As a nurse, you spend your time on the job caring for others, and you deserve admiration for undertaking this noble endeavor. Like most nurses, your job as caregiver does not stop when your shift is over. Busy personal lives, volunteer work and pursuing an RN to BSN degree are also parts of your daily life. Unfortunately, there is a significant downside to constantly giving to others. You may wind up being so focused on others that you do not stop to take care of yourself. However, self-care for nurses is extremely important, and here is why.
Stress Reduction and Management
As you know, nursing is an extremely fulfilling yet stressful profession. Not only is it fast-paced with a heavy workload, but you must also cope with difficult issues such as your own emotional pain over interacting with people who are ill and suffering. Practicing regular self-care can help you counteract and manage the stresses of the profession, helping you avoid serious issues like exhaustion and burnout.
Having a consistent and solid self-care routine is necessary for ethical reasons as well as personal ones. How can that be? The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics refers to self-care for nurses in its fifth tenet: “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.” Nurses should pay as much attention to taking care of themselves as they do their patients. This tenet can often get lost in the hustle and bustle of nursing, but adhering to it is essential.
Quality and Safety First
When you are dragging and depleted because you have not consistently taken care of yourself, you are not able to give your best to others. It shows, too, when you are less able to provide the high-quality care that you could otherwise give. You are also more likely to make safety errors, and this one issue is reason enough to start a consistent routine of great self-care.
Self-care for nurses looks different from one nurse to the other, depending on personal preferences and needs. That said, there are certain foundational elements that all self-care routines should include. A high-nutrient diet — with a focus on fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy protein, high-quality fats and whole grains — is key. Avoiding sugary drinks and fast food is equally important. A self-care routine also includes regular exercise, stress management and plenty of sleep. Listening to relaxing music and getting massages are other ways to lessen stress.
No one can pour from an empty cup. If your own “cup” is empty because of unhealthy eating, lack of exercise and sleep, excessive amounts of stress, and other unhealthy lifestyle factors, get into the habit of filling your cup daily with health-promoting activities. Caring for yourself is not selfish, and in fact, it is necessary to give top-notch care to others. Go ahead and give it a try. Fill up your cup so that you can share the overflow with others. You and your patients will be glad you did.
Learn about the Purdue Northwest online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.