It’s your 3rd shift in a row. It has been a stressful, short-staffed shift with difficult patients with even more difficult families. You feel drained physically and emotionally. You find yourself irritable and empathy waning. For a moment you feel like you are becoming that nurse. You know – the one you swore you would never become; that overworked nurse that seems a little frazzled and drained.
Caregiving is one is the most rewarding, but difficult professions that anyone can choose. As nurses, we routinely place the needs of patients over the needs of ourselves. We all feel a call to serve, but when we do not care for ourselves, we will not be able to care for our patients.
Relax! You can stop the cycle using a process that you use every day of your nursing career – the Nursing Process. Using this process, you can assess your self-care needs, diagnose deficits in your self-care, coordinate a plan of action, implement changes, and evaluate the results of those changes. For Nurses Week, let’s focus on number one – us! After all, when we are our best, we can do our best.
Assessment – The first thing we learn in nursing school is how to assess a patient to determine a baseline in health. Using this same idea, you can determine your self-care baseline.
Some questions to ask yourself:
What type of activities do you regularly participate in to contribute to your health and well-being?
- Do you care for your own emotional needs?
- Are you exercising, staying hydrated, and eating healthy?
- Are you getting enough high quality sleep?
Diagnose – Once you assess these different aspects of your life; admit to your self-care deficits. Examine why you don’t care for your needs and determine your level of both personal and professional burnout.
Plan – Coordinate a plan of action to get yourself back on track. Based on your assessment and diagnosis, determine what you can do to improve your deficits.
Ideas may include:
- Exercise and healthier eating plans
- Counseling for emotional issues
- Planning a vacation
- Improving sleep
- Taking more time to do the things you enjoy
Implementation – Formulate interventions to reach your goals. Make your goal reasonable, attainable, with set timeframes. Start small and be specific. For example, if you have a goal of eating healthier at work, say, “I will meal prep my lunches for each shift for two weeks.”
Evaluation – As you make changes to care for yourself better, evaluate your feelings about these changes. If something isn’t working, change it.
In a role where you care for people at their most vulnerable, it is vital for you to care for your physical, mental, and emotional needs. All the things you tell your patients to do, you need to do too. Eat right and exercise. Get great quality sleep (even if you can’t get 8 hours – what’s sleep right?). Check in on yourself every hour at work for a few minutes to make sure your basic needs are met (go to the restroom when you can – the days of holding your bladder for 8-10 hours need to stop!) Don’t neglect your hobbies and interests. Realize that you are not perfect – and that’s okay!
You cannot pour from an empty cup. It is not selfish to care for yourself. Use the skills you learned being a nurse to overflow your cup so you can give to others. Happy Nurses Week to every nurse in every field of practice. Go out there and take care of yourselves and your patients! We all deserve it!
Crystal Lynn Norris, R.N. has been Registered Nurse specializing in Labor & Delivery for the past three years. Her favorite part of her profession is being able to help women to find their strength bringing new life into the world. Crystal is a wife, and a mother to her sweet daughter Ruby. In her free time, she enjoys writing, traveling, and spending time with family.