Monday, March 31, 2008

Let Your Creativity Serve You While You Serve Others!

Expressing your creativity is a surefire way to relieve stress.

Have you asked yourself lately, "How am I expressing my creative self?" Do you have people in your life that are encouraging and supporting your creativity? Have you actually made the connection that using your creative side is an excellent way to battle nursing stress?

For me, adding Creativity to my "How to cope with nursing stress" toolbox has been a very effective weapon.

One of the things you can do to express yourself creatively is blogging. If you love to write and it feels therapeutic to you to get your thoughts out, then you should try it. Ultimately, one of your goals in expressing yourself creatively is to attract like-minded people who "get you" and who value creativity in their lives too!

However, writing is not the only form of creative expression. Of course, there are all the art forms including dancing and singing which are fantastic forms of creativity. There is the whole idea of expressing yourself creatively through your clothing style or with your home decor. Of course, personal style and home decor are ways of communicating your creativity to the world that are quite fulfilling (but sometimes a little expensive)!

Unfortunately, nurses are in danger of shutting off their creative sides because they so often find themselves in survival mode.

If you are a nurse on nights, you probably work three in a row. How creative can you be when you're either working or sleeping for 72 hours straight? If you're on days, you may not be working three in a row but the days in between shifts are filled with hours of "just jelling" in that recovery shutdown state where you're really not doing much of anything. That's not great for creativity either!

One of the gadgets you can use to enhance your creativity is a voice recorder. These can be purchased at any office supply store and are smaller than a cell phone. They're pretty inexpensive and are simple to use.

As I said, I love to write. However, I'm not always able to hop on the computer or jot things down so I have ideas swirling around in my mind. So I simply record them on my handheld recorder. That way I record the thoughts and can act on them at some other time. PRESTO! My creativity is PRESERVED!

Most nurses are born nurturers. Nurturers like to create and grow things. Nurses are not only creative, they usually have great people skills, they're independent, they're smart and they're perceptive.

I find it extremely fulfilling to express myself creatively. All the while, I am truly taking steps to relieve myself of harmful stress and reach for freedom in my life.

In other words, when I'm at work caring for my patients, my creativity is hard at work for me even if it's just to keep me in touch with my dreams. I highly recommend pursuing ANY creative hobby, project or business as a way of taking back control in your life and honoring your creative side.

I support all nurses who have a creative side longing to be expressed!

Question: How do you preserve YOUR creativity? Post your answer as a "Comment" below.

Take Care Of Yourselves Nurses,
Theresa Waller, RN
(714) 293 5398
Call Anytime!

Friday, March 28, 2008

One Of Those Patients...

Have you ever had one of those patients that you just couldn't help falling in love with?

Some Patients Capture Your Heart More Than Others

Perhaps it is the tragedy of their young, so grim a prognosis. Or perhaps it is how their disease is manifesting itself by resulting in more and more hospital admissions, more and more tests, procedures and surgeries and more and more pain each time. Or perhaps it is their attitude throughout it all...they never lose their sense of humor. They always make the staff laugh and you find yourself genuinely feeling that taking care of them is a labor of love, not a chore.

Even Though They Are A "Total Care"...

They are what we nurses consider to be a "total care patient" due to the amount of care they require (weak, non-ambulatory, high risk for skin breakdown). But although they are one of the highest acuity patients on the floor, somehow you don't see it that way.

They are the kind of patient that you catch yourself thinking about often on your days off and they are the first patient you inquire about when you return to work. Their pain and suffering is inconceivable yet they are not ready to give up, not ready for hospice.

They've got diversions for bowel (colostomy) and bladder (ileoconduit) and fistulas (radiology drains). The amount of IV and oral pain medication they're on would normally kill a horse but it leaves them with just barely adequate pain control. You are not surprised to see that their latest PCA order includes quadruple strength Dilaudid with a strong basal rate. They are literally prescribed such massive amounts of pain pills (Oxycontin, Methadone, Neurontin) that they they can no longer keep up with them, sometimes having to refuse doses. Yet they remember you by name and give a big smile when you greet them in the morning.

It Makes No Sense

I recently took care of one of my favorite patients. It had been a heartbreaking day. I think for the first time, the full gravity of her condition was very evident to the patient, myself and my nurse assistant. There weren't as many jokes that day. None of us talked about the reality of her situation but it seems things have truly taken a turn for the worse.

Later that night, a noise woke me up out of a deep sleep. I immediately started thinking about her and the tears started flowing. So sad. Makes no sense. Why her? Why anyone? Poor, poor lady. God bless her. I became overwhelmingly grateful for that present moment and thanked (my) God for all the blessings in my life. It took a while to get back to sleep.

Compassion Is A Gift

The experts talk about compassion fatigue and burnout but you see it differently. You see it as having been given the gift of TRUE compassion for another human being, while at the same time having been given extremely stressful circumstances in which to experience it. Not enough resources, not enough certified staff, too many orders to process and too many stat tasks all combining and colliding at the same time with your love for humanity and your true desire to help and heal others. This is why nursing stress is so unique.

Nurses are gifted but they must fortify themselves emotionally, spiritually, physically and nutritionally. It is simply imperative that nurses take care of themselves because there will always be special patients counting on them!

Question: What is it about some patients that makes them so special? Post your answer as a "Comment" below.

Take Care of Yourself Nurses!
Theresa Waller, RN
714 293 5398

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ultimately, Fighting Stress Is Up To Us!

Have you ever questioned whether or not your employer really cares?

Recently, on my floor we learned of heartbreaking news. They announced that an RN had died. The circumstances surrounding her passing remain a mystery.

Beepers and Cell Phones at a Memorial?

Although the Department Director provided a "Tea Time for the Soul" ceremony for the day shift staff, it was scheduled during our working hours. On my med/surg floor, we carry cell phones and pagers so we can be located at all times due to the large size of our floor (three nurses stations, hundreds of feet apart). In other words, because the ceremony was taking place during our shift, we all had our beepers and cell phones on.

Many of us begrudgingly carved out some time to attend the ceremony. Once there, we noted there was calming music playing. Refreshments had been provided. There were two chaplains in attendance. The chaplains were initiating a discussion with the staff. The stage was set for a potentially very healing atmosphere.

I have to admit that for a brief moment, I got lulled into a sense of serenity. However, approximately three minutes into it, I got beeped and had to leave to go urgently medicate someone. I never did make it back due to other pages and phone calls and urgent issues.

Have you ever felt foolish for trusting that management really cared about you? I remember thinking, "This isn't right. I just sat down."

Nursing Stress: "The Elephant in the Living Room"

Thoughtfully, the chaplains had provided some brochures. One brochure was entitled "Compassion Fatigue" and the other was called "What Grieving Does to the Body." There was also a "Mood Card" which allowed the attendees to check their stress level. According to the card, the colder the hand, the more tense and stressful the person was.

These handouts were much appreciated. However, the topics they addressed, although fantastically appropriate for the nursing staff, seemed to represent "The elephant in the living room." There it was in black and white. The brochures were talking about nursing stress. But no one said a word. We all sat silent as our pagers and phones went off one by one.

All A Big Tease

Have you ever caught yourself wondering if the management at your facility does things just for show? Because none of us got to really take any of it in, it was as if the chaplain, the kind words, the pertinent brochures and the refreshments were all a BIG TEASE. After all, the ceremony was taking place during our very busy work day! How could we really acknowledge the loss of our co-worker, when taking the time to attend her memorial was seen as a burden that was pulling us off schedule?

My co-worker said something very profound. She said, "It would have been nice if we actually got a chance to participate in the memorial ceremony. It would have been better if they would have scheduled it after our shift was over. I know many of us would have gladly stayed after we were "clocked out" just to pay our respects and de-stress together. What a shame, all that effort for nothing."

Arm Yourself Against Stress

Today, Nurses work under extremely stressful conditions. It would be wise to come to the conclusion that it is up to YOU to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and nutritionally. It is my passion to encourage nurses to take care of themselves and fight back against their daily work stress.

As nurses, we must not assume that management has our best interests at heart all the time. We must make choices that are going to benefit us. We must be ever vigilant against stress, compassion fatigue, burnout and grief. Ultimately, our well being is our responsibility!

Question: Why do you think nurses "burn out"? Post your answer as a "Comment" at the bottom of this post!

Take care of yourselves Nurses!
Theresa Waller, RN
714 293 5398 Call anytime

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Perfectionism Is A Trap!

One of the biggest issues I have had to deal with is being a perfectionist. The need to be perfect all the time is a trap. It can prevent you from growing because it prevents you from letting people see the real "imperfect" you.

But in Nursing School...

It's tricky. In nursing school, we were taught that certain procedures have to be performed perfectly, like passing medications for example. It could be argued that if there ever was a time that being perfect is appropriate, passing medications would be one of them.

However, it could also be argued that if a medication error was committed, perhaps there is more to learn about making the system better. What were the factors involved in the medication error. Was pharmacy involved? Did they fill the medication incorrectly and increase the chances of our eyes playing tricks on us? Was the patient load too heavy that day? Was the nurse pulled in too many directions at once? Did the constant scramble for help and resources force an error that otherwise would not have taken place? Did the fact that she missed out on her favorite snack, because her break was cut short, finally catch up to her?

Perfectionism Acts Like A Mute Button

But the need or tendency to be perfect in the nursing world, can hinder our ability to take care of ourselves in the outside world. For example, even when you do decide to attend a group and get emotional support to help you better cope with life's stresses, you find you're not able to open up in front of the group. The need to appear perfect is too strong. It's like a powerful mute button that keeps you silent.

You tell yourself, I'm just content listening. Sharing should be reserved for only those people in the group who can really be profound and who really have answers. Meanwhile, you stop yourself from contributing to the group because you feel you're not perfect enough. You don't get to grow and benefit from taking the risk of exposing yourself, warts and all.

In the past, the need to be perfect has blocked me from taking some positive risks. I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired! The beginning of change started when I admitted that my way wasn't working.

Question: Have you ever struggled with Perfectionism? Has it limited you? In what ways? To answer, simply hit "Comments" at the bottom of this blog post and type away!

Wishing you good health,
Theresa Waller, RN
714 293 5398
Take Care of Yourself Nurses!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Getting Creative to Relieve Nurse Stress

Do you remember learning about the aging process in 3rd or 4th semester of nursing school? Little did you know when you took your geriatric nursing courses in nursing school that so many of your patients were actually going to be so old. It goes without saying but the higher the age, the higher the acuity!

How about the number of diabetic patients these days? It seems that routinely 3 out of 5 patients require accuchecks and insulin coverage. In many cases, the nurse assistant is not certified to do accuchecks so the responsibility falls on the nurse.

Have you ever experienced being told that you were going to get a new patient and one minute later the phone rings and it's someone wanting to give you report...and you're thinking, "But I just discharged my other patient less than five minutes ago...I haven't finished my charting...I'm not ready for another patient yet!"

Limited Choices Increase Nurse Stress

These examples fall under the category of what I like to refer to as "Lack of Choice Increases Nurse Stress." Going back to the geriatric nursing courses we all took. Do you remember learning the concept that it is a MYTH to think that getting older is less stressful? The idea that as you get older, you enter the "golden years" and life is grand is a MYTH. In fact, in many cases getting older begins to limit our freedoms and our choices. In many cases getting older is a more stressful time because your choices become more narrow!

Whenever choices are limited or taken away, the stress level will increase. Therefore, when a nurse has no choice as to the age, diagnosis, diabetic status, isolation status or timing of her patients, her stress can increase. There are many other circumstances that the nurse can't control during her work day and this can increase her stress also. If she does choose to not accept a certain patient, then she may feel that she is burdening one of her co-workers who will have to take the patient instead. It sometimes feels like a lose/lose situation.

Taking Care of Yourself is Not Optional!

That is why it is absolutely imperative that nurses take care of themselves. Get good nutrition. Get rest! Lay off the sugar. Feed your soul. Speak up!!! Get creative and think of solutions on your floor that will benefit you and your co-workers.

My co-worker and I organized a potluck at my house in January. We called it, "Nurturing the Nurses." Even though we sent out flyers way ahead of time, the turn out wasn't that high. Do nurses put themselves last on the list? Anyway, the nurses who did show up had a great time! We spent time talking and relating with each other in a completely stress-free (non-hospital) environment. We told NON-nursing stories of our lives and had lots of laughs. Holding a potluck in your home is a great way to relieve stress!

Question: Do you believe that the less choices you have in life, the higher your stress level? Please post an answer by hitting "Comments" at the bottom of this blog post and type away!

Wishing you good health,
Theresa Waller, RN
714 293 5398
Take Care of Yourself Nurses!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Welcome to RN Stress Solutions!

Welcome all nurses! All are welcome who have a genuine interest in finding solutions to the stress in our lives!

Has Stress Ever Made You Speechless?

As you know, nursing (and health care in general) is a very stressful profession. You have probably complained about the stress related to your job on many occasions. I know I have. In fact, it has often left me speechless around family and friends because it's too much to discuss with just anyone. That's where this blog comes in. However, the purpose of this forum is not just to discuss the gory details of my work day. In fact, efforts will be made to avoid that. Instead, the goal here is to offer the solutions I use in my life to fight back against the work and life stresses that we are all under.

Stress Ain't Goin' Away

Stress comes in many forms...occupational, physical, spiritual, emotional and mental to name a few. Therefore, this blog will contain many different types of solutions to combat stress. This will be an informal discussion on "my stress lessons" if you will.

Stress in inevitable. This blog is sort of going to be my back up plan for the stress in my life. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to share this blog with my fellow nurses and help you cope better with your stress too!

Question: What are some of the things you do as your "back up plan for stress"? To Answer, simply leave your answer as a "comment". Simply hit "Comments" at the bottom of my blog post and type away!

Wishing you good health,
Theresa Waller, RN
714 293 5398