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!

….

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

Taking the NCLEX for the first time

I’ve been scarce here because I took the NCLEX last week. I was busy studying and preparing for the NCLEX. The NCLEX is the national exam that nurses must take to gain licensure. Nurses cannot practice nursing or work as nurses without their license; it’s what makes a nurse a “registered” nurse.

After impatiently waiting, I received my authorization to test from the testing company on Monday, September 14, at 9:47 pm. I took the NCLEX for the first time on Thursday, September 24, at 1:00 pm. I wanted to give myself at least two weeks to study. However, I was anxious to take the NCLEX before the end of the month because a job application was closing on September 28. Additionally, starting on October 1, the minimum number of exam questions would increase from 60 to 75. I studied as much as I could in those ten days, taking a day or two off to say goodbye to a good friend who suddenly decided to move across the country. It would have been nice to focus solely on studying, but life happens even as we make plans.

On the day of the exam, my friend/old classmate/neighbor walked with me to my testing facility. Just a couple of weeks before, I had done the same for her when she took her NCLEX. I hadn’t received my authorization to test when so many of my classmates got to take the exam. It was finally my turn!

I took my time with the exam and spent over an hour answering the items presented to me. My computer shut off at 60 questions, the minimum number required to pass the NCLEX. I was relieved when it shut off at 60 questions since I knew the computer-adapted exam could be much longer. The four practice exams I took and passed also shut off at 60 questions. The one practice exam I took and failed reached the maximum of 130 questions before shutting off. I felt the computer shutting off at 60 questions was a good sign.

Me, right after the NCLEX, outside the testing facility, crossing my fingers that I passed!

The testing company does not share official results until 6-8 weeks after the exam. However, in California, nursing licenses post as little as two days after an NCLEX is taken and passed. License numbers are issued by the Board of Registered Nursing and listed publicly by the Department of Consumer Affairs. My friend shared she could search and find posted license numbers as soon as midnight, two days after an exam. I decided to look up my name on Saturday, September 26, shortly after midnight. My parents and husband were with me as I tried to search for my name. The video below is my recorded reaction.

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

*My imperfect attempt at lettering the title of this post. I could have spent more time making it pretty, but I would have never published my post. It would have been ridiculous and ironic to delay my post to make my lettering nicer, given my post’s subject, so I went with it.

I had my annual physical yesterday with my primary care physician, whom I’ve been going to for over 20 years. I like her because she takes time to talk to me and check in on my emotional and mental state rather than focus solely on my physical ailments. She was happy and excited to learn I had graduated from nursing school. She asked whether I planned to have more kids. I shared my anxiety over my ability to have another healthy child at my advanced maternal age. I started to talk about parenting and the guilt I feel about being an older mom to my daughter. She knows me well, however, and knows I can be overly critical of myself.

I responded that this was the problem with being a perfectionist; I recognize I can be needlessly hard on myself. She declared, “I want to eliminate the word ‘perfectionist.’ What if we replaced perfectionist with ‘overly critical’? No one wants to be overly critical!”

“What if we replaced ‘perfectionist’ with ‘overly critical’? No one wants to be overly critical!”

Dr. M

I tried to explain I am not proud to be a perfectionist and am trying to change. Still, I shared how my perfectionist attitude got me through pre-requisites and helped me complete a competitive accelerated nursing program. She shared how she can relate to this and proceeded to tell her story when she was younger.

When she was in medical school, residents were required to go to counseling. She met with the counselor, who eventually noted, “You have a harsh critic inside, don’t you?” The counselor encouraged her not to be so critical, “You don’t yell and scream at a two-year-old to learn their alphabet. You don’t yell and scream at a toddler to get them to walk. You don’t have to be so difficult on yourself”. My doctor defiantly declared to her counselor that she had no intention to change since her harsh critic served her well. My doctor rationalized to her counselor that she accomplished her goals and got to medical school because of her “harsh critic.” Her counselor responded that she didn’t do those things BECAUSE of her harsh critic; she completed those things DESPITE her.

I appreciated my doctor’s story because it paints an alternative to being “overly critical.” As a parent, I can relate to the patience and compassion needed to teach a child a new skill. I could scream and make my daughter cry about brushing and flossing her teeth, for instance, but there are other ways I can guide and encourage her. In the same way, I can choose different ways to talk to and motivate myself. I don’t have to suffer so much by my internal critic or be perfect to achieve my goals.

I have had to consciously and regularly examine the toll of aiming for perfection in nursing school. I shared how I would reason, “I could kill myself to get 100% on a care plan, or, I could spend more time with my family and get a 93%.” After hearing this, my doctor exclaimed, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” She echoed what I have struggled to remind myself over the years.

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

Dr. M

There’s a book entitled “Good to Great” by James C. Collins that my pastor talked about during one of his homilies years ago. From it, my pastor learned and shared, “Good is the enemy of great.” I never got around to reading the best-selling book, but that message stuck with me: I would challenge myself to do better. I’d ask myself if my work or actions were the best I could do. At some point, however, I’d get discouraged and have an all-or-nothing attitude. If I couldn’t do things as well as I thought I should, I didn’t want to do it at all, or I’d scrap an entire project. I’d be ashamed of myself and compare myself to others. Striving to be perfect, I would feel frustrated, resentful, and spent. However, years since that homily, I’ve often thought, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

While I do not advocate living one’s life by always doing only the bare minimum, sometimes the bare minimum maintains my sanity. “Good enough” has allowed me to survive and move forward from perceived failure. I’m learning to ask myself more often, “What’s it going to take?” and “Is it worth it?” (like in writing dreaded care plans) or “How can I approach this without so much suffering”? I still need reminders to be gentle with myself and that not everything has to be perfect to be great, so it was nice to hear my doctor affirm my previous thought.

I appreciated my doctor taking the time to remind me: perfect is the enemy of good. No one is perfect. Humans are imperfect and fallible, and it’s our struggles that lead to our growth…And sometimes, “good enough” is pretty frickin’ remarkable.

September 11 Reflection

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September 11 is a date in our nation where we remember the loss of thousands of lives due to a terrorist attack in 2001- it's sad reflecting on that day in history… At the same time, on September 11 in 2020, I recognize the pain and grief people are experiencing today. We're fighting a pandemic that's already claimed thousands of Americans' lives. Many are struggling with unemployment, social inequities, and racism in a volatile environment. Southern California's skies have changed yellow and orange as fires devastate the West coast, claiming people's homes and lives…There's a lot to process that simply cannot be ignored – it's to the point where the air i breathe is literally deemed unhealthy. My worries about when I'll finally be able to take the NCLEX and get a job are silly compared to what others are dealing with and the urgent needs facing people today… . . I'm an unlicensed, unemployed, nursing graduate – not on the frontlines fighting fires or medical emergencies. However, I'm also a wife, daughter, mother, and friend who is capable and cares deeply about others… . . When I feel helpless or overwhelmed, I try focusing and taking action on the things I *CAN* do… some of those things I'm doing are: praying for others, calling and connecting with friends, preparing healthy food for my family, writing postcards encouraging citizens to vote… I'm not doing anything heroic, but my small actions are done out of love… which is always better than acting out of fear… . . If you're feeling overwhelmed today, know you're not alone. Sometimes you have to focus on immediate needs before you can be of service to others-you need to survive before you can thrive… . . Stay safe, and take care of yourselves!

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Press on with Purpose

Last week, the world discovered that Chadwick Boseman, an actor best known for portraying The Black Panther, died at the age of 43 after a 4-year battle with cancer. He played a superhero and legends on the screen, but as we learn more about him and his life, we realize he was a heroic icon himself. While he battled cancer and underwent treatments, he visited sick children in hospitals and continued to film movies without revealing his illness.

Chadwick Boseman used his gifts and talent to make a positive impact in the world. He found his purpose and pursued it with a passion. Below is an excerpt from a 2018 commencement speech he gave at Howard University where he speaks about his struggles in pursuit of his purpose (the full speech can be found at Howard University’s channel on YouTube)…May Chadwick Boseman’s life and words inspire you to think about your purpose and your own pursuit of using your talents and gifts to best serve the world.

“Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you. God says in Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’… when you have reached the hilltop and you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or career.

Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose. When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny.

When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it. God will move someone that’s holding you back away from the door and put someone there who will open it for you if it’s meant for you. I don’t know what your future is, but if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory then you will not regret it. Now, this is your time. The light of new realizations shines on you today. [Howard’s] legacy is not wrapped up in the money that you will make but the challenges that you choose to confront. As you commence to your paths, press on with pride, and press on with purpose”.

Chadwick Boseman, excerpt from 2018 Howard University Commencement speech

RIP, Chadwick Boseman. We are thankful you pursued your purpose, inspiring generations.

#Maskne – Acne in Pandemic

I’ve been suffering from breakouts on my face. Even as an adult with aging skin, I periodically battle acne, but feel like it’s been especially pronounced recently. In some ways, my reusable cloth mask is a nice way to hide my recent acne breakout, but I realize it might also contribute to it. Recently, the term #maskne has been used to describe acne appearing around or underneath masks. However, I am a mask-wearing advocate and believe a mask should be worn during this pandemic when in public or around others outside my household. Outside of staying home more and un-masking, here are some things I’ve done to address my #maskne:

1. Wash my reusable masks or change them more frequently

Reusable masks should be washed after every use. My usual routine at the start of this pandemic would be to handwash my only reusable mask with a laundry bar soap as soon as I was home for the day. Four to five months into the pandemic, I started to get lazy and would re-use an unwashed mask if I only wore it briefly the day before. I recognize this is poor hygiene and have resumed ensuring my face covering is washed before wearing it, even if I wore it for only 30 minutes the day before. Also, now that I have more face coverings, I throw them in the hamper to eventually be machine-washed with my weekly load of laundry.

Lagarto is the name of the bar soap I use to for hand-washing my mask. I bought this on a trip to Spain to do laundry while traveling. It worked well and came in a 3-pack, so I took it home with me and still use it for hand-washing clothes!

Another thing is it’s been a lot warmer since the pandemic started. We have had heat-waves where I’ve been continuously sweating, and my cloth face covering would absorb my sweat. I’ve had to replace my face covering multiple times daily to ensure it was clean; I didn’t want to have a dirty piece of fabric resting on my face all day. When a reusable face mask is soiled, stop using it and wash it!

2. Change my toothpaste

Before masks ever became a standard fashion accessory, I would periodically suffer from adult acne. I would breakout, particularly around my mouth. I read a blurb in a magazine stating that ingredients in one’s toothpaste can cause breakouts and skin irritation. After reading that article, I switched up my toothpaste and noticed a considerable improvement in my skin. I would rarely break out around my mouth.

To celebrate my recent graduation, I went on a road trip vacation with my family. Unfortunately, I did not pack my usual toothpaste. Complacency got the best of me, and I didn’t think it would matter for a 3-day getaway. I got a zit by my upper lip and then a pimple on my lower lip shortly after our trip. I’ve since switched back to my usual toothpaste.

I also started washing half my masks by hand to see if it makes a difference compared to my machine-washed masks. Just as personal care ingredients can cause skin irritations, detergents’ ingredients can irritate the skin, too. It’s for this reason that there are non-allergen and fragrance-free detergents. If your skin is breaking out by your cloth mask and you clean the mask regularly, try washing with a different detergent.

3. Use acne patches or dots

When I was a teenager, acne dots or patches did not exist. The popular anti-acne products back then were Sea Breeze, Clearasil, Clean & Clear, and Neutrogena. I only discovered acne dots or patches recently and started using them about a year ago. Some patches contain medication (like salicylic acid, a typical anti-acne ingredient), and some are merely hydrocolloid patches. In nursing school, I learned hydrocolloids are used to treat some wounds. My acne can sometimes be painful and feel like a wound! I never had the opportunity to perform wound care on a patient using hydrocolloids, so I think it’s neat that I get a sense of what hydrocolloids are like when I use these patches on myself.

Somehow, I have started to accumulate acne dots and patches. Some I forgot I purchased while others I bought while traveling. I think they work, but they are all a little different, and they each have their merits.

I love these patches or dots because they protect the pimple or zit from further irritation. If I have a pimple and wear an acne dot, I don’t have to worry about fabric or skin rubbing up against it and further aggravating my pimple. It’s pretty much an adhesive disk applied to the skin. One drawback of using these is it’s been challenging to get them to stay on my skin when I’ve been sweating.

4. Relax

I get acne due to hormones – stress or menstrual. During nursing school, I drank mostly caffeinated beverages, ate quick-to-eat not-so-nutritious food, and periodically got less than 6 hours of sleep. Poor diet, lack of sleep, and project and exam stress would undoubtedly affect my skin and cause me to break out.

I never drank so much coffee until I started nursing school. Now that I’ve graduated, I try not to drink coffee daily. The pandemic and not wanting to go out frequently have also forced me to better plan my meals. Since I’ve graduated, I get more sleep and have been trying to relax more by catching up on tv shows and doing things I enjoy while I quarantine at home. However, I continue to feel a little anxious because I still need to take the NCLEX and find a job amidst this pandemic.

I don’t think that I will ever eliminate stress or anxiety, but I don’t want to either. I believe stress can sometimes be a good thing, giving the motivation to move forward, improve oneself, or providing an impetus for change. On the other hand, too much stress or high stress for too long can lead to health problems; I recognize this and try to lead a more balanced life.

Even with efforts in reducing stress, I still periodically get acne due to hormones associated with my menstrual cycle. There’s not much I can do about it, according to my doctors. This week, I tried washing with Panoxyl (thanks to recommendations by YouTube bloggers Cassandra Bankson and Dr. Dray) and targeting specific areas prone to breakouts. I have yet to determine if this acne wash truly helps since I just started using it, but it feels good that I’m at least trying to care for myself and try something new.

Since many variables can lead to “maskne”, it’s hard to say that there is one sole cause or solution. So far, doing all of the above has improved my skin. One pimple has disappeared altogether while the other is shrinking and less painful. I’m not the only one suffering from #maskne; I want others to realize their mask may not necessarily cause their breakouts. Instead of reducing mask-wearing, try switching masks or washing masks more frequently. Change toothpaste, soap, or detergents. Treat breakouts when they occur, and practice self-care by reducing stress and anxiety. I encourage others to follow public health recommendations and WEAR A MASK around others. We are still in a pandemic – with acne or without, I’m wearing my mask!

#LAProtects Get your free downloadable print of the above poster at https://corona-virus.la/la-mask-print-project

HUGE Milestone: Graduation!

I graduated from my Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing Program! Until about a week ago, I was busy with finals and organizing my cohort’s virtual pinning ceremony. However, TODAY, my school finally posted that I officially conferred my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree on August 08, 2020!

Class of 2020 BSN Graduate!

I graduated, but there were MANY people who made this possible!

Like many in my cohort, I feel God lead me to the nursing profession. Through constant prayer and faith in God’s plans, I arrived at this point in my life. I was able to move forward in my path toward Nursing because of God and the people and circumstances God placed in my life.

In my virtual pinning ceremony (*a pinning ceremony is a nursing school tradition to celebrate the completion of the program where graduates are pinned with a lapel pin – often their school’s emblem), I dedicated my pin to my husband, daughter, and parents. My husband and daughter have sacrificed time with me and their schedules to accommodate my classes, studying, and clinical rotations. My parents often volunteered to watch my daughter so I could study, and they would visit and offer to help with dinners, dishes, laundry so I could focus on school. Nursing school was a journey my entire family shared, and I can’t imagine graduating without their love and support.

I consider myself lucky to have had such generous and collaborative classmates. Instead of competing with one another, we worked together to create study guides and study sessions. Life would have been considerably harder without everyone’s contributions and kindness in my cohort.

I was also blessed to have another mom in my program. I discovered during orientation that she was my neighbor! We became carpool buddies and, eventually, close friends. Being a nursing student in an accelerated program is tough – balancing school with kids in a pandemic makes things even trickier. We both understood and could commiserate in our unique struggles.

I want to acknowledge the teachers, instructors, and school staff for making it possible for students to continue learning. It was not necessarily easy for students to move exclusively to online lectures and have their schedules changed, but I recognize it was not easy for those teaching and supporting students as well. I’m very grateful for our instructors for being flexible and making themselves available. Some of our clinical instructors were on-call and taught us over the Summer when they initially planned to guide us in the hospitals in Spring. Our administration also hustled to place all the nursing students in rotations when many hospitals canceled their preceptorships. When the pandemic started and we were pulled from our clinicals, we were in limbo. If we were unable to return to the hospitals to complete our clinical hours, we would not graduate. After going through all the clearance requirements at one hospital, our instructors, alongside the students, scrambled to complete clearance requirements at other hospitals finally open to students. Despite the obstacles, a pandemic, and a revolution, we managed to graduate on time!

Doing nursing school in 15 months while being a mom was no easy task, but I’m a testament to the fact that it is possible! I had a LOT of support – including friends and family who prayed for me, guided me, and encouraged me along the way. Form your support system if you don’t already have one. Life’s too short to spend time with people who bring out the worst in you! Your journey and timeline may not look like mine, but I encourage you to pursue your passion and dreams. I was the oldest student in my cohort, but I have a lot to offer, and I intend to work as a nurse for multiple decades. It’s cliche, but it’s true: You are never too old (or young) to pursue your dreams!

I know many are starting school this Fall. I wish nothing but the best for the students returning to school and those taking steps to move closer to their goals. These are uncertain times, but I applaud all those adapting, reorganizing themselves, and moving forward. Good luck to everyone this new school year, and CONGRATULATIONS to all the 2020 graduates! 

A Nursing Pioneer, Illuminated

Many people, even non-nursing professionals, have heard of famous nursing pioneers such as Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, or Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing who was also known as “The Lady with the Lamp” (her moniker, since she would administer to hospital patients at night with her lamp). During a recent lecture, however, my professor asked the class if we had heard of nursing pioneer, Mary Seacole. None of us had. Apparently, Mary Seacole was a nurse of Creole descent who also nursed wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, during the same time as Florence Nightingale. Supposedly, Mary Seacole’s fame rivalled that of Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, yet not a single one of my 28 other classmates ever heard of Mary Seacole.

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican woman who came to London with a desire to volunteer as a nurse and be recruited as part of Nightingale’s delegation of women to serve as nurses in the Crimean war. Mary Seacole was instead met with racism and was refused the opportunity to serve as one of Nightingale’s nurses. Mary Seacole, therefore, independently traveled to the Crimea to establish and fund her own hospital, the “British Hotel” and tended to sick and wounded soldiers. She wrote an autobiography describing her experience as well as personal travels, “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole”.

Mrs. Seacole was a woman who was undeterred and forged forward doing what she was called to do, to be a nurse, despite the racism and other obstacles she encountered. After hearing a bit about her from my professor and googling more about her, I decided to put her book on my wishlist and received it as a gift on my birthday a couple weeks ago. Aside from my textbooks, I’m glad to add this to my library of nursing books alongside my “Notes on Nursing” by Florence Nightingale.

While overwhelmed with school works and projects, I felt compelled to start reading and learn more about this woman. I kept meditating on the fact that I never heard of Mary Seacole, or didn’t really know of any other famous or pioneer nurses of color. It bothered me because, prior to the recent Black Lives Matter protests, I also had never heard of “Black Wall Street” or the “Tulsa Massacre”. I’m a person of color, born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in a suburb of Kansas for my childhood. I did not grow up in a diverse area and was typically one of only a handful of minorities in all my schools. Now that I’m an adult, I realize there are gaps in my education – history, in particular – that exist due to the omission of the non-white perspective.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to have professors offer different perspectives and illuminate the history of nursing and nursing pioneers beyond “The Lady with the Lamp”. We need to celebrate and encourage diversity in Nursing. I feel that one step towards cultural competency and addressing racism in healthcare is to take time to hear different voices and promote diversity in healthcare. This also allows me to draw from a richer well of people to inspire me to move forward in nursing, despite obstacles I might face. I encourage you to move forward, seek different voices, take action, and draw inspiration from where you find it, too.