It is no secret that nurses struggle to practice self-care. They are so dedicated to taking care of everyone else, so driven to nurture and heal others, that all too often they neglect their own health. This neglect may not always have dramatic effects initially. It manifests itself as a missed doctor’s appointment, a skipped meal, a poor night’s sleep, or a few too many extra shifts. Some nurses may not even realize that they are damaging their health by doing these things. But eventually, the little things can add up to big consequences.
There are common self-care activities that we should all practice, activities such as healthy eating, exercise, laughter, and meditation. However, the aspect of self-care that many nurses seem to struggle with is finding the motivation to practice self-care in these ways. Aveanna Chief Clinical Officer Beth Rubio has some advice for our clinicians on how to motivate yourself to practice self-care.
Learn to see yourself as a patient
According to Beth, the main reason nurses struggle with self-care is because they fail to see themselves as patients. Nurses are too used to being the ones who take care of everyone else. When they are in the position of the patient, they feel uncomfortable and out of place. Beth says one of the keys to self-care is realizing that you are a patient to someone else and letting that person take care of you when needed. You have to realize that although you are typically the caregiver, you cannot give care without first taking it.
Remember what your health means to your patients
Beth wants caregivers to know that their good health is not only beneficial to themselves. Taking care of yourself is an investment in your own health as well as the health of your patients. Consider how important you are to the families for whom you provide care. Especially in homecare, families depend on their nurses not just for a single shift, but for continuous and personal caregiving. In order to be there for your patients in the long-run, you have to take care of yourself.
Nursing is a long-term career. But without proper self-care that career could be cut short. You have to think about your long-term goals as well as your short-term goals. Your career is not just about picking up that extra shift or not letting a family down for just one day. It’s about your ten-year and twenty-year goals. Without your health, without your sanity, you will never be able to truly care for your patients or last long in your career. Make self-care a part of your career plan and long-term goals.
Commit to your case
These are great motivators, but you need to be able to continue to take care of yourself every day. How many times have we made New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, only to find that we had fallen off the wagon a few weeks later? Beth asks all of our nurses to commit to taking care of themselves in the same way that they would commit to a patient’s case. When you learn to think of yourself as a patient whose case you have committed to, it will help you keep those resolutions and really make a difference in your life.