily.

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The Dr. Brown’s bottles have a blue vent system that is supposed to remove excess air bubbles from the milk.  This supposedly helps reduce feeding problems like colic, spit-up, burping, and gas.  Our daughter struggled with pretty severe colic and constant spit-up and switching to Dr. Brown’s bottles helped the situation tremendously.  She still had some issues, but they were noticeably much better!

Take it one day at a time, Mama.

You may get overwhelmed, but you too can do this!

I hope these pumping essentials help to make your return to work much easier on you.  There are a lot of products on the market, and it can be overwhelming for a mom who is preparing to go back to work from maternity leave.  So, make it easier on yourself and have a plan in place before you go back to work (read more about how I pump at work as a registered nurse who works 12-hour shifts).

After successfully pumping at work with two babies, I have whittled down my list to include the things that have helped me the most.  I hope this helps to guide you in the right direction to find what works for you too!

It is your legal right to continue to provide breast milk for your children and pump while you are at work.  Do not let anyone tell you differently or make you feel guilty about it.  Only you know what is right for you and your babies.

Good luck, Mama!  Let me know how it goes as a pumping mom in the workplace, and please reach out to me if you have any questions.  I would be happy to help you!

Additional recommended reading:

Nurse Moms are Incredible Humans

Nurse Moms are Incredible Humans

To the mom, who is also a Nurse:  You are incredible.

I recognize your hard work, and I empathize with your struggle.  And you are holding it together way better then you realize.

Being a nurse is hard work.  Being a Mom is hard work.  Add the two together, and you have one incredibly hard-working, badass, multitasking superhero with skills that can save lives. It’s a pretty awesome combination.

When I first graduated from college with my journalism degree (many years before I went back for my BSN), I entered the field of medical equipment sales.  I spent my time selling medical devices to surgeons in operating rooms up and down the west coast. I probably worked with hundreds of nurses during that time, and from an outsider’s perspective, I thought the nurse’s job was easy.

Then I went to nursing school.  And it pretty much kicked my butt from start to finish.  I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

There is a nurse’s code of ethics that requires we protect our patients and give them the best care we possibly can.  When Nurse Moms leave after a long, often grueling 12-hour shift, their job doesn’t stop.  In actuality, they just go home to their other full-time job:  motherhood.

Nurse Moms know that toddlers are like tiny little psych patients.

In the emergency room, I deal with every single type of mental and psychiatric disorder ever documented in literature.   Nurses work with everything from homicidal schizophrenia to depression or anxiety and everything in between.

Some of the irrational conversations I have with my two-year-old remind me of some of the patients I have had to deal with at the hospital.  For example, I have watched her throw herself on the floor in a fit of tears because I didn’t peel the banana “the right way.” Sometimes it even happens in public, which is always a fun treat for me!

Nurse Moms learn not to react to these toddler meltdowns because it only makes things worse, just like it does with an irrational patient.  Unfortunately, I can’t call a security guard to help me with my toddler like I can with a combative patient (although it would be nice!).

A mother taking care of 3 children at home.

For the Nurse Mom, the poo never stops coming.

Nurses deal with a lot of poo.   Sometimes patients are incontinent, or they have diarrhea, or they just need help.  As a Nurse, it’s absolutely no big deal to clean and change adult diapers.  Its primary care, and it is essential.

After work, the Nurse Mom with little ones continues to deal with poo.  Therefore, poo pretty much exists in every aspect of their life, both at home and at work.  For that reason, I think the Nurse Mom deserves some acknowledgment.

But its OK.  Its just poo.

smiling nurse mom at work

Nurse moms never stop caring about others’ needs first – despite the many challenges they face.

Nurse Moms don’t sweat the small stuff.

Moms who are also nurses are usually more concerned about the things that might kill someone.

Sure, a broken arm would suck, and NO mom wants to see their child in pain.  But a broken bone won’t kill you.  Like, for example, falling out a window in a home that is not childproofed.

Nurse Moms make sure their homes are safe for their kids, but don’t helicopter parent them from ever injuring themselves.  Kids grow and learn a lot through play, and they are going to get hurt once in a while.  Minor injuries are a part of childhood.

Additional recommended reading:  Alternative Medicine: Unique Careers Within Nursing

Nurse playing with daughter and examining eyes

Nursing and motherhood are a work of heart!

Being a Nurse Mom makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have healthy children.

During my ER nurse training program, I got an opportunity to work in our pediatric unit.  I assure you pediatric nurses I worked with are nothing short of amazing!

Many pediatric nurses work with parents who practically live at the hospital for weeks, months, or even years at a time because their child is sick. A ‘normal’ crazy busy day with their child at home would be the best gift in the world.

The motherhood/nurse combination is a challenging balance (especially for the pumping mom!), but it is also an honor and a privilege that many women are grateful to have.  So next time you run into a Nurse Mom who looks tired, know that it’s possible that she hasn’t slept in a week.  And give her a high-five.

Additional recommended reading:

Don’t forget to sign-up for our newsletter exclusively for Nurse Moms!

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse

This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here

Are you wondering how to pump at work as a nurse who works long 12-hour shifts?

When I went back to work after my son was born, I was so nervous about when, where, and how to pump at work as a nurse who works long 12-hour shifts.  I just couldn’t figure out how I was going to successfully make it happen when our RN workloads are already so intensive!

But, I am happy to report that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a hectic level 1 trauma center for the last two months.  And to my surprise, it’s working!  And I now know that I will be able to keep breastfeeding and pumping for my child for as long as I desire.

I am so relieved that I am still able to breastfeed and pump for my son as a busy nurse who works long 12-hour shifts.  I want other nurses to know that they, too, can do this!  That is why I am so excited to share what I have learned during my pumping journey at my hospital.

Additional recommended reading:  Must-Have Items To Pump At Work

Nurse Moms, you can do this.  Please read on to learn about how to pump at work as a nurse.  If I can do it with my circumstances, you can too.  

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse When You Work 12 Hour Shifts

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse When You Work 12 Hour Shifts

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse Who Works 12 Hour Shifts:

#1.  Communicate with your charge nurse/administration that you will be pumping while at work.

Hospital administrators are not psychic and have no idea what your pumping needs are if you do not tell them about it.  They may have no children or have ever breastfed, so this may be new for them.  Discuss the frequency that you will need to pump and discuss a location that works for you.  Ideally, it should be somewhere private on the unit like an unused office or empty patient room.

#2.  Talk to the charge nurses before each shift, so they know in advance.

Figuring out how to pump at work as a nurse takes some pre-planning on your part.  It is not a good idea to wait until things get busy to ask for a place to pump.   Charge nurses have a lot to balance, too, so work with them and come up with a plan before all hell breaks loose on the unit!

#3.  Have a pumping schedule in mind.

In a perfect world, pumping every three hours would be ideal.  But that may not be possible for a busy hospital nurse with a crazy workload.  Figure out a flexible “working” plan such as:

  • 6:45 (before shift starts)
  • 10 am
  • 1 pm, or 2 pm (lunch break)
  • 4 pm
  • 7:30 pm (after shift ends)

It is almost impossible to follow any schedule exactly, but planning at least gives you a guideline.

#4.  If you can afford it (and your workplace allows), try starting with two 12 hour shifts a week instead of 3.

I was nervous about being able to pump for three shifts a week successfully, so I decided to start with two.  I am so glad I did.  It has made pumping at work seem less stressful and more attainable.  As a bonus,  I get to spend a little extra time with my son as well.  Once my son starts eating more solid food and is breastfeeding less, I will go back to working three.

#5.  Work every other day.

Continually pumping away from your baby day after day might affect your breast milk supply.  Talk to your administration about working every other day so you can breastfeed at home on the days in-between.

#6.  Find out if your hospital has a designated pumping station.

At my workplace, and we have a pumping room for breastfeeding nurses that is located on the 5th floor.  It is not ideal for me to go there during my shift because I work in the ER on the first floor, but sometimes I can make it there during my lunch break or before/after a shift.  They have comfortable chairs with curtains so I can pump comfortably with privacy.  They also have Medula breast pumps available for use.

#7.  Find co-workers who you know will cover your patients for you when you need to pump.

One of the many reasons nurses don’t pump during their shifts is that they are concerned about their patient’s safety while they are gone.  Hopefully, you have a trusted charge nurse or another co-worker you know can keep an eye on your patients so you can pump.  Remember, it is your legal right to pump while at work, so no matter what your workplace needs to find someone to cover you.  So far, I have been fortunate to have many other nurses that I trust to cover for me when I ask them.

#8.  Work per diem.

This option isn’t for everyone, but it works for me!  I can have complete control of my schedule, so I don’t end up working back-to-back shifts or night shifts while I am breastfeeding.  It has also offered me a better work-life balance as a working mom.

#9.  Be flexible, but stand up for your right to pump!

Due to the unpredictability of being a busy RN, you will need to be somewhat flexible when it comes to pumping during a 12-hour shift.  But if you are not reasonably accommodated, you need to say so.  It is your legal right to pump at work.  Ultimately, you are the person responsible for making sure that your pumping needs are met while you are at work.

 

Essential Items to pump at work as a nurse:

 Portable Breast Pump

This device is the highest on the must-have items to pump at work list, for obvious reasons.  Without it, you have no way to access your milk!   You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.

ORDER NOW

 

Clip and Pump Hands-Free Nursing Bra

I like this nursing bra accessory because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with both hands.  Once you start pumping, you will find that having to keep the pumps in place is annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.

ORDER NOW

 

 

Breast Milk Storage Bag

After you pump, you need to make sure you have a place to store your breast milk until you get home.  I always pack a lunch for work, so I just use my insulated lunch bag to store my milk.  You can use any insulated storage bag.

ORDER NOW

 

 

5.  Reusable Nursing Pads

Engorgement is no joke.  There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule, and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it but still!).  As a result of that embarrassing experience, I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.

ORDER NOW

 

Additional recommended reading:

A Mom’s Guide To Self Care

A Mom’s Guide To Self Care

Happy Mothers Day!

The celebration of Mother’s Day serves as a good reminder to give a little extra thanks and acknowledgment for all the extraordinary work Moms do.

Unfortunately, it’s only one day out of a whopping 365 days in the whole year. So, what about the rest of the time?

Sadly, many of my mama friends don’t include a little self-love and tenderness into their lives on a regular basis.

As a Mama and registered nurse, I have to confess I am guilty of working myself to the core without giving it a second thought. Besides, aren’t Moms (and nurses) supposed to be selfless creatures who put the needs of all others before their own?

Well, no obviously (that was a rhetorical question, duh). But many of us have that false belief etched inside of our brains.

Sometimes as an RN I feel like a Mom to many of my patients. I’m putting their needs before my own for 12 straight hours. I endlessly hold my pee (I actually gave myself a bladder infection about a month ago). Often I work to a point of angry hunger. My heels are usually burning at the end of my shift.

Then when I’m at home, I want to spend all of my time with my daughter, despite sheer exhaustion from my workdays. What is a Mom supposed to do when there is not a lot of opportunity for self-care?

I don’t like getting childcare unless I have to be at work or my husband and I have a date night. Not because I feel guilty or can’t afford it, but because I really don’t want to.

I love being Mom. My little lady has the most contagious giggle… the most excited expressions every time she sees a “doggie”… the loudest, ear-piercing scream when she’s gone past her tired threshold (OK, so I don’t love that part, but I do love the bear hugs she gives when she’s getting sleepy, they are the best!).

My point is, being a Mom means giving more of myself than I ever thought I could ever give another human. Motherhood forces me to face fears I never even knew existed (some pretty crazy things run through my mind at times).

Mothers Day

Moms need to make self care a priority.

But I, like all Moms, am grateful to do it, even on the hardest of days.

But… and there and there is a BIG but…

Who’s supposed to take care of Mom?

Well… Mom does.

That the thing about being a Mom. The person who knows best how to take care of Mom is Mom.

The only person who can really make sure all your needs are being met is YOU, Mom.

The only person who can know that a bubble bath and a cup of tea (or wine) is exactly what you need after a long day of managing to keep tiny humans safe and alive, is… yes you guessed it.. Mom!

That’s because we are wise, multitasking superheros, capable of managing our own and other’s needs. We are the most magnificent, intelligent, masters of life! (maybe a wee bit of an exaggeration, but it’s Mother’s Day so humor me!).

If we don’t give self-care to ourselves, then it’s impossible to be what our kiddos need us to be.

That is the greatest part! We have the absolute best reason to give ourselves all the care and love we need. Because our children benefit from the mature, wise decision we make as Moms to care for ourselves so we can continue to keep the earth rotating around the sun. Also because when Mom is out of commission, things fall apart.

The Mom guide to self-care 365 days a year:

1. Keep moving.

I am a fierce lover of my yoga practice. Unfortunately, since my daughter’s birth it has become increasingly more and more difficult to get to my favorite yoga studio in Manhattan Beach, The Green Yogi.

After months of agonizing frustration due to not making it to classes, I finally arrived at the perfect solution: The Green Yogi Online! My studio offers dozens of yoga practices online for only 15$ a month. This way I can practice yoga at home at any time of the day for as long or short as I want with my favorite instructors.

Sometimes it may only 10 be minutes of Zen yoga. But any amount is better than nothing!

Seriously whoever came up with this idea is a freaking genius. I have no more excuses because I literally have my yoga practice at my fingertips. Its a lifesaver, I tell you.

2. Sleep, Sister.

Sleep is essential for life. That extra episode of television is not worth the agony of next day exhaustion. Browsing through a cell phone before bed will actually make it harder to fall asleep and will disrupt the quality of your sleep. Without sleep, you go completely insane. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture method.

I try to get into bed around 9 pm and be asleep by 9:30-9:45. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I feel so much better when it does.

3. Take a relaxing bath.

For me, taking a bath is like flipping an internal switch from action Mom to Zen Mom. No matter how crazy the day is I can turn it off with a bath. I add a few essentials oils and bath salts and voila! It’s a makeshift spa session. If I can do this 1 time per week after I per my daughter down, it helps a lot.

4. Nourish your temple.

Eat whole, organic foods, including many plants. There is no secret diet menu, what the billion-dollar diet industry is telling you.

I try to make a hot, antioxidant-rich turmeric tea every day if I can. You can read more about the health benefits of turmeric and find my recipe here:

I have a 95-5 rule. If I am really good to myself 95% of the time (i.e. exercise, eat healthy, meditate, do yoga) then I can relax and not worry about it the other 5% of the time (have some wine, yummy dessert, chill). Some weeks it’s closer to a 90-10 rule, and less frequently a special occasion may be closer to an 85-15 rule (Mom needs to have a little fun sometimes too!).

My point: The occasional indulgence is a nice thing so long as you treat your body good on the regular!

We can’t expect our kids to eat well if we don’t. We are responsible for teaching our children healthy habits from a young age so that they grow up with the nourishment they need to grow, learn, and be amazing humans.

5. Get off social media.

I stopped using social media for one week and had a lot of really great benefits as a result.

Stop comparing your life to others. By decreasing your use of social media you will be left with significantly less distraction and be more present in more important daily activities.

Social media is not a real representation of what is going on in people’s lives. It is a magnification of what people want you to see: slivers of primarily positive information that appears flawless, effortless and often like never-ending, spontaneous fun (don’t we all want to project the best parts of ourselves). Its also full of marketing, branding and sales gimmicks nowadays too.

Take the time that social media is stealing from you and apply it directly into being engaged in the most important stuff. Like spending uninterrupted time with your family.

6. Just say no.

Give yourself permission to prioritize the things that are most important to you. Mom’s needs come before getting every little chore completed. The laundry can wait until tomorrow if needed. The toys aren’t doing any permanent damage by laying on the floor a little longer. No one is going to die.

Sometimes when I put my daughter down for a nap I have the intention of getting several chores out of the way. But I end of taking a nap myself instead. Guess what, I feel so much better!

It’s impossible to do every little thing. At some point we just have to say no. No apologies, just no.

7. Meditate and have gratitude.

I found a resource that has completely revolutionized my meditation practice. It’s called Headspace and it is an app that helps to make meditation more attainable for busy people. Read more about my experience with this app here.

Headspace has dozens of different meditations each lasting from 10 minutes to 1 hour. So I really don’t have an excuse that I don’t have time, because 10 minutes is all I need. This app is genius.

Take good care of yourself, Moms!

Additional recommended reading Simple Mom Self-Care Goals You Need Now

How I Prepare For A 12 Hour Shift (And Stay Healthy)

How I Prepare For A 12 Hour Shift (And Stay Healthy)

(*Updated 3/9/20.  This post about 12-hour shifts and health may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here).

Preparing for 12-hour shifts as a registered nurse requires some prearranged groundwork and organization at home to ensure my day starts off on the right foot. As a working mom, I know I will be gone for a large chunk of time so I do my best to make sure things are properly set up at home the day before.

Additionally, as a nurse, I know how important it is that I take good care of myself so I can continue to give the best possible care to my family and patients.  After all, I can’t expect others to listen to my health education if I don’t take my own advice and stay healthy too.  No excuses!

My top 3 priorities for 12 hour-shifts and staying healthy:

#1. Grocery shop and prepare all meals in advance

I grocery shop every three days so I am able to prepare meals for my toddlers and for each of my 12-hour shifts at the hospital in advance.  To avoid scrambling at the last minute I always make sure everything is ready and packaged to go the night before.

I prepare several options for the kids’ breakfasts, lunch, and dinner such including:

  • Avocado or almond toast
  • Bananas, apples, kiwis, various berries
  • Black bean or chickpea pasta
  • Cheese squares
  • Veggies straws with hummus
  • Veggie/fruit smoothies
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Sautéed veggies

In addition, one day per week I make a big batch of quinoa or brown rice and keep it handy in the fridge for quick meal preparation. When I need it, I add veggies, nuts, seeds, dried cranberries, olive oil, tempeh or whatever else I have in the fridge at that moment. This is so convenient because I can whip something up quickly for my work lunches and I also have it on days I’m home with the kids.

The Nutribullet is by far my favorite cooking tool.

In fact, I use it at least once or twice a day!  I make everything from veggie smoothies, to salad dressings, to soups and blended coffee drinks.  It makes my life so much easier, especially now that we have kids and time is limited.

In the mornings, I make a vegetable and berry smoothie with 1 tablespoon of Maca powder, flaxseed and/or hemp seeds for protein, and acai powder. I alternate my veggies between broccoli, spinach, and kale. For the berry part: strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries although sometimes ill add half a banana or mango. (The Nutribullet is one of the best inventions of the 21st century, I tell you).

I also make several mason jars of overnight oats on Sundays with a variety of flavors:

  • Blueberry/strawberry/raspberry
  • Peanut butter and maple
  • Banana and walnut
  • Almond and raisin

I either add ground flax seeds or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefits. And I’ll top with a dash of cinnamon. These make such an easy breakfast to go!

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#2 Sleep as much as possible before a 12-hour shift

Let’s be honest – 12-hour shifts usually end up being closer to 14+ at the end of the day.  And, many studies show that working 12-hour shifts are damaging to nurse health due to the length of time that nurses end up working.    In fact, an increased risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers have all been researched and publicized.

Since the shifts are not getting shorter anytime soon, the best thing that nurses can due to take care of themselves is rest as much as possible before shifts.  Therefore, I make it a huge priority to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep before shifts.  (This was so much easier before we had kids!)

I few things I use to help me sleep better at night:

  • Eye mask and earplugs. After having kids I realized that I am an incredibly light sleeper.  In fact, even the slightest noises wake me up in the middle of the night.  And sometimes I have difficulty falling back asleep again which is so frustrating when I work a 12-hour shift in the morning.
  • Restorative yoga poses. I keep a yoga pillow and a yoga mat right next to the bed that I use for restorative yoga poses about 20 minutes before I try to go to sleep.  It helps decompress me from my day, check-in with myself and put me into a snugly and sleepy mood.

 

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#3 Get regular exercise on the off days

I always feel so much better when I get my heart rate up on my days off. The benefits of exercise have been well documented and are essential for nurse self-care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and decreases stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A yoga session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn, will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

For me personally, yoga has been a total game-changer for my stress levels.  But its also great to change up the routine a bit, and I enjoy escaping with my headphones for a run and listening to music.  Whatever you do is great, as long as you actually do it!

Consider wearing compression stockings or compression socks.

Those who know me, know I’m a stickler for compression socks.  Wearing compression stockings helped me work all the way through two pregnancies and I continue to wear them to this day.  They help keep your legs energized, prevent varicose veins, and keep your ankles and feet from getting so swollen after being on your feet all day.  Plus, they come is the cutest styles now.

 

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Being a working mom is hard work.

But with a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being and time management you can be both a healthy nurse and give great care to your patients.

So, what are you going to do for yourself to ensure that you stay healthy and thrive? 

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