Care for the Care Giver
Teresa Durbak Sipos DMin, RN
Chaplain and Author
How do those who take care of the rest of us take care of themselves? Chaplain Teresa Durbak Sipos discusses how, when surrounded by trauma, those caregivers can take care of their moral and spiritual selves. Teresa serves as a behavioral healthcare chaplain and has taught mental health and addictions nursing for many years at three state universities in Ohio. Teresa is the author of “Integrating Spiritual Healthcare Interventions into Nursing Praxis: An Educational Intervention” and “Spiritual interventions may alleviate moral injury and depression among nurses.” October 22 through 28 is National Pastoral Care Week / Spiritual Care Week. Teresa can be reached at http://www.trinitycounselingllc.org.
[Jaunty Guitar Music]
Mike: Welcome, everybody. This is Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, brought to you by Westwords Consulting and the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan.
Mike: October 22nd through the 28th, this week, is National Pastoral Care, Spiritual Care Week. The theme this year is "Chaplaincy and Mental Health: It's Healthy to Get Help".
Mike: Our guest today is Chaplain Teresa Durbak Sipos. Teresa serves as a behavioral health care chaplain. She's taught mental health and addictions nursing for many years at three state universities in Ohio. Teresa is the author of "Integrating Spiritual Healthcare Interventions into Nursing Praxis, an Educational Intervention", and "Spiritual Interventions May Alleviate Moral Injury and depression among nurses".
Mike: She was awarded the Sister Mother Teresa of Calcutta Service Award by the Central Ohio Catholic Medical Association, chairs the Catholic Nurses Columbus Council of the National Association of Catholic Nurses, and serves on the board for the International Institute for Trauma Recovery.
Mike: Welcome, Teresa.
Teresa: Thank you for asking me to do this. I appreciate it.
Mike: It was great. One of one of the people that we work with mentioned that what this week was and thought it would be a terrific idea and it fits right in with our podcast. So let's start right off. Tell us what, what is spiritual health care and how do you integrate that or how is it integrated into clinical practice?
Teresa: Okay, so when you go to chaplain training for 1,600 hours, they tell you chaplaincy (laugh) is providing emotional and spiritual support for patients, families and staff. So that's my job. And spiritual support means a million different things. If you start off with listening to the patient, seeing what their needs are and then trying to meet those needs, that would be a great first start.
Teresa: Trying to engage patients. Sometimes I think when the chaplain walks into the door it's for bad news. So, I'm trying to engage the patient with a smile, like Mother Teresa would say. And you know, just listening and, you know, seeing what they need. Some people want a prayer, some people don't want to, you know, don't want you in the room.
Teresa: So, it could be a variety of things.
Mike: (laugh) Do some people say, no, no, no, no, no?
Teresa: Oh, yes, yes, yes. (laugh) Oh, yes. Definitely. Especially if they see the chaplain as the bearer of bad news and death, you know. So they're like, no (laugh), don't come in the room.
Mike: I didn't think of that.
Teresa: Yeah, or if they don't have a faith background, you know.
Teresa: They don't want someone obviously pushing their faith on them, you know. Proselytizing, you can't proselytize, you can't force your faith on anyone else. So, you know, they don't know who you are or where you're coming from. And so it's nice just to, if you can start off with a small and hello and you know, anything I can help you with and kind of be like kind of personal. Definitely the job is not to spout theology.
Mike: Oh, you wouldn't do that right.
Teresa: No. (laugh)
Mike: You're not going to force rosary beads into my hand.
Teresa: No, I wouldn't. (laugh) I have one, but no (laugh) I, actually it's funny. At the state psychiatric hospital that I work at, we had gotten these breakaway rosaries that are good for the hospital and prison. So they're not used as a weapon.
Teresa: And it's, it's amazing. The patients who are not Catholic, who want one. And they still ask me for them because they like to have something in their hand, you know, like a cross in their hand or, you know, prayer beads in their hand, or I don't know if they feel protected or I don't know what, but it's amazing the amount of people.
Teresa: I think I used to get boxes of 500 before they did away with them and the patients still ask me for them. So I don't push rosary beads (laugh), but people literally ask me, which is, I find amazing.
Mike: That's great.
Mike: Well, you know, I work all over the place and so many healthcare professionals, especially nurses are working so hard. Overwork, they tell me.
Mike: And I thought your teaching was so critical with that. So the theme this year of your spiritual pastoral care week is "It's healthy to get help". Okay. So how do they maintain their own mental health?
Teresa: A lot of them quit.
Mike: Right. That's what I'm asking.
Teresa: "That I can't live this way" and "I can't keep working this way". And, you know, during COVID, they don't want to bring COVID home. We had a mass exodus at our hospital. You know, part of the understaffing, you had COVID, you had all these needs, and then, you know, you didn't have enough staff.
Teresa: So there were a lot of people that were working forced overtime, which is unfortunate.
Mike: Well, talk about that because I was in the hospital a while back, just for a little thing, and totally different than 15 years ago. You know, they have so much more to do, and there's less of them to do it.
Teresa: Yeah, yeah, I don't think most people realize what nursing is. I've been a nurse forever. I've spent most of my time in behavioral health care nursing, and then taught nursing while I was going to school, you know, for chaplaincy, and then overlapped for a while. Yeah, I've been a chaplain for 12 years officially.
Teresa: After that 1,600 hours of training and another degree and whatever. What does that look like? (sigh) Oh, what's it look like for nurses to get help or how they're dying on the vine?
Mike: Well, both. I mean, I barely, you know, they were coming in and you could tell. I mean, I was only in there for tests or whatever, but I had to stay.
Mike: And so, you know, I kept my clothes on. I was, I was bored out of my mind. But every time they came in. I don't think it took the most perceptive person in the world to know that they were overwhelmed. They appeared that way. They didn't appear happy. They didn't appear happy.
Teresa: And that's sad. You know, that's really sad.
Teresa: So one of the things I mentioned when we were prepping for this that Ohio Nursing Association did a research survey on moral injury. And you know, we define, you had asked me before about how is moral injury defined and you know, it's being forced to do things that are against your conscience. So one example on nursing might be, you know, you can only take care of three people well, but they're going to give you five.
Teresa: You know, if you're in a critical care area, you know, or you know, you can on a med surgery and you can only take care of 10, but they give you 20, I mean, because they're understaffed and because people are sick and people are coming in the door and you don't have enough people to take care of them. So let me read a higher nursing association definition.
Teresa: If I can find it for moral injury officially, because I want to talk about the research. So the Ohio Nursing Association was granted their research foundation was granted a hundred thousand dollar grant.
Teresa: So three universities got together, Ohio State University of Cincinnati and Case Western. So they did a survey of nurses and I actually participated in that survey online. And the only religious question they asked is was just one question. It was very, very negative. And I think they must have gotten a lot of feedback because they put the survey out a 2nd time and then they change the wording to say, oh, "do you have are 1 of your resiliency support measures you know, community support such a faith such as a faith group".
Teresa: So I think somewhere in their research, they figured out, oh, we got to change the wording on this because I would bet they got a lot of complaints. So anyway, so I, they did publish their results and they talk about moral injury and resiliency, you know, how resilient are nurses. I mean, you can only be so resilient so long so far.
Teresa: So my answer to moral injury moral injury of staff and spiritual distress of patients is to teach spiritual interventions. And nursing has always been called holistic. You know, when I started in nursing in the 70s, late 70s they always preached holistic nursing, but no one ever really taught what that was.
Teresa: So they'd say, okay, we're going to provide care, body, mind, and spirit. Well, today they barely have time to provide physical care that's necessary and essential. And then I work in mental health. A lot of people don't understand the mental health dynamics, which is more abstract. And then you go the third level, spiritual care, even more abstract and more controversial and don't understand that.
Teresa: So what I'm trying to do is teach a course distilling down that 1,600 hours down to 12 because nurses are really smart and they're already good at clinical care and, you know, providing a 12 hour class with some of the theology language. And from that theology language, we develop nursing spiritual interventions to actually do provide holistic spiritual care.
Teresa: And that care is for both the nurse and for the patient. What a suggestion in, in the course would be, for nurses to pray. And you know, one of my slides and one of my PowerPoints is a bunch of nurses praying, you know, in an O. R. Before surgery. And one time I worked on a medical facility as a chaplain and a patient refused to go into surgery until someone came and prayed with them.
Teresa: So they paged me like six in the morning to come in and pray with the patient. So the research that I did, like I looked at peer research, you know, U. S. adults and religious beliefs, and my own research with student nurses, it's like 89, 90 some percent people believe and do pray. So it's not a foreign concept.
Teresa: It's not like you're pushing anything on anybody. I had a student nurse who a patient asked the student nurse to pray with them. And the student nurse didn't know how to pray. She didn't even know like the Lord's prayer. And you know, so patient, you have chaplains, you know, but there's such a small percentage and available such a small percentage of time.
Teresa: You know, like I work now as a chaplain at three different hospitals and I'm only there a very few hours, a few days a week. That's not really enough. But anyway, with praying. Suggestion for nurses, and I had this lovely one nurse who came to one of our meetings. She said she had to get an IV in. So she stopped to pray to get the IV in, and it went in, you know, beautifully.
Teresa: And you have to have the skill and the education to know how to do it, but a lot of times you do have to pray in order, you know, have you ever been stuck with lab work, you know, or IVs and someone can't get it in and you get stuck a couple of times, it might help if a nurse prays, you know, for help in a divine intervention, literally to get that IV in quickly, you know, and properly and without pain.
Mike: Well, when that's happening, to me. I'm and I see her struggling or him struggling. I'm doing the praying, so.
Teresa: Good. Good. Yeah. (laugh) See, I told you everybody prays. At that point you really pray.
Teresa: Nurses are overburdened with time constraints. There's like a hundred tasks and you know, one hour to get them all done.
Teresa: And there's literally you know, like electronic medical records and hospitals that have a planning schedule. And it's up on the screen for the nurses and it's like, okay, you've got three different computer screens. And so you've got X amount of patients and you've got a hundred tasks and you got to get them done and you can't have anybody interrupt you (laugh) because you can't get them done anyway.
Teresa: So another thing nurses can pray for is help with time, you know, ask God to help them with the time. You know, that they have to get things done. And I believe things go a lot smoother when you ask for God's help with time. So help with skill, help with time, smiling, having compassion, listening. I did a class for some student nurses and I said, what's this mean? [holds up her hand with pointer finger up and thumb to the side in a "L" shape]
Teresa: I said, it doesn't mean loser. I said, what's this mean in your nursing practice? So we agreed that it's listen, you know, take the time to actually listen to the patient. And one of the guys in the back, one of the male nursing students in the back yelled out, leave the nurses station. (laugh) [holds up her hand with pointer finger up and thumb to the side in a "L" shape] You have to leave the nurses station in order to go to where the patient is to go listen to them.
Teresa: So. Having compassion, having the time, having the skill I believe prayer in your nursing practice helps, and it helps patients, and the nurses praying for patients, if the patient asks, Not the nurse pushing like, "hey, I want to pray for you" because that's intrusive, you know, patients laying there vulnerable in a bed and have someone push something on them, you know, is not, not appropriate at all.
Teresa: And the student nurses that I taught and did research on they understood that concept, you know, again, not to proselytize, but if a patient asks, you know, if they're struggling or if you just sit, honestly, just smile and listen and be nice, you know, that's spiritual care too in nursing.
Mike: It seems to me, when I watch them work, that their entire job could be defined, or, how they, how their mental health is in their job can be defined as one gigantic serenity prayer.
Mike: Because there's so much, right, of their jobs that they can't control, have to accept, and can't change.
Teresa: And the wisdom to know the difference.
Mike: Sure. Right, right.
Teresa: So you brought up. Okay. Serenity prayer. That's the short version. And by the way, it was written by a German theologian, the long version, the whole thing.
Teresa: I encourage my patients. I do 20 spiritual groups a week at three different hospitals for patients. It's called spiritual healthcare. And the one hospital I chart quite a bit, the other two I don't have to chart, thank God. Yay! Saves me some time. But I go and I do spiritual care groups for patients.
Teresa: And one of my handouts is on spiritual interventions for holistic healing. I said, so I explained like, you know, you have a, a mental health treatment plan, you have an addictions treatment plan, you have a medical treatment plan. This is kind of like a spiritual treatment plan. I've got like 20 interventions on it.
Teresa: And so. And I want to go in to teach one of the, the points, one of the 20 points is, you know what, these are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Beginning with wisdom, divine wisdom, divine knowledge, healing, miracles, you know, and you know, list all these you know, a couple of scripture verses with all the list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Teresa: You know, I tell everybody, you know, everyone has gifts and they're for the good, you know, the community. So when I go into the hospital and I'm going to have surgery (chuckle), I am praying for my surgeon to have divine wisdom and knowledge and how best to take care of me. So when she comes in and asks me preoperatively, "Hey, how are you doing?" I'm like, "No, how are you doing? (laugh) I want to make sure you're okay." But I encourage all my patients in the mental health hospitals to pray for their caregivers to have divine wisdom and divine knowledge to help them. And then we talk about, have you ever had a miracle? And they're like, "A hundred percent", you know, "A hundred percent of the patients." You know, if you give the opportunity to open a discussion about spiritual care, a lot of people have a tremendous amount to share and the patients have wonderful spirituality.
Teresa: Again, given it's a mental health unit some of them joke, "Oh, I can't really say this too much out on the unit because they'll give me a shot." But a lot of people have had after death experiences, especially right now with opiate overdose. You know, which is rampant in, in Ohio. I mentioned in our prep that our governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into effect this June and it was put in effect August 31st to have an Opiate Overdose Awareness Day.
Teresa: So I did a memorial service at two of the hospitals. Everyone I talked to, there's, there's actually billboards up in Columbus, Ohio saying, "Hey, I overdosed nine times." You know, so the patients have had many near death experiences, many spiritual experiences and a great recognition that someone somewhere someplace saved them and they give credit to God.
Teresa: Some people have come from opiate overdose or from suicide attempts have, you know, a hard way to get there, have come to faith. You know, the 12 steps big book calls it, you know, spiritual awakening. Many people have strong faith and many of the patients have strong faith, so I get to enjoy hearing their faith stories when we do group.
Teresa: Which makes my job lovely.
Mike: Okay, I was going to ask you that because it would seem that being in touch with that part of yourself would lend your own attitude more towards optimism and less towards cynicism.
Teresa: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, one of the nursing conferences I attended last year, they talked about burnout.
Teresa: And, you know, there is depression, burnout, and suicide in the healthcare professionals as well. And I mentioned that in my research. I know you're going to post the article, you know, that I posted. But with it embedded within that article are all the hyperlinks to all the research that I did. And the rate of depression.
Teresa: From the research I did is like 15 to 33 percent of nurses being depressed you know, on meds, getting treatment. And those are just the ones that are already diagnosed and treated. This doesn't include the ones that aren't yet.
Mike: Right! I thought that was when I read that and was looking at some of your articles, I was like, that's stunning! That's a ton!
Teresa: Yeah, yeah. So at the end of the article. So I mean, the article is called Spiritual Interventions That May Alleviate Moral Injury and Depression Among Nurses, and it talks about more injury and then, but it gives to, when I was talking about that at a conference down in Texas, someone mentioned the California Healer Study.
Teresa: So I looked it up and they found that nurses that self referred to get help for depression, you know, obviously they're referring themselves to get help, was 97%. And at that particular facility, they had had a physician suicide. So then they were trying to do an intervention for their physicians.
Teresa: It took them seven professions to get down to nurses. And then when they got down to the nurses, you know, it wasn't astounding 97%. So there, you know, I mean, people have given stories where, you know, they're walking out of work and they're up in the parking garage and they're like, "You know(inaudible) jump over?"
Teresa: You know? So, I mean, people are depressed and suicidal. The good news is there's good news. There's good news. (laugh) There was a JAMA psychiatry article it used to be called the Harvard nurses study and old nurses have probably participated in that. My mother and my aunts and our former CEO of one of the places I work at had participated in, it was like a 30 year longitudinal research study used to be called the Harvard study. But anyway, they, and it's listed in my article.
Teresa: And if you post my article, it's embedded within it. It was a survey of 89,000 nurses. It was a longitudinal study and they just asked a simple question. They said, you know nurses that attend a religious service, doesn't define what that religious service is, a religious service once a week had a five to seven time decrease in suicide, in their suicide.
Teresa: There's no treatment, medication or therapy that gives you five to seven times a decrease in suicide. This is just attending a religious service once a week. So, I mean, obviously, this is 89,000 nurses that were studied.
Mike: Well, and they're clearly getting in touch with something through that service. In one of the classes that you teach, one of the courses, you talk about, and this might be all that happens when you attend a service, taking the time, right, to think, feel, process, make an informed decision, and respond.
Mike: I've always found that the interesting part of that, I think we spend a lot of time in the thinking part of that. Not as much in the feeling part of it. I, I'm really curious. How do you encourage the nurses or caregivers to feel without being overwhelmed? I think there's a protective thing in there, where some people avoid their feelings because they're afraid of being overwhelmed.
Teresa: Right. So many people in the world and anybody and everybody, not just nurses.
Mike: Yes. Right.
Teresa: Have negative coping skills. When I was in Cleveland, I was teaching up there and I was telling the group of nurses at that psychiatric hospital, you know, that I, you know, going to school for chaplaincy up there.
Teresa: And you know, I, you know, I want to teach a class on nursing spirituality. And then one guy goes, "Spirits? Spirits. I'll tell you what my spirits are! It's, it's Jack, you know!"
Mike: Yeah, I was waiting for that. Yeah.
Teresa: Yeah. Yeah. So and I know like this one male nurse I work with, if you looked on top of his refrigerator, there was a bottle of whiskey, you know, so that's not necessarily the best way to deal with the stress of nursing. And it could get you in trouble.
Teresa: S o my proposal is to teach spiritual interventions, to teach nurses the language of theology, to distill that down to practical nursing interventions. And I have, you know, a whole list. I have a whole course. And in the course, the 12 hour course that I want to provide online is, I want to open up the discussion.
Teresa: You know, you know, I don't want to like preach one thing, you know, I just, I just want to open up the topic of spiritual interventions for healing and how do we get there and what does that mean? Many people don't know prayers, they don't know the virtues, they don't know theological terms, they don't know any spiritual interventions.
Teresa: I mentioned you know, that there's two, ANA, American Nursing Association, textbooks on scope and standards of nursing practice on faith and on holistic care. So it's definitely within the realm of nursing to provide spiritual interventions and care for the diagnosis of nursing is called spiritual distress.
Teresa: I mean, it's absolute. But knowing what those are, most people don't know what they are. And they don't know how to go about it. So either they do nothing or close off or go along the merry way and block it out and use their own negative coping skills. But it'd be nice if, if they were taught, it would help both the nurses and patients.
Teresa: It would help the nurses with the diagnosis of moral injury. It would help patients with the diagnosis of spiritual distress. They're not, you know, copyrighted by any religious brand or denomination. A lot of people call themselves spiritual, but not religious anyway, they don't have a religious background.
Teresa: So anyway, I just want to reintroduce back into nursing. What has always been there are spiritual interventions to help people. (inaudible) caring.
Mike: What are some of those signs of moral injury?
Teresa: Well, burnout and quitting and leaving and depression and suicide, top of the list.
Mike: And before you quit, you must be experiencing other emotional damage.
Teresa: Right, stress, not sleeping. Not eating right. Not doing good self care. So with my nursing group, with my nursing students, every place I've taught nursing they're required to go to a 12 step meeting and then they're required to write a one page reflection paper on it. And what do you think was the most impactful 12 step meeting for nurses?
Mike: Of the 12 steps?
Teresa: Yeah, of all the 12 step programs, which one do you think was the most riveting for student nurses and that they wrote in their paper they're going to continue going to that meeting?
Mike: Oh, I don't know. I don't want to be wrong. (laugh)
Teresa: (laugh) Okay, so for anyone who doesn't know, okay, 12 step meetings are part of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Mike: Narcotics Anonymous.
Teresa: And the book is called Alcoholics Anonymous. They call it the big book. And anyway, it's been around since 1935. So the 12 steps include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, which is big right now with the opioid overdose epidemic and people dying.
Teresa: Cocaine Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, you know, whatever. These are all free, non-professional support groups. So I open up the door for student nurses and I say, "Okay, you're required to go to one outside meeting." You know to open up their mind, you know a little bit and give them another perspective and it's all you know member run. It's not professionals at all.
Teresa: So one of the meetings is I suggest... First of all, I told them don't go to Gambler's Anonymous because when they, the Gambler's Anonymous guys, when they see the clean cut male nursing student walk in the door, they don't respond well to them. They think they're the police after them.
Teresa: But anyway, so what I suggest is that nurses attend Al Anon and Al Anon is for the spouse of the addicted person. So, or the loved one of the addicted person, it could be the mama or the wife or the husband or the boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, or brother or sister. And 100 percent all said that went to Al Anon is like, I'm going to keep going to this meeting because okay, so let me explain to the audience.
Teresa: Al Anon teaches healthy boundaries, good self care, self care, self care, self care. (chuckle) Nurses don't take care of themselves. They're used to taking care of others. They're labeled codependent, you know, they're labeled you know, whatever. Al Anon teaches healthy boundaries, how to speak up for yourself, how to take care of yourself.
Teresa: Taking care of yourself is good. In my class, one of the virtues, by the way, the theological virtues are faith, hope, and love. And then prudence, prudence is a virtue, which means taking good care of yourself. Justice, giving others their due. Temperance, which is moderation. Courage, speaking up when you need to.
Teresa: But the virtue of prudence, good self care, we're telling people, Hey, you know, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It's a gift from God. You know, we're supposed to take good care of our bodies. You know, we're not supposed to run until we drop.
Teresa: You know, a lot of nurses will pick up two nursing jobs or more and will just work and work and work until they drop over. Literally, you know, it's just someone who's sleep deprived, overwhelmed with taking care of a hundred sick people. I mean, I think how, how stressful it is to take care of one sick loved one, you know, multiply that by a hundred and you know, someone dies and it's like "Next! We've got another one come into that bed in, in 30 minutes."
Teresa: Anyway, so, it's free self help group Al Anon, you know, I promote that. Counseling, you know, mental health care, seeing a provider, getting meds if you need to but also definitely spiritual interventions, you know, spending time with God, spending time, the word, theological word is reflection. You know, having time to stop and really think about what's going on and what that means in your life.
Teresa: Go ahead, what was your question?
Mike: Well, as you talk about that, I'm not surprised and I've encouraged people forever to go to Al Anon meetings. They're like, well, can anybody go? I'm like, do you know anybody who has a substance abuse issue? I mean, if you don't, then you're one of five people in the world.
Teresa: Right. Everybody has somebody, whether it's a rageaholic family member or workaholic family, or the nurse being the workaholic or you know, the grandfather being the alcoholic or the addict. But again, I don't know what it's like in your state, but in Ohio, it is just an epidemic from opioid overdoses and things that are laced with like fentanyl that are killing people.
Teresa: So everyone I talk to can immediately tell me six people that they know that have died. And these are young adults. These are young to middle age adults.
Mike: And I think it's important for our job. But when you mentioned self care, boundaries, you said several times, and then you said advocating for yourself.
Teresa: Courage, yeah.
Mike: I thought that was fascinating. If I can be provocative a little bit. That's not my experience of the best of, I don't see a lot of healthcare professionals doing either of those.
Teresa: They don't know about it too. They're encouraged to be warriors.
Teresa: I can handle anything. I can do anything. I can keep on going. Nothing bothers me. You know how that false bravado, but everyone's human, everybody breaks. And if you don't take care of yourself. You'd like, just like anything else, you're going to break and whether that breaking is an, a new addiction or depression or suicide or starting to withdraw, you know, which is a sign of depression, you know, where you just kind of like put a, a wall up and you just won't feel anything.
Teresa: Like, you know, you started off with that question about feelings. And that's the future. That's unhealthy.
Mike: And when I talk, Teresa, to teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses, caregivers they, they are, what you just said is exactly right. They're told, oh, you're way to go, you're warriors, you're, you're this.
Mike: And so they're, essentially, the message is, Ignore the boundaries ignore that part of yourself. So what can then those places that hire those folks, the organizations, clinics, facilities do to encourage that connection with your spiritual self?
Teresa: Okay. So since 2020, since COVID, people are starting to wake up and they are starting to say, "Oh, we just had seven people quit this week. I wonder if we should do something about this." (laugh)
Mike: Yeah. Since there's already a shortage, right?
Teresa: Yeah. So. I made like a tranquility garden at our hospital and then the hospital also made a comfort room for the nurses, but they'll say they don't have time to go there, you know.
Mike: Oh, go with that. That's, that's exactly right.
Teresa: Okay. So to encourage someone that it's not a sign of weakness to take a 15 minute break or a 30 minute break, you know, to advocate for nurses to speak up, to take care of themselves, to teach 'em, to take care of themselves, because they literally give awards at hospitals. Oh, so-and-so has the most overtime.
Teresa: And literally they post it on a sign and they, they brag about, oh, this person had the most overtime. I'm like, that's really sick you know, it's just really sick. I mentioned to you in our prep that one of the hospitals I worked at I saw a nurse and she was already scheduled three 12s in a row, which is not healthy.
Teresa: Every research in the world says that's not healthy. The 11th hour nurses, there's not much left there to give. So, you know, the normal schedule for the nurses, three 12s, which is not healthy.
Mike: What does that mean? Three 12s?
Teresa: There were three 12 hour shifts in a row.
Mike: And so, three days in a row, you work 12 hour, 12 hour, 12 hour.
Mike: So you're working 36 hours in three days.
Teresa: Yeah, yeah. So that's the normal schedule which I strongly disagree with. And any research in the world for the last 20, 30 years would say the same. So this nurse was, quote, mandated overtime because they were short staffed. And so, you know, she ended up working a 12, a 16 and a 16.
Teresa: Well, I saw her at the end of the last day, the last few hours, last four hours over the last 16 hours. They didn't provide her with a bed. They didn't provide her with a meal. Everyone at that hospital drives about an hour to get there each way. She is a good, strong nurse. She is, you know, what most nurses want to be is a good, strong nurse, you know, she's got good ethics, good care, takes good care of the patients.
Teresa: But you know, I complained, I wrote a letter to the HR director. I said, you know what? We can pray all we want, but if you're abusing the staff, you're not going to, this place is not going to get blessed. I said, you know, what I wanted to say is, okay, you've given her a mat on the floor like a dog, but I didn't go that far.
Teresa: I'm like, the mat on the floor is inappropriate. I mean, the doctors get a lounge with a bed. The nurses get a dog mat on the floor and the, the nursing supervisor, I really love and care for, and she's wonderful, but she was bragging that "We're giving them a full size candy bar and a can of pop." (laugh) I'm like. "Are you guys crazy? I mean, don't you see what you're doing?" So anyway, it wasn't well received, my written complaint. And then a lot of people did leave. Since then it's gotten better. Cause COVID has gotten better. People are not sick, you know, and you know, it's a little bit better.
Teresa: And when I talked to new student nurses, they're, they're on the warrior mode. They're like, Oh, I can do it. I can't wait to get in there. You know I just, just a normal human, decent care. A normal schedule. One of the state psychiatric hospitals changed their nursing schedule from 12 hour shifts to eight hour shifts and the nurses complained.
Teresa: They complained. So once it went into effect, one of the more surly nurses that I saw while I was teaching there was all smiles. She's like, I have time to go home and have dinner with my husband. But man, she was like one of the most people's strongest adamantly against it. They like the schedule of, okay, I'm going to boom out three, three shifts and then I've got four days off.
Mike: I'm going to grind it.
Teresa: Some of them crank it together six in a row and they take, you know, a week and a half off. It's not healthy. You know, why encourage unhealthiness and healthcare facility with healthcare providers?
Mike: Well, and you can only pass along the mental health that you have.
Teresa: You can't pass along hardly anything if you're sleep deprived and you're brain dead and then you're coping with God knows what.
Teresa: So, it's been well researched for years. Twelve hour shifts are not good. You know anyway.
Mike: Wrap this in a bow then. What about the flip side? What happens then to us as people when we connect our day to day duties with our spiritual self and put all the pieces together. What's the upside to doing that?
Teresa: I wish there was a magic bow to do that. I am offering a class on spiritual care for nurses. A lady named Nancy Labine did research and said it's not taught to nursing schools because the faculty weren't taught and she did a huge study in the whole northeastern part of the United States.
Teresa: (sigh) I really believe learning spiritual principles, learning self care, learning to take care of yourself, learning to pray, you know, pray through things, you know, pray for wisdom and discernment about your life. Pray for wisdom and discernment about your work. Pray for wisdom and discernment about your work life balance. Take time to reflect, take time to breathe, take time to rest, take time to study the word of God, you know.
Teresa: That's my bow. That would be my bow, and that's what I'm gonna teach.
Mike: Well, and then, like the surly nurse you talked about, even on the flip side of it, if you're doing all that, you actually have time to go home and enjoy your life.
Teresa: Right. And she did finally come to that conclusion. She was forced to by her employer who decided that they were going to do the right thing and change it from 12 hour shifts to 8 hour shifts.
Teresa: But again, the nurses all complained. They all complained at that hospital and the hospital I worked at.
Mike: Wow, yeah, it's just, it's interesting how we, we don't take as good a care of ourselves as we advocate other people take care of themselves.
Teresa: Yeah. Rest is important. One of the docs, one of my friend that's a doc, she said, I firmly believe in the restorative powers of sleep and you need to get sleep, you know, instead of taking pills to sleep or Jack Daniels to sleep, you know, just have (chuckle) a normal schedule and get some rest anyway.
Teresa: So my bow, my bow is prayer and spiritual interventions for everybody.
Mike: Well, Teresa, thank you so much for joining us in this on this spiritual care week. I really appreciate you taking the time out to do that.
Teresa: Thank you for asking. And like I said, there's, there's articles, there's research, there's a website, and there's an online course coming.
Teresa: So. Look forward to seeing everybody.
Mike: Well, we will link Teresa's work and how to contact her at the end of this podcast, as you're well aware. We invite you to listen in next time with us, if you're able. And until then, we invite you to stay safe, stay connected, rest, pray, and take care of yourself.
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