Naked We Come

Birth has a way of simplifying life.

It becomes clear who your support system is. Who will stay by your side, sacrificing their own comfort to care for you through the swelling waves of pain. The people who will share in the joy of the fruits of your labor.

When I think about my life and my future, I am often a slave to perfection in possibilities. I fear the commitment it takes to saying yes when it also means saying no: no to all the other controlled scenarios where I think I could be happier. But often times those possibilities are only mirages seen in a thirsty desert, and in the end I choke while drinking sand.

I sit looking out a hospital window at the outline of a sleeping skyline while my client rests between contractions. Perspective comes easier. All of the things that seemed complicated just melt away into clarity. Who I want to share the big stuff with and what the big stuff actually is comes close enough to touch with my hands and my heart.

What is becomes greater than what could be, and the rawness of encountering something so intensely real proves to be more valuable than all the possibilities in the world.

3 Ways to get Maternal & Child health experience

One thing I love about Nursing is the versatility in what kind of path you can choose in pursuing your career goals. I have always had a passion for working with pregnant women and newborns, but the work I’ve done as a community health worker has given me new dreams in what I want my career to look like.

After a year of home visiting, it’s opened up new passions and perspectives on what constitutes experience in this field. For anyone interested in going into Maternal Child health, I’ve shared a couple of classes, certifications, volunteer opportunities in this post that I’ve found helpful over the past few years:

Lactation Education

Surprisingly, there isn’t much education you get in Nursing school about supporting patients in breastfeeding. I recently took a Lactation Counselor Training Course and the TALPP CLC exam that gave me great breastfeeding assessment skills and practical advice in helping Mother’s breastfeed. It’s a great course if you’re interested in becoming an IBCLC or if you’d just like to have another skill to help you support postpartum patients.

Doula Training

Becoming a Birth and/or Postpartum Doula is a great way to get experience in being an educator and emotional support to women. Whether they are a first time Mom or having their 5th child, being a doula can really help women in a myriad of ways. There is plenty of new research citing that doula support leads to many positive outcomes, not to mention the bond you build with clients while being there through such a life changing event is very rewarding. There are many reputable doula training programs out there that prepare you for starting your own doula business or providing doula services on a volunteer basis which can help you create an incredibility unique and varied background.

Volunteer with Community-based Programs

One way to stand out to potential employers or graduate programs is to show that you have experience working with the patient population in that specific area. If you are local to the place you want to work or go to school in, collaborating with community-based programs, such as WIC, La Leche League, Breastfeeding and Parenting support groups, is a great way to showcase your knowledge of the needs of the patients in your area. Research different organizations, talk to volunteer coordinators, schedule tours of different facilities to find something that matches your passions and talents.

 

So I encourage you to go out there and find something that you enjoy and that will give you the experience you think will bring value to your career. Also, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path–I’m sure glad I did!

 

 

Self-Care: How to deal with Nursing burn-out

The whole of 2014 was a very challenging year for me. I found myself very irritable with my friends and family, constantly anxious and worried, and most of the time feeling very lonely and depressed. After spending many months in self-reflection, I came to the realization that the thing that was missing in my life as a caregiver was caring for myself.

We’ve all heard the warnings about compassion fatigue or burn-out, but as a Nurse or Nursing student being called upon to give beyond your limits is often times considered a requirement. In school, you have long clinical days and nights studying for exams or writing papers. In acute-care, you’re managing the needs of five to six, often times critically-ill, patients for over twelve hours with no time to pee, eat, or even think about your life outside of work. In public health, you’re managing a case load of over twenty clients that have intense health, socioeconomic, interpersonal, and various other needs you’re prioritizing while dealing with tight budgets and slim resources.

So as caregivers, what do we do?

I’m very blessed to work at an organization that not only empowers the clients we work with, but I’ve been supported as a case manager to invest in self care–because let’s face it, the burn-out is real. So here are the top things that have helped me avoid or recover from burn-out:

Create a Self Care Plan

As Nurses, we develop care plans all the time for our patients, now you can create one for yourself! The University of Buffalo’s Social Work department has created a great Self Care Starter Kit that helps people develop self care maintenance and emergency plans to help people examine how they currently manage their stress and ways they can develop healthier practices. After working on mine, it’s helped me have concrete interventions to help manage the stressors in my life.

Boundaries

I have an issue with people pleasing. Some people are really good at saying no to things they don’t want to do or don’t have time for. If you’re like me, it find myself being guilt-tripped into giving beyond my means. Now I’m much more conscientious when someone asks me for help to actually think about it before agreeing to it. I owe it to myself and my family, clients, and employers to be able to give my best in the areas I’ve committed to investing in, and I can’t do that when I’m being stretched too thin. After a lot of practice in boundary setting, I feel less guilty and more happy in the ways I’m motivated to give.

Supportive Relationships

Making time for relationships can be hard given the amount of hours we work and the physical, emotional, and mental investment we put into our jobs or Nursing school. And sometimes it’s a bit too easy to assume that the people closest to us will understand why sometimes we can’t give as much as we would want to. It’s important to talk to the people in your life about your job or school and how it effects you and your time. Express your gratitude for their support and also be sure to prioritize supporting them when you can as well. Also, seeking a professional counselor or therapist may be a great way to get extra emotional support and help you release some of your thoughts and feelings toward what you experience in caring for people every day.

Another thing I’ve learned is to let go of the toxic relationships in my life. There’s something I often tell myself about negative people, “Misery loves company, but that company doesn’t have to be yours.”

Treat Yo’ Self

Do things that are fun and make you happy! Schedule in time to go shopping, make a coffee date with friends, play some golf, go see a movie, or go on a date with your spouse–and keep those plans as concrete as you would a work meeting with your boss. Be sure to use your vacation days and personal time to take days throughout the year to relax and unwind. Making time to enjoy your personal life will enhance your professional life in the long run.

Personal Time

This one may be a hard to think of as realistic, but it has been super important for me to prioritize. Because my weekdays are crazy hectic once they get going, I wake up early enough to spend some quiet time in the mornings and make sure to have some alone time on the weekends. It’s helped me so much to regain my energy and process things going on in my life when I journal, blog, read, and meditate. Whether it’s in the mornings or evenings, even taking five minutes a day to listen to a good song or have a quiet sip of tea or coffee can help clear your mind. Whatever personal time looks like to you, the time spent with yourself is just or even more valuable than the time you spend with others.

I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any other suggestions or ideas on how caregivers can take care of themselves, please leave a comment below!

Are you human?

The other day I spent some time reading journal entries from my last semester of Nursing school. As I turned the pages, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that over five years ago I was a very wide-eyed Graduate Nurse ready to conquer the world. But pomp and circumstance is fleeting, and the reality was that I had very little knowledge about how the world works or how to actually make a difference in it. In the Summer of 2009, the effect of the hurting economy was just bubbling up to the surface. At the time it was hard to understand why it was so difficult finding an entry-level Nursing job; let alone imagining the years of unemployment that followed.

Throughout Nursing school I spent my semesters polishing my acute-care skills: giving the right medications, monitoring EKGs, vital signs, and adverse reactions, checking labs, maintaining standard precautions, therapeutic communication, and effectively balancing the multitude of tasks for my patients before making my way back home to study for a pharmacology test or write a research paper. But as job rejection came after job rejection soon after I so proudly walked across that stage at graduation, it was clear that nurse recruiters weren’t as impressed with my accomplishments as I was. I came to a point where I knew that Nursing had to become more for me if it was going to be worth fighting for.

Ze Frank did this interesting TED Talk, Are you human?, where he asks the audience to raise their hands in response to a number of questions in what he calls, “The Human Test”.  At first it seemed like a trivial quiz, but as he continued on the questions lead to a deep place of human empathy. At the end of the test you couldn’t deny that as human beings we are more alike than we think. Illness doesn’t discriminate, and wellness isn’t a privilege. Having dealt with the lack of finances to pay for health insurance while having BSN, RN behind my name for several years made me think a lot about the harsh realities of health care access. And without those letters behind my name, I would be in the same boat as the majority of the global population who are without the knowledge and means to live a healthy life–a life all people deserve. As I began to get involved in reaching out to help those in the community around me, my empathy grew, and I found my heart being filled in the process.

So after coming back home to Philadelphia, sleeping in my old twin bed at my parent’s house, applying for hundreds of jobs, and having a crash course in the new definition of adulthood, I now work full-time as a Maternal and Child Health RN Case Manager. I found my niche and passion in connecting with women and children while educating and empowering them to live happy, healthy lives. It’s an amazing job I didn’t even know existed and something I never would have thought of myself doing if I wasn’t pushed out of my comfort zone and be willing to change the way I viewed working as a Nursing professional.

I’ve learned so much about myself by not getting the jobs I used to think were for me. You can train and educate someone to be a great task manager, but there’s no amount of book-learning that can give someone a compassionate and caring heart for others. What is valuable about Nurses isn’t all the accomplishments and skills one can list on a résumé; it’s about our courage to connect with the vulnerability and frailty of human life.

Nursing is one of the most versatile careers out there with a calling that fits every personality, passion, and goal–and for that I am so proud to be a Nurse.