Look For The Helpers:  Acts Of Compassion After The Las Vegas Massacre

Look For The Helpers: Acts Of Compassion After The Las Vegas Massacre

On October 1st, a single shooter sprayed bullets into the crowd at a country music festival in Las Vegas killing 59 people and injuring over 500.  This was the largest U.S mass shooting in modern history.

My heart hurts.  I can’t imagine how a single shooter can be capable of murdering and injuring so many people.

One of my goals over the next few months is to find a way to get more involved in assisting in any way with implementing gun control laws.  I can’t have my children growing up in a world where mass casualties by automatic weaponry is normal and occurring repeatedly.

However, at the present moment I want to focus on the individual acts of heroism and acts of compassion that are coming about as a result of the Las Vegas massacre.

There are always helpers.

Here are just a few acts of compassion that occurred this week:

#1.  Thousands of people stood in line for hours to give blood.

#2.  Ride shares and taxi companies offered free transportation to blood donation centers and hospitals.

#3.  Leaders from many religions held vigils and encouraged giving.

#4.  Hotels donated free rooms to people traveling to Las Vegas to help victims.

#5.  I personally know people living in Las Vegas who have graciously offered their homes to the family members of victims who are coming from out-of-town.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “look for the helpers.  You will always find people helping.”   -Mr. Rogers

How you can help now:

1. Donate to the Las Vegas Victim’s Fund. As of today the campaign has raised almost 10 million dollars since the shooting. Their goal is 15 million.

2. Visit Show Me Your Stethoscope’s campaign to support the nurses and first responders caring for the victims of the shooting. You can send money to local hospital staff in Las Vegas, who are working so hard to help save lives and care for the over 500 people who were injured during the attack. Many of the injured are still in critical condition.

As an ER nurse who works at a Level 1 Trauma Center, I am not looking forward to a time when we have a catastrophic event like the Las Vegas massacre. Yet, I am so grateful to hear about the acts of compassion of the staff at the hospitals who are working tirelessly around the clock to save lives and heal the injured. At times like this, I am so proud to be a nurse.

Were you affected by the Las Vegas shooting? Please share your thoughts!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

Why Nurses Need To Practice Yoga:  Self Care For The Caregiver

Why Nurses Need To Practice Yoga: Self Care For The Caregiver

(This post may contain affiliate links.  My disclosure page is super boring but you can find it here.)

Many nurses are very good at encouraging patients to follow a regular exercise routine and at teaching ways to manage stress for optimal health. Taking their own advice about healthy lifestyle behaviors though, well, not so much.

As an emergency room nurse who has worked as a resource nurse on various units all over the hospital, I see first hand the outstanding care that is being given to our patients. The nurses I work with bend over backwards.  At times they even risk their own health and safety to care for total strangers.

The work can be back-breaking, literally. Most days are very physically demanding with little rest. Over time, the work is depleting to an RN.  Sometimes even resulting in permanent injuries (hello, chronic back pain!), extreme burnout or even depression.

How much work does it take to be a nurse?

Being a nurse in the hospital demands a lot on the body. The job often requires moving non-stop for grueling 12 hours shifts (or longer).  It can include lifting and turning patients several times throughout the day. In addition to physical stress, nurses are often multitasking multiple patients with unique medical issues and making clinical decisions in potentially life-threatening situations.

Nurse praticing yoga.

Yoga can help nurses take better care of themselves.

To say that being a nurse causes wear-and-tear on the body is an understatement. As a result of years of heavy lifting many RN’s are suffering from chronic back problems. I know several who have had to go out on disability and sadly still suffer from permanent chronic back pain.

In nursing school we are taught “proper body mechanics” that are supposed to prevent back injuries while moving, lifting or turning patients. Recently however, there is new evidence suggesting that their really is no safe way for nurses to lift patients.

In addition, being a nurse often requires walking up to 15,000 steps or more in a single shift. A study found in the National Library of Medicine reported that many nurses walk up to five miles in an average 10 hour shift. However, in the Emergency Room and on many other units, I would argue that we actually walk much more then that. In fact, I wear a pedometer at work and I have logged up to 35,000 or more steps in a single day. That is the equivalent of walking 14 miles in a single shift!

The emotional and physiological drain of being a nurse can be overwhelming.

Being in the hospital is stressful. As a result, sometimes patients or families take their stress out on the people they are in contact with the most: the nurses. Yet it is our job to remain compassionate and continue to advocate for our patients in spite of this.

Burnout in the profession is common. Even I have questioned my decision to become a nurse for this reason on a few different occasions. I’ve tried to explain to friends and family how incredibly complex and stressful being a registered nurse can be. I think it is just one of those things that you really can’t understand unless you experience it for yourself.

All venting aside, I’m not going to run off and chance careers, or encourage anyone from not becoming a registered nurse. I derive an immense amount of pride and passion for what I do.  I also enjoy working with intelligent people who have the same drive for helping people that I do.

It is, however, not a career for wimps.

Nurses need to practice yoga.

Nurse practicing yoga

There are so many physical and mental benefits to practicing yoga regularly.

Nurses need to make self-care a priority. Not only does self-care result in better overall patient care, but ultimately it replenishes our depleted reserves.  Yoga helps us take better care of ourselves and our families.

There is an endless amount of studies on yoga and its amazing benefits on physical and mental health. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among many other benefits.

For the purpose of this article I am focusing on three of the biggest nurse health related issues. But don’t be mistaken, there several more benefits then I am not mentioning here.

Benefits of yoga for nurses:

Stress management

As I mentioned earlier, nurses have a high workload in many hospital wards. The stress is compounded by managing patient healthcare needs and treatments, daily occupational stressors and even the many frequent changes in technology.

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 a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels.

Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain

Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Fortunately, the review also presented an overwhelming amount of studies that found that regular yoga significantly reduced symptoms associated with chronic low back pain and greatly improved overall physicality.

Yoga stretching not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain. In a career as physically demanding as nursing, the more physically stable we are, the better care we can give to ourselves and our patients.

Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue

Nurses practicing yoga

Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program training at UCLA Medical Center. Nurses are learning how to integrate holistic healthcare like yoga with traditional medicine.

Lack of self-care can easily result in burnout and compassion fatigue in the nursing profession. As much as I hate to admit it, even I have questioned how long I can continue with the immense workload and emotional drain that is required of me as a nurse. Thankfully, I have found a productive way to manage this is through yoga and meditation.

A study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.

Yoga is good for you!

Yoga is a productive way to prevent some of the most common health ailments among nurses. Empowering nurses in self-care helps to create a happier, healthier and more productive work environment.

For better or worse, nurses serve as role models in the healthcare community. We need to practice what we preach. Why would a patient listen to our advice on how to life a healthy life if we are not living one ourselves?

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

Additional reading:

Recommended Reading

8 Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy

Pregnant Nurse Precautions To Consider At Work

3 Crucial Reasons Nurse Need Yoga

Happy Easter From The Emergency Room:  Day One Of ER Nurse Training

Happy Easter From The Emergency Room: Day One Of ER Nurse Training

While most people were with their families this Easter Sunday, I was working day one of Emergency Room RN training.

In light this, my family had our Easter celebration and egg hunt with our daughter the day prior. Celebrating holidays the day before or the day after has been one thing I have had to get accustomed to as an RN.

It was surprisingly not as busy as most days in the emergency room, or so I’m told. My preceptor, who has 10 years working in the ER, mentioned that fewer ER admissions occur on holidays then on other days of the year. Apparently, many people like to wait until the day after a major holiday to have a medical emergency and show up in the ER.

There are a wide variety of patients in the emergency room.

The day started off with a bang. I had my very first trauma patient. The unfortunate victim of a car crash that occurred somewhere along the 405. I was hoping the ER would get me out of my comfort zone, and my first experience absolutely did not disappoint.

I also got my first pediatric patient: a baby who luckily didn’t have anything seriously wrong. Having my own 20 month old daughter, I seriously don’t know how well I’m going to handle pediatric patients that are not so lucky.

My patients ranged in age from 8 weeks to 96 years old. Talk about a diverse patient population!

My IV start skills are constantly being challenged.

I started 3 IV’s during the shift, including a few elderly patients, which I often have a difficult time with. Not too shabby, if I don’t say so myself. I have always been pretty good at IV starts, but I hope to really fine tune my skills within the next few months.

One thing I was super impressed with was that my preceptor does ultra sound guided IV’s on a daily basis. So cool. I didn’t even know that nurses were allowed to do that. There are apparently several nurses who do it in our emergency room and it requires additional classes and a special certification. I don’t know of any other floors in the hospital where that happens.

HIPPA and patient privacy

I have been having an issue with how much I ethically can and should disclose on this blog. As much as I want to break down every little detail of what I see, we have this super important legal policy called the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Otherwise known as HIPAA, it is basically a fancy way of saying that any healthcare professional will get fired if they disclose anything about a patient’s identity or medical information. Essentially it legally protects patient confidentially, which is a good thing.

On the off chance that anyone actually does read what I am writing I want to be very careful of this. Therefore, I am going to focus my writing on the skills and tasks that I perform and not on any patient information. It seriously limits what I can talk about, so I am mentioning that upfront.

Also, my husband is also a legal investigator at the hospital and he frequently reminds me about HIPAA. He even teaches courses about it to staff. It is a complete coincidence that we happen to both work for the same medical center (for the record though, I was there first).

Tomorrow I will get up at 5:15am and head out for day 2 of ER training and a whole new round of learning experiences. At some point I need to get a start on the 50 hours on online ER training courses I need to complete. My brain is tired just thinking about it.

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

How I Became A Emergency Room Nurse

How I Became A Emergency Room Nurse

Two weeks ago I was writing about how I wanted focus on trying to relax a little more and work a little less.

But life is so unpredictable. Just when you think things are going to be a certain way, a new opportunity spontaneously presents itself.

For the past year my RN title has been Resource Nurse, Float Pool. Essentially this means that I am a resource nurse for short-staffed units and I can float to any Med/Surg or Telemetry unit in the hospital. Soon my skill set is going to get an upgrade.

Soon I will be training to be an Emergency Room Nurse.

Stethoscope in the shape of a heart

Emergency Room nursing is a whole new challenge for me.

I was recently selected to be in a new cross training program in our Emergency Department. Apparently they have some staffing issues and want to make sure they have trained Resource Nurses to help fill in the gaps.

In a few months I will be an Emergency Room Nurse at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital! Yay! Wait, wasn’t I just talking about not working so hard?  Yup. Isn’t this program going to be stressful, exhausting and require a lot more work? Yeah, pretty much.

But opportunity is knocking and I’m going to go ahead and open the door. This is the first time this kind of cross training opportunity has ever been available at my hospital and I would be remiss to pass it up. In return, I get to expand my nursing prowess and make myself more marketable in my field.

I’m a nerd. I admit it.

If I’m not constantly learning or doing something new I get board pretty easily.

That partially explains why I left a lucrative career to go back to college for a second bachelors degree in nursing at the age of 32. I talk a little more about that here.

Back in my nursing school days I wanted to go directly to working in the ER or ICU after graduation. I had the desire to challenge myself right off the bat by caring for the most critical and vulnerable patient populations. But first I needed a job.

Nurse Residency programs are the place to be for a new grad.

As graduation approached I was frequently reminded that most new grad RN’s had a slim chance of getting excepted into a nurse graduate residency program. In fact, I knew of many RN grads who had been out of school for over a year and were still waiting to get their first job. This was due to the fact that there was a large surplus of graduate BSN’s coupled with a very limited number of nurse graduate residency programs available. From what I hear from new grads today, the problem still exists.

"they may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

Patients never forget how their nurses made them feel.

To not have employment after 3 years in nursing school was definitely not OK for a gal graduating with 35k in student loan debt!

Since there are more Telemetry and Med/Surg Floors in most hospitals I thought I would have a better chance of just getting my foot in the door if I started there. So to maximize my chances for employment I asked to interview for ANY Telemetry unit position that was available in the entire hospital.

Fortunately my gamble paid off. Shortly after I applied to the nurse residency program at UCLA I started my nursing career on a Neuroscience and Stroke Telemetry Unit. I stayed on this unit for about 4 years and became certified in the specialty.

I still love Neuroscience and I’m so glad I started my nursing career there. Even though I have moved on to other things, I still feel like it is my home.

I’m back in school again. Sort of.

I’m back in student mode. I’m quickly finding out that becoming an Emergency Room Nurse requires an extraordinary amount of study and training. Just this week I completed Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certification (PALS) and Adult Certified Life Support Certification (ACLS).

Last week I shadowed two RN’s in the Liver Transplant ICU and Pediatric Unit to briefly introduce me to the specialties. This is because in the ER I will be working with Pediatrics as well as doing Trauma and Critical Care. Both are new specialties for me.

Next week I start orientation and will meet the preceptors who will help train me for the next 3 months. Then I start the 50+ hours of additional classroom training. I guess I will be doing a lot of studying after I put my daughter down to bed in the evenings.

Training to be an Emergency Room Nurse in a Level 1 Trauma Center will be very challenging to say the least. But I’m ready for it. It is amazing what opportunities arrive when you are least expecting them.

I’m sure I will have many tales to tell about the madness as an Emergency Room Nurse. Stay tuned!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

How I Prepare For A 12 Hour Shift

How I Prepare For A 12 Hour Shift

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here).

Preparing for 12 hour shifts as a registered nurse requires some prearranged ground work 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 keeping myself and my family healthy as a nurse:

#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 chick pea 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, flax seed 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 variation 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 benefit. And I’ll top with a dash of cinnamon. These make such an easy breakfast to go!

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

Lets 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, they 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 ear plugs. After having kids I realized that I am am incredible light sleeper.  In fact, even the slightest noises wake me up in the middle of the night.  And sometimes I have difficulty failing 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 my bed that I use for restorative yoga poses about 20 minutes before I try to go to sleep.  It helps decompress my from my day, check in with myself and put me into a snugly and sleepy mood.

#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.

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? 

Additional Recommended Reading

7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout

Nurse Health:  Self Care For 12 Hour Shifts

How Becoming A Per Diem Nurse Helped Me Find A Work-Life Balance