Meet Nurse Jennifer Cheung: Heart and wisdom in nursing

Nurse Cheung

Join us as we chat with Nurse Jennifer Cheung, a critical care nurse educator whose journey through the demanding world of nursing is as inspiring as it is enlightening. With over a decade in critical care, Jennifer’s story is a testament to the heart and soul of nursing. Beyond her role in emergency and ICU settings, she’s a beacon of knowledge and education, guiding future nurses through her digital platform, Nurse Cheung.

In this intimate Q&A, Jennifer opens up about balancing the stresses of a high-pressure career with personal well-being. She shares her experience with the Apollo wearable, offering insights on how it can be a game-changer for nurses, especially in critical care. Plus, she gives valuable advice to nurses at different stages of their careers and reflects on her proudest achievements and future goals.

Dive into this heartfelt conversation with Jennifer, and discover the true essence of nursing through her eyes.

Can you share with us your journey from starting as a nurse to becoming a Nurse Educator with over 13 years of experience in critical care? 

My journey in the nursing profession has been both profound and transformative. Early academic challenges were pivotal, leading to a realization, through the wisdom of a mentor, who emphasized that grades don't define one's ability to be an excellent nurse, rekindled my commitment and drive.

During my time as a Registered Nurse, I had the deep honor of working in the Emergency Department, Progressive Care Units, Intensive Care Units, and the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU). After years of service in high-stakes environments, where life-and-death decisions rest in your hands, I felt a profound calling to pass on the critical skills and insights I'd gained to educate and empower the next generation of nurses.

These experiences were not just about acquiring skills but also about understanding the soul of nursing, the art that goes beyond textbooks. They drove me to further my education, earning a Master’s in Nursing Education. The arrival of the COVID pandemic cast a revealing light on the indispensable role of nurse educators, illuminating the path I was meant to follow.

Today, I am a Critical Care Program Development Consultant and Owner of Nurse Cheung. I pour my heart into developing educational programs that are comprehensive yet deeply human. I am devoted to ensuring that these programs do more than impart knowledge; they strive to imbue the compassion, adaptability, and practical wisdom that is the heartbeat of our practice. I see myself as a bridge between the rigors of academic theory and the trenches of nursing practice.

Nursing is known to be a high-stress profession. How do you personally manage stress and maintain a work-life balance? Can you share some specific stress management techniques or routines that have been particularly effective for you in balancing the pressures of work with personal well-being?

Nursing, indeed, is a high-stress profession that demands not just physical stamina but also emotional resilience. Personally, I manage stress by ensuring that self-care is a priority, not an afterthought. I adhere to a strict routine that includes regular physical exercise, such as yoga and running, which helps in releasing tension and maintaining physical health. Mindfulness and meditation, including journaling my personal experiences, have also become non-negotiable practices in my daily life, allowing me to center myself and approach each day with clarity.

Moreover, I’ve found that maintaining a hobby unrelated to my profession, like gardening and video games, allows me to shift my focus and recharge mentally. I also advocate for open communication with my colleagues and superiors to foster a supportive work environment where we can lean on each other during particularly tough times.

On a practical level, I use time management strategies to ensure that my workload is manageable. I take short breaks throughout my shifts to decompress, and I'm not shy about using my days off to truly disconnect from work, which I believe is crucial for long-term well-being. 

What led you to try the Apollo wearable? Was there a particular moment or experience that prompted this?

The COVID pandemic was an extraordinarily challenging time for everyone in healthcare, especially those of us at the bedside in critical care. The intensity and emotional toll were unlike anything I'd faced before. During this period, I experienced a gamut of emotions, from overwhelming stress to deep compassion fatigue, which affected not just my professional life but also my personal well-being. My husband, seeing the profound impact this was having on me, sought out supportive resources. It was his research and care that introduced me to the Apollo wearable.

There wasn't a singular moment but rather a cumulative effect of long, taxing days that led me to try the Apollo wearable. The Apollo wearable, with its promise of helping to manage stress and improve resilience through touch therapy, seemed like a beacon of support. It was a tool that could potentially provide me with a sense of calm and balance in the storm that was the pandemic. Giving it a try was a step towards reclaiming my equilibrium, and ultimately, it became a valuable component in my overall strategy for managing stress and nurturing resilience.

How do you think a wearable like Apollo can benefit nurses, especially those in high-stress areas like critical care?

I believe the Apollo wearable has the potential to revolutionize the nursing field, particularly within high-stress domains like critical care. By leveraging touch therapy to help manage the body's response to stress, Apollo can aid nurses in maintaining their composure, enhancing their focus during critical tasks, and facilitating clear communication with colleagues. Improved cognitive function and a calmer demeanor are invaluable in a setting where split-second decisions can have significant consequences. 

Moreover, better sleep quality, a notable function with Apollo that I use regularly, can contribute to the overall well-being of nurses who often face long, strenuous shifts.

By supporting nurses in managing their stress and promoting restorative sleep, wearables can enhance the capacity for patient care, which ultimately lies at the heart of the nursing profession.

You provide a wealth of nursing resources, courses, and tools on your Youtube. What are your top recommendations for nurses or people in high-pressure work environments at different stages of their careers?

For those just starting their nursing careers, my top recommendation is to engage with resources that build a strong foundation in stress management and self-care. Early in your career, it's crucial to establish healthy habits that can sustain you through long shifts and challenging situations. I often suggest courses and practices focusing on resilience training and mindfulness practices, as these can help build the mental fortitude necessary to thrive in demanding settings. 

For mid-career professionals, I recommend advanced communication and leadership courses, which are invaluable as you begin to take on more responsibility. Enhancing your leadership skills not only helps you manage your own stress but also equips you to support your colleagues effectively. Additionally, exploring resources on advanced clinical skills can keep you at the forefront of patient care.

For seasoned nurses and healthcare workers, I advocate for mentorship programs and teaching opportunities. Sharing your wealth of knowledge not only benefits those coming up in the field but also revitalizes your own passion for the work. Engaging with the latest technological advancements in healthcare, like wearables and digital health tools, can also provide new perspectives on patient care and personal health management.

Across all stages, I stress the importance of continuous learning. Whether it's through formal education, online webinars, or interactive workshops, staying informed about the latest research and innovations in healthcare is essential. It not only enhances your professional development but also ensures that you can provide the highest level of care to your patients while maintaining your own well-being.

Looking back at your illustrious career, what are you most proud of, and what do you hope to achieve in the coming years?

Reflecting on my career, the aspect I hold with the most pride is the impact I’ve had through mentorship and guidance on my social media platforms. There's an indescribable joy in receiving messages from individuals saying that my content helped them through nursing school or to pass a crucial exam. These moments affirm the value of my work beyond the bedside and classroom, and they resonate deeply with my passion for education and empowerment.

Looking ahead, I aspire to expand this influence, reaching and nurturing an even broader audience. I aim to create more in-depth resources and tools that can be accessed globally, breaking down barriers to education and support. I also hope to collaborate with healthcare professionals from various specialties to build a comprehensive network of knowledge that can be shared with those entering or advancing in the field. Ultimately, I want to contribute to the culture within nursing that prioritizes lifelong learning.