I didn’t think it was possible to be more impressed by the nursing profession and the people in it–but these past few months have proven me wrong. Those of you on the front lines of healthcare and COVID-19, either in direct care, directing your communities response, deploying resources or ensuring that important updates are in place in your electronic health records (EHRs), deserve so much praise for the work you are doing to ensure our countries’ health safety. We would like to thank each and every one of you for the work that you are doing and those who are behind the scenes support you. You are true heroes.
In this Year of the Nurse, and specifically on National Nurses Day which kicks off National Nurses Week, I wanted to take the time to reflect on nursing as a career. It has been a 30-year career for me thus far and I am grateful for it. Nursing is not always fun; it can be darn hard work both physically and emotionally. We are present in every aspect of the human life from birth to death. Hard only sometimes means rewarding. The lessons learned throughout my career have shaped who I am today. Nurses learn to balance tears, compassion, empathy, caring, advocacy, independence and physical workload with laughter, straight talk, sternness, fact checking and human limitations. We are quite possibly the most flexibly inflexible profession on the planet–rapidly adjusting to changes throughout a shift but getting angry if someone moves the supply cart. I have enjoyed my career thoroughly.
It is the flexibly inflexible and human limitations that I would like talk about today on National Nurses Day. One of the few areas that nurses are not great at is taking care of themselves. In this time of increased physical and mental stress, self-care an area that needs to be consciously focused on both in the moment and outside of work. It didn’t surprise me that a survey by the American Nurses Association showed that 68% of nurses put the health and wellness of their patients before their own. The nursing response to COVID-19 would be a prime example of this scenario.
The ability to provide yourself self-care, however, is key to being able to provide care to others. Self-care is any deliberate activity we do in an effort to provide for our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Signs you might be lacking in self-care include things such as a constant feeling of tiredness even after a few days off, feelings of sadness or depression, body aches that won’t go away, a change in the level of empathy you have for others and lack of appetite are just a few. I would like to share some self-care tips I have found successful for me, both in the moment (while at work) and at home.
In the moment: a minute of closed eyes and deep breaths, a two-minute break in the supply room or empty room just to be in the quiet for a moment can be extremely beneficial. I worked primarily in emergency departments (EDs) and trauma centers, so even walking outside to the ambulance bay a few minutes before patient arrival gave me time to just breathe. In a hectic environment, a moment of silence and breath goes a long way.
When off work, I make sure to take a walk, no talking. One of my favorites ways to self-care is walking my dogs (good for them, good for me). In times of increased stress, I must say they get walked a lot. Pulling weeds around the yard works for me as well, taking the time to just sit quietly in nature. For me, self-care is just getting outdoors and being quiet. Life is noisy and chaotic–nature and silence work for me. For others it may be music or writing, exercise or a nap, talking to someone or being quiet with yourself.
The point is that you take the time to be deliberate in your self-care to help yourself heal physically and mentally from what is one of the most stressful careers out there, but it will help you provide care for the people you serve.
Thank you for the work you do to care for and advocate for the communities we serve.
Mary Gannon, Netsmart Chief Nursing Officer
“Caring for others, while so rewarding, can be taxing on caregivers. During this time of COVID-19, it’s important to practice self-care of all types—mental, physical, social, spiritual, practical and emotional. I’m particularly enjoying long walks with my family, listening to a favorite podcast and incorporating social time via Zoom or FaceTime.” – Netsmart Vice President of Client Experience, Regan Baron MHA, RN, FACHE
“Strong Mind, Strong Body, Strong Unity.” – Netsmart QA Supervisor, Casey Dumas, RN BSN, HCS-O, HCS-D
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