RNAO Region 7 Mental Health Workshop

On Monday, March 21, I attended the last event for the academic school year hosted by the RNAO: The Region 7 Mental Health Workshop. The aim of this workshop was to educate Ryerson’s nursing students about the importance of Mental Health in health care and the application of medicine. There was also an emphasis about actions nurses in the field can take to prioritize and maximize optimal outcomes for the mental health of the patient population. The evening consisted of a dynamic panel of speakers – all of whom are professionals in the field of mental health – that provided a unique and comprehensive perspective on the role of nurses play in mental health. Some of the speakers who spoke out on the issue of mental health include: Alumni of Ryerson’s Nursing degree program, representatives from the Toronto Police Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT), and a new graduate registered nurse working in Psychiatric Emergency.

IMG_0951

Each speaker shared their personal experience in dealing with mental health throughout their clinical practice. The first speaker of the night – a Ryerson Nursing alumni who now worked at Ryerson to guide current nursing students as they navigate through this program – spoke about her experience with mental illness and working with nursing students. She spoke about nursing students being one of the most notorious group of students who experience the highest level of stress. This is all credited to a demanding, highly difficult, and competitive program; having to balance academic work with clinical placements; balancing extracurricular activities; balancing personal life; etc. All of these aspects can create quite a toll on the student’s mental health, as they begin to feel overwhelmed and over-stressed. Without a strong social support network, and without adequate coping mechanisms, the nursing student’s mental health may be compromised. They may feel isolated and depressed, their grades may suffer, their personal life and self-care may be neglected, etc. This speaker spoke about the importance for nursing students to seek help for whatever they may need; whether that’s academic or otherwise. She emphasized the importance of building a strong social support network, whomever that may include, and to take advantage of on-campus resources at Ryerson. Attendees were attentive and receptive to this speaker’s insights, as often times, nursing students neglect to take care of their self as they are too focused on taking care of others. Personally, I found it refreshing to be reminded that my own mental health is important as well, and that while the mental health of my patients is an important prioritization, it is important to take care of my own mental health. Providing care for others begins there.

IMG_0952

The next speakers for the evening were representatives from Toronto Police’s MCIT program. One of the representatives included a Toronto Police Officer who is specially trained to handle cases with individuals suffering from mental illnesses. The other representative from Toronto Police’s MCIT program was a mental health nurse, who is specially trained by Toronto Police to respond to cases with individuals who are compromising their conduct in society, due to their mental illness. This was a significant topic for the night, as the involvement of nurses in the industry of forensics is a relatively novel concept. Nurses typically work in the traditional health care environment – acute or community – whereas police officers work in their separate jurisdiction. Although there has been significant co-operation between both industries in several cases, the concept of merging both industries to address issues of mental health has only just been introduced. The speakers spoke about their individual experience with mental health as a police officer and as a mental health nurse. The police officer drew on different strategies he would employ to de-escalade situations where individuals who suffered from mental health were at jeopardy of experiencing trouble with the law. For example, as a police officer, he would often exert force and assertive actions in order to de-escalade situations and calm the individual down. If the situation escalated any further, he would be forced to apprehend the individual and take them to hospital to treat their mental illness. The mental health nurse described her role as the individual who would be typically more successful in de-escalating the situation and calming the individual down. She noted that most individuals tend to avoid police officers when in this state, for fear of repercussion, so they would prefer to talk to someone else. In this scenario, the mental health nurse is particularly useful in communicating with the individual, negotiating with them, and working with them to ensure they receive the most adequate care for their mental health illness. With both roles working together in the community, they prove to be a very successful service for the municipality of Toronto. They promote health and safety within communities in Toronto but addressing mental health crises experienced all over the city.

IMG_0953

The final speaker of the evening was a new graduate RN, working as a psychiatric emergency nurse at St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton. This final speaker was especially significant as not only was she working in the mental health field, she also experienced mental illness herself early on in her life. This was a highlight of the evening as not only did we get to hear the insights and perspective of someone working in mental health, but she was also able to enlighten us with her experience as a mental health patient. She spoke about the struggles she faced making sense of her illness as a young child, how it progressed when she entered university, how difficult it was for her to find the help that she needed, and what resources she used when she was finally able to find the help that she needed. She talked about ending the stigma related to mental illness, and emphasizing how important it is to understand that mental illness is a biological and chemical imbalance in your physiology, not an “attitude you just need to fix.” She spoke about not being ashamed about having to take medication for your illness, and how taking medication can be life-saving measures to take. It was refreshing to hear a perspective that was beyond nursing and professionals. Hearing this perspective from someone having experienced both sides of the spectrum – both the patient and the health care provider – renewed my personal way of thinking, and my own clinical practice. She talked about how her personal experience has catapulted her career and how she uses it to affect positive change in the mental health of her own patients today, and how her personal experience today not only shaped her as an individual, but has shaped her personal clinical practice.

IMG_0954

Needless to say, this workshop provided quite a dynamic and varied range of perspectives and insights on mental health. Nurses are often used to hearing quite similar and repetitive talks about mental health issues and what we can do to address such issues with the patient population. During this night, new perspectives and thoughts word brought to the table. It gave eager nursing students something to really think about in terms of new ways to tackle mental health issues. It opened eyes and doors to different opportunities that will enable you to affect positive change in mental health on a larger scale. At the end of the night, attendees were able to leave with a renewed understanding of what mental health means to them, their patients, and to their clinical practice.

There’s No “I” in Team but there is in Injury

team2

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a re-emergence of sports-related articles written by former athletes who can no longer play due to injury or they grew out of the youth athletics they thrived in.  These articles usually have a similar tone; they miss sports, wish they hadn’t taken the time for granted and encourage athletes who are still able to play to cherish every moment.  A topic and theme that runs across all of these articles is the experience of having a team.  In sports, no matter what level of competition, your team is a big deal.  These are the people who have your back both on and off the court/field/rink; your team mates become your second family and become a significant part of your life.  These articles don’t speak to my experience of team in youth sports; based on my experience of being a youth athlete who can no longer play sports due to an injury, I would like to offer a different perspective of team being a romanticized notion.

Growing up, I played basketball, soccer, volleyball and ran track/cross country at both school and competitive levels.  I was on a lot of teams over the years and can understand the bond one feels when they are apart of one.  The final team I played on was the Niagara Falls Red Raiders travel basketball team.  The team was made up of girls I had played with for years, including on school teams and other sports teams, under someone who had coached us for 4 years.  We spent a lot of time together; we travelled all over the province together, stayed in hotels for tournaments, became close with each others’ families and we were friends off the court.  It may then come as a surprise that I do not miss my team and wouldn’t want to be a part of one again.

I fall under the category of former athletes who stopped playing sports due to an injury.  For those that have followed the Faculty of Community Services Student Life Blog over the years, you may know about my injury but for those who haven’t, my injury is a traumatic brain injury.  During a tournament in Michigan when I was 16, another player cross checked me which tore brain tissue and ultimately ended my ability to play sports.  As I sat on the bench following the hit, I was still part of the team; my team mates tripped the girl who hit me.  When I didn’t show up for a tournament two weeks later, I was no longer a part of the team.

It’s been almost 8 years since I acquired my brain injury and I can count the people on my team, including players, coaches and parents, who have asked how I am, on one hand.  Those who have met in the past 5 years know my brain injury as something that gives me a headache every now and then, makes me tired and is represented in the ribbon I have tattooed on my back.  Despite having a brain injury, I don’t miss any classes at school and participate fully in student groups and social life.  For the first few years after my injury this was not the case; I was noticeably not well, I dropped down to one class a day, rarely participated in school life and didn’t return to sports.  Despite being present for when I was injured and the clear indications that something was wrong, only two parents ever asked if I was okay.  From what I remember, only one of my teammates asked how I was doing and I never heard from my coach.

This popular notion of a team being a second family that is there for you unconditionally both during and after the game is much romanticized.  Membership to such a group and the benefits that come from having a team are dependent on one’s athletic ability and ability to perform.  As soon as you’re not useful in terms of performing athletically, you are no longer a part of the team.

This is compounded by popular ideas that true athletes are tough and can play through any injury, and that anything less is an insult to the team and sport.  Athletes face a lot of pressure when they acquire injuries that temporarily remove them from the game; imagine acquiring an injury that permanently removed you.  It was never explained to my team why I would not be returning, my coach simply told them that I was not coming.  The assumption became that I was leaving basketball by choice and was letting my team down.  My nickname on the team was Mighty Mouse (I’m 5’3), I should have been able to play through anything, right?

Despite my injury and reactions from the Niagara Falls basketball community, I still wanted to be on the team.  Five months after my injury, school basketball was starting up again; I went to the first try-out and asked if I could still practice and travel with the team.  During that practice, my coach made several comments about getting me back in the game and my return to basketball being the overall goal.  As great as it felt to be with my team and practice, it as clear I didn’t belong here anymore.

I had clear instructions that I was not to play and that playing sports would not be in my future.  On the traumatic brain injury scale, my injury fell at the beginning of a moderate injury; I’ve recovered more than expected considering the severity and location of the tears.  This type of injury is extremely rare in sports and is generally seen in high speed vehicular accidents.  Playing sports is an extremely dangerous activity for me that could result in further injury that would have negative impacts on my life.  Despite the risk and danger, my coach and teammates were only concerned about my ability to provide athletic contributions to the team.

To my fellow former athletes whose careers were ended by injuries, where does that leave us?  There is nothing wrong with looking back at the fond memories you’ve had with sports teams but I think we shouldn’t romanticize the concept of a team.  First, we put teams on undeserving pedestals based on false notions of friendship and security.  Second, we’re never going to get that back so why frame teams as the ‘be all and end all’ of support?

Eight years post-injury, the best advice I can offer is to find a new form of a team.  It’s time to find people, whether that be friends or family, whose friendship and support isn’t conditional on your athletic abilities.  Find people that see you for more than your athletic talents who won’t base an entire friendship around such criteria.  The girlfriends I have made in the Social Work program at Ryerson don’t care that I can’t play sports;  two of my friends signed up for kickboxing this semester, which is something I cannot do, but I wasn’t shunned from the group for it.  There are better friends out there than teams, we just need to find new passions and look for them.

There may be no “I” in team but there is certainly is in injury.

Photo: espn.go.com

Global Health Nursing Conference 2016

10996024_10156727906325457_8941945273435914074_n

On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, I attended the Global Health Nursing Conference held at the University of Toronto, hosted by the Nursing Undergraduate Society at UofT. The purpose and the theme of the conference this year was to shed light on Refugee and Immigrant Health.

This year’s conference is particularly poignant due to the current social climate regarding the war conflicts that have started occurring in 2011 (and are still ongoing) within Syria, and the large influx of Syrian refugees within Canadian borders. Throughout this night, we explored topics related to refugee and immigrant health, and ways in which nurses play a significant role in facilitating access to safe and appropriate for a vulnerable population. The wide variety of panelists, speakers, and session facilitators encompassed a diverse group of registered nurses [RNs] and nurse practitioners [NPs] from a variety of different global health backgrounds. They offered their experiences and perspectives on global health, the impact that nurses can create in health care on a global scale, and the types of work in which nurses can play a part in on an international health care level.

This event garnered significant attention from a variety of different undergraduate nursing students. The evening was comprised of attendees from UofT’s second-entry BScN program, Ryerson’s BScN program, Nippissing, York, etc. It was refreshing to see variety in different nursing backgrounds, making it an optimal night for opportunities to network, meet new people, and make new nursing friends!

The first part of the evening began with a panel of four RN speakers with diverse careers within global health. Some of them worked in various acute care and community health settings in different parts of the world (i.e Sudan, Ethiopa, Sierra Leone), implementing global health initiatives such as surgical programs, vaccination clinics, maternal health education, etc. Some of them worked within the local community (i.e Women’s College Hospital), addressing refugee and immigrant health needs and concerns in the Greater Toronto Area. Having these varied experiences and backgrounds in nursing come to light truly widened perspectives and opened many minds. The nursing students in attendance, a majority of whom have yet to have any solid exposure to global health nursing, were able to think of adequate health care outside of a framework that is well-resourced, highly affluent, and well-supported by a competent government structure. We were forced to think critically about what health care and health care delivery looks like in various populations and cultures, and how we – as Canadian nurses – can use our influence to affect change, in order to improve global health outcomes. Moreover, we also had the opportunity to think critically about how to address global health issues within our own local community. Various speakers spoke about what immigrants – specifically refugees – experience, in terms of health services, once on Canadian soil. We discussed barriers they often face to receiving appropriate care, such as a lack of adequate health care insurance coverage and a lack of unfamiliarity in terms of navigating a new system. The panelists did a fantastic job in articulating that our roles as nurses are to ensure that immigrants and refugees receive a care that is reflective of our health care system’s values and beliefs – that is, a care that is individualized, patient and family-centred, and comprehensive.

 A highlighted global health organization that was brought to attention during this period of the evening was Medicins Sans Frontieres [MSF]/Doctors Without Borders. A number of the RN panelists discussed their own experience in working with this organization and how MSF carries out various global health initiatives in a number of resource deficient countries. The purpose of MSF is to provide medical support and services where it is most needed on a global scale, and to ensure that health care systems and organizations are well-supported and have sufficient resources to deliver adequate care across boarders. More information on MSF and their work, as well as how to get involved, can be found on:

Medicins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.57.56 PM

The next portion of the evening was a dinner and Social, where we got to engage with the founders of the company iamsick.ca. iamsick.ca is a company that has created a technology platform in the form of an app and a website, to help facilitate access and equity to adequate health services in your own area. They have developed a system whereby one is able to access the most appropriate health care provider, for their specific needs, online. Furthermore, through this system, they are able to minimize things such as emergency visits, wait times, etc., as it specifically matches the individual’s health need with the specific health service and provider that addresses that need. iamsick.ca is a company that began at UofT and has grown over the last four years, with a large number of consumers that have been helped through its services. They work directly with healthcare providers and organizations to ensure that the link between patient and provider is more effectively established. iamsick.ca ensures that health needs do not go unaddressed and are addressed appropriately. For more information on iamsick.ca, please visit:

iamsick.ca

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.19.13 PM

The last portion of the evening involved Breakout Sessions, from which students were to choose whichever session they would like to partake in, to develop more knowledge in more specific niches of global health nursing. I chose to take part in the Sick Kids International Paediatric Global Health session, due to my interests in maternal and paediatric health. In this last hour of the evening, the Nursing Manager and the Advanced Nursing Practice Educator from Sick Kids International and Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health spoke about paediatric health and nursing care on a global scale. They spoke about their past, present, and future projects and global health initiatives to address gaps in international paediatric care. A significant gap that they have found in terms of global child health is that nurses internationally lack the advanced competencies of paediatric nursing care, making it difficult for them to deliver the care that their country’s paediatric population requires. Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health has taken steps towards developing a project that educates nurses abroad about paediatric nursing and paediatric care, in order to empower that country’s health care providers. This project has been a focus for a large part of their work and they hope to continue educating various nurses in various parts of the world, to ensure they receive adequate paediatric nursing education and training. For more information on Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health, and to learn more about their work, please visit:

IMG_0935

The Hospital for Sick Children – The Centre for Global Child Health

Needless to say, the night was successful and the nursing students in attendance learned a lot about global health and how nursing plays a pivotal role in global health. With Canadian nursing school curriculums having a strong focus on nursing in the local and national community, there is a significant lack in education about the work nurses do on an international and global scale. This conference has definitely enabled nursing students across GTA to develop their knowledge and awareness in global health nursing, and has inspired us to build careers built on the foundation of community health development alongside with acute care development.

Good bye, Fall 2015 Semester – Hello, Relaxation!

Today is the big day – the final day of exams and the official last day of the Fall 2015 semester! Congratulations to all students – and staff – who have made it this far and put in their hard work and effort throughout the semester. Hopefully all of the stress was worth it and you’re able to rest easy knowing you gave this semester your best shot. With all of the struggles we all went through this semester, I’d say that we’re more than ready for a well-deserved break. Lucky for us, this day marks the first day of this well-deserved break and we can finally put the stresses of this past semester behind us. This Holiday season is a time of rest and relaxation for a lot of students – and maybe even a little bit of fun! If you’re in the Toronto area this term break, here are a few things you and some family and friends can do to make your Holiday break a little bit more festive!

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.17.32 PM

TORONTO CHRISTMAS MARKET

Where: The Distillery Historic District; Mill Street

When: Tuesdays – Sundays; November 20th, 2015 –December 20th, 2015

What: Christmas street festival and market with Christmas related entertainment, shopping and food vendors, activities, etc.

Why: With activities from music, dance, a Caroling challenge, meeting Santa, special Christmas cocktails and food, there’s sure to be something for someone who loves Christmas or just simply enjoys having a good time! Also, the Christmas Market is free of Admission from Tuesdays to Fridays! Otherwise, admission is only $5 (including tax!) on Saturdays and Sundays.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.18.21 PM

SKATING AT NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE, HARBOURFRONT RINK, AND EVEN RYERSON’S OWN LAKE DEVO!

Where:
Nathan Phillips Square = 100 Queen St W; Near the historic Old City Hall!
Harbourfront Centre = 235 Queens Quay W; near the beautiful Lake Ontario with a gorgeous view of the Lake and the city skyline!
Ryerson “Lake Devo” = 350 Victoria St; near the heart of the city – Yonge & Dundas Square!

When: All open 7 days a week, 10am – 10pm! (With the exception of Ryerson’s Lake Devo, which is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!)

What: The city’s best outdoor skating spots in the most iconic parts of the city!

Why: Outdoor skating has been a typical Christmas tradition and there’s nothing better than doing it in the most iconic parts of Toronto!

newinteriorAir-Canada-Centre-goes-Carbon-Neutral

RAPTORS OR LEAFS GAME AT AIR CANADA CENTRE

Where: 40 Bay St

When: Check game schedules for Raptors (http://www.nba.com/raptors/schedule) and Leafs (http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/club/schedule.htm)

What: Toronto’s two beloved home teams in Canada’s most loved sports face off other competitors in exciting court and ice action! Catch these widely-loved sports by Canadians across the country with family and/or friends!

Why: Hockey and basketball are Canadian-invented sports – with the Raptors and Leafs having the best fans in the world, seeing these games live is sure to not only add excitement to your Holiday season, but ignite your Canadian spirit as well!

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.07.06 PM

THE CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAYS AT HUDSON’S THE BAY

Where: 401 Bay St

When: Monday – Saturday, 9:00am to 9:30pm; Sundays, 10:00am to 7:00pm

What: Each year, The Hudson’s Bay in downtown Toronto (connected to CF Eaton Centre) arranges its window displays during the Holiday season to display magnificent scenes that depict a Christmas-related theme!

Why: These beautiful window displays make for stunning pictures and can even spark some Christmas decoration inspiration! These inspirational and elaborate displays make for Instagram-worthy posts!

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.23.36 PM

HOLIDAY SHOPPING (and for us students, Retail Therapy) AT CF EATON CENTRE

Where: 220 Yonge St

When: Monday – Saturday, 9:00am to 9:30pm; Sundays, 10:00am to 7:00pm

What: CF Toronto Eaton Centre is Toronto’s largest shopping centre that is located at the heart of the city!

Why: The Holiday season calls for Holiday shopping and the best place to get your entire Christmas list checked off is at Toronto’s most popular shopping centre! It’s three floors of great stores, great deals, and even better finds!

If you spend a little time in Toronto this Holiday break, feel free to go through this list and see how many you can go through. Holiday season in Toronto is sure to be a fun, festive, and lively one!

I wish all Ryerson staff and students a very Happy Holiday! Rest, relax, and enjoy yourselves – we all certainly deserve it!

4 Tips To Tackle Stress This Exam Season

Happy end of the term classes to all Ryerson students! Today marks the final day of classes for all students across campus, which unfortunately also marks the beginning of finals week for this semester. Stress levels are high and the campus is filled with scrambling student, all attempting to gather all necessary notes for all of their exams. Professors are finalizing exams and answering a million emails a minute, answering questions from stressed and nervous students. It is that time of the year when everyone is eager to delve into the holiday festivities, but also trying to find the best way to cope with and manage all the stress that comes with finals week and being a university student in general. It’s a happy but tough time of the year. Lucky for you, I have some tips that can maybe help you get through the stress, have you motivated for your exams, and ready for the holiday season!

TIP #1: COFFEE IN MODERATION

We all need our daily fix of Tim Hortons or Starbucks and when you’re a university student, it’s almost necessary. Coffee contains the magic C (CAFFEINE) that helps keep us alert for the day and focused for the lectures/labs/tutorials ahead. It’s especially helpful after an all-nighter spent studying, working on a project, or doing a paper (or perhaps simply getting lost in the world of Netflix…). Coffee is great – in moderation. Students tend to turn this “daily fix” during exam season to a “multiple times a day fix.” This can get dangerous and really impact your health negatively – it’ll send your heart rate through the roof, your blood pressure can be through the roof, your diet will be compromised – a lot can go wrong. Don’t over-do it with the coffee. It’s not something that you need to depend on to do well on your exams – your hard work and effort determines that for you. Limit yourself whenever possible and find other ways to stay away (i.e a cold shower in the morning, exercise, breakfast, etc).

Coffee1

TIP #2: FIND A DESIGNATED STUDY SPOT

Finding a place to study and actually be productive is difficult. This is especially difficult in the middle of the busiest city in Canada – Toronto – where Ryerson is so centrally located. Luckily, we have the Student Learning Centre (SLC) to cater to our Study Spot Needs. First, it’s important that your study spot include a desk or a table of some sort to support whatever your study materials are. Avoid anything too small – the more space, the more room to support laptop, textbooks, notebooks, phone, etc. Second, try to find a bright space, perhaps anything with a big window or light coloured walls. Studying in a bright space with lots of light does a lot for your visual senses and makes it easier for you to sit somewhere for a prolonged period of time, staring at a bunch of words and/or numbers. It definitely lessens the load. Lastly, make sure your study spot is not confining. This means to make sure that the spot you choose allows you to get up once in awhile and move around. Not only does this gives you a break from sitting in a chair in front of your computer for hours, it also prevents any sores or muscle aches from happening, which comes with sitting still for hours. If you’re looking for the perfect study spot on campus, I definitely suggest the SLC (specifically floor 5! Not too eerie and quiet, but also quiet enough to give you some peace).

Rendering

TIP #3: DON’T FORGET YOUR DIET

Stress-eating can manifest in two ways: over-eating or under-eating. Some people can binge on junk food and resort to comfort food during such a stressful time. Some people can be so pre-occupied and busy that they may forget to eat and incorporate proper nutrition into their diet. It is important to find some sort of balance in your diet during exam season. Take comfort in moderation – have a donut here and there, get a Frappucino instead of your regular cup of coffee, get some ice cream. Also, it’s not the end of the world if you miss breakfast or have a late dinner. It is expected that your diet will not be at its healthiest during exam season, but it is important to keep in mind that proper nutrition is the best way to keep the mind and body focused and ready to face the day. An improper diet can actually lead to increased levels of fatigue and stress – which is something none of us need any more of during finals weeks. What we do need is increased brain power, which is something fruits and vegetables offer ample amounts of.

brain-healthy-food

TIP #4: SLEEP – TRY IT

Sleep deprivation – we all have it. Many students have grown accustomed to functioning on a lack of sleep but this tends to get worse during exam season, when we stay up and spend the night cramming and/or getting last minute things done. As a result, the lack of sleep can lead to even more fatigue, an increased dependence on caffeine, and even worse – the chance of sleeping in and maybe even sleeping through an exam. Yikes! The best way to avoid this is simple, but hard at the same time – get as much sleep as you can. Whether that means sleeping earlier and waking up earlier or taking short naps throughout the day, do what you need to do to get some rest and relax your brain. An overworked brain will only lead to more stress and sleep revives the mind, making it easier to study and tackle exams. Sleep is important and most importantly, it’s so relaxing!

done

I wish all fellow students at Ryerson and all other schools all the best of luck during this semester’s finals week! Study hard, study well, and do your best! Surround yourself with positive vibes and do what you need to do to stay focused and motivated. We are so close to a well-deserved holiday break so we’re almost there! Hang in there. I’m rooting for you!

youll-be-fine

National Nursing Student Week 2015

National Nursing Students Week is an annual event, hosted by the Canadian Nursing Students Association [CNSA], that occurs in November intended to celebrate nursing students nation-wide in their hard work and accomplishments. It is an opportunity that allows the achievement so of nursing students throughout Canada to be showcased to the community. This year, National Nursing Student Week was from November 15th – November 21st. Each year, there is a significant theme chosen for National Nursing Student Week that reflects the nursing student population and nursing in general. This year’s theme is “Nursing the Mind,” with an emphasis on the importance of self-care amongst all nursing students.

12246673_919430248150899_2891227284475504171_n

It is no secret that nursing as a post-secondary program of study is competitive, rigorous, and extremely demanding, to say the least. Not only do nursing students face upwards of 20-25+ hours of school hours a week, on top of a heavy course load, they must also complete anywhere from 6-24+ clinical placement hours a week as well. Overall, it is quite a difficult program, making it quite easy for nursing students to overlook their own self-care and well-being. Nursing students are easily overwhelmed with their work and with school, solely focused on the care of others, making it ironic for them to neglect their own health. This week’s theme helps to emphasize the importance for nursing students to consider their own health and wellness as a top priority as well.

While it is important to work hard and be dedicated in school, it is also equally as important to take care of yourself and make time to ensure that your needs are met. That is the focus for this year’s National Nursing Student Week. The goal for this past week was to take some time out of a nursing student’s day to relax, de-stress, and do something they genuinely enjoy. Some suggestions include, but are not limited to, taking a walk for a few minutes, sitting down and catching up with some friends, reading a book, etc. This advice can even extend towards all students because it is evident that a lack of self-care is an issue that is consistent amongst a student population.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 12.00.31 PM

Ryerson has celebrated National Nursing Students Week on an annual basis as Ryerson has its own chapter of CNSA. Ryerson’s chapter of CNSA conducted a variety of events in the past week to celebrate National Nursing Students Week. Some of the events included offering free snacks for nursing students on campus, information on mental health and self-care, opportunities to relax and enjoy other nursing students’ company in the nursing lounge, etc. With the focus being self-care, the events were centred on ways in which nursing students could find the time throughout their day to relax and rest; give themselves the opportunity to re-charge and clear their busy heads.
10408933_1027447330633332_7242626333090671091_n

Being a nursing student at Ryerson in my third year, I am all too familiar with the chaos and intensity that accompanies my program. I have experienced the large number of demands that being a nursing student calls for and more often than I’d like to admit, I have overlooked my own needs in order to meet my academic and career needs. For a long time, I found it very difficult to find the time to allow my mind and body to rest and simply enjoy myself. This past National Nursing Students week has allowed me to reflect on what I can do to enhance my self-care practices in the future. It has taught me that relaxation and rest is very necessary in every individual’s life and that no matter how busy your day may be, there is always time for you to pause and rest. I have learned that while my academic and career goals are a priority and something I need to be working very diligently to accomplish, my own health and wellness is also a priority. I am more than just a nursing student, I am also a young person who enjoys life and wants to experience everything that life offers. I want to stop overlooking the joyous things in life and allow myself to take a break once in awhile. National Nursing Student Week 2015 has taught me that no matter how demanding and how stressful life may seem, there is always time in the day – whether that be 5 minutes or an hour – to take care of yourself, and your own health and wellness. As a nursing student, I have the responsibility to care for others – as well as myself.

Stay motivated and be thankful!

We all know how difficult school can be in midterm and exam season. We have all heard about university drop-outs who became billionaires. At some point, you may have thought about whether school is still the right option for you. I will offer my thoughts in this blog post.Anxiety

University is full of new opportunities. From career centre to speaking with professors during office hours to participating in extra-curricular activities, you get to connect with people who are there to help you through your academic journey. They are there to offer you advice and help you become a better person. You never know what will happen once you take the first step. Sometimes there are unadvertised part-time positions and only way to know about them is through networking. Ask your professor about possible volunteer opportunities that will help you greatly with graduate school applications.

You may be enrolled in a professional degree program but don’t want to pursue that career after graduating. You may realize you wanted to be an actor rather than an engineer. Having a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree can open up new opportunities. It is much better to have a degree since it will give you a leg up when applying for jobs. Furthermore, having a degree or being enrolled in a university program allows you to apply for various internships. If your program has a co-op option, give it a try. It will allow you to gain necessary experience before graduation. Pursuing co-op option can help you land a job right after graduation while having no degree will put you at disadvantage.

Overall, being a university student allows you to meet people who may have the same passion and determination as you. You will meet friends who will look after you and support you during hard times. There is no better feeling than being surrounded by people who understand you. University allows you to discover who you really are and your possible career choice. Get involved in extra-curricular activities as soon as you start university. Do not lose hope and don’t give up easily. Don’t be afraid to do what you always dreamt of, and what’s a better time to do it than the time you have in university! There will be moments when you will notice that you cannot keep up with everything. This is when you have to tell yourself that giving up is not an option. Take one step at a time, stay motivated and be thankful for this opportunity.

Back Up, Not Down

sexism

I’m the outspoken feminist that you were warned about.  If you follow my blog posts, you have probably already figured that out.  It may not come as a surprise that I get into arguments with mostly men about gender equity.  It’s important to challenge sexism and bring awareness but sometimes I don’t want to.  I go out with my friends to have a good time, not challenge and debate with someone who’s spewing extremely offensive nonsense about women.  This is where I back up but I don’t back down.

These debates and arguments are always hard to navigate, especially in social settings.  It may not be safe to challenge sexist ideas or maybe you would just rather have your beer in peace.  This happened over Easter when I was visiting home.  My friend finished her final clinical day for her nursing degree and we went out to celebrate.  Mid-conversation one of the young men I had just met turned to another and started talking about how women are… well I won’t repeat exactly what was said because it’s offensive, but the gist of the conversation was that all women are dumber than men.

One thing you should know about me is that I wear my feelings on my face.  My face could not have ignored this conversation even if it wanted to.  My eyes were wide and my eyebrows were up to my hairline.  While I’m not surprised people in the world feel this way about women, such blatant misogyny still catches me by surprise.  I cleared my throat in hopes he would a) realize I was still sitting there and b) stop talking.

My throat clearing certainly got this man’s attention but he wanted to debate me on the issue.  I was thinking of what I was going to respond to him with but then I stopped; I didn’t want to debate this guy. I wanted to relax, enjoy a beer and hangout with friends I don’t get to see often.  While I wanted to disrupt that conversation, I did not want to debate it.  His argument was ridiculous and would have likely lead to us talking in circles.  I didn’t want to back down and let him think he was right but I didn’t want to talk gender with this person.

I put my hand up and said that I would not be engaging in any kind of debate with him on the topic because his argument was so ridiculous.  I made it clear that my silence on the issue did not mean I agreed with him but I wouldn’t be discussing it further.  Although he apologized for all men being smarter than me on my way out, I was able to avoid a night of arguing, sexist BS and more misogyny than was already present at the table.  Back up, not down.

Photo: beaveronline.co.uk

You are (almost) there: Do not give up!

Every year when school starts, I feel the pressure to do well in school. First comes the reading week and we get to take a week off before writing back to back midterms. Then we have assignments, presentations and group projects due. At the same time, Ryerson Exam Schedule is released and we get busy with finding our exam date and time, finish any outstanding projects and get a head start on studying for finals. Whether you are fresh out of high school or in your final year, at some point in the semester you will feel that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on you to do well. We all have been there. I certainly have been there many times in my undergraduate career. The key is to figure out what works for you and how to make the most out of your school year early on.Stress free zone

You are not alone – according to a recent survey, over 84% students rated academic performance, saving money and time management to be their biggest worries. If you are having a hard time keeping up with your work, chances are someone else is also in the same position. Do not give up and learn from these university experiences. These experiences will help you develop skills such as working under pressure and meeting deadlines that employers find extremely valuable. If you are having a hard time managing time, stress and preparing for exams, don’t be afraid to ask for help from instructors, fellow students and Student learning groups. For example, FCS Academic Support offers writing circles to all FCS students and these can be of great help when it comes to writing papers and essays. In addition, students can visit Therapy Dogs on campus to help relieve the stress associated with being a student. Follow @RUTherapydogs for event updates and locations. Furthermore, Ryerson Health Promotion Department offers Counselling for Personal Concerns, where students can share what they are experiencing by participating in one of the group or individual counselling programs.

Maintain balance – This simple matter might be the trickiest, but also the most important factor in your success at school. Take time for sleep, meals, exercise and social activities, so you don’t burn out. Taking a break can often help. The first step is to recognize that break is as important as the concentrated work. Work with great intensity and focus, and then make taking a break an integral part of your thinking, planning, and problem solving.

A study done by Berkeley School of Public Health showed that children who have an access to tablets or Smartphone in their bedrooms get less sleep than those who do not have the device with them at night. I thought it was important to note this here because as young adults, it is getting a habit to spend more time on a Smartphone and we may not realize this but small screens (such as Smartphone, tablet etc) are responsible for insufficient rest or sleep and may lead to higher stress levels. Therefore, during the last few weeks of semester if you find yourself in stressful situations, take some time to relax and get a good night sleep to feel better. Hang in there, the semester will be over and summer will be here before you know it.

A Vegan Holiday Feast

As a vegetarian one of the most common questions I get asked is what do you eat. Well, everything really, except meat. It’s more delicious then you might expect. And its not hard to do. If you are flirting with changing your diet or are having vegetarians or vegans over for the holidays and are struggling with what to make, not to worry, here are some never fail suggestions.

Oatmeal Nut loaf

an oatmeal nut loaf with green beans and mashed potatoes

This is the easiest nut loaf out there. Its takes no time at all and is super delicious. Even meat eaters will appreciate how hardy it is. (hint: have leftovers the next day for breakfast. Goes great with eggs too for the non vegans out there)

Ingredients:

4 cups of water

1/2 cup of soy sauce

1/2 of canola or olive oil

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

2 tsp of onion powder

2 tsp of garlic powder

1 tsp of dried sage

1 tbsp of dried basil

4 cups of rolled oats

Place all the ingredients except for the oats in a large pot. Stir well and place over medium head till it comes to a slow boil. Stir in rolled oats and remove from heat. Place in preheated oven (350) for about 10 mins or until brown on top. You can serve as loaf or as burgers. It can also be frozen and used as needed.

Serve with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy and you won’t even notice the absence of meat on the table.

Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

Acorn squash filled with a wild rice and lentil mixture

This is unbelievable delicious and just pretty to look at. It will look great on your table and your guests will thank you.

Ingredients:

3 cups of veggie stock

3/4 cup each of brown rice and wild rice

2 acorn squash halved

Stuffing:

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cups of finally chopped celery

2 cups of diced yellow onion (roughly 3 medium onions)

2 tsp dried thyme and sage

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 cup sliced almonds (or pumpkins seeds if anyone has a nut allergy)

1 cup of chopped parsley

1 cup of dried cranberries

19 oz can of green lentils (rinsed)

Cook the rice. Bake squash with some olive oil. Sauté onions, celery then add herbs. Cook and stir well till translucent (about five mins). Then add almonds, lentils and cranberries. And parsley when mixture is heated through. You can then stuff the squash for a beautiful table setting. This recipe makes extra in case you want to stuff a turkey or just have extra on the table. Either way, it will all be gone by the time dinner is done.