One week after the 2nd COVID-19 Vaccination

It’s been one week since I received the second Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. I didn’t feel as fatigued compared to the first shot. However, the injection site became red, swollen, hard, warm, itchy, and painful starting on the second day.

On Day 4 after the 2nd Pfizer Vaccination Shot

It peaked on the 4th day where you could see red streaks and it got to be about 2 inches in diameter. After work, I went to my primary care physician to have her take a look at it. She said it was unlikely to be cellulitis since they clean off the site with an alcohol pad and used a clean needle. She said it looked more like a strong local immune response to the vaccine.

That same day, I started taking Tylenol, iced it, and rubbed some hydrocortisone 1% on it. I just went to my local CVS to purchase some. I also rubbed some Nature Republic aloe on it.

By the fifth day, the injection site started to decrease in size and became less tender.

Day 8 after the 2nd Pfizer Vaccination Shot

Today is now day 8 and while it is still slightly tender, it is in much better shape now.

Even though I had some side effects, it beats the unknown effects of COVID-19. While I’m unlikely to die due to my age and comorbidities, there is still a possibility of getting sick and worse– passing the virus to my loved ones.

I hope when the vaccine becomes available to you, you make the plan to get it. If you’re concerned about it, chat with your doctor about it or feel free to reach out to me. Do your part and get vaccinated!!

Happy New Year 2021

I’m so glad that it is the new year and that 2020 is over. We have two approved, highly effective COVID-19 vaccines and vaccinations are on their way.

Next week I’m getting the second of two vaccine shots. I felt fine the first day besides a little arm soreness. The second day I felt fatigue, a slight headache and my arm was still sore. By the third day I felt much better. Since then (2 weeks now), I’ve felt fine.

It was a tough decision especially since I’m still breastfeeding and there were no clinical studies on that population yet. While there is unknown data for nursing women for this vaccine, there is plenty of data for providing immunity for our babies through our breast milk and it’s partially due to vaccines. Currently my baby is still doing just fine and progressively developing.

After weighing the risk vs benefits, I believe that the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risks of getting COVID-19.

After speaking with some skeptics, I’ve countered some of their arguments below.

While we may not know the long term consequences of the vaccine, I do know possible long term consequences of COVID-19– neurological changes, difficulty breathing, and death for already over 330,000 Americans. I’m ready to have a 95% effective vaccine protect me from getting COVID-19.

While we may not know how long the immunity will last, I’m ready to take another booster shot if it means protecting my loved ones and anyone I come in contact with.

While we may experience worse side effects from this vaccine compared to other vaccines, I’d rather get known side effects than the potential unknown of how COVID-19 would affect me or others around me.

While this new vaccine development seemed rush, I also know scientists have been studying mRNA vaccines for YEARS, this vaccine has gone through rigorous testing, and the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of a cell and change the DNA. The mRNA provides the blueprint to make the spike protein found on the virus so our body can start making antibodies against this virus.

While there is currently no data due to a lack of studies to suggest a reduction in transmission of COVID-19, most vaccines do reduce the viral load buildup since you are much less likely to get sick. With a decreased viral load it would ideally be more difficult to pass the coronavirus. To suggest that getting the vaccine still would not protect those who haven’t or can’t get the vaccine is just unfounded.

I feel so relieved to be at the beginning of the end. I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over. I can’t wait to experience freedom from masks again. To go back to seeing friends and family, to traveling, and to eating at an indoor restaurant again.

While I know getting the vaccine seems scary, for me, NOT getting the vaccine is even scarier. If you’re ready to go back to any resemblance of normal again:

Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Protect those who cannot get vaccinated by getting vaccinated when the vaccine is available to you.

So here I am. I decided to borrow a book called “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown. In there, the author discusses how on the flip side of courage is fear. And I definitely feel that. Fear that other people will judge me or think negatively towards me due to me speaking out. Sometimes it just feels easier to stay quiet and not make any waves.

But while we can’t be right 100% of the time, we can try. And we can keep trying to do the right thing. Just like in Frozen 2, when you’re feeling sad, you just have to do the next right thing.

The next right thing is to make a plan to get vaccinated when the vaccine becomes available to you. Let’s end this pandemic.

My First Labor and Delivery

I can’t believe it’s been twelve weeks since I had my baby. My entire life has completely changed in so many ways. I’ve become a first-time Asian American mother during a pandemic as a CRNA. Because it has completely changed my mind and body, I’d like to share my labor and delivery story, and later on, I’d like to share some products that made my life easier as a first-time mom.

As a first-time mom throughout the entire third trimester, the body is getting ready for labor by widening the hips. About 1.5 weeks before I went into labor, I lost my mucous plug. For me, it was a yellowish sticky blob.

First Stage

Early Labor

I was exactly 38 weeks along and wished my baby would come that weekend due to my work situation. On an early Saturday morning, my water broke while I was sleeping 3:20 am. A sudden wet gush woke me up! The water breaks before labor in about 15% of women. I called the midwife to let her know. We agreed that since my water was clear and GBS was negative, I could stay at home during my early labor. FYI, a GBS test checks if you have this common bacteria. If you are positive for GBS, you will get an antibiotic through an IV at the hospital during labor.

My goal was to rest and relax as much as possible. I went for a walk, ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, watched a movie, and took a nap. Around 6:10 pm, my contractions became more regular, and by 8:15 pm, my contractions were 2-4 minutes apart, 45 sec to 1:15 min long, for at least an hour. They wanted me to go to the hospital when it’s about 4-1-1 (4 minutes apart, 1 min long, for an hour) so that they know you’re in active labor. 

Active Labor 

Triage

I got to the hospital around 9:15 pm and went to the OB triage with my husband (I could only have one support person, so I trained my husband to be there for me!). My primary midwife happened to be on that night, which was awesome!! They checked fetal heart tones (FHT) and external contraction pressure. Normally, I think they would do a cervical exam in the triage area, but I asked to have it done once I was admitted to a room, and my midwife made that happen. 

Hospital Admission

They used a soft belly band to hold the two monitors in place and drew a CBC and type and screen (they draw blood just in case you need a blood transfusion). They asked if I wanted an IV, and I agreed to it since I know it sometimes may be more difficult to place one later. 

My midwife did a cervical exam and found that I was already 5 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and -1 station. 

Later on, my nurse Emily was able to find wireless monitors, so I didn’t have to be attached to the wall. Since I already had regular contractions, and my baby had accelerations during the contractions throughout the admission time, my midwife was comfortable with just periodic checks every 30 minutes. I was monitor free for a few hours and free to move around the room.

For the next 4-5 hours, I used a birthing ball and bounced on it. I breathed through my contractions, mindfully thinking about the pressure I felt.  I tried out different positions: “slow danced” with my husband, had my husband pull up on my belly from behind (or I called it a penguin pull). I even got into the water tub. The water distracted and dulled the immense contraction pressure. But at 3 am, I couldn’t take it anymore and asked for an epidural. As a first-time mother, I wanted to labor as long as possible without an epidural, because once an epidural is in, the laboring process slows down.

A Combined Spinal and Epidural (CSE)

I got out of the tub, and my midwife did another cervical exam and found I had dilated to 8cm. There was only another 2 cm left, but I knew that the transition phase was coming, and through my readings, I learned that the transition phase is the most painful part, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Also, I had attended the AANA Annual Congress last year. I learned that the latest literature indicated that a combined spinal and epidural was a great anesthetic choice for a laboring mother. I couldn’t wait to get relief.

At 3:30 am, the anesthesia resident got the CSE quickly, and I immediately felt relief through the spinal. In case you don’t know, a spinal numbs you quickly, and an epidural keeps you numb. They used a 0.1% bupivacaine with 3 mcg fentanyl concentration solution, and I loved that it was a bolus every 30 minutes rather than a continuous infusion. I felt little light pins from my chest down and slight itchiness from the fentanyl. But it was much easier to tolerate a little itchiness all over than the pain, especially as it neared the transition phase. Once the epidural was in, I did have to be on continuous monitoring, but I had to be in bed anyway. The nurse placed a foley catheter, which drains the urine. Shortly after pain relief, I fell asleep for a few hours until the morning.

Second Stage

In the morning, the nursing staff helped me move into different positions in the bed. Moving into different positions encourages the baby to move down into the canal on his own. At 11 am, the midwife broke the forebag, which prevented the baby from moving into the canal. My body continued contractions, but with the epidural, I didn’t feel any of them. The nursing staff continued to monitor the baby’s heart rate. The baby had accelerations with every contraction that came every 2-3 minutes. The accelerations indicate that the baby was tolerating the contractions perfectly. Finally, after I felt rectal pressure, the midwife came to assist with the delivery. I pushed for about 1 hour lying on my side, and he was born at 3:46 pm!

Third Stage

My baby immediately went on my chest for an hour of skin to skin time. He looked healthy (a APGAR score of 9 at 1 minute and 9 at 5 minutes. The APGAR score was created in 1952 by Dr. Virginia Apgar MD, an obstetrical anesthesiologist, to determine how well the newborn tolerated birth in the first minute and five minutes of his life). so they were happy to wait to do the height, weight, and give 3 medications. He was calm and quiet, having gone through such a traumatic experience! The midwife delayed the cord clamping until it stopped pulsating so that majority of the blood went back to the baby. My husband then clamped the cord. Shortly after, I delivered the placenta as well.

Placenta and Umbilical Cord Blood Donation

The midwife and nurse then gathered the placenta and umbilical cord tissue to prepare it for donation. I decided to donate the cord blood and placental tissue to research and some went to storage to help others cure diseases. I picked Cellsure because it was free to donate the tissue that would’ve otherwise went in the trash. I also checked my hospital to see if they routinely donated tissue but they did not. Around 28 weeks, I spoke to my midwife about donating my tissue. I found Cellsure online that accepted donations. About a month before my due date, I filled out an online questionnaire to qualify. Once I was done, Cellsure sent me a box for me to bring to the hospital when I was in active labor (4-1-1). I let my midwife and nurse know about the donation and they took care of everything. After delivering the baby, the nurse did draw one more set of blood for the Cellsure. They called Cellsure and someone came around 4 hours after the baby’s birth.

During the first hour, my baby tried to nurse but was just figuring out how to latch on. Latching is probably the most important part about breastfeeding!

The next day, I was super sore all over. I had the first-degree tear, so the midwife didn’t think I needed stitches. For pain relief, I used lidocaine spray and cooled witch hazel pads provided at the hospital. When I ran out, I used benzocaine spray.  I took ibuprofen and acetaminophen whenever offered (every 6 hours in the hospital, and I slowly cut back over the following two weeks). I also took Miralax once a day for the first four days after birth to help with bowel movements. My first few poops were all nice and soft so, I was happy about that. 🙂

How Nurses Can Successfully Work in the UK

Working in the UK as a nurse could be an excellent career choice with the added bonus of an opportunity to travel. Hospitals within both the National Health Service (NHS) and private sector often conduct recruitment in other countries in order to attract qualified nurses. 

Employment opportunities in the UK 

UK recruiters have acknowledged that there is still a significant demand for full-time nurses. Besides hospitals and clinics, nursing and care homes are also looking for nurses to fill their vacancies.   

So where do you start?

If you are from overseas and want to work in the UK, then naturally you will need to make an application. The process will take some time and a little bit of paperwork. 

The requirements will also differ depending on whether you trained:

  • Within the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Outside the EEA

The difference is due to the EU’s employment regulations. If you want to speed up the recruitment process, here is some sound advice.

Register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council

Registering is a requirement for all those who wish to work as a nurse in the UK as the NMC is the official organization that regulates the nursing profession.

If you are from overseas, you will also need to secure a UK work permit and find an employer who will sponsor you. Once you have registered with the NMC, you will receive a PIN number which will allow you to practice as a nurse in the UK. You can visit the NMC website to find out more information about registering as a nurse. To secure a placement, you should contact the hospitals directly. 

Once you have submitted your application, you will either be accepted, rejected, or asked to fulfill further requirements, perhaps by undergoing a supervised practice period.

If you have been trained as a nurse outside the EEA, you may have to take a nursing course so you can adapt your existing knowledge and skills to a UK setting. You can then register with the NMC once you have completed this course. Non-EEA trained nurses will also need to pass a competence test (CBT) and a practical skills examination (OSCE). 

The particular type of work permit or visa required will depend on your country of origin. If you are from the EEA region, you can visit the Home Office website for information on how to secure a UK work permit. If you are from outside the EEA and Switzerland, you need to apply for the General Visa – Tier 2.

UK nursing vacancies during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has meant that some of the usual hiring practices have been modified, especially for nursing home jobs. For instance, candidates can expect to be interviewed by their prospective employers via a video call. In addition, candidates may only be able to visit the employer’s facility when it is necessary or after they have been hired. 

Even before the pandemic, there was a high demand for nurses in the care home sector. UK recruiters anticipate that this demand will only increase once the current crisis has abated. 

Apply for a nursing position in advance

As mentioned earlier, the UK nursing application process may take some time. It can also be rather complicated. As a result, it is vital that you make your application as early as possible, well before you arrive in the UK.

To expedite the hiring process, make sure you bring all your essential documents, such as:

  • Diplomas
  • Training logs
  • References
  • Birth certificate

Conclusion

Nurses who are interested in working in the UK can expect a warm welcome from recruiters and employers alike. The demand for qualified and skilled nurses is still very high. Although it may require some effort and time to apply, it will be well worth it in the end. If you want to evaluate your career options, go to the NMC and UK Home Office websites to find out more information.  

Guest Post by:

The COVID-19 Crisis: CRNAs to the Rescue

One of the most memorable photos from the COVID-19 pandemic is an image of two healthcare workers in full PPE embracing, face shield to face shield. It’s an even prouder moment for the nursing community as the two are a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) couple from Tampa General Hospital. 

These two CRNAs, Mindy Brock and Ben Cayer, are on the hospital’s airway team. When a COVID patient is in respiratory distress and requires intubation, they are there to sedate and intubate the patient. This is a high-stress situation where time is of the essence, as a COVID-19 patient’s oxygen saturation is known to drop rapidly.

Mindy and Ben are just one example of the roles that CRNAs have played in helping fight COVID-19 across the country. Keep reading to find out more about how CRNAs are contributing to this health crisis.

How CRNA Qualifications Help 

CRNAs are advanced practice nurses who are trained in skills such as intubation, arterial line insertion, central line insertion, and pain management techniques, such as regional blocks. Prior to earning their degree and certification, CRNAs are required to have intensive care unit (ICU) experience so they are well-versed in managing critically ill patients. 

This education and training takes a CRNA to the head of the bed in an operating room, surgery center, or doctor’s office, but the COVID-19 pandemic has CRNAs finding new opportunities to pitch in. 

Continuing the Fight in Medically Underserved Areas

CRNAs have full practice authority in 29 states. This means they can practice without a physician’s supervision. As a result, CRNAs often provide care and airway expertise in traditionally underserved areas. An example would be in a community access hospital where hiring a CRNA can be a cost-effective practice. 

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, on March 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a temporary suspension of supervision requirements for CRNAs. This suspension meant hospitals and health systems could utilize CRNAs to the fullest extent of their practice. In a press release about the suspension, Kate Jansky, the AANA President, said this decision allows CRNAs to manage and staff intensive care units as well as staff operating rooms without a physician’s supervision.   

Traveling to the Front Lines

Lots of facilities canceled their elective surgeries to slow the spread and preserve their PPE, and many furloughed CRNAs took the opportunity to travel to some of the hardest-hit areas to provide their services. One example of this was when 30 CRNAs from the North American Partners in Anesthesia (NAPA) group traveled to New Jersey to join in the fight against COVID-19. 

CRNAs traveling to states that were hit hard would work on intubation teams as well as resuscitation teams. When a COVID-19 patient coded in the hospital, the CRNAs would provide assistance in airway management, medication administration, and other potentially life-saving tasks. 

Many CRNAs left behind families and risked their personal health to serve those most in need. Some have even come out of retirement to volunteer. 

Recommended reading: Love Thy Neighbor: Wear a Mask

Even with the right PPE, the work is dangerous. CRNAs are working with the airway, which means they are especially at risk for getting contaminated droplets on their clothing or breathing them in. An estimated 20 percent of the anesthesiology department at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City had contracted the virus as of April 2020, according to the Associated Press. Even with the increased risk many have voluntarily given their time and knowledge.

Returning to the Bedside

Because CRNAs have worked in different ICU settings before going to graduate school, some have opted to return to the bedside during the pandemic. For example, many have stepped into roles helping manage ventilators and airways in ICUs as well as taking patient assignments. 

With elective surgeries on hold in many parts of the country, working in the ICUs or in emergency triage settings allows CRNAs to utilize their hard-earned skills. 

The Takeaway

While 2020 has looked very different for the healthcare community than anyone had anticipated, there are countless stories of nurses, including CRNAs, who have answered the personal call to help. The pandemic has also shined a light on CRNAs’ services and engaged politicians and communities to lobby for expanded practice rights. 

Where there is a health need, nurses — including CRNAs — will answer the call. 

Guest Post by:

Love Thy Neighbor: Wear a Mask

Michiganders are now required by Executive Order from Governor Whitmer to wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoor settings except in certain situations. All workers in indoor businesses should also wear masks and businesses must turn away customers who don’t wear masks.

The Emergency Alert showed up on my phone today at 4:44pm

Our state leader is setting the right example by wearing a mask and is attempting to change the “American culture” of individual freedoms fast. She has to set this executive order to tell everyone the seriousness of this pandemic and what we all must do to combat COVID-19.

Unfortunately our national leader, the president of the United States, does not want to set a good example and has made masks a political movement. It should not be a political movement! Instead, this is truly a public health crisis.

Wearing a mask is a symbol of caring for thy neighbor, anyone you come in contact with. The mask protects the other person from you, just in case you are amongst the 40% of asymptomatic coronavirus carriers.

Being an asymptomatic carrier means that you have no symptoms whatsoever and you still have the virus and can easily spread the virus to others. Currently, the WHO and scientists worldwide tell us the primary way of getting this severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the name of this coronavirus, is by being close to others in less than 6 feet and breathing in their air.

This coronavirus is not going away until a viable vaccine is ready, which is unlikely to happen until next year. We must remain vigilant and always think what we must do to protect our loved ones and those on the front line. Just when Florida and Texas think they are in the clear and open up the country prematurely, now they are paying for it with American lives and wrecking havoc on thousands of families. If Florida was a country, they would be number 4 in the highest number of cases right now.

Love Thy Neighbor: Wear a Mask

This is especially important as a nurse. You must always protect yourself in order to protect and serve others. Encourage those around you to follow good practices.

I have to admit it’s been difficult. I wished for my sister to drive from New York and visit me and my newborn. Unfortunately I had to decline and tell her to visit me next year when we have a vaccine. My newborn is completely vulnerable and I would feel horrible if something happened to him. She had also visited several groups of people in the week leading up to the planned visit and planned to stay in a hotel for a night. It doesn’t help that videos come up that show hotel rooms still not being adequately cleaned even during the pandemic.

What have you done to encourage others to wear a mask? How have you struggled during this pandemic? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy International Nurses’ Day

2020 is also the year of the nurse and midwife as designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200 year anniversary of her birth.

Florence Nightingale is the pioneer of modern nursing.

It is almost very fitting that this is the year of the nurse and midwife. They are on the frontlines of taking care of patients with COVID-19 and must advocate for not only the patient but also themselves. The protection and safety for themselves is vital for taking care of others.

Unfortunately there are already too many stories of nurses who were not equipped with the appropriate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) and died because of it. Every hospital system should do everything to support the nurses and anyone on the frontline to get the right PPE. No system should deny the nurses safety and their own judgement on what is required to keep them safe.

As for the midwives, I am proud to say that I choose a midwife to be my primary care provider. Thankfully midwives and the hospital system have a good working relationship and thus many best evidenced based practices are utilized. I’ll go over it in more detail tomorrow. Goodnight for now.

Day 1 of Stay Home Stay Safe Order in Michigan

Wow.

So much has happened since I last posted but almost more importantly, this pandemic is just starting to get crazy.

That’s right, just starting.

It’s been 2 weeks since Michigan declared a state of emergency when there were two positive cases of COVID 19. Now there are 1791 confirmed positive cases with 24 people dead.

“Flattening the Curve” by Staying Home

Right now our hospital systems can handle the number of cases. It will still be able to as long as people stay home. This week. YES. This week is the critical week that will help determine if our hospitals will be completely overrun with patients and us having to make decisions on who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t. I hope that we don’t get to that point. But the only way to stop it is by staying home.

I’m happy to see that Michigan has a stay home order. That is a necessary step to get people to take this seriously.
If we continue “Shelter in Place”, meaning staying home and only going out for groceries or essentials once a week, then we will be doing our part to “flatten the curve.”

“Flattening the curve” means that we will not exceed the number of available hospital beds.

If we all do our part, then this graph predicts that we will likely peak in the number of hospitalizations (4877 people) around May 18. As you can see in this graph, 4877 is much lower than our maximum capacity.

Staying home will make it possible to save more lives.
If we as Michiganders stay home, then it is possible to never overload the hospital system and decrease the number of deaths.

Moving back to Michigan

I moved back to Michigan about a month ago and since then I’ve done a couple of things:

  1. I got a new job
  2. I bought my first home and I’m moved in last week
  3. I attended the AANA (American Association of Nurse Anesthetists) Annual Congress

A lot of big and exciting changes are happening in my life.

Probably one of the hardest things for me to acclimate to a new institution is getting used to new

  • flow (from pre-op, intra-op, to post-op for all different surgeries and procedures),
  • equipment and location of materials,
  • staff (are they seasoned nurses and techs or are they unfamiliar with the preferences of the surgeon),
  • physician anesthesiologists (do they communicate well with you, give pre-medication, follow protocols well, etc) and
  • surgeons (knowing their preferences, speed of surgery, etc).

Sometimes when things don’t flow as well as I’d like, I have to think about the big picture: “did the patient safely go through surgery?” If yes, “what else could I do next time to improve? What did I do well?” I continuously reassess my day. Sometimes I’ll reach out to my colleagues to ask them of their opinion as well.

For now, go blue!

Words Create Reality

Words create thoughts.

Thoughts create reality.

Change your words, change your reality.

Good thing words are free.

In a Ted video, Lera Boroditsky described a tribe that didn’t use the words left and right and rather described direction only in terms of north, south, east, and west. The tribal members were better with a sense of direction compared to anyone else.

In Russian, it’s common to use varying descriptions of the color blue. Whereas in English, we say blue. It is much easier for a Russian to differentiate the different shades of blue compared to an American.

In a book called “Bringing up Bebe,” the American mom says in France, there are descriptors for “a behavior of small annoyance,” which help differentiate small bad behaviors from horrific acts. Because such a word does not exist in English, a kid who doesn’t finish his carrots versus a kid who kicks a dog may be all labeled “bad kids”. It doesn’t help distinguish the level of “badness” and the behavior from the child.

According to the Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, if you use the words of a rich person, then you will become rich. Gaining a financial education is one of the key factors that will get you there. You gain education through the words you use.

One of the new advances in medicine and nursing that are rocking the world right now is the use of pocket ultrasound. While ultrasound has been available for years, it has remained prohibitively expensive, especially in rural and poor countries. However, the Butterfly IQ has come out, and I believe it will change how people are diagnosed. Some healthcare providers may be reluctant to use it because it was not utilized in their initial training, but as with any advances, it will be imperative to learn new words (and images) and ultrasound education, to fully embrace the new technology and change the way people are diagnosed.

In each field, we use different words to give us more details, and it dictates our thinking. Our thinking turns into action (or inaction), and that becomes our reality. So to become a better anything, you have to learn the words.

That is why if you say you can’t do something, then that is your reality. That is why if you say you do something, then that becomes your reality.

So if you believe you belong in nursing school, then you will do everything you can to get there. If you believe you will become a great nurse anesthetist, then you will find the resources to become one. If you believe that you can make a difference, then you will learn great behaviors from your role models.

Whatever your dreams are, believe in the new words to create a better reality for yourself.