Where to begin. We are in unfamiliar territory like never before in this country. As nurses, as families, as businesses, as part of society... we've never done this. It is eerie to say the least. We were not prepared for this. To be honest, I never saw this coming at all. Covid 19 is unashamedly claiming rule over us at this present time in 2020, and it's not done yet.
Nurses, and all healthcare workers, are fighting a battle that we are a bit unfamiliar with, against an invisible enemy we are still learning more and more about every day. Some say we should've known and been better prepared. Others say there's no way we could see this coming. Either way, it's here. And we're in the fight, like it or not. I will be completely honest, I did not understand what all the hype was at the very beginning of all this. I didn't get it. But seeing all this unravel first hand working in a hospital setting, I certainly do now. And it's no joke.
Nurses are being called to war, and in some instances, not having enough "armor" to protect themselves. Personal protective equipment is running short all over. Many nurses (like myself) are being pulled from their current places of work and being transferred into units that are strictly designated for Covid 19 patients. This is serious, and the need is great. Procedures of how to deal with all this changes daily, and sometimes even hourly. Nurses don't want to catch the virus themselves, and even more so, fear bringing it home to loved ones. Anxieties are high, and the unknown is the worst. We all just want this to end.
We are seeing patients uneasy about all that is going on. Many are upset by the fact that no visitors are allowed. Unnecessary procedures are being cancelled and rescheduled. People's lives are being turned upside down. All the while, we still are trying to stay calm, provide the best care possible, and keep ourselves safe as well.
This is changing us for sure. We are being stretched, challenged, emotionally drained, and more. We will not come out the same on the other side of this. No. But what will we be? STRONGER. We will be stronger, wiser, better, closer, and more resilient than ever before. We will have bonded over patient stories, challenges, hardships and struggles. Many of us will get sick ourselves, and hopefully heal and get well quickly. After all, we have lives to live. Better lives, on the other side of this. We have more to give. We're not done yet, and this virus isn't here to stay. So if we can all continue to stay home (except for the essentials of course), we can kick this thing to the curb and celebrate the victories on the other side!
Oh yes, Nurse Gone Strong has a WHOLE new meaning now. New and improved. We will be stronger. We will be so much better for it on the other side. We will look back on this someday and say "remember when..?". I can't wait for that day. Until then, be safe, be well, be strong, and let's do this.
Do you get the flu vaccine? If you choose to, that's fine. But what about the nurses who choose not to? Many of them are being threatened to lose their jobs. This is not okay, and this is my answer to that.
To Whom it may concern,
My name is Terri Wentzell and I have been a registered nurse here at Brigham and Women's Hospital since 2000. I have had the opportunity to care for thousands of amazing patients at this institution and work with many wonderful co-workers as well. It has been quite a journey, and one that I cherish.
However, I have recently been a bit troubled in hearing of the new flu vaccine policy stating that all employees are required to get the vaccine, or else face termination if no medical or religious exemption is given. This does not sit well with me, and this is the reason for this letter. While I do believe I qualify for a religious exemption (and I will get into that further), I do have to say that I am shocked that this hospital would think nothing of firing a highly qualified, well respected and experienced nurse who has given years of dedication to this institution in caring for sick patients - all over a flu vaccine that has a track record of being less than 50% effective. Wow. That doesn't sit well with me, as I mentioned earlier. The Brigham claims to value its nurses, yet this does not show that at all. While I have received the flu vaccine on occasion in years past, the more I think about it and research this topic, the less I am in favor of getting it. I found myself at times just lining up with the masses and obeying a stated recommendation without really thinking about it. The older I get, the more important I think it is to be completely convicted about every decision made in life. This is why I am further investigating this topic and realizing how it affects my own life.
I understand that the hospital would like to prevent the spread of the flu virus by requiring staff to be vaccinated, but there is one huge problem here. No one has any idea of the vaccination status of the hundreds of patients, family members and visitors that are walking all over the hospital every day. This cannot be tracked and no one has anything to say about that. The visitors are not questioned or asked to wear a mask in patient care areas. Forcing all staff to be vaccinated is not going to massively decrease flu cases in the hospital when you have hundreds upon hundreds of other people we know nothing about walking in and out all day long. In past years there have been well over 90% of staff vaccinated... and still plenty of flu cases. So is it the last 10% of staff causing all the problems? I highly doubt it. And how many people who got the vaccine actually got the flu? Quite a few that I know of. I personally have never had the flu, and I am grateful for that. My daughter had the flu once - and this was a year that she did get the flu vaccine. I remember being angry and wondering what good it even was. No more.
What do I do for flu prevention? Quite a bit, actually. As some of you may know, I am also a personal trainer, wellness coach and fitness nutrition coach. I have written a book on health, fitness and total wellness for nurses called Nurse Gone Strong. I have a website nursegonestrong.com where I encourage nurses to engage in healthy behaviors for their own sake. A healthy lifestyle and prevention of disease is clearly important to me and is something I spend a great deal of time on. My flu prevention consists of regular exercise, a very healthy diet filled with fresh food (not processed man-made junk), plenty of vitamin D (either from the sun, or from supplementation in winter months), plenty of sleep and stress relieving measures like yoga and meditation on a regular basis. All the things I just mentioned are extremely effective for creating a super strong immune system for fighting the flu. Oh, and frequent hand washing, of course. I have just as much (if not more) protection against the flu as anyone who has the vaccine. Not to mention, no risk of unpleasant side effects come with my prevention, unlike the vaccine that is filled with numerous questionable foreign substances and has had many negative reactions documented for years. Those chances may even be small in number - but why should I risk that? Speaking of questionable ingredients, I am also one who cares greatly about what I put on my skin. I read labels on health and beauty products and always try to use toxin free products. There are all kinds of chemicals, carcinogens and who knows what else in personal products and cleaning products... and I don't want those in my body. I also speak about this in my book. The flu vaccine is not a natural thing that belongs in my body.
Does the hospital track the healthy behaviors of all employees and threaten termination if they are not complying? Of course not. But they are happy to force injection of a vaccine that is rarely effective and can have possible side effects that can be damaging. Isn't that silly. They should be handing my book out to staff rather than vaccines. Not to mention, the flu shot is nothing more than a medical guessing game. No one knows what strains of flu will come about that season when they are actually creating the vaccine. But this is also about money, isn't it. Yes, the hospital gets reimbursed for having the majority of employees vaccinated. This is just another way Big Pharma is trying to take over and rule the world. Anyone who has read my book knows that I am always in favor of preventative measures rather than taking medications. There is a time and place for certain medications, but this world has become pill crazy and people are pushing medications for all kinds of things rather than preventing the problem with simple healthy behaviors. This is no different, in my opinion. Doctors get kick backs all the time for pushing certain medications, and the hospital does as well with the flu vaccine. This is a problem. Vaccine companies and pharmaceutical companies want to make their money. Well not at my expense.
I also find it quite interesting to see the number of well known and respected doctors out there who are against getting the flu vaccine. Dr Donald Miller, a cardiac surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Washington advises people to avoid the flu shot at all costs and take vitamin D instead. Dr John Cannel hypothesized that influenza is merely a symptom of vitamin D deficiency, and that theory was further proven in Virology Journal. The flu season is during the winter months when it is hard to get enough vitamin D, and this makes sense. Dr Mercola also has quite a bit to say online about vitamin D being a much better and safer way to prevent the flu than the vaccine. So what if one of these doctors were my personal doctor? I would certainly want to follow their medical advice. Would I be forced not to according to hospital policy? I would argue that I would have a medical exemption as well if my own doctor advised against it.
I recently saw an interview with a board certified internist named Suzanne Humphries. She had some very scary statistics to share. According to her research, if you get the flu vaccine one year, your risk of getting the flu the next year is higher. Not only that, but a higher risk of getting a pandemic strain, and also a higher risk of spreading the virus for a longer period of time - all a result of what the flu vaccine did to your immune system the year before. This is proven in medical literature that she shares in her talks. According to her, someone who gets the flu vaccine is at higher risk for getting the flu than someone who has never had the vaccine. If this is true, the hospital may want to rethink their plan on preventing the flu.
Not only does researching this topic scare me, but I have had a good friend of mine have her entire life change as a result of getting a "mandatory" flu shot at the Brigham. I will leave her name out of this for her privacy, but I worked with this nurse on Shapiro 6W. She had the flu shot in September of 2009, and just days later was bed ridden with a very severe illness. She could not get out of bed for weeks. She ended up going to multiple doctors and having multiple tests run... yet her condition was not improving. To this day, she is unable to work as a nurse. She now has several syndromes that she had never had before, and she has never regained the energy and vibrance she had her entire life before receiving that flu shot. Is it PROVEN that the flu shot caused all this? No, but none of her doctors are able to say it definitely had nothing to do with it either. She is convinced it had everything to do with it, and that is enough for me not to want it. Yet, the hospital finds it necessary to force this risk on others.
But let's get to my religious exemption. I am a Christian who firmly believes in the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for my sins and rose from the dead. I believe He is my Savior and will follow Him always. The Bible is full of scripture talking about how we are to treat our bodies and live our best life. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" If my body is God's temple, then I am to treat it with utmost respect and care, which I try to do with a healthy lifestyle. I do not smoke, do drugs or drink alcohol in excess because I know these things are harmful to my body. I exercise and eat right, not only to feel good, but to honor God by treating my body as a gift from Him. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says "...you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body." My body is a gift from God, and I will treat it as such by honoring His Word.
2 Corinthians 7:1 says "...let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." God is the image of purity and vitality. Vaccination is the forcible procedure of putting foreign proteins in our bodies. With the research that is out there stating possible harm to the body's immune system due to this vaccine, this clearly goes against scripture as something that should be put in my body. Scripture clearly warns against defiling our bodies. We are commanded to keep these temples clean, pure and holy. There is no scriptural support for injecting dead viruses, preservatives or any other possible toxin into our bloodstream to prevent disease. Deuteronomy chapter 14 and Leviticus chapter 11 tell of the laws of nature God has given, and shows that our bodies cannot tolerate foreign substances and unclean proteins. However, the Bible is full of information of how to properly care for your body in a God-honoring way, along with all you need to know in living a rewarding life.
God created everything we need on this earth to keep us healthy and well, yet we don't always use it. He created plants that produce fresh vegetables and fruits for us to eat. He created cattle, chicken and fish for us to thrive on. He created bodies that are able to move and keep us well with physical activity. He created herbs and spices with healing properties. He created clean water for us to drink. He created sunlight for vitamin D, and night time for refreshing sleep. God created all these things to keep us well and safeguard us from destruction. God's laws of nature determine what our bodies can and cannot tolerate. Not man. Romans 12:1-2 says "Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." I cannot conform to man telling me to inject a vaccine into my body that is God's holy temple. This does not fit with the teachings in the Bible. You see, when man thinks he is smarter than God and has better solutions for things, this gives rise to sin, pride, and ultimately destruction (Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death"). In 1 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul urges respect for the conscience of others. Any laws restricting conscientious objection to practices that conflict with religious belief are unethical. I believe this to be such.
If we look again at the fact that this is all money driven by the vaccine companies, this is technically greed. People can do crazy things when it comes to money. They don't care what the effects are on others, as long as they make their money. The Bible is full of scripture warning against the evil of greed when it comes to money. They are bullying people and threatening with taking away funding to the hospital so they can make money on their vaccines. We talk about anti-bullying in the hospital, yet this is exactly what's going on here. Nurses are being bullied into taking a vaccine that could potentially harm them, or else they could lose their job. This is corruption... not much different than what goes on in the food industry. Back in the 1960's the sugar industry paid scientists large amounts of money to fund research that downplayed the role of sugar in heart disease and blamed fat. We now know this not to be true, but for years we all believed it because someone behind the scenes was pushing their agenda and bribing people with money. And no one cared about the health effects of all those people who believed the lies. I have spent a great deal of time trying to help people see through this in the food industry to promote better health. How do I sit back and watch this now? Greed and bullying... that is sin. The Bible warns against this. As Christians, we are not supposed to just go along with sinful behavior. Ephesians 5:11 says "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful to even mention what the disobedient do in secret". Time to take a stand against it. Psalm 94:16 "Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will stand for me against those who practice iniquity?" I simply cannot condone and go along with all of this. People can say this is about trying to keep people safe and well all they want, but everything about this goes against what the Bible teaches when you look at what is really going on. It's not okay and does not go along with my religious beliefs, or my beliefs as a nurse who is to promote health to my patients.
And what about free will? God Himself gives us free will to choose or reject Him. The Bible is full of scripture about free will (John 1:12, John 7:17, 1 Corinthians 10:23, Revelation 3:20, and many more). Why is it that the God of the universe makes Himself available to all, yet does not force Himself on anyone, but the hospital is forcing people to have something injected into their body? Crazy. God does not push his goodness, love, or gift of eternal life on any of us, yet hospitals want to force the injection of a questionable vaccine that could have damaging effects onto their staff. The flu shot should be available to anyone who chooses to get it, but it should not be FORCED on anyone.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I live by these principles. I am someone who practices what I preach when it comes to my faith in God, and also in all things health and fitness. Am I always perfect with it all? Of course not. I am a fallen sinful person like the rest of us who makes mistakes. And that is why I need a savior. But I try my best to follow these things and live my life as a positive example. I think it is fair to say that I have spread more benefit in terms of health and wellness to my co-workers and patients over the years rather than think of myself as a danger of spreading illness from refusing a flu shot.
Thank you for your time and for accepting my religious exemption. Please also consider the impact this has on so many other nurses who may feel the same, yet not quite sure how to articulate this.
Terri Wentzell RN, BSN
Certified Personal Trainer
Fitness Nutrition Coach
We've all had those patients. You just want to roll your eyes and say "seriously?" Why is it that some patients have such a hard time just complying with what they are told to do by their doctor? Specific instructions can be gone over again and again with head nods and "um-hhm"s all day long, yet when they go home, none of that actually happens. It can seem strange, and down right frustrating to medical staff to see that same patient show up down the line with multiple more issues that are a direct result of not following instructions that were clearly laid out. They were told of the damage that could happen if they did not follow the medical advice given, yet they chose to ignore all instruction and do what they wanted instead. It makes you think... do they like being sick? Do they enjoy being a patient in the hospital? I don't get it! Why won't they follow simple instructions to help themselves? What is wrong with them???
And then comes the best part. They complain about the problems that have directly resulted from their own non-compliance. It can make you want to scream. We could easily lose our patience at this point. It's like dealing with a defiant toddler who then has a temper tantrum because he got in trouble from not listening to your rules. Sound familiar?
Then let's look at ourselves. Are we really any different when it comes being compliant in our own lives with doing things we KNOW are beneficial for our own health? Not always. How often do we say things like "Yeah, I know I should exercise, but I don't feel like it", or "I could eat better, but I like sugar too much", or "I don't have time to food prep and take care of myself... I'm too busy". That's all well and good, until we start saying what comes down the line: "I don't know why I just can't lose weight... it must be because I'm getting older", or "I wish I could keep up with my kids, but I just can't", or "I'm so frustrated that I have heart disease (or... fill in the blank); why do I have to be sick?". Then we complain. We complain about not having the outcomes we wanted for our own health, yet we often completely ignore the clear instructions we've all heard before on how to avoid the messy outcome we ended up with. Don't complain about the results you got from the work you didn't do. Isn't that what we would tell our patients? It seems so obvious looking at a non-compliant patient in this instance, yet it gets a bit uncomfortable when we turn it onto ourselves. We know what we need to do. Are you happy with the results your getting? Or are you complaining about your current situation when you've been non-compliant all along? It's something to think about.
We wish we could make patients promise to comply with medical advice, don't we? It would be nice. How about making that promise to yourself? It' time. Time to start listening to all that advice we've heard for years about the benefits of regular exercise, eating fresh foods, keeping our own stress levels in check, and actually being responsible for the results we produce. If we don't, then we're no better than those non-compliant patients that make everyone crazy at work. Don't be one of those in your own life. Take a stand and make that promise to yourself.
READY... SET... GO!!!!
The night shift. It is a mystery to all those 9-5 business types out there, but usually no stranger to nurses. Many of us have started off as new nurses on this shift because it's all that was available, yet others prefer to stay on this shift for years and years because it fits their lifestyle. It might be better for child care, or maybe they just aren't morning people. If you have been a nurse for any period of time, most likely you have done nights for at least some of your career. Let's face it, it definitely has it's perks - usually free parking, more money, less noise and less doctors around to interrupt your flow - it can be very appealing to many for good reason!
But what about the downfalls? Especially when you're trying hard to take good care of yourself and be healthy and well? You often hear of people saying they gained a ton of weight working nights, or their sleep was all messed up, or they just felt rundown all the time with no energy to spare for exercise. Sometimes you get so messed up you can't even remember what day it is! These can all certainly be stumbling blocks for someone trying to stay healthy and well.
Let's be honest, our bodies are designed to be active during the day, and need rest and repair at night. Our blood sugar and hormones are regulated differently at night than they are in the daytime. Our body thinks we are supposed to be shutting down during those hours and it makes adjustments accordingly. Our muscles are not supposed to require energy during these hours, so they can become less receptive to insulin. Our digestive system would like some rest at night and does not want to be working. All of these things can potentially lead to glucose intolerance, weight gain and possibly issues with our digestive system. It can get ugly! Not to mention, sleep is vital for good health. If you're working nights and not getting any good quality sleep, you will get into trouble.
So I am proposing some strategies to help those of you who do work nights to stay as healthy as you possibly can. Avoiding health issues that can sneak up on you is vital to surviving well on the night shift. Let's look at what we can do:
1) Try to stay as closely as possible to a normal day/night pattern of food intake. Minimize eating between 12-6 am as much as possible. This gives your body and vital organs that normal night time hours of rest that they need. The liver is very busy rebuilding the body during the night. Studies show that the liver is most active between the hours of 1-3 am. It gets to work healing and cleansing the body of toxins that have accumulated during the day. If we eat large meals during this time, we can disrupt this important and healthy process the liver is trying to accomplish. So I would propose that if you work 12 hour nights (7p-7a), try to be done eating before midnight if you can take your break before then. If you start at 11pm, maybe try to eat right before you go in so you can leave the overnight hours without eating. Then, if you have time, maybe eat something right before leaving work in the morning, or maybe eat as soon as you get home before going to bed. Please avoid the temptation to snack all night long!
2) Meal prep and choose whole foods! This is key. You absolutely must have a plan for your food intake. Prepping your food at home and making sure you are bringing fresh whole foods to work with you is a life saver. Don't leave it to chance. Don't be victim of eating whatever is in the cafeteria, whatever is sitting at the nurses' station, or whatever someone decided to order out for the unit. Plan your food, and stick to the plan!
3) Exercise - get it in. This is non-negotiable. Yes, I know you might feel like crap and have no energy - even more reason to exercise. You need to rely on the energy you will get from exercise to get through your night shifts (and keep you healthy!). I used to find it helpful to exercise in the late afternoon before heading into work. That workout would give me the boost of energy I needed to get through the night. Even if it's just a brisk walk! Do something to get you going. I know it is tough if working back to back 12 hour shifts. If exercise is not possible to fit in on those days, just make sure you are not backing down on your days off. It is a MUST. And if you have any down time at night, take a brisk walk or do some stairs to help keep you awake and get in a little exercise!
4) Sleep patterns - find what works best for YOU! This is such a grey area. There is no perfect one way for everyone to get the right sleep on this shift. Some do best with staying on somewhat of a night schedule even when they are off (maybe staying up until 3am on a night off to mimic work), and some prefer going to bed as usual on a night off, then maybe napping before work the next night. The most important thing here is that you are GETTING sleep. How and when is really a personal preference. Just make sure you are getting some quality sleep! Personally, I found that napping before work screwed me up more than helped, but that's just me. I know many nurses who counted on those naps and they had to have them. Do what you need to do!
5) Use caffeine strategically. This means don't drink coffee around the clock! I know I relied on caffeine pretty heavily on nights, but I always tried to keep it to the beginning of my shift. Drink water during your shift to stay alert and hydrated. Try to avoid drinking too much caffeine at the end of your shift when you're trying to get ready for a day of sleep (unless you are one of those people who can drink a pot of coffee and go right to sleep - that's certainly not me!).
6) Make your daytime sleep as good as possible. You want your daytime sleep to be good sleep, not just feel like a little cat nap. Rule #1, turn off the ringer on your phone! Please don't forget that ever so important rule (and turn volume down or off on your answering machine!). I hear about nurses getting mad that someone called them during the day when they are sleeping. Well why is your ringer on??? You should have no idea someone tried to call you. ;-) Noise machines are also helpful for some people to drown out the daytime noises outside. If necessary, get room darkening shades and curtains to block out as much light as possible. Dark is GOOD! And be careful with regular melatonin use. I know it is popular for many, but just be aware that you can eventually train your body to no longer produce it on it's own if you are constantly taking it in a pill form.
7) Get your vitamin D levels checked. This is something most people don't think to do. Working nights or not, many of us are deficient in vitamin D. Night shift workers especially, are not getting exposure to natural sunlight as much as the rest of us. Your body must have enough vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone proper bone health. A lack of vitamin D can lead to misshapen and fragile bones in adults. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to mood swings and irritability. We don't need any more of that since we're already over tired and cranky from being awake all night anyway! Supplementation is certainly okay if you're not able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight, but good food sources to be aware of are things like fatty, cold water fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, herring), milk, cheese and eggs.
8) Last but not least - GET HOME SAFE! This might sound obvious, but it's a serious concern for night shift workers. Falling asleep at the wheel is no joke and should not be taken lightly. Make plans accordingly if you know you have issues with this problem. Carpool, use public transportation, get a taxi or an Uber! Saving your life, and potentially the lives of others, is way more important here. And if you find yourself falling asleep at the wheel, please pull over. Take a nap to shake it off, or call a friend to come get you.
Bottom line, if working nights fits your lifestyle without compromising your health very much and you are able to get plenty of quality sleep, then good for you. However, if you are someone who just cannot get sleep or find yourself really feeling awful despite trying all of the above suggestions, you may want to consider a different shift. Nights are not for everyone. I know at times you need to do what you have to do, but just make sure your own health is not taking a serious hit in the meantime. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, and be kind to yourself!
What is the number one fear nurses usually have when it comes to injury at work? Hurting their back. It's pretty common to hear nurses say that they have back pain or have strained their back at one time or another while at work. Because of the physical demands on nurses, back injuries are a major concern. Today I want to share a few ways to help protect your back by showing a few strength, mobility and stretching techniques that can be very helpful in taking care of your back for the long haul.
This first one is called a cat/cow stretch. It is great for mobility of your entire spine and can feel really good if your back has been stiff for any reason. Get on your hands and knees, knees about hip width apart, and hands directly under shoulders. Inhale as you arch your back and look up, then exhale as you round your back and tuck your chin into your chest. Repeat several times.
Next we have child's pose. This is such a relaxing pose to rest in for a while. Start on hands and knees, and simply shift your hips all the way back and rest your head against the ground. You may feel more comfortable if you spread your knees out further apart here. This is a great stretch for your entire back. Rest here for 5-10 full breathes.
Next up is downward facing dog with heel pumps. I like to get into this pose from a plank position first. Push your hips up and back and press your hands firmly into the ground pressing your chest towards your thighs. Pumping your heels is a great way to stretch the calves and hamstrings, and you are stretching out your upper back with pressing your chest to your thighs. Rest in child's pose if desired when done with this stretch.
Supine twists are great for stretching, increasing rotation through the rib cage, and they just feel good! Start by lying on your back. Pull one knee into your chest and pull across your body with opposite hand. Stretch your other arm out to the side and breathe deep into the stretch. Repeat other side.
Bird dog is a great way to strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your back. This may not look like much, but this is a great exercise to do on a regular basis. Take note, it is important to keep your spine stable during this exercise... I am not flexing and rounding my back with this movement. The spine stays neutral as I move opposite arm and opposite leg.
And last, we can add in some forward folds. Stand tall with feet together. Take a deep breath in as you lift your hands up, then breathe out as you fold forward letting your hands hang. You can have a slight bend in the knee if it feels comfortable, or legs all the way straight. Take a breath in and come to a half lift (back straight and hands on shins), exhale again as you fold down. Slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time until standing tall. Repeat.
Try incorporating these stretches and exercises into your daily life, especially if you suffer from any tightness or weakness in your back. Warning: if you have lower back pain, forward fold may not feel good to you. Never force a stretch that does not feel good to your body. Start slow and work your way into deeper stretches as time goes on. Doing these regularly can make all the difference in the world when it comes to good back health. Give them a try!
Life isn't easy... at all. In fact, some parts of it are a very serious struggle. All the way back to being a kid, there were difficult things to overcome. Friendship drama, figuring out what path to take with our lives, relationship difficulties, career choices, marriage, kids, jobs... and the list goes on the older we get. None of that is easy! But have you ever noticed that the things you have worked the hardest at are usually the things that have been the most fulfilling parts of your life?
Many of you are nurses like myself. Nursing school certainly was not a breeze, am I right? It was hard work. But we did it. Just think of the accomplishment you felt when you graduated and got that degree! All that hard work suddenly felt so worth it now that you were done. No matter what you studied in school... that hard work was a struggle at times... but it WAS worth it after all.
How about marriage? Wow, now that's tough. Ask any married couple who has survived married life for 50 plus years. I guarantee you that every single one of them would agree that it was HARD work to make it where they are. It's not all roses and candle light dinners. It's tough, exhausting, frustrating, and even painful at times! But is it worth it? Absolutely. The relationships we work the hardest at and invest our whole being into are the most rewarding relationships we can have. If there is no effort, it will not last. It takes WORK. It takes COMMITMENT. It takes DISCIPLINE.
Any parents out there? Need I say more. Parenting is the toughest job on earth. But is it worth it to see your child grow into an amazing human being right before you eyes? No doubt. There is no greater feeling than being part of that kind of miracle. It changes us so deeply from within. The love a parent has for their child is so unique and beautiful. But it's HARD work, for sure.
Putting in the effort to take the very best care of ourselves is hard too. Yet so many of us don't want to bother with that. Getting to the gym? That takes effort and discipline to get there. Making healthy meals rather than takeout, meal planning and thinking about what I put in my mouth? That takes too much time and a lot of effort! Taking the necessary steps to take care of your emotional health and decrease your stress level? That takes commitment to do what is necessary and get it done. Self care is hard. It takes effort, discipline, commitment and a whole lot of work. But guess what? Yes, just like all those amazing rewarding life situations listed above, it is so WORTH IT! :-)
So I'm seeing a pattern here. If it's hard, it's probably really worth it in life. Look back on your own life. What have been the most rewarding parts? Certainly not the things that came easy to you. Where is the reward in that? I can bet it was all those times that caused the blood sweat and tears that gave you the greatest satisfaction.... the times that really showed you what you are made of.... the times that helped you become more of who you were meant to be in this life.
We put aside exercise because it's hard. We don't want to make homemade food because that takes too much time. Yes, it is work. It is hard to commit to doing something that takes effort on our part. But that is where the gold is!!! Don't back down and lose out on what was meant for you because it's hard. Hard work paves the road to beautiful satisfaction and great reward. And the benefits that come from taking the best care of ourselves are amazing! There is no easy way out for success. Your marriage, your kids, your career, self-care.... all hard work. And all great rewards. Put in the work... commit... be disciplined.... it will be worth it!
Planks are an awesome body weight exercise that will always and forever prove to be beneficial. They will never go out of style, do not require any equipment, do not take long to do, and are one of the most effective exercises you can do.
Why are planks so great? They are one of the best exercises for strengthening your core. And why is that so important? Because your core is the foundation of all movement. When your core is strong, you move better... in ALL things. You will lift weights more safely, you will balance better, you will throw a ball with more accuracy, you will protect your back in everyday activities, improve chronic back pain, you will tone your belly, and you will have better posture.
For nurses, having a strong core is essential. Think of all the physical movement necessary in one shift. If we can improve core strength by doing plank exercises, this can be so beneficial in the life of a nurse for work safety and protecting yourself in everyday life. The most common injury feared by nurses at work is usually hurting their back. Strengthen your core! Planks can play a vital role in preventing injury.
Planks engage your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques and glutes. Not to mention, you will certainly gain upper body strength from holding these positions longer and longer each time.
So how do we do planks? Here are several variations to try:
Go down onto both forearms, keeping elbows directly under shoulders. stretch legs out behind you and go up onto the balls of your feet. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold your core muscles tight, and think of pulling your navel up into your spine. Hold this position for 30 seconds to start, and try to increase how long you can hold each time you do this.
Straight Arm Plank:
Same as above, but place hands on the ground instead of forearms, keeping arms straight and directly below shoulders.
Come onto your right hand or forearm with elbow directly under your shoulder and stack your feet (or you may place one foot in front of the other if stacking is too difficult). Other hand may be placed on your hip, or raise your arm up straight, in line with other arm. Keep your hip lifted so you create a straight line from your head to your feet. Keep core muscles engaged the entire time. Try to hold for 30 seconds each side.
To increase difficulty if desired, you can always try lifting one foot or one hand while holding your plank. This will create much more of a challenge if that's what you're looking for!
So let's see. Planks require no equipment, can be done just about anywhere, do not require much time at all, yet provide huge benefits with little effort. I'd say that's a win-win! If you're not doing planks, you may want to think about starting!
We all have goals and things we would like to see happen, right? But what is our driving force behind those goals we want to achieve? Chances are when you ask most people what their major goal is, the answer is most often weight loss. We want to be thinner. To lose that extra ten pounds would just be great. I want to look good. Sound familiar? So then we cut calories, try some new crazy workout routines and beat ourselves up when we stray off the path on any given day.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight. But what if we shift the focus from weight loss to better health? What if instead of focusing on the weight loss as number one, we focused on becoming a healthier human being so we can improve our quality of life? What if we chose to eat better to avoid disease? What if we started exercising to improve our mood, decrease stress and move better at work and in our daily activities? What if all major decisions we made about our body were decided based on if it's going to help me live better, or ultimately harm me in some way? The focus changes. The pressure of feeling that need to lose weight is now on the back burner. Instead, now the focus is on living a better life. And guess what? This is the best part. Losing weight is usually a side effect from doing all that. Awesome stuff, right? Change your focus! Chose to live healthier for a better quality of life. That's ultimately where the gold is. And most likely, you will become more fit in the process, rather than beating fitness over your head to the point that it exhausts you and feels like a chore.
Treat your body right. It doesn't need to be punished, scolded, talked down to and put through the ringer in the name of weight loss. Focus on health, and let the rest follow. Take in all the awesome benefits of living a healthier lifestyle and know that you are doing something good for yourself. You're improving your quality of life. That sounds so much better than only talking about how many more pounds to go so we look good. Before you know it, you have more energy, you're happier, you can do activities you weren't able to do a while ago. Maybe you even come off some medication that you now no longer need. That's the good stuff. Let the weight loss happen without you even realizing it. Now go live your life in the name of HEALTH!
So aren't new nurses so cute with all their enthusiasm and excitement??? Sorry, if any new nurses are reading this post. This is not to discourage anyone, but just to be real for a minute. We've all had "one of those days", or more realistically, "many of those days". Nursing isn't an easy job, and it certainly isn't for the faint of heart. But you got into this profession most likely for the right reasons, even though you may have second guessed yourself at times.
Now I am not going to lie and say I've never wanted to pour a huge glass of wine or scoop myself an enormous bowl of ice cream after a horrible shift... and I'm also not going to lie and say it will never happen again! But I just want to remind nurses to be aware of what they may do on occasion, verses what they are making habits of to deal with a stressful shift. Don't let your bad shift end up hurting you in the end by causing you to resort to bad habits on a regular basis... be stronger than that! Be aware of the overall effects on your own health that are made by how you handle work stress on a regular basis. It's not easy, and I get that... but don't let the crappy shifts take your health down the drain along with them. You have a life outside of this job to enjoy. Take care of yourself and go enjoy it!
In my opinion, there is no better way to get out frustration and stress than some heavy deadlifts. No word of a lie, I have driven straight to the gym after a bad shift before, in my scrubs and all, to do deadlifts. Bad day all gone. Best feeling ever. Just sayin'.... :-)
Nurses are strong people. We work hard, give until we have no more, and most always put others first. We take a lot on a daily basis, and try not to let it beat us down. Us "caretaker" types are all about making sure everyone else's needs come before our own. STOP! While it's great to be caring, you actually matter too. Sometimes it is hard to see and realize this when life is busy and there's just so much to be done. Caring for those at home, and caring for patients at work. But what happens when we put our own needs and well being on the back burner ALL the time? We become no good... to anyone. Little by little, day by day, we fall apart physically and emotionally until there is nothing left to give. This is a dangerous trap to fall into, and it's time to stop the vicious cycle.
Take a moment to think of what it would feel like to invest in your own health and well being in a way that would make you feel great, value yourself, and maybe even encourage those around you to do the same. Might you have a little more stamina to tackle life every day? What if it could be better? If you are one of those people always leaving yourself last, it can be better. Much better. Let's face it, as nurses we see sick people every day. We see sad scenarios, preventable diseases, and painful situations all the time. We care for these people, and it's great that we do. But if we're not doing anything to help prevent these situations from becoming a reality in our own lives, then we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. If we allow our bodies to be beat down, overweight, stressed out and unhealthy, we will sooner rather than later be of no help to anyone, including ourselves. Not to mention, we could possibly even end up IN the hospital bed rather than beside it. You deserve better.
Do you want to rely on healthcare to "fix" you when things go wrong? Or would you rather stay out of the whole mess by taking care of yourself in ways that you know can prevent so many problems in the first place? We know what goes on. We know what's involved in healthcare. I don't know about you, but I would rather stay far away from it in every way possible by living a life that will help me avoid all of that. Of course unforeseen things can occur in anyone's life, but I am talking about living a healthy lifestyle to avoid the things that we KNOW are preventable. There is so much that can be avoided.... and I'm all for that. Let's enjoy a well lived life and feel good while we're at it. Then we can care for others with a whole new perspective!
Terri Wentzell is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, fitness nutrition coach, and sport yoga instructor.