As much as we want to portray a “superhero” persona to the public, nurses are mortal beings who are also capable of experiencing wear and tear of the body. The job itself is hailed as one of the most dangerous jobs because of the many elements that a nurse encounters in their working environment. Some of these factors include strenuous and physical exertion on the job, work hazards like getting exposed to diseases, radiation, and surgical smoke, combative and aggressive patients and their demanding and impatient families. Nurses also experience stress concerning their employment status and relationship with colleagues and the administration they are working with. Understaffing concerns and the increased rate of turnovers in hospitals and nursing homes leave nurses in a state of fatigue and dissatisfaction in their work. To overcome the implications of stress, nurses should be able to practice the art and skills of self-care. As soon as these skills are practiced, it can help to lessen the effects and seriousness of the negative implications of their work, enhance their dealings with other people in the workplace, and gives a positive outlook in their daily working lives.
Everybody gets tired from work especially after a very tiring day. The endurance of the body is only limited to a certain number of hours until the energy levels wear down and the body feels the effects of work. Persons who work and deal with emergency and life-threatening situations are much prone to suffer from the work-related fatigue compared to those who are employed in regular work environments. As an example, healthcare professionals are cited to have an increased risk of work-related hazard and can experience work-fatigue syndrome as much as soldiers in the battlefield.
Unlike doctors and other ancillary staff, nurses stay with the patients and their families most of the time. This condition alone already places the nurse in a stressful situation due to the many tasks that they need to implement to the patient. Studies revealed that nurses who are exposed extensive work-related stress can suffer from burnout and psychological imbalance (Smith-Miller, Shaw-Kokot, Curro, & Jones, 2014). These effects on the nurse can lead to some further serious complications such as compromising patient safety secondary to errors in nursing care practice, medication safety administration, documentation errors, and even interpersonal relationship of the nurse with other members of the healthcare team (Martin, 2015). As such, there are also many research on how to help nurses lessen the burden of their clinical work and focus more on the self first before taking care of others.
It’s Not Being Selfish
You cannot give what you do not have. This old time saying proves everything about nursing and other service-oriented profession. One must remember that to be effective and successful in your chosen career, you must entail enough preparations – intellectually, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Failure to do so can lead to being unprepared and can compromise your skills and performance in doing your job. Taking care of oneself first is not selfishness. In fact, this just proves that you value your work more and by doing the necessary self-care allows you to offer more of yourself. The following strategies can help in minimizing stress on the job and helps with taking of yourself both in mind and body.
Apply The Nursing Process
Nursing process is not only for patients. You can also utilize this approach in solving your self-care deficit problems. The first thing that should be done is to conduct a thorough assessment of yourself:
- Do you always feel tired? Are you having more tired days now compared to your previous experiences?
- Are you gaining or losing weight?
- Do you have trouble in sleeping?
- Are you committing mistakes on the job?
- Are you feeling inadequate in your present work?
- Do you encounter personal or work-related confrontations?
- Do you have more time in work than spending personal time?
- Are you always not present in family and friends’ celebrations?
- Do you feel stagnant in your present job?
- When was the last time you have taken a long vacation?
The questions posted above will give you a head start on how to examine your present situation. It is not a standardized questionnaire that can diagnose whether you lack self-care or not, rather a simple introjection of thoughts and feelings about how you are doing with your present work. If most of the questions here are answered with a yes, then it is time to pause and plan for your self-care interventions. As you go along, some strategies can be effective while some are not. You can gauge the effectiveness of every strategy if there are some improvements in your work and wellness state. Otherwise, your evaluation will tell you to do away with this method and look for alternative ways to help you with self-care practices.
Physical Dimension. In this aspect, the focus would be your eating and sleeping habits as well as physical strength and endurance. Incorporate healthy meals into your daily food intake. Don’t rely much on the vending machine for your breakfast, lunch or dinner. Get enough rest before your shift starts. A 2-hour sleep before your work-schedule can boost one’s energy. Power naps are also proven ways to restore energy, but you need to check the policy of the administration if they allow short time breaks for sleeping while on the job. You don’t need to enroll in an exclusive gym to get enough exercise. You can apply simple exercise regimen even while at work. Park your car far from the employee’s entrance to give you ample time to walk. If your workplace is just near to your place, it is better to walk than commute.
Psychological Dimension. Mental clarity is achieved if the senses and brain functioning are well-rested. Experts recommend exploring a hobby or engage oneself in travel and adventure. Our five senses need a break from the routinely activities. Travel to new places and discover wonderful sights, taste new dishes, indulge in long massages, and bask in many variations of aromatherapy.
There are many other ways that nurses can help themselves in attaining physical and mental wellness to help them with their work and prevent from succumbing in work fatigue syndrome. All it takes is the commitment and determination to partake in self-care routines and get connected with the outside world other than work alone.
Martin, C. J. (2015). The effects of nurse staffing on quality of care. MedSurg Nursing, 24(2), S4-S4.
Smith-Miller, C. A., Shaw-Kokot, J., Curro, B., & Jones, C. B. (2014). An integrative review: fatigue among nurses in acute care settings. Journal of Nursing Administration, 44(9), 487-494.
Chris Caulfield (RN, NP-C), is the Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer of Intelycare which the fastest growing Per-Diem Nurse Staffing organization in the US.
Prior to founding IntelyCare, Chris’ past Healthcare experience includes Long Term Care Nursing, Nursing Informatics, Labor Relations, Case Management, and a Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner.