Self-Care Tips for Nurses

Nurse comforting man lying on hospital bed
Nurse comforting man lying on hospital bed

Attention to self-care is essential for work-life balance in healthcare, yet nurses are notorious for not taking care of themselves first.

Airline stewardesses correctly tell passengers to put an oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else in case of emergency. It seems counterintuitive for a nurse to consider self-care before caring for patients, but you can’t help anyone else on a plane if you pass out.

The American Nursing Association designated 2017 as the “Year of the Healthy Nurse” and chose “Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit” for 2017 National Nurses Week. When nurses wear themselves thin they do not have the energy, enthusiasm or endurance to care for their patients well.

Without attention to self-care, you will not have the strength, passion or stamina to finish the job well. The World Health Organization describes self-care as what people do to maintain health and prevent illness through:

  • Hygiene
  • Nutrition
  • Lifestyle
  • Environmental factors
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • Self-medication

Physical Health Care is the First Step

Getting enough sleep, keeping a nourishing diet and taking mental health breaks when necessary can transform an exhausting and overwhelming day into a tolerable one.

  • Take bathroom breaks and drink water frequently during your shift.
  • Keep up to date with routine physicals and recommended health screenings.
  • Keep a nourishing diet and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise several times a week.
  • Make rest and sleep a priority.
  • Get prompt care for illnesses and injuries.
  • Use proper body mechanics.

Intellectual and Professional Health is Essential

Many things are beyond a person’s control, but self-care should not be one of them. Things that seem small can make a huge difference.

  • Keeping up-to-date with your specialty can be helpful in reducing stressors at work.
  • Knowing what you are doing and being confident in your ability can be life-altering for both you and your patients.
  • Professional health is the ability to complete your duties well in a calm and collected way to prevent career stagnation and burnout.
  • Arriving for work and appointments ten minutes early is a huge stress buster.

No Nurse is an Island

Self-care doesn’t change the difficulty of your patients or work schedule, but it does improve your ability to cope with them.

  • Humans are social beings and require social and emotional support systems.
  • Nurses are conditioned to be caregivers but need to learn how to accept caring and support from others.
  • Build a social support system that allows you to be vulnerable.
  • You don’t always need to be the hero.
  • If you do not have a support system, health systems often have life-support partners to help employees cope with concerns or life crises.

Pay Attention to Your Personal Life and Needs

You cannot take care of anyone else well unless you take care of yourself.

  • Honor your commitments to yourself and your family.
  • Make dates with yourself and your loved ones and keep them.
  • Do things that you enjoy that are not nursing-related.
  • Volunteer, take up a hobby, get a mani-pedi, read a book and enjoy your non-work time.

A Place for Spiritual Growth Can Work Wonders for Your Soul

Humans are spiritual beings, and spirituality can take many forms and functions in different people’s lives. Adding mindfulness or meditative practices can be a healthy addition to a balanced life. Being able to participate fully in the faith practice of your choice can provide solace and support in times of need.

Nursing is a challenging, rewarding career, but the truth is that many nurses experience burnout and stagnation and end up switching jobs or leaving the profession altogether. It takes years for a novice nurse to reach expert status, and it is catastrophic to the profession of nursing when nurses exit for any reason before retirement age.

Healthcare is becoming more complicated with the expansion of technology and more medically compromised patients, and advancing your career with an online RN-MSN program can lead to new career options. Choosing an online RN-MSN program with just one course a month can be a healthy way to professionally grow while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

The individual nurse must create a safe space for her own needs, and the place to begin is in creating a space and a place for self-care. Nursing self-care is the cornerstone of the foundation for excellent patient outcomes.