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Five Self-Care Tips for Nurses

Created Feb 20 2020, 09:16 AM by LIPPINCOTT NURSING EDUCATION
  • Stress
  • Wellness

Katie Morales, PhD, RN, CNE

Dr. Jenkins - Image via

Several years ago, our senior nursing students were overwhelmed by some tragic events which occurred in clinical. Although they had a good theoretical foundation of death and dying, the practical clinical experience was overwhelming. Recognizing our students were in moral distress, we contacted Dr. Marshall Jenkins to speak to our class. Dr. Jenkins is a licensed psychologist and Director of Counseling at our college. He clearly has a heart for all people, especially nursing students. We left him with our students so they could speak freely and openly. He shared that it was important for our students to see that were not alone and others were struggling with the same things they were. 

Dr. Jenkins was so helpful, he returns each year to speak with our students. We schedule his visit after the first few weeks of clinical and the first course exam. Our students report his visit is very helpful and advise us to continue scheduling him every year. I met with him this year regarding my freshman experience class and he confirmed what the literature reports: today’s students enter college with more anxiety and other mental health issues than previous cohorts.  To help ensure success in a nursing career, he drafted the following five self-care tips for nurses. 

  1. Make self-care a high priority.  Although self-care is a popular buzz word, we must not let our role as helper interfere with attending to our own needs and seeking help from others. We must extend and accept the kindness that we so freely give to others. As nurses, we bear witness by loving and often walk in blessed overwhelming. We must avoid martyrdom and remember to put our own oxygen masks on first. 
  2. Develop and implement a holistic lifestyle that includes practices for a healthy body, mind, and spirit. As nurses, we need to practice what we preach. This can be as simple as eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. These simple practices can often be quite challenging with our demanding schedules. We need to utilize the resources available to us from work or our religious/social groups. This could mean visiting the gym, utilizing counseling services, etc. When we practice what we preach, we will not only feel better; we will serve better.
  3. While we must wear our game face at work, our “nurse’s face” is first aid, not treatment. While we live in a time of unruly anger, we must practice forgiveness and extend grace to ourselves as well as others. Use mindfulness and grounding on the job if you can, then when time allows, turn to practices that give you an outlet and help you center. Sometimes, we may simply need time to offer a healing howl from our heart. 
  4. Practice gratitude.  It is the best corrective to the negativity bias, and studies show that those who keep a mental or written gratitude list daily take better care of themselves overall. Recently, I was struck by the words of a burn survivor who said, “I remember what it was like to have fingers” and exclaimed with delight, “I always wanted to have ears” as the photographer applied prosthetic ears before a photo shoot. 
  5. Finally, mind your calling.  Step back to consider the big picture. Remember, when God makes no sense in your story, you may find that you make more sense in God’s story. Take time to reflect and recall. Why did you go into nursing in the first place? What values are you willing to suffer for? When you are on your death bed reflecting on your life, what difference do you want to say you made? How do today’s activities at work contribute to that? Love can reshape suffering and we consecrate our jobs one act of kindness at a time.