Curating Friendships: Creating your Support System

Your friends are either a reflection of who you are or who you want to be. Ideal friends help carry you when you’re down and hold you accountable to being the best version of yourself. However, what if your friends doubt your abilities to obtain a nursing degree or succeed at something you desperately desire? I’ve had friends who have been either naysayers or cheerleaders in my life. Over time, I have learned to curate my friendships. After having a family and working full-time or going to school, my time is limited. How and with whom I invest my free time matters to me.

When I started taking my nursing pre-requisites, I had a friend share how her partner questioned my pursuit and wondered if I would go into Nursing. She said she defended me to her partner and responded that he doesn’t know me well enough to know how determined I am. While I appreciated her supporting me, I wondered why she even shared the story with me at all. You may have family or friends in your life who are not supportive or do not understand why you are pursuing a career change or nursing. You may need to limit the time you spend with them to focus on your goals. Limiting time with my friend with the doubting partner was not super intentional for me – I had little free time while I was doing pre-requisites and completing nursing school. I ended up not spending much time with many of my friends outside of school anyway.

Now that I’ve graduated from nursing school, I still don’t get to spend as much time as I wish with friends. Aside from the pandemic, circumstances such as friends becoming parents, moving, or job changes have made it challenging to coordinate schedules. However, I’ve learned I’d rather have a handful of close friends on whom I can rely rather than a ton of acquaintances or shallow friends. My relationships with close friends remain strong despite lapses in connecting with another or physical distance separating us. It doesn’t make sense for me to go out of my way to maintain relationships with people who don’t value me or my friendship or whose motives I question. I already have great friends with whom I do not spend enough time!

I was in a toxic relationship years ago, and a friend exclaimed, “There are so many people in this world! Why are you with someone nice to you only some of the time?” It’s been over 20 years, and that remark has stuck with me and helps guide me. Seriously, why invest time and energy in someone who doesn’t treat you well or support your growth and success? When I was younger, and my self-esteem was lower, I allowed people I thought were my friends to treat me terribly. I accepted friends who would insult and lie to me or were not interested in my wellbeing. They served as obstacles instead of contributors to my success. I am grateful to have grown and matured enough to recognize true friendship and to set better boundaries for myself.

Decades ago, when pursuing my engineering degree, I had a planner with various inspirational quotes listed each week. A quote that stood out for me is from Alice Walker about friends: “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.” Is someone who is not supportive of your career pursuits denying your right to grow? Have they shared any valid concerns? Or are they just tearing you down? Maybe it’s time to set boundaries and rethink your friendships.

I also like Alice Walker’s quote because it challenges me to evaluate my actions as a friend. In this time of passionate opposing views regarding the pandemic or politics, I’ve questioned if I need to remain friends with a person when I find myself wanting to block a friend or hide their posts from my feed. There should be mutual respect in friendships, and sometimes, I do not respect views expressed by some friends. I’ve wondered about some of my friends on social media, particularly when they don’t seem to be a reflection of who I am or aspire to be. If we were real friends, I would consider having a meaningful dialogue with them instead of silencing them. In the end, given my limited time and energy, I need to decide if the effort to maintain a friendship is worth it.

I remind myself of why we became friends. I consider how surrounding myself with only like-minded individuals furthers the divide I see in this country. So I continue to have friends or family in my social media feed whose political views I disagree with but who wholeheartedly supported me during my life’s milestones and career change. I’d rather be a person who builds bridges than walls. However, there are times when unhealthy, abusive, or toxic friendships must end. I think part of being more mature is developing the wisdom to know how and when to set boundaries.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people and good friends is vital, particularly during challenging or tumultuous times in one’s life. Friends do not always agree with everything you do or say, but they ultimately share your values or interests and respect you or care for your wellbeing. If friends disagree with what you are doing or oppose your pursuits – are their concerns valid? Are they voicing concerns because they care about you? Are they opening up your realm of possibilities, giving you a new perspective, or are they trying to keep you in your place?

One of the big reasons I pursued nursing is because a good friend challenged me. When I got laid off as an engineer and expressed interest in staying in engineering, he told me he’d help me but asked if it’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. He asked if I could see myself doing anything else. I took to heart what he asked, and I reflected, prayed, and did a lot of inner searching. His challenge and my resulting self-reflection are what prompted me to finally take action on my career change and go into nursing. I had thought about changing careers nearly a decade before but decided not to pursue it for various reasons. With my friend’s reminder and the new-found freedom I had from getting laid off and getting severance pay, I resurrected my dream to change careers. Good friends don’t always go along with what you say, but they help you be your best by providing a different perspective.

Good friends are there for you, not just in happy or triumphant moments but also in difficult moments. Nursing school brought me to tears more than once, and it helped to have good friends and family around me. When I doubted myself or my abilities, these good friends and family members listened to me and lifted me when I was down. Hopefully, you have good friends in your life. If not, seek out good friends. There is an abundance of people in this world – there is no need to choose friends who do not respect or appreciate you. I wish you good friendships and good luck for this new year!

COVID Crisis and Self-Care

Recently, I decided to cut back on the number of days a week I work. I recognize I’m blessed to have the option to work as many or as few days as a contract RN and COVID tester. Not everyone has the financial ability to work less. I know it’s a privilege to have this flexibility. Because I’ve spent my entire adult life working a minimum of 40 hours per week, I felt obligated to work full-time as a nurse in this pandemic, even though I have a per diem contract position.

Me in my “uniform” during a typical workday.

I found myself exhausted after my five-day-a-week shifts and having to continually re-arrange my family’s schedule. I am a COVID tester for a studio. Due to ever-changing production schedules, I don’t often know what time I am to start work until the night before, and I usually do not know what time the workday will end my day has already begun. My start times last week ranged from 4:30a to 5:30a. My days ended anywhere from 2-4 pm. On days I work, my husband has to juggle conference calls while coordinating preschool dropoffs. If I don’t get out early enough, he also has to squeeze in pickups during his workday.

Besides worrying about my breadwinner husband adjusting his life to accommodate my work schedule, I began to worry about my physical well-being from working so much and being exposed to hundreds of people a week. During the past two weeks, four different nurses I work with called off work due to some illness or another. Other people seemed tenser because they discovered more people in their work or personal life had come down with COVID.

Since Thanksgiving, I get tested for COVID every day I work. I appreciated the daily tests confirming I didn’t have COVID but realized my body was feeling worn out. Even though I’m naturally an extrovert, I didn’t understand how exhausting it can be to serve hundreds of diverse clients every week. My unpredictable work schedule was also adding to my daily stress. One day I was so tired after work, I think I fell asleep on my way home at a stoplight. I know driving drowsy is extremely dangerous – I didn’t realize how tired I was.

One of the nurses I worked with is a retired hospital nurse. She is a seasoned nurse who now works per diem for “fun” during her retirement. She shared that when she was younger, she always volunteered to work overtime. It resulted in her developing hypertension and needing medication. Since then, she has become an advocate for self-care and setting healthy boundaries. In addition to her, I’ve heard similar messages from bloggers I follow: Do not do things out of obligation or because it’s what you think others expect of you. Do what is best for yourself.

Despite my co-worker’s advice, I didn’t consider cutting back on the days I worked until a friend suggested it. During a phone call, she commented on how tired I sounded and heard my increased anxiety about people around me getting sick. After some thought, I requested fewer days from my boss this past Sunday. This week was the first week I didn’t work five days in a row! I felt guilty at first. However, as COVID cases and deaths rise here in Los Angeles, I feel more secure in my decision. I’ve also had more patience and energy for work and home since I’ve had more days to rest this week.

Nurses in hospitals are overwhelmed and have contacted me to let me know all their units are short-staffed. The patient loads are high and over ratio. New grads are getting pulled off orientation to help. As much as I feel like I’m struggling to get a hospital job right now, it seems like a blessing I don’t have one. I’m frustrated and relieved at the same time. I’m glad I get to work as a nurse and contribute somehow, but I’m also thankful that I’m not like my friends and family working in hospitals witnessing the COVID deaths and raging illness. They are frustrated when they see or hear about people not following public health orders to wear masks or avoid social gatherings because they suffer the consequences in a more profound way than the general public.

To all healthcare workers right now, particularly those in hospitals, I am praying for you and grateful for you. I hope you are protected and supported and able to do what you need for self-care. I hope this vaccine is effective and able to remove the burden of worrying about getting COVID or bringing it home to your loved ones. I am doing what I think is best to ensure my family or I do not add to your patient ratios. I’m trying to keep myself safe and healthy so that I may be part of the care team in a hospital someday soon! It took a while to be aware of my own needs, but I have cut back on the days I work for my well-being. For everyone reading this, please practice self-care and keep yourself safe!

Interview Tips and Tricks for Nursing School, Clinical Volunteer Roles, or Nursing Jobs

Some of you might be applying and preparing for nursing school interviews. December is when I began my nursing school interviews a couple of years ago. Out of the schools to which I applied, only two required in-person interviews as part of their application process. Luckily, I wasn’t a stranger to interviews by that point. Before nursing school, I interviewed for a competitive clinical volunteer program and eventually helped interview and screen applicants when I became a leader. It seems to be that time of year again for interviews because I landed my first new grad RN interview this past week for a local hospital. Since it appears to be interview season for myself and others, here are some of my suggestions for interviews, based on my experience and advice from friends and professors. They include anecdotes of my interview blunders, so you hopefully learn from my mistakes!

Research the organization

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Do your research before the interview:

  1. Research the organization by reviewing its website and doing an internet search. You can research companies and hospitals and see what their current and former employees have to say about them on Glassdoor.com.
  2. Review mission statements. What can you share about yourself that matches or aligns with their mission statement?
  3. If you know any current or former employees/students, ask them about the unit, program, or culture.

Doing this research will help you prepare a more specific answer to the interview question, “Why do you want to be part of this school/hospital/unit/organization?” You’ll also be able to find information about considerations you might have to reduce the number of questions you ask during your interview.

Anticipate the questions and prepare your answers

Be prepared to answer questions from your application essays and be able to speak to your resume. You should be able to discuss or explain anything you have provided in your application. Be prepared to talk about yourself and give them an idea of who you are. Interviews with nursing school, volunteer programs, or entry-level positions do not typically ask many technical questions – people want to learn about YOU. (Although, I did have a couple of clinical-type questions in my latest interview).

What I found interesting is that nursing school interview questions were not much different than job interview questions or even questions from my volunteer program. Below are some common questions one should be prepared to answer or discuss during an interview:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why did you become a nurse? or Why do you want to be a nurse?
  • Why do you want to be part of this school / hospital / unit / organization?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
  • Tell me about a time you managed a challenging situation or overcame a challenge.
  • Describe a time you had a conflict or disagreement with a colleague.
  • What do you have to offer? / What makes you different from other candidates? / Why should we hire you? / What can you bring?
  • What would you do if you had a difficult or agitated patient?
  • What would you do if you had a difficult preceptor?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
  • Do you have any questions?

For my volunteer program and nursing schools, other questions I encountered were:

  • How have you prepared for this program?
  • How have you ensured your successful completion of this program?

Finally, for additional interview questions, there are some great ones listed online. I found other nursing school interview questions at https://allnurses.com/common-nursing-school-interview-questions-t553788/. I looked at job applications for new grad programs, even ones to which I wasn’t applying, and I pulled some of the following questions from an application:

  • What academic, clinical skills, and personal attributes do you have that will enhance your success in this program and your professional role as a nurse?
  • Cultural competence and respect for others are important in nursing practice. Describe a few ways that you have incorporated cultural sensitivity and competence into your own nursing practice.
  • Please briefly describe your professional/career goals.

Allnurses.com also has forums for people applying to specific nursing schools or hospital new grad programs – the discussion boards usually give you an idea of interview schedules, formats (in-person vs. virtual), or questions. When applying to specific programs, it’s helpful to know if candidates are already interviewing to assess if the program is still considering your application. It’s also good to keep in touch with your cohort after graduation for this same reason. My classmates received interview invitations and job offers to join a new grad program I applied to, while I heard nothing. It took over a month to receive my official program rejection, but I anticipated it since my classmates had interviewed for the same program a month prior.

One of my friends recently finished her first year and a half working as a nurse and interviewed for a new RN job. She shared possible interview questions with me. For more seasoned nurses, a potential employer may ask the following questions:

  • What do you look for in a leader? How do you emulate that?
  • What do you like about nursing? Dislikes?
  • What do you find rewarding about this profession?
  • How do you deal w/someone unsatisfied w/ your care?
  • Tell me a time about a clinical emergency and how you reacted.
  • Tell me a time you had to deal w/ difficult MD.

Here’s another great interview question I found in a Facebook group: Tell us about a time you had an error in judgement. What happened, what did you learn, and how has this shaped you into the nurse you are today?

Practice and use prompts

One interview preparation technique my friend used was to write out her responses to potential interview questions. She placed the questions and notes about her answers on the wall behind her computer and camera. During her virtual interview, she was able to glance at her notes, when needed, to help her answer questions. I think this idea is genius!

I do not recommend reading word-for-word written answers to interview questions. However, writing answers may help clarify what you want to convey about yourself or allow you to draw upon stories and examples to share more readily. I love my friend’s technique because little notes or prompts help prevent blanking out during an interview. This technique is similar to giving speeches or presentations: Never recite notes or slides, but use them as prompts to remind you what to say or share.

After writing out your responses to potential interview questions, practice sharing your answer out loud. Practice with yourself in a mirror, and later, practice with another human being. I am planning to do this with friends and former classmates. Mock interviews serve as dress rehearsals and allow for feedback for improvement and adjustments before actual interviews.

Dress professionally

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

For my clinical volunteer program, applicants were instructed to dress professionally for their interview. I dressed in business casual clothing and opted not to wear a blazer. It wasn’t until I became a leader that I discovered that they docked points for applicants not wearing a blazer or suit to their interview. After learning this, I made sure to wear a blazer (or business suit) during future clinical interviews.

The following year, for one nursing school interview, I spilled tea all over my blazer as I drove to the interview. I set my tea on the passenger seat (it didn’t fit in the cup holder), and somehow my tumbler tipped and spilled its entire contents onto my blazer resting below it. Luckily, my blazer was black, and it was difficult to tell it was even wet. I dried it as best as I could once I arrived and parked at my interview location. I was able to wear my blazer during my interview, even though it was damp. It just smelled fragrant – like lavender earl grey tea! My lesson from this is never to drink colored beverages going to an interview and maybe carry a Tide pen!

For nursing job interviews, job applicants typically do not wear scrubs to an interview unless they arrive directly from a shift or are interviewing during a break in their workday. If you’ll need to wear scrubs to an interview, explain that to your interviewer beforehand.

Bring copies and material for notes

For your interview, bring extra copies of your resume or your nursing portfolio to share with interviewers. Bring material (ex. pen, blank paper) to take notes. Collect the contact information or business cards of your interviewers.

Arrive early

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Arrive early enough to park and walk to your interview! Unfortunately, I was about a minute late to my top choice nursing school interview. I arrived at the interview location 40 minutes early but was unable to find parking. I had been to the site twice before and easily parked at the adjacent parking structure both times. I thought arriving 40 minutes before my interview would give me extra time to park elsewhere on campus if needed. I was wrong.

All lots, even the farthest ones on campus, were full. It was raining and a Tuesday of the first week of the semester; most students were attending class or petitioning themselves in courses. I drove around multiple times and tried parking on all parking lots listed on the campus map. I even went through the nearby neighborhood, but the residential area required permits to park. I finally found street parking outside a restaurant blocks from the campus beyond a freeway entrance. Only 60 minutes of parking was allowed per street signs, but I was willing to take my chances. I could go over a little time and possibly get a parking ticket over missing my interview at my top school!

After I parked, I ran as quickly as possible and called my interviewer to let her know I was on my way but running late. I arrived at the front office out of breath and wet from the rain. Fortunately, I was only a minute late, and they allowed me to interview. Lucky for me, that school accepted me into their program!

These days, because of the pandemic, many interviews are done virtually. Get yourself set up early enough to allow your computer to load, log in to the program used for the interview, and be comfortable. Make sure the background the interviewer is seeing is free of mess and clutter or anything distracting. A trick an old co-worker of mine used was to ensure she seated herself in front of a wall of her awards and certificates during a virtual interview. If you have a place where you hang your diploma(s), awards, etc., consider that wall as your background.

Be confident and calm

If you’ve prepared for your interview, you should be confident. You have made it farther than other candidates by even getting offered an interview! If you don’t feel confident or are anxious for your interview, practice slow deep breaths. Inhale over 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Exhale for 4 seconds and hold your breath for 4 seconds. Repeat this breathing pattern to calm yourself. (I learned this breathing exercise from a live talk from Brene Brown, but I guess this is something first responders also practice)!

Hopefully, you arrived to your interview early. Go to a restroom beforehand, look at yourself in the mirror, compliment yourself, and practice wide-stances. Put your hands on your hips. Keep your back straight, shoulders back, and chest up. Make sure you are not physically sinking inward, which can give the impression of insecurity. Do your pep talk and superhero wide-stance practice immediately before your interview. (I learned this superhero confidence-building trick during a training workshop in my previous job). During the interview, remember to look your interviewers in the eyes as you talk to them.

Ask Questions

If you’ve done your research, but you still have questions, make a list and bring it to your interview. The interview also allows an applicant to discern if a position or organization is right for them. “Do you have any questions?” is a common question asked at the end of an interview. When prompted, you can draw from your list of questions.

Below is a list of possible topics one could consider before or during an RN job interview. Ideally, you would research these topics ahead of time and discover most of the answers before your interview. Some job considerations are from my friend while others are from a nursing school professor:

  • Training process?
  • Scheduling?
  • Performance expectations?
  • Employee performance review process?
  • Support in education? CE? Conferences?
  • Opportunities to teach/mentor?
  • Involvement in shared governance
  • Why do you like working here?
  • Work environment?
  • Is this a magnet hospital?
  • When was your last accreditation? May I see the report?
  • Is this physical facility a place where I’d want to seek care?
  • Take a tour to see staff working. Are they happy?
  • Ask to visit unit(s). Observe the number of patients per RN on the board.
  • What are the benefits?
  • Is a contract expected?
  • When are people eligible for raises?
  • When does vacation start accruing?
  • Is childcare available or offered?
  • Meet with staff who will be in charge of you.
  • Are nurses allowed to do advocacy?
  • Is quality improvement top-down or driven by nurses? Do nurses drive performance improvement?
  • If in a clinic, is the medical director strong and stable?
  • What is nursing turnover like in the unit?
  • Care coordination?
  • Do finance people speak same language as nurses? What are their priorities?
  • What partnerships does the nursing departement have with patient families? What resources are available across the continuum and community?

Some questions to consider asking during nursing schools interviews are:

  • What is the NCLEX pass rate of your graduates?
  • How do you prepare your students for NCLEX? Are students required to do HESI or ATI or purchase UWorld?
  • What is the rate of people graduating in the recommended timeframe? How long does it typically take for people to get their degree in this program?
  • What is the clinical and lecture schedule? What is a typical day like for your students?
  • What is the size of the cohort?
  • What are the traits or practices of your most successful students?
  • What are the hospitals or clinics where clinicals have been held?
  • Are there student or faculty mentors?
  • Do you help with job search or placement?
  • How quickly do your graduates find jobs after graduating?
  • Where do your graduates typically work?

Write Thank You Notes

After your interview, write thank you notes to your interviewers. (You collected their contact info. during the interview, right?) Reiterate unique traits and strengths or clarify any uncertainties about yourself. You want to do this to be memorable and to give your interviewers confidence in choosing you. Express your gratitude and appreciation for the people that took the time to interview you. Emailing the thank you messages ensures quick delivery.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

I wrote this blog post as a resource for others but also for myself. I need these reminders, too! I like that I can now review this list before every nursing interview. Do you have interview questions to share or tips to add? I would love to hear them!

Thank you for reading! If you found this post helpful or appreciate anything from it, please like and share with others! Good luck to you and your endeavors, and good luck with your interviews!

COVID Restrictions and Kid-Friendly Resources

Thanks to an upsurge in COVID cases in Southern California, we have new stay-at-home orders in effect starting today. The Health Department does not recommend co-mingling or going to parks with other households. Playgrounds have shut down again. Dining at restaurants – even outdoors – is not allowed. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard to explain the changing rules to my preschooler. I’m a nurse trying to adhere to public health orders, but I’m also a concerned wife, daughter, and mother who wants to protect my family and loved ones from COVID. I found some complimentary child-friendly resources that explain COVID, hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. I’ve used them with my daughter and thought I’d share them here.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the series of books “A Kids Book About”… offered a free e-book “A Kids Book About Covid-19” by Malia Jones. It is still available for download here: https://akidsbookabout.com/products/a-kids-book-about-covid-19. My daughter and I read the e-book together, which helped her better understand social distancing and hand hygiene. (“A Kids Book About” offers other great books that help discuss complex topics such as death, cancer, and racism with children. I encourage other parents to check out the series)!

Another great book, also free, is “The Inside Book” by Matthew Griffiths. There’s graphics at the back of the book explaining handwashing, mask-wearing, and how to cover a cough or sneeze. This book is offered as a free download in various languages on the author’s website, https://mattcgriffiths.com/. There’s also an animated reading of the book at the same website and on YouTube.

On YouTube, the Dr. Binocs series offered by Peekaboo Kidz helps explain coronavirus and other science-related topics. (I discovered the series when I tried looking for kid-friendly information about pinworms. There was a pinworm outbreak at my daughter’s school a year ago, and I couldn’t find any preschool appropriate resource to explain it to my daughter)!

Life is hard enough to navigate during a pandemic. As a parent, it’s nice to have free tools to explain this pandemic and public health recommendations to my daughter (or younger patients)! I think these free resources above would be great to use for pediatric patient education. If you have other pediatric resources you use, please share! I would love to learn about them! Stay healthy and safe, friends!

Milestone: My first job as an RN!

Things have been hectic for me this week because I started a new job on Monday! I am a COVID tester for a studio! Hollywood studios have resumed filming and frequently test their cast and crew to ensure people do not have or spread COVID.

Photo by Shelly Still on Pexels.com

I found out Sunday night I got the job and was expected to work at 3:30a the next morning in a city about 45 minutes from my home (without traffic). I scrambled Sunday night searching for scrubs to purchase in-store, laundering them later at home, applying for professional liability insurance, reviewing, signing, submitting paperwork, and reading the policies and procedures manual. I also had to complete and submit an application for a new grad program due that same Sunday. I was up until about midnight and out the door by 2:30a. I was tired but running on adrenalin! I am like a substitute teacher – I don’t know where I’m going or what time I’m working until the afternoon before each workday. It’s been a whirlwind for me since Monday!

My former classmate referred me to my current job. I am lucky that I have such a supportive cohort – we frequently share new grad job opportunities. (TIP: Keep in touch with your classmates, even after you graduate)! He texted our cohort one afternoon. I immediately sent my resume to his contact, and I received a phone call less than a week later! It helped that I updated my resume and was prepared since I had been applying to new grad positions. It’s luck that I got this job, but “Luck is when opportunity and preparation meet.” A year ago, I found this quote, cut it out, and have it posted on my computer monitor as a reminder.

I encourage you to keep striving for your goals. Stay prepared, move forward, and use opportunities as they come along as stepping stones toward your ultimate goals. It’s funny how this opportunity came along just after I posted about rejection and failure last week. I don’t think it’s by accident; maybe I needed to lead by example. When you feel down and as if you’re not moving towards your goals, pick yourself up, and keep striving! Most importantly, when you lift yourself up, take others along with you!

Failure and Rejection as Feedback

I’ve received rejections from several of my job applications this week. Before Nursing, I’ve seriously job searched maybe once in my life. It resulted in me working for the same company for nearly two decades, so getting rejected from multiple job applications feels new to me. The rejections feel like getting a fail on a pass/fail school project. Unlike failing in school or doing poorly at work, I receive little feedback on my rejected job applications. I can’t evaluate areas I got “wrong” and study or practice to improve my job application. The process is honestly discouraging.

I have to remind myself that searching for a new grad nursing job can be a long process. New grad programs are very competitive, and it can take some time to receive a response. I applied to one of the programs in September but did not get a rejection notice until this week (mid-November)! In some ways, merely knowing I did not get the job satisfied my desire for any form of feedback.

I think about people who have jobs where rejection is expected, like entrepreneurs, actors, or politicians. If such people don’t land a client or don’t get a role, they move onward. Like them, I need to push past rejections and keep trying. This week, I heard a quote from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris: “I eat no for breakfast!” She has worked hard in her career to get where she is today, but her efforts have not been without many rejections and criticism. Rejection doesn’t stop her; it makes her more determined. I find the quote inspiring.

It seems like the universe is telling me something because this week, my preschooler’s favorite television show, “Dino Dana,” had a storyline about failure. One of the characters kept failing her practice exams in preparation for a big science exam and became discouraged. To encourage her, the character’s sister shares: “In science, you never fail, you just discover new ways of doing things wrong until you get them right.” Maybe this is true also in life. I am learning how to do things wrong until I get it right. Also, I realize I may not be doing anything “wrong” at all – I may not be a good fit for what jobs are available, given my specific interests in a specialty unit.

I’ve reached out to one of the potential employers to get feedback on improving my job application. I may not get any response, but I figure it cannot hurt. One of my classmates got into Nursing school by making such an effort. When she applied to our program the first time, she was rejected. She courageously asked for feedback on what would make her a stronger candidate. She took that feedback, applied it, and got accepted on her second attempt the following year! Without seeking feedback, she may not have known what to do to make her a more desirable candidate.

If you’re experiencing rejections or fails and feel discouraged, you are not alone. Being successful is not about avoiding failure; it is about how you choose to respond to failure. Rejection or failure doesn’t need to be negatively internalized but can be neutrally viewed as feedback. Consider rejection or failure as an opportunity to collect data for additional learning! You may not be the proper fit for a particular role or organization or you are simply discovering how to do things wrong as you learn how to get things right. Either way, eat “no” for breakfast, and keep going!

Election Day – Vote!

If you haven’t already done so, please exercise your right to vote. There’s more to decide on our ballots than which presidential candidate to choose. In California, we have 12 propositions. It’s interesting to see which ones Nurses Associations endorse. I also found it interesting how many non-healthcare related propositions used nurses in their ads, too. Is it any wonder that nurses are used to sway voters, considering nurses are regarded as the most trusted profession and regarded as heroes in a pandemic?

I’m not going to tell you which candidates or propositions to support; just please make sure you educate yourself on the candidates and issues and VOTE! In between nursing job applications and studying for my NRP certification, I spent my time evaluating the candidates and propositions and even hosted a Prop Party over Zoom with friends to better understand the proposed measures on the ballot. I went through every candidate and issue with my father yesterday. We had some good discussions about how some issues may not impact my parents or myself but may impact my daughter and her future. We traveled to the polling place together and voted as a family.

Voting is essential for our democracy, a way to make changes we wish to see in our city/state/country and yet another way we can advocate for the nursing profession and patients. Please participate in our democracy and vote! If you’ve already voted and you’re stressed or anxious about this election and its possible outcomes, The New York Times is offering something to distract you until the election results are finalized: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/30/style/election-stress-relief.html

Lying in Wait

For Christmas last year, I bought tickets for my husband and me to watch the musical “Hamilton” in Los Angeles during my semester break scheduled in May. I figured it would be a nice treat for us before my last nursing school semester. That was until the pandemic hit and canceled the show. While I was disappointed, I agreed with the CDC recommendations and state orders not to have large indoor gatherings. I figured I had already waited years to watch the show; I could wait a little while longer to enjoy it safely at a later time.

Once summer arrived, I was excited to learn that I could watch “Hamilton” from home on Disney+. However, I didn’t allow myself to subscribe to the streaming service until I graduated because I didn’t want to become distracted from studying. As a mini graduation gift to myself, I subscribed to Disney+ to watch “Hamilton” in August.

I know I’m years behind, but I finally watched and loved the musical, “Hamilton”! My preschooler has grown to love it too and will ask to play songs from the musical. She loves and will continuously replay the “The Schuyler Sisters,” “Satisfied,” and “Helpless.” Personally, “Wait for It” appeals to me. While “Wait for It” is the song of the musical’s anti-hero, Aaron Burr, I can identify with the feeling of waiting.

My favorite part of the song, “Wait for It” from “Hamilton”

Waiting to take the NCLEX

Life after nursing school requires a lot of patience. It’s almost anti-climactic to spend all this energy in an accelerated nursing program and graduate only to wait in what feels like forever to get permission from the nursing board to take the NCLEX. While other classmates’ accounts showed they conferred their degree soon after the semester ended, I had to wait for my transcripts to show I graduated weeks afterward. About a month after graduating, some of my classmates sat for their NCLEX; I still hadn’t received my authorization to test (ATT) from the testing company. I grew anxious and started to feel like I was on hold, waiting for my life to begin while everyone else was moving forward. I had to remind myself that my life was already in motion, and I had accomplished many of my life’s goals. I could choose to be content with my life as it was or wait for some external factor (like an ATT) before allowing myself to feel content.

I received my ATT about a month and a half post-graduation. I gave myself a little over a week after receiving my ATT to study and take my NCLEX. Passing the NCLEX took a lot of weight off my shoulders and made me eligible to apply to many more jobs. However, after passing the NCLEX and becoming a registered nurse, I continue to wait for: new graduate positions to open, status updates to job applications, and recommendations or replies to recommendation requests.

Waiting for a job offer

As an unemployed nursing graduate, I miss being in a clinical setting and am eager to return. I often feel like I’m not a real nurse since I’m not working. I want to work but don’t qualify for many RN jobs since I’m a recent graduate who hasn’t worked in an acute setting. I want a new grad position so I can get proper training as a novice nurse. However, I don’t want a new grad position doing any type of nursing in any setting. I am a second-career nurse. I evaluated my skills and desires to change careers, and I know I want to work in a specialty. I want to either start in that specialty or start in a role with a clear path leading me to it. I’m older, and I don’t want to waste time. I’m willing to wait a little while for a good opportunity for myself instead of broadly applying to jobs I don’t want.

While I wait for my first RN job, I am preparing myself for my career. I studied and took certification courses for PALS (pediatric advanced life support) and NRP (neonatal resuscitation program). I reached out to early-career and mid-career nurses to ask them about new grad programs and what it’s like to work in various hospitals. I revised and had people review my resume. I targeted specific people for recommendations for different job applications.

Even though I’m unemployed, I know I’ve done and continue to do what I can to prepare for my nursing career. Knowing how to delay gratification and wait for things allows me to enjoy my free time. I’m satisfied with the work I put in during school and after graduation. I don’t feel guilty when I take breaks from studying for certifications or job hunting; I genuinely enjoy myself. I get to explore Los Angeles and venture into areas I hadn’t seen before or finally watch shows I put off watching. The pandemic has put travel plans and trips to visit family and friends on hold, but I’m willing to wait for it. I can have fun doing other things while I wait to get a job (#funemployment).

Waiting as a skill

Learning how to wait while preparing and working toward your goals is a life skill. Like any skill, it may take some practice before you are good at it. For example, I decided to watch “Black Panther” the day before an Anatomy & Physiology midterm because it was opening weekend, and I figured I could study afterward. I loved the movie, but the pre-test movie resulted in a low midterm grade. It such a drop from my usual scores that my professor asked me what happened. I couldn’t admit to him that I watched a movie instead of studying the day before. I felt terrible that I jeopardized my prerequisite GPA to watch a film I could have easily watched another time. Luckily, I recovered; my prerequisite GPA was good enough to get accepted into competitive nursing programs. I did something similar again in nursing school. Eventually, I learned my lesson, which is why I refused to subscribe to Disney+ until after graduation. When I feel burnt out from studying, it’s too easy for me to feel like I need to escape, de-prioritize school, and take an overly long break. I realized my long-term goal of becoming a nurse was more critical than watching a long-awaited musical (and maybe I needed more frequent breaks and rewards for myself so that I wouldn’t feel burnt out)!

We need the recognition that some things, whether it be goals or skills, take time to cultivate. Learning how to prioritize and determine what needs immediate attention versus what can wait is as much a life skill as it is a nursing skill. It takes years to become a nurse. Sometimes, especially during prerequisites, it felt like I was getting nothing done since I was spending all my time in school and studying but had no degree or job to show for it. I could only hope all my efforts would lead me to my ultimate goal: a working RN. I’m still working towards my goal but appreciate that while waiting to become a nurse, I developed new skills, made new friends, and pushed my limits of what I thought was capable. Waiting has given me time to prepare and develop into the person I need to become a nurse. I’m still waiting to become a working nurse, but I know I haven’t wasted my time.

Waiting as a parent

Similarly, as a parent, life requires a lot of waiting and unknown. My husband and I can only hope that the love and attention we give our daughter leads her to be a smart and decent person with a happy, healthy life. I love what my doctor shared with me about parenting, “We can cultivate and fertilize the soil, but who knows what will take root and grow?” Even if I weren’t pursuing a second career, having a child demands patience and waiting. Have you ever had to deal with a toddler insisting on putting on their shoes or clothes? Or waiting for them to pee on a potty? Trust me – Parents understand waiting! I now have more patience and grace for myself because I continuously practice patience and grace with my child.

Wait for It

The “waiting” we do in life is often the journey to our destination. We can feel stuck in “waiting” or allow for growth and development to occur. In some ways, the waiting is fun – it’s an unfolding of a story, a discovery of who we have yet to become; it implies potential. If you ever think you’re stagnant and waiting for life to happen, know you’re not alone. I feel this way from time to time. Sometimes, we need a little reminder of the power we have over the choices we make. You are the only thing you can control, so set your priorities and do what you can to move towards your goals. Other times, we need a little encouragement. When I’m doing what I can but feel I am not getting the results as quickly as I want and start to doubt myself, I remind myself of the lyrics from “Wait for It”: “I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still – I’m lying in wait”.

Scrubs Alternatives: Aligning your purchases with your values

A popular scrubs manufacturer released and took down an ad this week due to its controversy and social media backlash. The advertisement featured a female DO in pink scrubs reading a book, “Medical Terminology for Dummies” upside-down. I completely missed this ad until I saw a post by the medical blogger, @RealDoctorMike, criticizing the company: https://youtu.be/aqj7T-wes2c #WomenInMedicine

As a consumer, I realize where I spend my money makes a difference. Who and what I support with my purchases matter to me. I don’t have the opportunity to research all businesses I interact with, but I try to act according to my values when I’m informed.

If you’re considering buying scrubs and want an alternative to the ones offered by the manufacturer who posted the inflammatory ad, consider Sway Scrubs. Sway Scrubs (swayscrubs.com) launched this year and is a female, Black-owned business. I have no affiliation with Sway Scrubs but have been considering purchasing their scrubs to support more minority-owned businesses. Plus, they have cute designs, so I’m eager to try them once I decide to buy more scrubs!

Image from swayscrubs.com

Since graduating from nursing school and looking for jobs, I’ve held off on buying more scrubs if my future place of employment has specific uniform requirements. I own two pairs of Code Happy scrubs outfits because that is what my nursing program offered. I’ve worn and would recommend Code Happy scrubs. I would purchase them again because they fit my short, stout body well, and the price was reasonable. I’m so vertically-challenged that when I order petite-sized pants, I usually have to alter them. I was honestly shocked that I didn’t have to hem the Code Happy petite pants – the drawstring waist and ankles make all the difference!

Below is a pic of me in my Code Happy scrubs during Nurse’s Week this past Spring. The hospital was celebrating healthcare workers as heroes – hence, the Wonder Woman statue in the back. Women in healthcare are heroes – many are pioneers or have had to endure extra criticism just because of their gender. Women in healthcare should be celebrated and respected. We need to encourage diversity in healthcare and recognize the importance of each team member in caring for patients or clients. Titles of DO, MD, RN, LPN, CNA, RT, Housekeeping, etc. should not change how others treat you. Titles may indicate the scope of practice and education, but it shouldn’t dictate how or if others treat you with dignity and respect. Also, an inclusive culture welcomes and encourages all genders into both medicine and nursing. 

Here is a snapshot of me in Code Happy scrubs during an Advanced Med-Surge clinical. I liked how the Code Happy scrubs fit my hard-to-fit body, but I also liked all the storage. As you can see, I took advantage of all the pockets my scrubs offered!

Unfortunately, a favored scrubs manufacturer created an ad that belittled female healthcare workers and DOs. Thankfully, the company has since removed the ad, and hopefully, an educational moment occurred for the company and others. We all have biases, but our actions and lack of awareness may promote others’ disadvantage. We can evaluate how such prejudice affects others through the language and images we use and the businesses we support. Are we empowering others or tearing them down? Are we causing division or uniting others in healthcare? Are we supporting companies that align with our values? As I’ve yet to purchase scrubs beyond nursing school, I would love to hear your recommendations for scrubs or your experience with other scrub manufacturers!

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Update: As soon as I posted this, I noticed @nurselifern pointed out the same company created a similar ad poking fun at male RNs. A male RN in one of their ads was also reading a “…Dummies” book upside down! I’m really shocked this wasn’t uncovered or discussed sooner. We need to support diversity and inclusion in healthcare! I’m amazed that a company that caters to healthcare professionals and relies on their support could spend time, money, and resources to insult and belittle them in their marketing campaigns!

Donating Blood during the Pandemic

Last month, I convinced a former nursing school classmate to join me in giving blood. She had never donated before, so I was so excited for her, but I was also happy someone was willing to join me! Is it sad that the only time I feel I can be “social” during the pandemic is when I’m doing things like going to school or donating blood? If you’re like my friend and have never given blood or wonder what blood donations are like during a pandemic, this post is for you!

Donors receive gift cards and discounts.

Aside from supporting someone else’s life, donors got perks such as gift certificates and discounts to restaurants or retailers like Amazon. Depending on the blood drive, donors can be entered into prize drawings or receive items like water bottles. Donors typically get water, juice, and snacks after their donation, too. Recently, the American Red Cross announced they would test blood donations for COVID antibodies – this free antibody test is a significant new perk in donating blood!

Blood donors get free COVID-19 antibody testing.

My friend and I were both eager to get the COVID antibody test for free. We knew of healthcare workers and personally worked with a nurse who showed no COVID symptoms but tested positive for antibodies. “Antibody testing may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether an individual experienced COVID-19 symptoms. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity” (redcross.org). Regardless, we wondered if we would have positive antibody results and secretly hoped we were one of those asymptomatic people with possibly protective COVID antibodies.

Make a donation appointment early – appointments fill up quickly.

Before the pandemic, many blood drives accepted walk-in donors without appointments. Now, anyone donating must make an appointment ahead of time. Many drives fill up for several weeks or even a month in advance.

There are many blood drives – make an appointment for a location/date/time convenient for you.

We found a blood drive and made a donation appointment at a beachside hotel in Marina Del Rey, here in Southern California. I decided to pick this hotel in particular, because I liked their restaurant and knew they had a scenic outdoor dining patio. I figured I could brunch with my classmate as a mini celebration to her inaugural blood donation but also to us graduating from nursing school. We had not celebrated our graduation together in-person due to the pandemic. We had spent enough time together at clinicals and lunch breaks in hospitals during the pandemic, however, that we thought an outdoor post-graduation brunch would pose minimal risk.

The blood drive was at a hotel right on the marina. It was in a ballroom with windows overlooking the beach, in an area separate from their dining patio.

Save time and use RapidPass for pre-donation reading and screening.

To save time completing questionnaires and screening questions before the actual donation, donors can answer health history questions and complete the pre-donation reading using their computer or mobile phone the day of the donation via the RapidPass application. Travel, medications, and certain kinds of activities may make people ineligible to donate blood. Doing the pre-donation reading via RapidPass may help a person discover whether they should donate blood before showing up to a blood drive.

I used RapidPass (https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/manage-my-donations/rapidpass.html) to minimize the amount of time I had to sit and wait in a room filled with strangers. While appointments ensure spacing between donors and minimal crowding, I still felt uncomfortable at the prospect of spending an hour in an indoor, enclosed room with random people. (I don’t know why, but I never had this concern during clinicals at hospitals. Maybe it’s because I had to be at my clinicals, but blood donations are entirely voluntary). Upon arrival, I showed the registration volunteers my photo ID and RapidPass confirmation barcode. After that, it was a quick process for the temperature and hemoglobin screening before my actual blood donation.

Wear a mask. If you are sick, visit a doctor or stay home.

The American Red Cross requires blood donors to wear a face cover or mask and keep their mask on upon their arrival and during their appointment. They also screen donors to ensure they are not running a fever or exhibit other symptoms. My temperature was taken twice by two different people before I gave blood. The registration volunteers asked me to use hand sanitizer, and everyone wore masks and displayed proper hand hygiene. I appreciated all the precautions during my appointment.

Although donors get free COVID antibody screening, if people are sick or have COVID symptoms, they should get screened for COVID and diagnosed elsewhere. “The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test” (redcross.org). If I had an active infection, I wouldn’t want to risk exposing blood drive volunteers, staff, and other donors to my illness, even if I thought it was only a cold. I would hope others would do the same and quarantine themselves according to CDC recommendations if they were sick.

Hemoglobin levels will be tested and must be normal.

Before every donation, the American Red Cross gathers a drop of blood by pricking a potential donor’s finger and tests that sample for hemoglobin levels. The process is very similar to the point of care glucose testing I did during clinicals. I tried giving blood in August but could not since my hemoglobin levels were too low, which was likely caused by low iron.

Because the American Red Cross no longer accepts walk-in appointments, anytime a potential donor is turned away from giving blood that same day, the Red Cross cannot quickly fill that newly-vacant appointment. The pandemic has severely impacted the usual avenues of blood drives at schools, offices, or churches since these groups have not been meeting in-person or on-campus. To ensure I could donate and not waste a donor spot, I decided to take some iron supplements a week before my September donation appointment. Luckily, it raised my iron levels high enough that I was able to donate blood. I only needed one finger prick to show my hemoglobin was within normal limits! There have been times when I required a second sample to qualify as having normal hemoglobin levels. Or, like in August, the second sample confirmed that I was below normal limits. (For additional information about iron levels and blood donations, check out: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/before-during-after/iron-blood-donation/iron-informationforallblooddonors.html)

Masked and lying down while donating blood.

After all the screening questions and tests were complete in a makeshift cubicle area, the staff person led me to the room’s blood donation section. While you donate blood, you lie on a cushioned table that is as comfortable as the doctors’ offices’ exam tables. I was fascinated by the venipuncture and blood donation process and asked the person who collected my blood if she had any tips. Unlike some of my personal experiences during nursing school, she was confident in poking me and didn’t struggle to find a vein. Poking people all day for the past ten years made her skilled at venipuncture – I hope to be just as confident and proficient someday! (Tip: go for a vein you can feel, not one you can only see)

Full transparency: the collection needle is big.

I will not lie – seeing the needle they used to collect my blood was a little intimidating. I had never been afraid of giving blood before, but it had been a while. I had never seen or used a needle that huge (16-17 gauge) on a person or mannequin in all of my nursing school! The needle they used reminded me of a draw needle (used to draw up medication from a vial, typically more massive than any injection needle I ever used on any patient). Because a pint of blood is needed instead of merely test tube quantities, the collection needle needs to be big enough to allow for decent blood flow. Otherwise, the donation process would take much longer.

Once the needle is in, it typically takes no more than 10-15 minutes to donate blood. Some old co-workers I know would try to race each other and see who could fill up the bag and donate the fastest. I think their donation took only 3-5 minutes on one occasion. However, I was in no rush and was honestly just happy to be out of my house and around people.

What my arm looked like later that evening, after removing the bandage. I got a minor bruise at the puncture site. This small bruise didn’t hurt and disappeared after a couple of days.

After the actual donation, prepare to rest for 10-15 minutes before leaving

After my donation was complete and they bandaged me up, they invited me to sit and relax in the snack area . There is usually a table of juice and snacks like granola bars, trail mix, or crackers and cookies at every blood drive. Donors are encouraged to sit and rest and snack on something after their donation, before they leave. This also allows the staff to observe donors for any reactions to the donation.

I had a friend who wanted to skip sitting and resting after her donation and ended up fainting as she walked out the door. If you feel light-headed after donating blood, sit down and let someone know! Blood loss and dehydration can cause people to experience orthostatic hypotension or dizziness upon standing or changing positions.

It’s essential to hydrate just as much after a donation as much as it is before donating blood. The hotel restaurant was having a happy hour in their outdoor patio that afternoon. As tempting as it was (I haven’t been to a happy hour since before the pandemic), alcohol is not recommended after donating blood. I stayed hydrated!

Snack selection and view after my blood donation.
In addition to my snacks, I got to appreciate a clear sunny day, palm trees, and a beach view for my blood donation

You may need to modify activities after your donation.

Like alcohol, strenuous exercise is not recommended the same day after donating blood. If you think you need a high-intensity workout the day of your donation, do it before giving blood. Years ago, when I had daily running routines and ran marathons, I would schedule my workouts before donating blood or use a donation day as a rest day. Give your body at least the evening to recover from donating before resuming working out heavily. [Un?-] fortunately, regularly working out hard-core is not something I’ve been doing recently, so I didn’t have to reschedule anything.

While you can probably resume your workout schedule the next day after a donation, your body still needs time to recover from the entire process. For some donors, iron supplementation is recommended after donating (https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/before-during-after/iron-blood-donation/iron-informationforfrequentdonors.html). Regardless of who you are, to allow enough time for proper recovery, whole blood donors must wait 56 days between donations.

Make a plan to donate again!

I’m not eligible to donate whole blood again until next month; I plan to donate once 56 days have passed since my last donation. My friend wants to do it again, too. Donating blood helps replenish an impacted blood supply. It is an easy, smooth process, I get to ask highly experienced professionals about venipuncture tips to support my nursing practice, and I get to invite friends to join me! Plus, my friend and I like the idea of regularly getting a free COVID-19 antibody test!

I encourage you to donate!

To find a blood drive near you and sign up for a donation appointment, please visit: https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive