Packing Essentials for the First Time Travel Nurse

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If there is one thing I have learned in my travels, it is to embrace minimalism. On my first assignment I tried to pack my entire apartment. It was like I was moving out entirely. I packed every photo, piece of clothing, pair of shoes, cleaning item, and on and on. With each subsequent assignment I realized that I did not need my vacuum, pots, pans, or dishes. I learned to use what I was given. That being said, there are a few musts that should be on every travel nurse’s packing list.

Packing Essentials for the First Time Travel Nurse

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Fall Nurse Favorites

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Nothing says fall like a cool breeze, cozy sweater, and the changing of the leaves. This is the time of year I miss home the most.  Happy Fall everyone!!!!

Fall Nurse Favorites

 

August Nurse Feature: The Journey of a Lifetime

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This month’s feature is more a dedication or tribute to one of the best nurses I have ever worked with.  I think nurses can do a better job of lifting each other up and supporting one another, so here goes…..

Anders, a Swedish nurse I have had the pleasure to work with for the past two years, is the chupacabra of nurses-he is a rare gem of a nurse.  He has every quality a nurse should strive for.  He is experienced, knowledgeable, pedagogic, calm, kind, and always helpful.  He anticipates others’ needs sometimes before they anticipate them themselves.

He, his wife, and five children recently made the big move from Sweden to the U.S. where they will settle in Colorado and start a new life together.  Before he left, we had a few moments at the end of one of our last shifts together where I was able to pick his brain over fika, Sweden’s sacred coffee break.

Where are you from?

Sweden

In what area of nursing do you work?

I  specialized in pediatric nursing  and am currently working in a highly specialized Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

What inspired you to be a nurse?

I  worked in ambulance care as a nursing assistant for a total of 17 years.  I realized that with more knowledge I could do more for the patients and that always inspired me.  I enrolled in nursing school and got my license to work as a nurse 2003.  When I got my license, I quit working in ambulance care and took a job in a pediatric unit in a hospital.

What advice would you give to a new nurse?

 First of all “hang in there.”  It will get better when you have more experience and you know more what to do.  Second, and this goes for all nurses, don`t be afraid to ask someone else for advice if you are uncertain what to do (or think that you know enough not to).  In sweden we have a mentality that alows us to ask for a second opinion-either we want to ask for advice on some matter or we would like to confirm that we are doing the right thing, before we start doing it.
When I was new to the nursing profession, I was surprised that my fellow nurses that worked for many years asked me for advice or wanted me to check their med calculations. It was not until later that I realized that this was a good way of learning things. I had their trust to help them at the same time that they trained/educated me.
A few times when I practiced I would meet some “grumpy” nurse that would tell me that I should already know the answer.  In those cases I turned to another nurse and got an answer that made me certain I was doing the best for the patient (which is our mission).
What advice would you give to a tired nurse?
Don`t ever forget that it is not the core nursing (probably the reason why you became a nurse) that burned you out. It is most certainly external circumstances (lack of staff, high work load, etc.) that got you there. I have talked to some colleagues that were really tired of their work, but we all agreed that we love our profession, just not how we sometimes are supposed to perform it.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love working with my hands and with my head. When I was in high school, I took a vocational course in carpenty. I have never worked professional as one, but it has helped my during my life. I have a large family and during these years we have owned two houses that I renovated from top to bottom during my spare time. It is satisfying to create something with my hands that would last and that  I had to use my head figuring out how to do it and calculating what I would need.
Thanks for sharing, Anders!!  Wishing you and your family all the best in your new home!  To read more about his big move to the U.S. and get some tips if you are contemplating international travel, check out my interview with him for Mighty Nurse.  Be kind to one another ❤

A Crayfish Party in Sweden

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Happy Monday friends!  Today’s post comes from one of my favorite parts of Sweden, Skåne.  Last week I shared with you the splendors of Northern Sweden.  This past weekend we headed to Skåne, a region in the most southern part of Sweden, a short drive from Denmark.  It’s a three hour drive from where we live in Gothenburg.  Our good friends live there and this weekend invited us to a traditional Swedish crayfish party-kräftskiva in Swedish.

History

Although crayfish have been eaten since the 16th century in Sweden, then a delicacy savored by aristocrats, the crayfish celebration came later.  The history of crayfish parties in Sweden date back to the mid nineteenth century. Originally, parties were planned around the time of year fishermen were legally allowed to harvest crayfish from the sea, which was often the first week in August.  They were considered the last party of the summer.

Atmosphere

No kräftskiva party is complete without party hats, decorations, and bibs.  The hats are usually adorned with pictures of the guest of honor, the crayfish.  At the center of the brightly hung streamers and paper lanterns usually hangs a large and happy  paper lantern of the Man in the Moon.

Food

Crayfish is the highlight here-served cold with a delicious hint of dill.  The little crustaceans can be eaten alone, with a little aoli, or on fresh baked bread with aoli.  It is considered completely polite and actually a treat to suck the juice from the shell.  In addition, salad, delicious cheeses, and quiche of different varieties are served.

Drink

Traditional drink for a kräftskiva party is Schnaps of multi flavors, beer, and/or wine.  While I am not usually a fan of taking shots, I was all in for this party.  I tasted two different flavors-elderberry and cinnamon.  I loved the elderberry and according to our host, you have to let the Schnaps roll around in your mouth a bit to truly enjoy the flavor.

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Song

Swedes are known for their love of song, which usually preclude the drinking of Schnapps (snapsvisor).  There is a song for every occasion and a crayfish party is no exception.  While our party was a little reluctant, once the Schnapps started flowing and inhibitions dampened, we managed one song  to the melody of Popeye the Sailor Man.

A great time was had by all. Already looking forward to next year’s party.  Thanks to our friends Per and Malin for the invite!!  Thanks for taking the time to read!  Have a great week 😊

Observations of a Swedish Midsummer

IMG_5320Glad Midsommar!  Happy Midsummer!  It has been almost six years since I moved to Sweden!  Six years??!!  In that time I have experienced more tastes, sights, and sounds than I ever dreamed possible.

Today is one of the most celebrated holidays in Sweden, Midsummer.  It is a celebration of light, food, song, dance, family, and friends.  It also marks for many (especially those with children) the start of summer vacation.  Midsummer is the best way to start vacation.  While I normally spend Midsummer in Sweden, the past two years I have been home following my niece’s birth.  The following is Swedish Midsummer in a nutshell as seen through the eyes of this expat….

A Brief History

According to Sweden’s official site, Midsummer dates back as far as the 1500’s.   It is the Friday after the summer solstice, somewhere between June 20-26th.  It is most often celebrated outside in nature.  Every city including Stockholm and Gothenburg (Sweden’s two largest cities) becomes desolate as all inhabitants flood the countryside.

Eternal Sunshine & Nature

In some parts of Sweden, especially the far north, the sun barely sets allowing for hours of outdoor celebration and games.  We usually celebrate far north in Luleå, the city where my boyfriend is from. Tonight, the sun sets at 12:05 am and rises at 1:03 am allowing for only about 58 minutes of “darkness”.  The flowers are in full bloom and this is what makes Sweden truly one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.

 

Food

No celebration is complete without food.  Midsummer is no exception.  There are  many varieties of pickled herring to choose from.  In addition, cured or smoked salmon with boiled potatoes, dill, and sour cream are featured favorites.  Barbecuing is a must this time of year and if you are lucky and know someone who hunts moose, you may have a taste of moose filet-the greatest piece of meat on the planet.  Strawberry cake or strawberry dessert of any sort is common and my favorite part of the day!!

 

Maypole

All across Sweden, towns erect a Maypole for Midsummer festivities.  It is typically adorned with greenery and flowers and stands approximately 10 feet tall.  The origins of the Swedish maypole are thought to come from Germany.  It is said to symbolize fertility,though this is debateable among historians.

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Dance

Dancing around the Maypole is part of the day’s festivities.  The most famous dance, Små Grådarna (The Little Frogs) has participants both young and old singing and hopping like frogs in a circle around the Maypole.

Midsummer Wreath

Girls make a wreath of flowers using seven varieties of flowers.  Legend has it that after placing the flowers under your pillow at night, you will dream of the one you are meant to marry.

 

Family & Friends

Day is for family, evening for friends-at least that’s how we roll.  We usually spend the day with my boyfriend’s family on Brändön, a small island in northern Sweden.  Following a day of sunshine, song, dance, a packed picnic, and games, we make our way to our annual Midsummer party hosted by our friends, Marcus and Maria ❤  The party continues with wine, beer, barbecue, and games.

It’s funny.  Since moving overseas, I always felt like I was missing out on the birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases.  Now that I call Sweden home as well, I am really missing  being “home” for Midsummer!  Wishing everyone in Sweden a happy, safe Midsummer!!

Here is a great summary of the day in just a few short minutes…..

Swedish Midsummer for Dummies

Foreign Nurse Feature: A South African Nurse

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I developed  wanderlust at a young age, but didn’t start nurturing it until I was older and able.  The most amazing part of my journey has been meeting so many fascinating people from every corner of the globe.  In this month’s foreign feature, we meet Betina-a young and enthusiastic nurse from South Africa.  In our interview, one could not help but be infected with her enthusiasm for nursing.  It is clear Betina has found her calling and interestingly enough as we will find, it was by way of a detour.

How long have you been a nurse?

I started my training in January of 2009 and graduated in December of 2012 at the University of Johannesburg.  I started my community service at Steve Biko Academic Hospital and worked there for two and a half years. I believe that although I was not yet qualified as a student, I was a nurse, because during our training we work with patients to accumulate the needed hours to qualify as a Registered Nurse, therefore I have been privileged to touch the lives of patients and their families for 7 years.

In what area of Nursing do you work?

I found my passion and the area in which I wanted to specialize during my training and since I graduated I’ve been working with the little miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I can’t describe the immense amount of belonging I feel when nursing these small and innocent beings. They are so vulnerable and completely powerless, yet such strong and determined fighters. I learn something new from them on a daily basis. We spend most of our lives at work, therefore finding a career where you want to get up in the mornings is of the utmost importance and I am truly blessed when I say that I am convinced I have found that, not only in the NICU, but in being a nurse.

What inspired you to be a nurse?

Since I was a little girl, I found myself playing “doctor doctor” where I would be the one taking care of the “sick patient” and being the eldest grandchild, I was always the one taking care of my sister and cousins when we were growing up. I suppose caring is in my nature. I have to be honest though and say that I didn’t always want to be a nurse, because in our culture being a nurse is looked down upon.  I wanted to become a doctor, but those doors didn’t open for me until someone told me to do nursing, get my foot in the door (so to speak) and then I could do a bridging course and become a physician.  Little did I know that in studying nursing I found where I belong and who I was destined to become. I no longer believe that nursing is a career to be looked down upon…in fact I am determined to change that perspective and rather have people realize that it is a profession where we make a difference on a daily basis, twenty four hours and that the health care system would not exist without us. Needless to say, I no longer wish to become a physician, although I respect them and love to gain knowledge from them, I feel that I have more of an influence at the bedside, taking care of my patient and knowing every aspect of their being.

What advice would you give to a new nurse?

I would tell them that being a nurse is more than just having a job to pay the bills. Being a nurse comes with the responsibility to care for another human being when they are in their most vulnerable state. Being a nurse means that you need to be passionate and professional, not only at work, but also at home and in the public, because we are looked to whether we have our uniform on or not. So my advice is to make sure that nursing is for you, because it is a life-long commitment and then to go out there and be exposed to every possible field of nursing.  Nursing is the one profession with an insane amount of fields and opportunities and places that you can find where you belong, therefore get exposure to as much as possible and then find the place where you feel like you can spend the rest of your life and make a difference there.

What advice would you give to a tired nurse?

Nursing is a physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining profession where patients and the multidisciplinary team demand a lot from us on a daily basis. It is of the utmost importance that you find something outside of nursing that you love and enjoy to do. An activity, where you can unwind and get rid of all the frustrations, turmoil, heartache and troubles which come with our career.  I find exercise and being active to be my ‘sanity’.  In the gym and jogging on the road is where I ventilate, release my emotions and find the strength to continue. I also recently found a love for obstacle racing, there is something about running and digging through mud and challenging myself through the most ridiculous obstacles that energizes me and pushes me past my own limits.  I also ensured that I have a strong support system, people to talk to. I find my best friend and sister to be my pillars of strength. But another piece of advice would be to never lose contact with the friends you studied with. There is a certain level of understanding that comes when one nurse talks to another about a challenge they faced, different to talking to your best friend in another profession and safer than sharing with your colleague.

Thank you for your honest words, wise advice, enthusiasm, and love for your tiny patients Betina!  To read more about Betina, check out my interview with her in Mighty Nurse in the link below.

A Mighty Nurse in South Africa

 

 

 

 

Easter in Norrland

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Each Easter, we fly up to Northern Sweden, Norrland, where only approximately 12 percent of Sweden’s nearly 10  million inhabitants reside.  My sambo (live in boyfriend) grew up in a small village here a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea.  Year round, it is the most breathtaking, picturesque part of the world I have ever seen.  Even the quality of the air feels different.

We arrived on Thursday and have since tasted some of the best local fish (bleak) grilled right over an open fire, walked and snowmobiled on the sea, and had the best homemade cookies (recipe to come) for our fika, the cherished coffee break in Sweden.  We have also spotted a herd of reindeer (owned by the indigenous Sami in Sweden) that roam freely through Northern Sweden.

Luleå is a city with a population of nearly 47,000.  It is known for Luleå University of Technology, Luleå Hockey Club, and it’s steel production.  It is part of Norrland, one of the three land regions in Sweden.

They have a saying in Sweden, “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder,” which literally translates to “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”  In other words, there is no excuse to stay in when it is super cold or overcast.  I still struggle with this from time to time, but I am a Florida girl.  Swedes have evolved to make the best of any weather conditions.

I was reluctant to head outside yesterday as it was a bit overcast and super cold.  Today was another day.  The sun was shining in every direction, the sky was blue.  We decided to spend it the way most Swedes in the area spent the day, walking and snowmobiling on the frozen sea!!!

We celebrated Easter together with Fredrik’s family in his sister’s family’s cabin.  We ate grilled moose and reindeer from a bbq made in the snow.  Many Swedes own a “summer house” which often consists of a large open room complete with a primitive kitchen, dining, and sleeping areas.  Spring and Easter usually mark the time when Swedes open up their cabins for use.

Easter in Sweden is mostly secular.  The Easter bunny  is not as celebrated a tradition as back home.  Instead, children (boys and girls alike) dress up as Easter witches and go from house to house wishing their neighbours a Happy Easter.  In return, they are given candy (similar to trick or treating on Halloween).  In addition, parents give their children Easter “eggs” that are filled with candy.

FullSizeRender-56Food traditionally served around Easter can vary, but generally consists of boiled eggs, cured and/or smoked salmon, cold cuts (ham, moose, and/or lamb), cheese, bread, potatoes, and pickled herring.

 

Though I long for home every day (especially on holidays), Norrland and Sweden have been my second home for nearly six years.  My boyfriend’s family have always been so kind and welcoming to me.  They have made my holidays here very special.  While I recommend visiting Stockholm and Gothenburg, no trip to Sweden is complete without visiting the many wonders of Norrland.  Hoping everyone back home was spoiled by the Easter Bunny and enjoyed each other’s company ❤

 

Nurse Contest

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As a thank you for the last year, I am running a nurse contest!!  Win two pair of adorable Swedish compression stockings!!

Follow Neonurse on Instagram & here to enter the contest.

The winner will be randomly selected and announced March 11. Best of luck!!!!