Healthy Nurses: Self-Care Leads to Best Patient Care

Healthy, smiling nurse
Healthy, smiling nurse

Nurses spend their days – often 12 hours straight – providing physical care and emotional support to their patients. As healthcare professionals, nurses are constantly on their feet, required to make critical decisions, listen, report, interpret and tirelessly work with profound dedication to improve patients’ health.

No wonder nurses are often in the ironic position of not being able to focus on self-care. Who has the time? And when there’s time, who has the energy? Recent studies concerning nurse health reviewed on found that nurses have higher occurrences of depression compared to the national rate, along with job stress that is associated with sleep deficiency, lack of exercise and increased cardiometabolic risk.

The importance of nurse happiness and well-being can’t be overstated. A recent study of hospital-employed nurses found that nurses who work while in pain and/or with depression report more on-the-job medication errors and increased patient falls. Without a doubt, the quality of care provided to patients suffers when nurses put their own health on the back burner.

The American Nurses Association’s Healthy Nurse program was created to empower nurses to “become stronger role models, advocates, and educators, personally, for their families, communities, and patients.” Healthy nurses feel supported and are able to maintain a balance between work and daily life. Working Nurse advises all nurses take charge of their own health by following some straightforward steps to ease stress and feel better. Suggestions include creating a feasible exercise plan, improving nutrition, maintaining routine health exams and nurturing emotional well-being.

The following articles, retrieved from the American Nurses Association, provide information on studies and life changes that impact the health and happiness of nurses.

  • “Effective Interpersonal Communication: A Practical Guide to Improve Your Life” provides strategies to improve communications skills, shown to enhance a nurse’s overall career satisfaction
  • “Social Media and Nurses: Insights for Promoting Health for Individual and Professional Use” reveals the positive and negative points surrounding social media use and the potential health consequences
  • “Practicing Self-Care for Nurses: A Nursing Program Initiative” summarizes Caring for Self, an elective course designed for undergraduate nursing students at Florida Atlantic University
  • “Implementation of a Participant-Centered Weight Management Program for Older Nurses” reviews a study of a nurse-participant-centered weight management program as an effective way to improve health
  • “Factors Related to Healthy Diet and Physical Activity in Hospital-Based Clinical Nurses” reports on a research study showing the positive results of work programs that are created to improve nurse health
  • “Designing Exercise and Nutrition Programs to Promote Normal Weight Maintenance for Nurses” explains Inova Loudoun Hospital’s comprehensive exercise and nutrition wellness program and encourages nurses to create similar programs
  • “Healthy Eating for Healthy Nurses: Nutrition Basics to Promote Health for Nurses and Patients” provides updated information on the role of stress, inflammation and diet, as well as how sleep impacts nutrition

Nurses are on the front line every day, facing immense challenges while skillfully caring for patients with compassion and respect. Now more than ever, it’s critical for nurses to embrace the benefits of self-care and life lived to its fullest capacity.