Nurses spend so much time caring for others that they sometimes forget to prioritize self-care. This is mainly due to their increasingly demanding schedules. As a result, they become exhausted, both physically and mentally, ultimately leading to burnout. This state of burnout leaves them feeling unable to cope.
Although this has been a reality for nurses for a long time, it has become even more pronounced since the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant number of nurses now report a dramatic increase in stress levels, citing damage to their mental health and overall well-being as a primary reason for their burnout and departure from the workplace.
Why is Self-Care Important for Nurses?
With 80% of nurses reporting that they believe the shortage of nurses will become much worse in the next 5 years, prioritizing self-care for nurses is essential. This shortage would not only place immense pressure on the healthcare system but would directly impact the well-being of the existing workforce.
When a nurse feels mentally and physically tired, the likelihood of making errors of judgment and poor decision-making increases, potentially compromising patient safety and the overall quality of care.
What Does Self-Care for Nurses Involve?
To ensure that nurses can deliver the best possible care not only to their patients but also to their families, they must take care of themselves first. This means nurturing their physical, emotional, psychological, social, spiritual, personal, professional and medical health. By consistently tending to these eight aspects, they will maintain a healthy balance between their personal well-being and their work life.
Self-Care Strategies for Nurses:
Nursing is a physically demanding job so it’s important that you’re in good shape. This means sticking to a regular exercise routine as well as maintaining a healthy diet. This could mean walking to work or preparing your own lunch to take with you.
Nursing is full of highs and lows and it can be difficult to leave these emotional burdens at the workplace and out of your home life. It’s essential to stay positive in these situations and find a creative outlet that you enjoy or take part in an activity that makes you laugh.
This type of self-care concentrates on personal and professional development. Learning and accomplishing something new nurtures feelings of self-confidence and helps your personal growth.
This type of self-care is about establishing and sustaining healthy relationships in and out of the workplace. Nurses are constantly in the company of others making it important to build connections and create a community spirit. This can be achieved by arranging nights out with coworkers or taking the day off to spend with family and friends.
Spiritual well-being does not necessarily have to be associated with religion; it’s more about mindfulness. This is an essential aspect of a nurse’s self-care and helps you to maintain balance, and appreciate and respect the beliefs and wishes of your coworkers and patients.
Nurses are usually seen in a professional capacity and it’s easy to forget that you have a personal life too. Personal self-care is all about doing something completely unrelated to nursing. It’s about taking the time to enjoy something that pleases you and not doing something for someone else.
It’s important to practice self-care both in the workplace and outside of it. This means maintaining a healthy professional environment by organizing your work life and assisting colleagues as well as patients. It’s about practicing mindfulness in a professional setting.
With so much time and concentration dedicated to patients’ medical well-being, it’s easy to overlook your own. Make sure to schedule regular check-ups. Medical self-care is also about managing stress levels, maintaining healthy sleep habits and staying on top of your general health.
This highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy self-care routine which is vital for nurses and equally relevant for everyone else.
Neglecting self-care not only puts nurses at risk of mental and physical burnout but also jeopardizes their well-being and the welfare of their patients.
By practicing each of these self-care strategies, nurses can maintain a healthy and harmonious lifestyle both within and beyond the workplace, ensuring that they continue to provide the best care for their patients and themselves.
Self-care is not a selfish act; it’s a necessary one.