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Posts from August, 2012

Why Am I Still a Nurse Anyway? Part 1 of 2

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, August 30th, 2012

Most nurses didn’t choose this career because of great hours and working conditions. As trite as it may sound, most of us entered the profession of caring to help people…in their toughest times.  I often say that nursing is a calling. That’s why we sign on and stay on.

Yet on the days when the workload is too great, on the occasions that we can’t take all the pain away, after the shift when we go home with achy feet and achy hearts, those are the days we need to be reminded of why we do what we do. We need to reignite our passion for nursing.

One of the best ways to do that is by recalling and sharing our stories. I learned the crucial importance of this when I read over 2000 stories to select the top 101 for Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, then 2000 more for the second edition, the Second Dose. Clearly, when nurses share their stories, they remember why they entered this profession, and why they stay.

What are your stories? To put the fire back in your belly for nursing, take time to recall them. Use these 11 questions to get back to the basics of why you do what you do:

  • When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Was it when you bandaged the neighborhood cats or reluctant little brothers? Was it when you saw someone role modeling what it was like to be a great nurse? Did you watch a compassionate nurse care for someone you love?
  • What is your best story about being a student? What was your first day of nursing school like? Who was the first patient you ever cared for?
  • When was the first time you (nearly) fainted? (Or better yet, when your classmate did!)
  • For us “seasoned” nurses, how did you feel when you received your nursing pin or donned your cap for the first time? (Tell the “young” nurses what a cap was!)
  • What was the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a nurse? What was the scariest? What was one of the most emotional moments?
  • What patient left an impression on you? Which one “healed” you or taught you an important life lesson?
  • What patient family member impressed you the most?
  • Who was a favorite mentor or the one who “showed you the ropes?” Why was he or she so special?
  • How have you grown as a person because you are a nurse?
  • When did a doctor teach you a lesson or two? When did you teach a doctor a lesson or two?
  • What are other special memories about people or medical circumstances?

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.

 

The Nurse Shark

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, August 28th, 2012

A few years ago I attended a writing and speaking workshop in Cancun. (I know, I know, a tough place to play, err, I mean, stay.) On a free afternoon, I went to a marina where I put my hand in a pool to touch a stingray, a turtle…and a shark! Not just any shark, the guide explained, but a nurse shark.

Nurse?!  I silently fumed. Why would they name a vicious, man-eating creature “nurse?”

The guide must have felt my feathers ruffling as he explained. “Most sharks take water in through their gills to move and propel themselves.  Nurse sharks are one of the few species that do not require this and therefore they can lie sluggishly on the bottom of the ocean. When sharks and other ocean-living creatures are injured or ill, they descend to the bottom to die.  The nurse shark swims under them and lifts them up to the surface where they can breathe and live again.”

By now I was beaming with pride for my “fellow nurse” sharks and my buttons popped when he pointed to the dolphins in an adjacent tank. He told how one of the three did not adapt well during the transition from the ocean to the tank. In spite of all efforts from the expert staff, the dolphin sank repeatedly to the bottom. The nurse shark swam under it and lifted it over and over again until it recovered and swam playfully with the others.

“Isn’t that just like a nurse,” I said as I affectionately pet my new fish-friend.

Nurses “lift” patients and families every day. And we can do that more for our colleagues. By “lifting” each other, we can help one another stay positive and work efficiently. We can help each other stay in this honorable profession longer (and happier!) which will not only ease the nursing shortage, but improve the care for patients—and isn’t that what we’re all about?

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.

 

The Best Medicine – Part 2 of 2

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, August 21st, 2012

Terry, a grown granddaughter, went home to help her mother care for Grandma. Heartbroken by her mental deterioration, she attempted to add some joy to Grandma’s life by taking her to a buffet restaurant. There, the only food Grandma recognized and selected was red Jell-O. Even so, the two were enjoying a pleasant lunch when suddenly Grandma jerked Terry under the table yelling, “Indians! We’ve gotta get out of here!”  Heading for “cover,” Grandma crawled on her hands and knees across the restaurant floor with her purse and skirt —and granddaughter on all fours—trailing behind her.

 

When they arrived at the front door the manager looked down and asked in disbelief, “Is everything all right ladies?” Grandma stood, brushed herself off and said, “Yes, now that you’re here Marshall Dillon.” By now her granddaughter was laughing so hard she couldn’t stand up! Grandma tugged her to her feet, brushed her off and pulled her toward the door saying, “Come on, Terry, we’ve got to get out of here—you’re embarrassing me!”

Instead of being sad and mortified, Terry embraced the moment and laughed — then Grandma laughed — and their joy connected them.

If there are too few laughing occasions during your days, create them. (Not necessarily by crawling on all fours in public!) As you care for someone, think back to what used to make them laugh. And what used to make you laugh?  Recall the favorite “I Love Lucy” episodes, knock-knock jokes, or funny family escapades and reintroduce them into your lives.

Remember, laugher soothes the soul and weary mind. It is, indeed, the best medicine.

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.

 

The Best Medicine – Part 1 of 2

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, August 16th, 2012

The overwhelming demands of caregiving frequently exhaust the caregiver physically, mentally, and spiritually. Often, you get so caught up in ministering to another, you forget to eat, sleep, exercise—and laugh. Yes, laugh!

“How can I laugh at a time like this?” many ask. “Is it okay?”laughter

Not only is it okay, it’s imperative.

Laughing is one of the most effective, yet forgotten, coping skills. Medical studies prove laughter lowers blood pressure, increases lung and heart performances, decreases stress, exercises abdominal and facial muscles, boosts immune systems and even increases the production of tumor and virus-killing cells. Besides all that, it’s free, has no side effects, and feels good!

Laughter, like other rhythmic actions, releases endorphins– are our bodies’ “feel good medicines”–in our brains. Think about the last time you enjoyed a hearty belly laugh. Remember, when you finally caught your breath, how good you felt? How much lighter your chest was? How there seemed to be, literally, a weight lifted from your shoulders?

I’ve been privileged to read thousands of true stories from caregivers. Time and time again they shared how laughter helped them through their toughest times.

A loving daughter sat for months at the bedside of her ailing father who was confused and rarely spoke. Still, she chatted away, trying to communicate with him. One day she ran out of things to say, so began singing. Unfortunately, she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but crooned, “I love you. You love me. We’re a great big family.” Her daddy opened his eyes and spoke for the first time in days. “I love you too, honey,” he said. “But you don’t have to sing about it.”

Laughter, she wrote, helped her reclaim some joy in what seemed to be a hopeless situation.

Obviously, we should never laugh at another person, yet laughing with them can be a blessing to both. Many infirmed people insist that just hearing laughter boosts their spirits and happy heart rate. When we laugh at someone else’s silly antics, they often laugh along with us, offering them, too, all the healthy benefits mentioned above.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to find the humor in a situation. Yet to endure the daily challenges, that’s exactly what caregivers must seek.

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.

 

 

 

An Ordinary Nurse – Part 2 of 2

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, August 14th, 2012

It wasn’t until my baby boy was graduating from high school that I knew it was time to tell the story that few people knew. But I didn’t know how to be a writer! So I took every writing course, seminar and retreat I could and bought countless writing magazines and books.  And I learned to be a writer.

After being rejected by twenty-one of the top publishers in the nation, my book, This Must Be My Brother was actually sold! And published! With my name on the cover!  At that time, a nursing organization I was a part of asked me to speak at their state conference. Who me? Speak?

I didn’t how to be a speaker. So I joined the National Speakers Association and bought countless speaking magazines and books. And I learned to be a speaker.  “Share lessons from Operation Babylift,” they had said. So I penned my keynote, Balancing Life in Your War Zones, (because we don’t have to be in Vietnam to be in a war zone.)

To my astonishment, another state nursing chapter asked me to present at their state conference…and then another asked…and then another. Before I knew it, my little speaking hobby demanded to be a full-time career.  When I learned to write my own story, I was hooked, so I began writing everyone else’s and submitting them for publication too.

When my own appeared in Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, I became one of the series’ most prolific contributors, with stories in eleven more of their books. I met the co-authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and told them they needed to do a book for nurses, because nurses are chicken soup for the soul. I was stunned when they called two years later and asked me to co-author it.

By then I had quit my day job and was speaking to nurses full-time, giving them tools to care for themselves as attentively as they do everyone else. At every event, I collected their stories, and eventually read 2000 to select the top 101 for Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul. When that book hit the New York Times Best Seller list, Chicken Soup asked me to coauthor nine more, including Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul, Second Dose and I read 2000 more amazing stories from nurses.

Today I speak to nurses and work with hospitals to encourage all their employees to practice “SelfCare for HealthCare.”  I’m still a nurse, just caring for lots of people at a time.

I’m living proof that an “ordinary nurse” can do something small and make a big difference. Like you do….every day.

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.

 

An Ordinary Nurse – Part 1 of 2

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, August 9th, 2012

One hundred little babies lay three and four to a cardboard box, strapped in the belly of a gutted cargo jet. It was 1975, Saigon was falling to the Communists, and I was accidentally caught up in the Vietnam Orphan Airlift.

How, you ask, did a 25-year-old nurse and mom get caught up in the rescue of babies as bombs exploded outside the city? And how did that “ordinary nurse” become a professional speaker and author?

I still have no idea.  I was quite happy caring for patients at the hospital and OB clinic.  I never intended to be a speaker.  All I ever intended to do was buy a dozen cupcakes at that bake sale hosted by Friends of Children of Vietnam. I wanted to make a difference, so I bought some cupcakes…and a pie…and some cookies…and I picked up a brochure…and went to the next meeting…and before I knew it I was the chapter president and my basement the Iowa Chapter headquarter of Friends of Children of Vietnam.

We ten members, many of us nurses working together at the hospital, did all we could to raise awareness and supplies for the orphans.  Then the national office asked me the fateful question: would I escort six babies from Vietnam to their adoptive homes in the United States.

Between the time I said yes and the time I arrived, bombs were falling outside of Saigon, President Ford had okayed Operation Babylift, and I helped strap not six, but 100 babies into cardboard boxes in a C-130 military cargo jet!  And in the midst of this chaos, a baby boy crawled into my arms, my heart, and our family. We had a son!

Video of my Operation Baby Lift story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uTYczT8y3k&feature=channel&list=UL

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.

Healthcare News: 11 Stress Management Tips for Healthcare Professionals

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, August 7th, 2012

In these challenging times, healthcare professionals have to do more with less and often feel frazzled and frantic, instead of calm and efficient. Excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and deplete you physically, mentally and spiritually.nurse work life balance

It’s good to remember that some stress is normal and healthy. Eustress is the “good” stress that every living biological life form has; it allows us to be productive when everything around us is changing. But the U.S. Surgeon General claimed 80% of non-traumatic deaths are stress related.

Stress is literally killing us.

Use these 11 tips to cope with stress at work:

1.  Breathe. The best stress reducer is slow deep easy breathing. Rhythmic activities like breathing, laughing and walking release endorphins in our brains and make us feel calmer. No matter where you are you can take 3 minutes to breathe through your nose In-2-3-4 and Out-2-3-4, slow and deep, from your abdomen. Doing this 4 or more times a day and during stressful situations is the easiest and most effective way to reduce stress.

2.  Leave early. How many, like me, race to get dressed, gobble or omit a meal, drop kids at daycare, drive too fast to work, stop for coffee…STOP! Try to add ten minutes to your schedule to begin your day with ease, not stress.

3.  Eat. Our stamina, patience, and efficiency are depleted when we aren’t nourished. Eat a meal before your shift. Eat nutritiously and timely during your work time. We know this. We teach it. Eat!

4.  Run!…or walk, or take the stairs. A great stress buster is exercise. Take a few minutes to jog up and down the stairs. Many facilities have exercise rooms or walking tracks. Take a ten minute break to do a rhythmic exercise to reduce stress and increase endorphin release.

5.  Sleep and rest. Studies show the human body requires 8 hours of sleep per night. Stress and worry can interrupt sleep and the resulting fatigue contributes to stress. It’s a vicious circle. Shut off the technology at bedtime. Get more sleep. Take ten minutes during your shift and find a quiet place to close your eyes and rest to reduce tension and boost energy.

6.  Laugh!  Science proves it really is the best medicine. Laughter reduces tension, lifts spirits, and bonds us with others. In our stressful, sometimes painful work, healthcare workers need permission to laugh. Create a laughter bulletin board for funny cartoon, jokes or old prom pictures! Smile…its contagious, making people and situations more pleasant.

7.  Think Positive. We usually get what we expect in life, what we think about, what we visualize. Avoid negative people; they pull you down. Make a “Grumpy Jar” at work. (Have a contest to name it. That will make you laugh!) Require all naysayers and stinking-thinkers to put a quarter in the jar for each negative statement made. Then have a Positivity Party with the proceeds!

8Pray, meditate. Take a few minutes in the break room or bathroom (some days they’re the same thing!) to breathe deeply and pray and/or meditate. Handing things over to your Higher Power takes the stress off your shoulders. Take a few minutes to stop by the chapel…that’s why it’s there.

9.  Talk to someone (but not a stinking-thinker.) Pick a positive coworker to share your thoughts and stressors. Often verbalizing the problem helps put it in perspective and reduces its stress. Be sure to use “I” statements (“I feel, I think…”), not blameful “They” statements (“They do, they always…”)

10.  Take a break. I still remember how hard it is to leave needy patients, disgruntled employees and pressing duties to take a break – which causes more stress! Yet taking 10 minutes to do some of these healthy strategies is a great investment of time. You’ll return to your job calmer, more efficient, and in better spirits, re-energized to give even better care to patients or to be a better boss.

 

11.  Don’t worry, be happy. Some things are not worth worrying about. Realize the things you can change, the things you can’t, and have the courage to know the difference. Often you cannot control the situations in your life, but you can control you. When you are healthy and strong in mind, body and spirit you’re more resilient to stress. Your calmness and ability to cope will be contagious and positively affect those around you.Print these 11 tips, put them on your bulletin board and make a pact with your staff and coworkers to support one another in implementing these stress busters. Together you can reduce the worry and be happy…and give compassionate, competent, cheerful care.

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.