Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Deal With a Traumatic Experience As a Nurse

How to Deal With a Traumatic Experience As a Nurse
No matter what type of nursing you do, at one time or another in your career, you will experience trauma. Whether it's the death of a patient, the serious injury of a child or the loss of a co-worker. No two experiences are quite the same, and each one feels just as hard as another.
Recently, a colleague and I went out to visit a nursing unit. When we arrived, there was a candle lit in the conference room and a photo of a man in scrubs. As we got closer to the makeshift altar, we realized — a nurse on this unit had just died.
My colleague became very quiet, as if shutting down. I asked her what was wrong. She started to share with me, with a shaky voice and teary eyes, how, when she worked on her pediatric unit, a nurse had overdosed in the supply room. As she told me the story, it was as though she was reliving the experience all over again. This is what secondary trauma syndrome is all about.
And nurses deal with this all of the time.
A pediatric nurse loses a patient who has been battling a chronic disease for months; an ER nurse witnesses the effects of domestic violence as a battered woman comes to get her cuts and bruises treated; a forensic nurse cares for patients who are raped and tortured.
How do we continue to care when we are constantly witnessing such unsettling experiences? How do we show up at work day after day when we know the next patient we see could be to be worse off than the one before?
First off, let me say right up front, I am not a trauma expert — nor am I someone to be giving out medical or psychological advice. If you have experienced serious secondary trauma stress as a nurse, I would encourage you to seek out support and get professional help, when needed.
But there are plenty things that you can do on your own, which is what we will cover below.

Here are five tips to help ease the pain of traumatic experiences in nursing:

1. No matter what, you need to get up and moving. Experiencing trauma (especially repeated trauma) can be debilitating. We want to crawl into bed and never get out from under the covers. But this is no way to deal with the stress. In fact, it will make it worse. You need to get up and moving, even if that just means taking a shower and then a walk around the neighborhood. And, if it is a sunny day, spending a bit of time outside in nature can actually improve your mood as you soak up the natural vitamin D.
2. On the other hand, you do need sleep. Lots of symptoms related to post-traumatic stress happen at night. We can't fall asleep, or if we do, we are abruptly woken up by nightmares related to the event. If you're having trouble sleeping, you might need to get professional help from your physician. Writing in a journal, going to a support group of survivors to talk it out and limiting caffeine intake close to bed can also help. The best way to get a good night’s rest is to attempt to regulate your body's sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to get in a sleep groove.
3. Avoid negative coping strategies. Sometimes when people experience difficult situations, they turn to cigarettes, food, alcohol or drugs to cope. While these remedies may provide relief in the short-term, they will do more harm than good over time. The trauma will still be there, and if it's not dealt with, may never fully go away. Placing some sort of band-aid over it, like food or alcohol, will only mask it for a while. The stress needs to be dealt with so that it can slowly fade away.
4. Do things that you enjoy. The reason that a stressful experience creates trauma is because it's something unwanted. It's a jarring, chaotic and unpleasant experience. While the mind may want to focus on this memory (which is totally normal), we need to busy ourselves with positive distractions. Take a dance class. Go see a funny movie. Enroll in an art workshop. Do things that you enjoy and surround yourself with positive people and energy.
5. Talk about it with your team. One mistake that happens often in healthcare is that we brush traumatic experiences under the rug as ‘just part of the job’. Patients come and go all the time, so why are we having such a tough time with this particular death? Guess what? You may not be the only nurse on your unit struggling with the pain. Instead of acting as if the stressful situation didn't happen, bring the nursing team together and talk about the event. The more that these experiences can be processed, the better (and faster) the healing can occur.
Have you ever dealt with trauma as a nurse? What did you do to cope with traumatic stress in nursing? Be sure to tweet me @ElizabethScala or leave a comment below. You may just help another nurse!
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Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of Nursing from Within, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Nurses Get It....

10 things only nurses understand






flickr | Tatsuo Yamashita
flickr | Tatsuo Yamashita

How do you KNOW you’re a nurse? Well, there are some things only nurses can understand…and these are 10 of them!
10 things only nurses understand
10. That feeling of getting a patient totally cleaned up and neat in the bed, only to have a flood of liquid stool overcome the chuck pads.
9. How useful Vick’s VapoRub can be. Put it in a mask to kill bad smells! Rub it on sore feet for pain relief! Use it as a sandwich spread when you’re really desperate!
8. What a rarity it is to give report to the same person on the same patients three days in a row.
7. How often nurses make the decisions that doctors don’t think about or are too afraid to make.
6. Just how easily most things in life can be MacGyvered.
5. How omnidirectional hearing is a learned skill. Is that beep coming from 8? No, it's coming from 21.
4. Why good health is the biggest blessing any person could ask for.
3. How much difference there is between a 12-hour and a 16-hour shift.
2. That zombies aren't a threat to the human race. They're just residents with bad skin.
1. How amazing it is to have an old patient walk back into the unit to say thanks.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

When Patients Self Diagnose

When Patients Self-diagnose







WebMD. It’s pretty much the #1 enemy for nurses treating a spooked (and sometimes snappish) patient with a reliable Wi-Fi connection and a previous search that reads: What do I have if…
But hey—at least they’ve come to the right place to really find out, right? And that’s where you come in.
Nurse Mendoza discusses patients who self-diagnose, and how to respond to them calmly, compassionately, and confidently.
Have a favorite “self-diagnosis” that you’ve stumbled upon while on the job? From the “way off” to the “way out there,” share your story with us in the comments section below!


 When Patients Self Diagnose

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Now that I’m a nurse

5 things I’ll never do now that I’m a nurse







Hemera | Thinkstock
Oh, heavens. When I look back on some of the crazy stuff I did as a young’un, I can’t catch my breath. Working in a hospital that specializes in neurocritical care has meant a big change in my perceptions of what’s smart and what’s not.
I wasn’t all that wild as a teenager and young adult, really. (Hi Mom!) There were just some things I did that I remember with awe.
Now that I’m a nurse, I would never:

1. Go car-surfing while a buddy of mine attempts to shoot me with a homemade bazooka that fires things tied to firecrackers.
You’d think this would be self-explanatory, wouldn’t you? It’s not.

2. Mix muscle relaxants, alcohol and Tylenol.
I shudder to think that I actually did this more than once, back when I was working in a college bookstore. Something about lifting three or four tons of books a day made it seem like a really good idea.

3. Ski.
If somebody came up to you and said, “Hey! I want you to hurl yourself down this steep hill while wearing a pair of fiberglass knife blades attached to your feet!” you’d look at him like he was cray to the cray to the zee. Yet, if the same person said, “Hey! Let’s go skiing!” you’d be all over it, wouldn’t you? I was, before I saw what running into a tree could do to a brain.

4. Assume that I know anything about anything.
People think that because you’re a nurse, you’ll know everything there is to know about everything from wound glue to chest tubes to newborns. It’s not true. You might have a good overview of things when you come out of school, but specialization rapidly deprives you of any knowledge you might’ve had outside of your field. I tell doctors all the time, “Don’t assume I know jack about what you’re doing, okay?” and it’s true.

5. Take my health or my ability to move for granted.
Any day spent on the right side of the ground is a good day. I am not kidding. If you can get up, move around, take care of yourself in a reasonable manner and communicate somehow, you’re way ahead of a whole bunch of people that I see every day. I have never been so thankful for what I’ve got, and so determined to keep it, as I was after seeing a few brain-injured people in a rehab facility.

Monday, January 2, 2017

night shift RULES

Top 10 reasons the night shift RULES








Thinkstock / m-imagephotography
As an ER nurse who works nights, I always see these lists and comments ,
I love nights and so do my fellow nocturnal nurses! After asking around to my fellow NOC nurses, this is my compilation of the top 10 reasons that being a nurse on night shift rules:
1. No idiot drivers. You don’t have to contend with other stupid drivers on the way to work because NO ONE is on the road. It’s only you, the occasional intoxicated driver (which you gladly call in to dispatch because you don’t want to deal with the patient load the accident will cause 20 minutes later), and the occasional wildlife – and, let’s face it, sometimes the deer are smarter than the people on the road.
2. The people you will treat will ACTUALLY BE SICK. No more dealing with “Oh, I have a sore throat that started yesterday and I didn’t feel like going to urgent care.” These folks are usually asleep in their beds, and wait to clog the ER until around 0900 the next morning. JOY.
3. You see more wildlife. I go for runs when everyone is asleep or tucking in for the night. I’ve seen more bears, hawks, owls, badgers, deer, foxes, coyotes and wolves than you can imagine, and I’ve even sighted a possible cougar, as well as the occasional bobcat. You learn to appreciate nature more at these hours, as there are no cars or people out to ruin it. You feel alone with nature and it’s the rawest, most overpoweringly calm feeling in the world. I feel most at peace during those times – and I get to experience it every day.
4. You are forced to bring your own food and eat healthy, or eat nothing at all. The local restaurants and hospital cafeteria are closed for the night, the vending machine is all the way on the other side of the hospital, and you just don’t DARE venture that far away from the department, as this will most certainly call to the Gods of Mass Chaos to immediately rain hell on the ED if you even consider venturing further than the department bathroom.
5. Less is more. There’s less “unnecessary” staff to get in your way. I will say no more to this statement, as many who work nights in the medical field will completely understand this.
6. No sharing the bed! When you come off shift, you get to go home to a bed ALL TO YOURSELF! The kids are at school, your spouse is at work, and you have no one kicking you or asking for “sexy time” when all you want to do is get an uninterrupted 6-8 hours of sleep.
7. Empty grocery stores! On your night off you get to grocery shop, and again, not have to deal with the general mass population. If you want to run and jump on your cart and do wheelies between each aisle, you can (and will) without hesitation, because the place is devoid of people who will judge you.
8. Parenting is easier. Never is there a moment in your home when EVERYONE is asleep. Working nights, I’m always awake to catch my teenager attempting to sneak his way in or out of the house. BUSTED!
9. Empty gyms. On your night off, you can go to the gym and run on the treadmill for two hours if you want, not the normal allotted 30-45 minutes some gyms demand. Again, fewer people to contend with – it’s heaven!!
10. Stars. I see more stars because I’m outside at night more often. I’ve learned constellations. I’ve witnessed more meteor showers than ever before. I see the Northern Lights more often. Looking up at the night sky also gives perspective. The universe is a lot bigger than we can imagine, and I’m reminded that there are forces out there that are so much larger than we can ever comprehend. We really are comparable to a tiny microbe living on a grain of sand in the ocean, and that’s the most sobering realization of all – one of which many people can benefit from. I think if we all stopped to think a little more, things might be a little less crazy.

Sarah Kobernick, RN, has worked in the medical field for 13 years as a CNA, LPN and currently as an RN in the emergency department. She also works as a part-time sex assault nurse examiner. She does what she can to stay positive and remain focused on what she does – helping people!

Saturday, December 31, 2016