Posted in Community Voices

Finding Time For Self-Care As a Nurse: Tips From a Tier X Coach

An Interview with Rolando Garcia, E Manager of E Columbus Circle ~ Equinox Gym NYC, Tier X Coach, Author, Intrinsic Excellence

As nurses and healthcare providers we are constantly busy caring for others, saving lives, and meeting the basic needs of those who come to us in a vulnerable health state. One might assume that our schedules, which are usually 12-hour shifts 3 days a week, would allow for regular workouts on our days off. However, the truth is that we are an overbooked, family-first, instant gratification seeking, organic food buying, world traveling, overtime working, texting, snapping, messaging on our iPhones, ambitious new generation of caregivers.

We know the benefits of a consistent gym routine, cardio, weight lifting, Pilates, yoga, a balanced diet, etc. But even for those of us who can fit that all in, most of us find ourselves tired, snacking on treats we find in a break room, making trips to the vending machine, or settling for something less than ideal in the cafeteria. Which leaves us asking, are there specific tips or exercise recommendations for those of us on these physically demanding 12-hour schedules?

Instead of endlessly searching for answers via the Internet, reading countless articles on exercise, fitness, and nurses who are also personal trainers, I sought out a top professional in the field of athletic training, exercise physiology and nutrition to discuss the topic.

Rolando Garcia manages E, a private gym within Equinox exclusive to those members pursuing the absolute premium personal training services a gym could offer. But let’s cut out all the fancy amenities, exclusive training area, and gym perks. What Rolando and I discussed had nothing to do with the gym. And coming from someone who has a family member in healthcare working full time in the hospital, he knew firsthand the challenges and obstacles most of us face, as well as the excuses we so often make. He also talked about what could be lacking from our daily routine that keeps us from getting the full benefits from our workouts.

Below is Rolando’s best advice for busy healthcare providers and tips for how we can improve our health, one day at a time.

Sleep

For many healthcare providers, getting a full, well-rested 8-10 hours of sleep seems impossible. We get home, eat, shower, take care of families and relationships, and then attempt to wind down. I know personally that this “winding down” step can take a solid hour or two at least, depending on how insane the day was. Americans tend to get an average of 6-7 hours of sleep. And while recommendations vary, overall, research is consistent in saying adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep on a regular schedule each night.

Breathing

Rolando mentions that his clients subconsciously breathe in a self-induced stress-like state. They breathe using both shoulders and just their upper chest, which puts them almost in a fight or flight mode, triggering a stress response. In this state, cortisol levels may begin to rise, your heart rate increases, blood pressure elevates to compensate, and vascular tone constricts. Changing this breathing pattern takes practice, but it is vital prior to successfully beginning a new fitness routine and implementing lifestyle changes that complement the efforts.

He encourages focused diaphragmatic breathing, or abdominal breathing; being aware of your breath in a way that is very similar to meditative practices. This technique reduces tension, contributes to good posture, aids in lymphatic drainage and re-calibrates the autonomic nervous system.

Caffeine / Alcohol / Smoking

We all know the risks of the overindulgence or use of any vice, such as caffeine, alcohol, smoking, etc. Keeping these to a minimum is the best advice for anyone. If you find yourself drinking energy drinks all day, smoking regularly between shifts, or overindulging in afterwork drinks regularly, you should consider finding help to change these habits. As always, follow your physician’s guidelines and advocate for your own well being first and foremost.

Stress

Finding a nurse that works full-time, provides for his or her family, gets 8-10 hours of rested sleep a night, and eats 3 balanced meals a day is like finding a unicorn – they don’t exist. Yes, there are certain personalities in this profession that thrive on the adrenaline, the high stress situations, and higher acuity patients, but is it healthy after several years?

Does this stress make some of us happier in our careers? Does exercise relieve any of this? The opinions are mixed. I could paraphrase research that states, yes, exercise benefits everyone. I could also restate Rolando’s theory of maintaining an overall approach to doing what it takes to eat better, sleep more, be aware of your breathing patterns and strive to create healthier decisions to lower stress.

But, like everything, how you actually do all of this is different for everyone. The important thing is that, in the busy, stressful, demanding position of a healthcare provider, we work to maintain our health, looking beyond the walls of the gym and into aspects of our lives that we truly have control over.

Written by Angela Johnson. Angela is the Owner and Founder of LivTemp, a business dedicated to creating a supportive community for travel health care professionals looking for housing solutions around the country. She is a registered nurse with a BSN from the University of Central Florida and over 15 years of experience in the ER and ICU.

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Nurse retention

What Makes NurseGrid So Special? It’s the Nursing Nuances.

When NurseGrid was just a concept 3 years ago, we spent a significant amount of time trying to convince others that there was a deep void in the nursing market. After all, we were nurses ourselves and had felt this void first hand. We would tell them that nurses didn’t have an easy way to manage their schedule, and other apps out there didn’t address a nurse’s unique needs. Furthermore, nurse managers also lacked tools designed for their specific needs, often relying on Excel, emails, and Word documents to carry the weight. We’d often hear, “That’s a great idea. You should make it available for flight attendants and restaurant workers too since they work shifts as well!” This completely missed the point, in our opinion. Sure, our total addressable market would be larger. Nurses, CNAs, and other nursing professionals account for about 5 million individuals, which is just a fraction of the overall shift workers in the nation. Yet the “shift” was about the only overlapping element of these industries. In fact, Physicians work shifts too, in a hospital, alongside nurses, and yet their scheduling needs are totally different from nurses too!  nursegrid-jobs-hospital We knew that the success of NurseGrid was going to be in the nuances, the Nursing Nuances. Nurses have many subtle specifics that we designed NurseGrid around. I’ll list a few, along with our thinking at the time -- a time before we even had a product or a single user.

  • Full Day Takeover: When a nurse works a 12 hour shift, that is their day. Leaving for work at 06:30 and getting home at 20:00 doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for other activities, so we decided to color in the entire day with the shift. This also helped nurses be able to see and comprehend their full schedule at a glance. The random spattering that many nurses call their schedule can be difficult to remember, and pulling out a paper calendar or flipping through a month’s worth of shifts on iCal just didn’t cut it. 
  • Military Time: Many people thought that standard time would be the best, most all-encompassing route, yet most nurses run on military time. If this app was going to be for them, there was no other choice.
  • Night Shift on One Day: This decision was made early on. When you enter a night shift into iCal, the little dot shows up in two days. So from the month view screen it’s impossible to know which days you actually work, not to mention if that dot is representing a 30 minute appointment or a 12 hour shift. NurseGrid only fills in the day that the shift begins on, because night-shift nurses don’t consider themselves to be working both days even though it technically spans both days. They mostly consider that second day for sleeping!
  • Colleagues Working With You: Monday-Friday folks work with the same people everyday (yes, there are many nurses who work M-F but it is the minority). For nurses who work every other weekend and only 3 shifts a week, the people you work with can change every shift! Knowing who you work with on a given shift is darn near impossible, without logging into some intranet system at work or looking at a whiteboard. This is part of the reason why NurseGrid is so much more powerful when more people are on it, because you can quickly check who you work with on any scheduled shift.
  • Shift Types: When we first launched NurseGrid a little over 2 years ago, we only had 1 shift type (Regular Shift). Over time, we’ve added a lot more events to that list, all specifically with nurses in mind. Now you can easily see if it is a 3 payday month, if you’re On Call later in the month, or where that much needed vacation falls. 
  • Sharing Your Schedule: My wife and I are both nurses and trying to communicate our schedule to each other was a nightmare. We had shared calendars on our phones that sufficed, but it was still difficult to see things at a glance. Now we can just tap on our profile with NurseGrid and view each other’s schedule as easily as we can view our own.  And when my mom would ask me what my schedule was before I had NurseGrid, well…
nurse-schedule-app

Typical text conversation between a nurse and their mom trying to communicate a schedule without using NurseGrid.

So here we are, 3 years after pitching the idea to others and 2 years after launching our mobile app. The app has taken off in no small part because of these Nursing Nuances. Without them, this would just be another app that ‘sort of’ works for nurses. Nurses are doing some of this nation’s most important and hard work, and they deserve some technology that caters to their needs. It’s the whole premise behind NurseGrid, and we’ve applied the same strategy to our nurse manager tools. Whatever we do, the needs of nurses will always be on the forefront of our minds.  

#1 healthcare app for nurses

Nurses are raving about the #1 nurse app in the nation. And it’s totally free.

Creating and keeping track of a work schedule as a nurse is daunting and antiquated. A group of nurses in Portland, Oregon, were so fed up with outdated scheduling technology that they set out to make a change. Their creation: NurseGrid, a 100% free mobile app that is the easiest way for nurses to enter and manage their schedule. Within two years the app has garnered over 400,000 downloads and become the #1 nurse preferred app in the nation. Check it out yourself and download the app here.

NurseGrid nursing app

    NurseGrid is the first of its kind schedule management app built exclusively for nurses. The first month NurseGrid launched, the app got more than 250 downloads. Nurses loved the app, so it was quickly shared with other nurses around the nation. Nearly every major hospital in the nation now has hundreds of NurseGrid users, with some departments totaling over 100 connected colleagues alone. Want to see how many nurses at your facility are using NurseGrid? Take a look here. “The adoption and response has been overwhelming,” said Joe Novello, Founder, CEO, and nurse himself. “We hear from users every day telling us how much of a difference this app makes for them. We are particularly proud of our app store rating.” NurseGrid #1 nursing app NurseGrid’s calendar is designed specifically with the unique needs of nurses in mind. The founding team knew how difficult it was to find out their colleague’s schedules too, so they added that feature in. “My wife is actually a nurse too, and the only way we’d have to share schedules with each other was by taking a picture of the paper schedule hanging in the break room and texting it,” said Zach Smith, NurseGrid’s VP of Nursing and a founding team member. "Now we just connect on NurseGrid and can see each other’s schedules in seconds.” NurseGrid receives daily feedback from users with suggestions and tips and the team meets weekly to discuss new ideas as to constantly improve the app. They are committed to keeping the app 100% free with no ads, but rely on nurses telling each other about the app to help it spread. Novello recollects, “After the amount of stress, fatigue, and work that nurses give to their patients every single shift, it was about time the community received something in return and we are proud to bring that to them.”

Download the free app now.

NurseGrid #1 nursing app  

See NurseGrid Manager in Action

Let’s set up a brief, web-based demo for you to witness how NurseGrid will simplify team communication and real-time schedule changes for your whole department.