The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

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I have been teaching Prenatal Yoga now for six years.  My first student was my baby sister and since then I have had the privilege to teach many of my dear friends as well as women in my community during one of the most important times in their lives.  The benefits of prenatal yoga are endless.  Some of the most significant findings are the reduction of depression and cortisol levels.  If  anyone you know who is expecting, the greatest gift you can give them is a gift card for prenatal yoga.  Read just some of the benefits below in my latest post for AWHONN.  Thanks for reading ❤

The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

April Nurse Feature: A Nurse Mentor & Friend

“Rest and take care of yourself.  If you don’t, you can’t take care of others.”

FullSizeRender-71Our April nurse feature takes us to my hometown, New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Meet Janet.  Janet was one of my first mentors as a graduate nurse.  She gave me daily pep talks and hugs when I would pass her in the halls at work.  She took me under her wing, pushed me to follow my dream of working in NICU (neonatal intensive care), and trained me when it was my turn to orient.  My hope is that any new graduate nurse has such a mentor.  It was though her guidance and constant encouragement that I found my nursing legs and confidence.

Where are you from?

I am originally from North Carolina, but was raised in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

In what area of nursing do you work?

I worked primarily in NICU for over 30 years.

How long have you been a nurse?

I received my license in 1981 and retired in 2013, so for 32 years. I didn’t start my career until I was 41 years old.

What inspired you to be a nurse?

It was something I had always wanted to do since a very early age. I just wanted to be a nurse, wife, and, mother.

What advice would you give to a new nurse?

I have a granddaughter who wants to be a NICU nurse.  She just received her RN and got a job in a children’s hospital. I tell her to get her foot in the door and get all the experience she can and watch for opening in NICU- to work and strive to accomplish your dreams.

What advice would you give to a tired nurse?

Rest and take care of yourself.  If you don’t, you can’t take care of others.

What do you do in your spare time?

I try to spend time with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and I love to sew.

Thanks so much for sharing, Janet ❤  You are the true definition of nurse!  To read more about Janet and her mission trip to Haiti, check out my latest post with Mighty Nurse below.  It will leave you with a sense of post-retirement inspiration.

Coffee Talk With a Mighty Nurse: Volunteering After Retirement

 

 

 

March Nurse Feature: A Girl on a Mission

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Kristen and Faces of Tomorrow founder and director, Dr. Brian Rubinstein, making a difference ❤

Our March Nurse Feature follows a super inspiring nurse who has volunteered her way across the globe.  For those nurses afflicted by wander lust, meet Kristen.  She is an American nurse with a background in pediatric, newborn, and maternal health.  She currently lives in Romania with her husband and two adorable girls.  She is a founding board member of the non-profit, Faces of Tomorrow, and when she’s not on a mission, she’s planning the next.

I first met Kristen while working as a travel nurse in California.  She has this super infectious and enthusiastic personality like there is just not enough time to get all the things done in life one wants.  I am happy to call her my colleague and friend.

Where are you from?


I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in Crofton, Maryland. I moved to San  Francisco in 1999 and still consider it HOME. Currently, I’m living in Bucharest, Romania.

In what area of nursing do you work?


Maternal Child Health. I started in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I worked in various areas of Pediatrics and then started travel nursing at hospitals in the Bay Area.  During that time I worked at UCSF, Stanford Children’s hospital, Oakland Children’s and a few Kaiser hospitals.  I ended up working at Marin General hospital on a travel contract and fell in love with the staff, patients, and hospital.  They offered to train me to work in postpartum, the newborn nursery, and at times the NICU as well as pediatrics.

I love being able to work in multiple areas with women and children. It’s nice to see healthy patients and families at times unlike acute pediatrics.  In addition, I started working at some underserved community clinics with adults and pediatrics to expand my skills and work in community public health.  Being part of the birth of a child and caring for the family right after birth is magical.  However, my heart still belongs to the pediatric patients-it’s my passion.

How long have you been a nurse?

19 years

What inspired you to be a nurse?

I’ve always loved kids and helping others. I’ve worked with kids in various capacities since I was in the 4th grade.  When I was in high school, I had a chance to take a health class and I found it interesting. Then in  college I visited the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D. C. and saw all babies born addicted to drugs. I was crushed and confused. I started volunteering to be a “holder” to comfort the babies withdrawing from cocaine. It was rewarding, heartbreaking, and confusing. It was then I knew that nursing was my true calling.

What advice would you give to a new nurse?

Follow your dreams, continue your education, diversify your skills, and volunteer or work with underserved populations in America and abroad. It’s essential to understand other cultures and to understand the issues within our own cultures and systems. Truly, it can help you be a better provider and empathize and connect with your patients on a much deeper level.

What advice would you give to a tired nurse?

I’m a big believer in self-care. There is a high burn out rate in nursing and without self-care it’s inevitable. I would recommend yoga, meditation, massage, and travel!  It’s not healthy to constantly do shift work, live with sleep deprivation, stressful situations, and the emotions involved with nursing and healthcare related jobs. Actually, I would give the same advice to anyone with any job…self-care is a must!

Thank you Kristen for your contribution!!  See more from my interview with Kristen and on her mission work in my upcoming Mighty Nurse Feature.  There is need everywhere in the world, even in our own cities.  What can you as an individual do to be of service to someone else?  There is an increasing epidemic of drug babies plaguing the U.S.  Find your local volunteer cuddle program and hold and love these babies.  Visit your local nursing home and spend a few hours with an elderly resident that has no family.

“The dedicated enjoy supreme peace. Therefore, live only to serve.”

 Sri Swami Satchidananda

 

 

A Baby Gone Too Soon: A Nurse’s Goodbye in Honor of all Babies Gone Too Soon

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I’ve worked in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for some years now-long enough to witness the struggle a sick or premature baby’s parents face in the roller coaster ride of neonatal intensive care.  It can look something like shock, followed by hope, denial , hope, sadness, hope, anger, hope, hope, and more hope.  It’s hard to know what to say sometimes.  Honestly, this is the hardest part of the job most days.

How do nurses cope when faced with the loss of a tiny patient?  I can only speak for myself.  I’ve lost babies, sometimes without any indication.  It’s tough.  We have to keep going and care for the next patient, support the next family.  It gets heavy sometimes.  I find a combination of time, talking about the loss, and writing helps.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  The following is my tribute to a premature baby I cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit.  It is my hope that it will give his parents and (and all NICU parents) some comfort in knowing that the loss of their baby is felt by many.  It is hard to work in the NICU and not grieve the loss of a baby on some level.

Dearest baby boy,

It’s been 6 months since you left us suddenly, brave little bright-eyed boy.  You were close to being discharged home to your family. Things were looking up as you grew stronger with each passing day.  It was a shock to all of us in the NICU that cared for you when you lost your courageous fight as a baby born too soon.

You endured every micro premie parents’ worst nightmare with complications from ventilator associated lung disease, patent ductus arteriosus, and bowel obstruction surgery.  Through it all you  managed to win hearts over with your sweet little face.

Your parents (like all NICU parents) stood watch by your side day in and day out.  They gave you and themselves normalcy in the otherwise frightening and unfamiliar environment that is the intensive care unit.  They changed you, bathed you, dressed you, talked to you.  They loved you so much!!

You endured painful sticks, surgeries, and were dependent on oxygen your entire life.  You were stuck, prodded, and probed all in effort to sustain your little life. You fought an amazing fight.  You were stronger than most.

I was your nurse sporadically though I wish I had known you a little bit longer.  The thing is, while there is always something special about all the sweet babies I care for, I have to maintain a little distance. It’s called self preservation and it’s part of survival for those of us who care for babies like you.  You broke me though.  You got through and touched my heart.  Maybe it was the collage of pictures that hung over your bed.  Your mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and puppy all watching over you day and night.

There were nights where you were restless and awake most of the night.  I would tease your parents in passing that they had to stay all night because you wanted to be held.  Karin and I would hold you, reposition you, rub your back gently to help you sleep.  Do you remember when one of your doctors, Karin, sang you to sleep?  You were loved by so many.

I was on vacation when Mary told me you passed.  It was shocking, unexpected.   Those of us that have worked long enough in the NICU see things that most people can’t imagine.  Babies die.  We learn to try to take it in stride.  Self preservation.

I’m not sure how you did it, but you stole a little piece of my heart in the time I was privileged to know you and care for you.   I will always have a little space for you there, sweet boy. You were a joy to know.  I will remember you in the photographs. I will remember you in our brief moments together. I will remember you through all the babies that follow in your footsteps.  I will remember you 💗

No, We Don’t Just Feed Babies all Day

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Years ago, when I started working in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) I was explaining to a group of non-medical people what I do. I explained that I was a neonatal nurse, that I work with babies. With that came the naive question, “what do you do then, just feed babies all day?” The answer is yes and most definitely no. While of course even the tiniest babies need nourishment, this is just a small part of an enormous job that involves a keen eye, constant reassessment, a soft touch, empathetic heart, and super critical thinking skills. We carry a very heavy responsibility. Many of us at one time or another in our career have gone home with insomnia wondering if we did everything we could for our patients. Did we miss any subtle signs of our patient decompensating? NICU nurses have to be experts at reading subtle signs of danger as our patients lack the ability to communicate when they hurt or feel sick. The following is what is expected of a neonatal nurse in a day’s work.

Part Expert Clinician

This skill takes years to hone. A typical day for a NICU nurse starts after report, also called change of shift. Each patient has different problems, needs, requirements. It requires anything from understanding the pathophysiology of a congenital heart defect to knowing that a premature baby that exhibits a large belly and feeding intolerance can be a sign of necrotizing enterocolitis, a life threatening infection. We are expected to interpret a baby’s blood work and know when to react, know if the baby is getting too much or not enough fluid, and give all medications correctly and on time. We have to know that giving certain medications too quickly can cause ototoxicity or hearing loss. We are expected to know that certain IV fluids should never be given together and never given through small veins. We have to trouble shoot IV sites, IV pumps, ventilator settings. We have to interpret a low grade or high grade temperature. We have to quickly (but safely) give blood product after blood product to keep our tiny patients alive. We have to respond quickly to a dropping blood pressure and stimulate a premature baby who has gone apneic. We are expected to be fully aware (even at 5 or 6 am) and prepared to administer CPR to an asphyxiated baby born after being stuck in the birth canal.

Part Mind Reader

This applies only to working in certain areas in the U.S. Depending on where in the country one works, there still exists a very clear hierarchy where nurses are expected to anticipate the needs of the doctors and in a timely manner. I have through the years reluctantly become a sort of mind reader. It is the nurse’s responsibility to know that Dr. So and So gives all his babies a suppository every 12 hours round the clock (premies become easily constipated).
I have worked with doctors that expected the nurse to know that they require a small towel (rolled in a precise manner) to place under the baby’s neck before intubation and who have all but written me up (instead of simply asking) because I had not charted the baby’s weight in the timely manner they required. This adds unneeded stress in an already stressful environment.

Part Therapist

Parents of NICU babies are grieving. They are grieving the normal delivery they had hoped for, the healthy baby they dreamed of, and the diagnosis they have been given instead. Though they are usually referred to a support group or therapist early on, it is the nurse that plays the role of therapist most days. They witness the most critical moments in a NICU parent’s life in real time as it happens. They are there the day the baby is born and admitted, the day the baby is diagnosed with a brain bleed or life threatening sepsis and even on the good days when baby starts eating by mouth or gets closer hopefully to going home. Through this roller coaster ride that is the NICU, the nurse is by both the parents’ and baby’s side watching, monitoring, assessing, intervening, and guiding. The parents rely on the information we give them and sometimes that information determines whether or not they have a restful night, so we learn (hopefully) to tread gently and carefully.

Always Protector

In the 8 to 12 hours that a NICU nurse has assumed responsibility of a NICU patient, it is that nurse’s responsibility to protect the baby. It’s called patient advocacy and it’s a little like a female lion protecting not only her own cubs, but all the cubs in the pride. It can be reminding a parent, family member, or coworker the most critical element of hand washing before any contact with the baby. It can be questioning a doctor’s order that may not be in the best interest of that particular patient. Whatever it is, if it is not in the best interest of the patient, it is the nurse’s job to speak up.

I recently heard one of my favorite doctors here in Sweden say something that will be forever engrained in my brain. Toward the end of a tiring night that required admission after admission of unstable patients, she said to me something along the lines of “it’s best to always prepare for the worst, that way there are no surprises.” This is a good summation of working in the NICU, always preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. At the end of a sometimes very long and emotionally trying day, we are expected to show up for the dinner parties with smiles on our faces. This takes the super human ability of separating work from non-work. Some days are easier than others and that is why it is so much more than just feeding babies. Feeding babies is actually a cherished moment for NICU nurses because this means that we have hopefully done our job and done it well.