December 21, 2018

{Guest Post} Perk Up Patients During the Holidays with These 8 Ideas

Perk Up Patients During the Holidays with These 8 Ideas

Going the extra mile for your patients over the holidays can really make a difference in their lives. Try one or more of these eight ideas to help boost their mood and show them that you care.

Hand out holiday cards.
Holiday cards are an inexpensive way to spread some holiday spirit among your patients, and you can often pick up a whole set of stationery for only a couple of dollars. Choose a non-religious theme so the cards will be applicable to anyone (and you can hand out extras to your coworkers, too!). Consider a personal note for patients who have been at your facility for a while if you’ve built a relationship with them, but a general holiday greeting will also work for those you don’t know as well. If you’d like, you can make it a group effort and leave the cards in the lounge area so all the nurses in your unit can sign them.

Play some festive music.
There’s lots of different music for every holiday as well as different moods, from upbeat carols to somber hymns. As long as your patients agree to it, playing holiday music in either the common areas or their rooms can help contribute to the festive air. If you’d like to take things to the next level, some musically-inclined volunteers will actually come to play at clinics and hospitals all year round, and you can ask them to tailor their song selections to the season. Even if your unit doesn’t currently have musical volunteers, another part of the hospital might, so ask around to see if another department has some contacts you can reach out to.

Bring in volunteers.
Nurses’ shifts are packed full of activity on even the best of days, and this is doubly true over the holidays when staff coverage can be a little thinner than usual. Having visitors to talk to certainly cheers patients up, but you might not have time during your shift to stop for a long chat—and that’s where volunteers come in. Many charitable groups and organizations coordinate activities around the holidays, including visiting patients and bringing gifts to those in need of some cheer. If you don’t currently have a volunteer program at your facility, do some research and contact local organizations or religious groups. There’s usually an uptick in volunteers during November and December, so there will probably be plenty of people willing to spend an hour or two visiting with your patients.

Try to keep a positive attitude.
Yes, it sucks to work on a holiday, especially when everyone else you know is at home with family and friends. But think of how much worse it is for patients. Not only are they at the hospital, they’re sick and they don’t get to go home at the end of their 12-hour shift. Some of them may have family who come to visit them, but not all do. Some will be spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special days alone in their room. It can be tough to be cheerful when you have to work on the holidays, but try to stay positive when you’re around your patients. Trust us, they probably don’t want to be there either.

Check in with patients on how they’re feeling.
While we often think of the holidays as a season of happiness, not everyone feels that way during November and December, especially if they’re sick and in the hospital. The holidays can trigger feelings of depression and even thoughts of suicide in patients, so be proactive and check in with them regularly, especially if they seem more down than usual. Sometimes the dip in mood is only temporary and having someone else (such as a nurse) take the time to ask them how they are doing can help patients feel better. If you have serious concerns, you can notify their family members and call in a psychologist or other expert to help them manage their negative thought patterns and feelings.

Decorate their rooms.
Many nurses festoon the lounge or nurse’s station, and if you have extra decorations, you can use them to ornament patients’ rooms (with their permission as well as the facility’s, of course). Hospital rooms have a dreary reputation for a reason, and a bit of bright tinsel and a couple of garlands can go a long way towards perking up the space. You can also encourage their family members to bring in other small decorations, such as cards to display in the window or a red-and-green bouquet of flowers for their bedside.

Help them accessorize.
There’s no need to let the decorating stop with the room itself. If patients are up for it, you can also help them dress up a bit to celebrate the season. Obviously, this will depend on each patient’s health and comfort level, but some easy ideas that don’t require much effort are Santa hats and reindeer antlers. As for newborns, it’s hard to go wrong with a holiday-themed onesie. Babies need clothing anyway, so you might as well get in the spirit of the season with fun patterns and a red-and-green color scheme. And of course, if you’re going to ask your patients to dress up, you should wear some holiday scrubs and compression socks yourself so everyone can participate in the fun.

Coordinate a family night holiday meal.
If you work at a long-term care facility, hosting a family dinner night around Thanksgiving and/or Christmas can be a special experience for residents and staff alike. Having everyone’s families come for dinner at the same time turns it into a memorable, festive event instead of an ordinary meal. Some residents may be on special diets so a true potluck might not be feasible. Try instead to encourage families to check in with staff ahead of time if they would like to bring a special treat for grandma or granddad.

Patient or nurse, no one chooses to be in the hospital over the holidays—but sometimes it can’t be helped. If you’d like to help cheer up your patients but aren’t sure how, we’ve rounded up eight ideas to help you perk them up over the holidays. And don’t be surprised if these acts of kindness make you feel better as well. Helping others release neurotransmitters can contribute to positive feelings, so put on those holiday scrubs and get in the spirit of the season!

Thank you to Deborah Swanson, Real Caregiver Program Coordinator, of for writing this article. 

December 20, 2018

{Guest Post} 6 Best Nursing Jobs for Veterans

6 Best Nursing Jobs for Veterans

After leaving the military, veterans are often drawn to jobs in health care, especially the medical professions. Nursing in particular is a popular choice, as it combines fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping work with helping others–two things that often drew veterans originally to the service. But don’t put on your scrubs quite yet. Not all nursing jobs are created equal, and some positions are a better fit than others for those who have served in the military. In honor of Veterans Day, we’ve rounded up the six best nursing jobs for veterans.

Emergency Trauma Nurse
Chances are that you’ve made at least one trip to the emergency department (ED) in your lifetime. The ED is a catch-all for broken bones, work accidents, electrocutions and all manner of acute injuries. Emergency nurses never know what will come through the door of the emergency room and no two shifts are ever the same. Veterans are often drawn to emergency trauma nursing roles because of their experience with quick-response situations, which translates well into dealing with acute, life-threatening injuries. Emergency nurses must quickly triage patients and address their symptoms in the order of importance, which requires a decisive, knowledgeable professional who can make good decisions under stress.

Critical Care Nurse
Critical care nurses work in intensive care units (ICU), taking care of seriously ill patients. They may also work in more specialized units such as post-anesthesia, burn or coronary care. Patients are normally only admitted to these units because they have life-threatening conditions and need to be monitored around-the-clock until they are better. As a result, critical care nurses usually only see one or two patients at a time because their patient’s status is so fragile and things can change at a moment’s notice. Unlike the controlled chaos of the ER, the ICU and similar units are extremely well-organized and structured so nothing slips through the cracks. Because of the highly acute patient care required, critical care nurses need to have a lot of stamina and focus–two qualities that veterans also develop during their time in the military.

Surgical Nurse
Because of their extensive experience working in teams in high pressure situations, veterans are often drawn to working as surgical nurses. Now, surgical nursing work isn’t quite as varied as emergency trauma or critical care, since you’ll (usually) have the surgery scheduled in advance and working in a specialty necessarily limits the type of cases you’ll see. However, surgical nursing is still a fast-paced, high-stakes nursing job, especially when it comes to more invasive major procedures. Surgical nurses operate (no pun intended) as part of tight-knit team, and they need to be excellent communicators and willing to take instructions from the surgeon or others in the operating room. They also need to be proactive and anticipate what the team might need without being asked and also switch from one task to another quickly without losing focus.

Flight/Transport Nurse
Transport nurses care for patients as they are being transported to hospitals or other facilities. Transport nurses usually work on ambulances, while flight nurses work on medical transport aircraft such as helicopters. Sometimes, transport nurses simply accompany already stable patients, but often they are treating emergency cases such as traumatic injuries, heart attacks and strokes. Giving medical care to patients is already challenging enough, but transport nurses must operate with limited supplies–not to mention work within a confined environment inside a moving vehicle. These limitations, combined with the acute nature of medical emergencies, calls for clear thinking during chaos, fast and accurate decision-making and the ability to work under pressure—all qualities that veterans often have in spades. If you’re look for a fast-paced environment where you can save lives while getting out of the hospital, becoming a transport or flight nurse is a great option.

Veterans Affairs Nurse
Nurses in Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and facilities work specifically with patients who have previously served in the military. As a veteran yourself, you’re well-equipped to empathize with these patients because you know exactly what they’ve gone through and you have a common background to draw on. That being said, working with veterans can be triggering for nurses who had traumatic experience while in the military, so know yourself and whether or not working with veterans would be a good fit for you personally. VA hospitals hire nurses and administrators across many specialties, so there’s a wide variety of potential roles open to you, including registered nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse executives, psychiatric nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing assistants and more. The VA also offers several different career development programs to help employees grow as professional nurses.

Travel Nurse
Many people retire from the military partly because of the strain that long deployments place on them and their families. However, not everyone is ready to stop traveling for work altogether once they leave the military and becoming a travel nurse can be a great way to satisfy any wanderlust you might still have. Plus, sometimes you can even bring your family with you! Travel nurses are contract workers who are hired to work at a hospital or other facility for a specific amount of time. Thirteen weeks (about three months) is the usual length of a travel nurse contract, though they range anywhere from eight to 26 weeks. Because of the great demand for nurses, travel nurses often have several potential assignments and cities to pick from. The pay is competitive and housing and certain living expenses are often included in the contract. Usually you’ll get some type of health insurance and retirement benefits but not PTO or short-term disability, so be sure to look into the exact benefit package you’ll have before you pack up your scrubs.

If you’re a veteran looking for a medical position, these six nursing jobs are a great place to start. You’ll find a lot of similarities between these clinical environments and your time in the military. Thank you for your service, both as a veteran and as a nurse!

Thank you to Deborah Swanson, Real Caregiver Program Coordinator, of for writing this article.