Self-Care Of The Nurse

Self-care isn't selfish. Vector handwritten motivation quote. Ink black inscription isolated on white background.

By Susan
September 9, 2021

First off, you do not need to be a nurse to read this post.  However, you may be here in a very advantageous way to help yourself or a friend or relative that is a nurse.  I have been a nurse for almost 30 years.  I went into nursing because I wanted to take care of others.  I started as a candy striper in my local hospital.  Remember us?  We were the teenagers and sometimes retired females who had the desire to help others.  Picture a young teenager, at least 16, wearing white pants, a shirt, tennis shoes, with the fabulous red and white striped tunic.  In this role, we would offer patients food or beverages in the evening to help out the nursing staff.  I met terrific people, aka patients every week, who was so grateful for the contact and a smile.
After I graduated high school, I started working as a pharmacy technician in that very same hospital.  My job took me to work the different floors/units in the hospital.  Every day I interacted with the nurses.  I became friends with them.  I admired them.   I was going to be ONE of them.  I felt like I was a part of their team helping their patients by supplying them with the doctor’s needed medications or IV fluids.  Flash forward to 1992, graduation day! Yes, I graduated with my BSN in nursing and could not wait to care for others.  Caring is what I did and still do today.  As a home hospice nurse, I currently have a “caseload” of families I take care of weekly.
I never fail to put my patients and their families first.  As a hospice nurse, I am all about the WHOLE family. Let’s not digress into my “niche” of nursing.  The goal of nursing is to CARE.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of care is “the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.” What does that all mean??  We, the nurse, do for the patient what they cannot do for themselves when we first meet them.  They come to us in different ways, whether in the hospital, office, or home setting.  We assess the situation of what the needs are, and we formulate that plan and GO.  As a nurse, we take on different roles.  We not only care for our patients, but we also care for the caregiver themselves.  We teach them self-care!  What is the difference between “care” and “self-care,” you ask?  According to Merriam Webster, “self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” You see, care is for someone else and self-care is for YOU.
Let me ask you, my colleagues.  When was the last time YOU practiced self-care??
Here is where the rub is.  Many of us nurses know how to GIVE that care but have difficulty ACCEPTING care for ourselves.  Perhaps it started as the mindset that we are to be there for others and forsake ourselves in the process?  We see this today with our current medical crisis—extremely high acuity with meager resources.  There is no more significant time for us nurses to STOP and take care of ourselves before we can no longer take care of others.
How do we overcome this hurdle of taking care of ourselves, the nurse, the caregiver?  Recognition is number one.  It may take our loved ones and friends telling us we need to slow down and take time for ourselves many times over before we see it for ourselves.  When the alarm goes off, and you cannot pull yourself up to go any longer.  You have now hit the proverbial brick wall, and the lightbulb goes off.
Now that you have recognition of your own needs, what next?  Just as you make a plan of care for your patients, make one for YOU.  Query yourself on what makes you relax, what did you do before you became a nurse. What hobbies have you missed out on, friends or family you haven’t spent time with, and is the current position you are working in still right for you? As a solid group of women and men, I believe we deserve to be good to ourselves.  Remember in college learning about the Psycho-Social, Spiritual, Emotional, Physical aspects of caring for your patients?  Pull out that mirror, and let’s look inward! Write down your stressors.  What can you eliminate from that list? How can the stressors be managed better? Have you connected with family or friends this week?  Have you set aside time to be spiritual?  Spirituality does not always mean attending church.  Go outside and be with nature.
Sit down in a grassy area, close your eyes, listen to the sounds around you and BREATHE!!  If you have children or grandchildren, set a playdate for a couple of hours or longer.  See the world through their eyes-innocent, fun, exciting, no worries, no stress. Go to the park and swing, go down the slide, teeter-totter, daydream.  I recently went to the laundromat and was watching the clothes go round and round. I was mesmerized and realized I suddenly relaxed my shoulders and was thinking about, well, nothing in particular.  How lovely! We all know of that extra shift that we could work, and the additional money could be helpful.  That extra shift will take from your resources as a human being who loves to care and give then suck you dry just like the desert! Not one patient would want a nurse so depleted to be in charge of their care.  I make one request of you: Go forth and care for thyself!


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