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5 Tips for Self-Care for Nurses

Once nurses pass the NCLEX and become registered nurses, they are ready to provide patient care. But they may not be aware of the effects that daily lifting, walking and standing can have on their bodies. Besides being physically demanding, nursing can be mentally taxing, as well. The unrelenting demands on nurses can leave them anxious and exhausted, which can result in burnout. Nurses need to discover ways to relieve pressure so they can maintain their well-being and deliver optimal care to patients.

What Is Burnout in Nurses?

One sign of burnout in nurses is a loss of motivation and a feeling of hopelessness. Burned-out nurses no longer have the desire or energy to fully engage in the nursing practice.

What Causes Burnout in Nurses?

Nurses are exposed to many stressful situations. They may have to make split-second decisions, deal with miscommunication or handle the death of a patient. They can become so busy during their shift that they may not have time to eat, hydrate or take a break. Nurses also may be parents, which adds to their responsibilities and extends their role as a caregiver. These additional stress factors may lead to nurse burnout:

  • Ongoing exposure to trauma and death.
  • Fast-paced work environment.
  • Heavy caseloads.
  • Suboptimal nurse-to-patient ratios.
  • Long shifts.
  • Mandatory overtime.

Why Is Self-Care for Nurses Important?

Job-related physical and emotional distress can put a financial strain on employers. A high rate of absentee nurses and turnover can affect the cost of operating a healthcare facility and erode the quality of patient care.

In the study titled "Do nurses have a different physical health profile? A systematic review of experimental and observational studies on nurses' physical health," researchers concluded that nurses are more susceptible to blood-borne pathogen infections and breast cancer than other healthcare workers. And nurses in hospitals have a greater risk of contracting tuberculosis. Nurses also have a higher rate of occupational allergies than clerical workers.

The findings from the study "Nurses' presenteeism and its effects on self-reported quality of care and costs" show a correlation between the health of a nurse and the quality of patient care. Nurses suffering from pain and depression reported that their health problems affected their productivity, and these issues were linked to a higher number of medication errors and patient falls.

What Are 5 Self-Care Tips for Nurses?

Nurses need time to decompress so they can release tension, overcome negative thoughts and restore their passion for nursing. Here are five self-care tips:

  1. Relax - Everyone relaxes in different ways, whether it is through bird-watching, gardening, reading, cooking, watching television or playing games with the family. When you are away from work, try to carve out time to focus on something that is not related to caregiving.
  2. Exercise - Yes, you are constantly on the move at work but it is not the same as exercising. Exercise can boost your energy, improve your mood, control your weight, help you sleep better, and combat health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
  3. Say "No" - You are busy at work and you have family responsibilities. Sometimes you have to say "no" in order to create peace in your life. That means you should mindfully choose what you want to do and say "yes" to.
  4. Go outside - You may learn that being surrounded by nature can soothe and reenergize your spirit. You may want to take a walk, hike a trail, sit on the beach, drive to a new destination or lounge in your backyard. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy it. 
  5. Schedule regular checkups - Nurses need to make their own health a priority.

Self-care for nurses is necessary so they can uphold the standards of the nursing practice. When nurses are not physically, mentally or emotionally healthy, they may not have the stamina or clarity needed to deliver competent care to patients. Nurses need to recognize that the welfare of their patients is connected to their own health and happiness.

Learn more about The University of Alabama in Huntsville's online RN to BSN program.


Health Community Key: 5 Self-Care Tips for Nurses

Mayo Clinic: Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity

Daily Nurse: 5 Self-Care Activities to Try Today 5 Simple Self-Care Practices for Busy Nurses. We're Not Talking a Spa Day.

The Online Journal of Issues of Nursing: Overview and Summary: Healthy Nurses: Perspectives on Caring for Ourselves

American Psychiatric Nurses Association: Self Care Tip Sheet for Nurses

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