Importance of Self-Care in the Nursing Field

Take Care Of You

Importance of Self-Care For Nurses

Today’s nurses face a physically and emotionally demanding career, with long hours, intense challenges, sometimes difficult patients, constant decision-making, and increasing patient loads. Their days are spent caring for a variety of patient needs, often sacrificing their own needs. However, sacrificing one’s own needs to care for others can lead to significant problems for the nurse, the patients, and the clinic or hospital.

Ethical Guidelines and Self-Care

The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics addresses self-care, stating in the 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.” This underscores that while nurses are often so busy caring for others, they also need to make taking care of themselves a priority.

The Cost of a Lack of Self-Care

Burnout

An estimated 18% of nurses leave their first jobs within a year of being licensed, and over half of nurses consider leaving the field due to burnout and lack of job satisfaction. In many hospitals and clinics, there is a significant nursing shortage, leading to longer hours and increased patient loads for the nurses on staff. Burnout can lead to emotional or physical exhaustion, a low sense of personal accomplishment, and a disdain for the job. If untreated, symptoms can compound over time, leading to depression or other mental health issues.

Anxiety and Depression

The risk of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, tends to be higher among nurses than in the general population. Mayo Clinic offers comprehensive guides on how to manage stress and maintain mental well-being. Not only are nurses often overworked and deal with high levels of stress, but many are routinely exposed to traumatic situations, such as the death of a patient, gruesome injuries, or abuse from an angry patient.

Physical Pain

A 2012 survey of registered nurses in North Carolina found that over 70% of nurses experienced significant physical pain, often from spending long hours on their feet, moving patients, or other job-related tasks. Many nurses that experience pain do not see their physician for the pain, attempting to continue to work through it. This, however, can have repercussions for the patient, as a nurse in pain may struggle to keep an unsteady patient from falling or they may struggle with keeping up with their patient care. The Mayo Clinic provides valuable resources on treatment options for chronic pain.

Substance Abuse
Ease of access to prescription medications and high-stress levels contributes to a worrying rate of substance abuse among nurses. This creates a vicious cycle where compromised health leads to compromised care, further underlining the critical need for self-care.

Practical Self-Care Strategies
While the demands of the job can make it challenging to prioritize self-care, incorporating simple habits can make a world of difference.

Nutritional Choices
Opting for healthier meal options like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can provide the energy needed to get through demanding shifts.

Professional and Mental Health Check-ups
Making time for regular physical and mental health screenings can help in early identification and treatment of potential health issues.

Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction
Methods like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can serve as effective stress-management tools. Even a short breathing exercise during a hectic day can be revitalizing.

Peer and Social Support
Sometimes talking to someone who understands can be the best medicine. Seek out peer support or professional counseling to navigate the emotional complexities of nursing.

In conclusion, self-care is not a luxury but a necessity in the demanding field of nursing. Prioritizing your well-being equips you to deliver better care, upholding not just ethical but also professional standards. After all, a well-cared-for nurse is a better caregiver.

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