Nursing is an incredibly fulfilling field. However, it can also be quite demanding given the physical and emotional labor the job involves. From long hours to the emotional work of patient care, nurses need a support system. Making sure nurses have tips and tools for self-care is critical to maintaining nurse well-being, which impacts patient outcomes and the success of an organization.
With the right tools in place, nurses can not only protect their physical, mental and emotional health but actually thrive in the healthcare environment. A Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) online program can give nurses the foundational skills to excel in the profession and maintain self-care habits for their own sake.
The Importance of Self-Care
One realization many workers came to understand post-pandemic is the value of implementing a self-care regimen. Of course, prioritizing well-being is not specific to healthcare by any means. However, healthcare workers are uniquely in need of self-care resources given their jobs and the impact they have on patients’ lives.
Of course, self-care is not reserved for only a pandemic and post-pandemic world. Long before COVID-19, nurses experienced various elements that challenged their ability to perform. However, the demands of nursing are not new, and individuals continue to be passionate about patient care. That speaks volumes regarding nurses’ dedication to overcoming them and providing their patients with top-quality care. Still, healthy employees are critical to effectiveness in every other facet of the healthcare system, and there are viable self-care steps nurses can incorporate into their daily routine.
Six Tactics for Maximizing Self-Care
Self-care can apply to a wide spectrum of activities, including one’s home, work and social lives. It should never exist in a bubble. Even the tiniest action can provide relief. The following concepts represent various ways nurses can optimize a healthy state of mind and body:
1) Make time for self-care. It’s easy enough to say, “I don’t have time for XYZ.” But, what do the flight attendants tell us during pre-flight instructions? You must put the oxygen mask on themselves first to help others. There is nothing wrong with ensuring you’re in an excellent place to perform for your patients to the best of your abilities.
2) Reserve quiet time for yourself. It might be five minutes of mindful escape in the hospital stairway or 30 minutes of reading time before you go to bed. To be sure, this can be difficult for nurses with small children. Do what you can. Maybe that means setting your alarm five minutes earlier, just so you can have a moment to yourself to breathe.
3) Advocate for proper nutrition (and time for it). Nurses have packed schedules, which means “lunch” might be a granola bar on the run or no lunch at all. Nutrition is so vital for both mental and physical health. Try to incorporate more lean meats (or other sources of protein if you’re vegetarian/vegan), get plenty of veggies and stay hydrated. If you’re a nurse who is routinely missing lunch, do not be afraid to speak to your supervisor about the issue. Chances are, they have been in the same situation and understand the need for a substantive nutritional foundation.
4) Don’t underestimate the value of physical activity. Exercise is the last thing on a nurse’s mind after a long shift. Yet, research shows that even a short burst of physical activity can raise your “feel good” hormones. You’re not only promoting your physical health but also boosting your mental stamina. Can you make time for a 15-minute walk throughout your day? Might you encourage your fellow nurses to join you for a walk on your break?
5) Invest in sleep. Proper, restful sleep is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. So, if you’re not sleeping well, it’s essential to understand why. Is it your mattress? Do you have trouble shutting your brain off? Are there distractions due to your night shift work? By identifying what the sleep disruptor is, you can work to overcome it. Best practices include creating a good sleeping environment — a cool, dark room without devices. Some people benefit from white noise or sleep stories.
6) Embrace self-care activities that mean the most to you. It’s important to know what provides you with the greatest peace. Do you enjoy meditation? Massages? Classical music throughout your day? Perhaps you get an optimal amount of reprieve from hanging out with close friends you can confide in (and vent to). Whatever “self-care” means to you is the best for you. The most essential aspect is to lean into the activity or tactic that helps you the most.
How Can You Progress Your Career While Ensuring Self-Care?
Registered nurses (RNs) work in challenging environments. One way to elevate your career potential in this demanding field is to work towards your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Many programs, including the RN to BSN online program at the University of South Carolina Aiken, put the nursing student front and center.
This comprehensive program ensures students obtain key points of knowledge and skill sets to progress their careers while instilling core self-care practices throughout the coursework. Upon graduation, students will have a stronger foundation for their nursing career.
Students can complete the program in as few as 12 months. This allows nurses to get on the path to success, securing positions such as clinical research nurse, nursing director, charge nurse, public health nurse, quality assurance coordinator or case management nurse.
Learn more about the University of South Carolina Aiken’s online RN to BSN program.