9 Tips To Relieve Foot Pain For Nurses

9 Tips To Relieve Foot Pain For Nurses

(This post about nurse foot pain remedies may contain affiliate links.  You can find our disclosure page here.)

Written by Deborah Swanson from allheart.com

My feet hurt after work.  What should I do?

If I had a dollar for every time I hear a nurse say they have sore feet I would be rich!

Nurses need to be taking care of themselves now more than ever especially when it comes to foot care.  After all, as nurses working long 12+ hour days we often spend it standing and/or walking the entire time.

Unfortunately foot pain for nurses can become a chronic issue, and as much as we want to ignore it, it won’t go away on its own.  In fact, as a nurse who writes a lot about nurse self-care, nurse foot pain and sore foot remedies are on the top of the list!

Did you know that feet are made up of 28 bones and 30 joints (not to mention more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments)?

Our feet are very complex structures, yet they carry our entire body weight around.  It is no wonder foot pain is a common complaint among doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who spend long shifts on their feet!

If you’re a healthcare professional suffering from debilitating foot pain, there are steps you can take to help prevent or relieve the hurt.  Read on for nine top tips to treat foot pain for nurses.

#1.  Choose the right shoe size

measuring foot size and foot

Preventing foot pain as a nurse starts with wearing the correct size nursing shoe.

If you’re having foot pain as a nurse or other healthcare professional, the first step is to make sure that you’re not wearing the wrong size shoes.

To measure your feet, put on socks and stand on a flat ruler.  Measure the length of both feet and then compare it to the brand’s measurement chart.

It’s important to do this for each individual shoe brand you’re shopping for since sizes can differ. If you’re checking the size of your existing shoe, compare it to the measurement you made.

Also remember that some shoes stretch out over time, so if you’ve had your shoes for a while, they might be larger than their original size indicates.

#2.  Invest in comfortable shoes

Nurses rack up hundreds of miles in their shoes, which is why it’s essential to buy comfortable shoes that give your feet the support they need.  In fact, investing in a high quality, sturdy nursing shoe might be the best remedy for sore foot pain due to being a nurse who is on their feet for up to 12 hours a shift.

While it may be tempting to go for the softest, spongiest sole, you actually need a shoe with a bit of firmness and arch support to encourage the proper form. The sole should be thick and flexible enough that it will provide shock absorption as you accumulate steps.

#3.  Buy shoes made for walking and standing

Running shoes may be very comfortable for running, but they won’t give you the support you need during a 12-hour day of walking and standing. Your feet (and therefore your shoes) strike the ground very differently while running vs. walking and standing, so the two types of shoes are constructed completely differently.

That’s why we recommend nursing shoes, which are specifically designed for maximum standing and walking support. If you absolutely must wear athletic shoes, look for walking or hiking shoes rather than running ones.

#4.  Consider orthotic inserts

shoe inserts next to bare feet

Relieving foot pain as a nurse might require orthotic inserts.

Shoe inserts promote proper walking and standing posture and help accommodate various foot problems, including corns and bunions. Inserts can also be used to provide additional arch support or shock absorption if the factory-made sole isn’t up to par.

Basic insoles can be purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies and online retailers, but you can also get custom inserts (called orthotics) molded to your feet if you have specific issues that you need to correct.

Tip:  If you think that you might need orthotics, make sure that whatever shoe you buy has removable inserts so you can replace them.

#5.  Wear compression socks

Gravity is your friend in many ways, but foot pain is not one of them.

Gravity pulls on blood, lymph and other fluids, slowing down their normal flow and encouraging them to pool in your lower body, which leads to swelling. This sluggish blood flow also means that your legs aren’t being replenished with nutrients as fast, which makes them feel tired and achy.

Compression socks provide just the right amount of pressure to keep your blood and lymph flowing to help prevent swelling and fend off lower body achiness.

#6.  Elevate your feet after a shift

You can also take steps to reduce swelling after a shift.

Lie flat on a bed or couch, raise your legs above the level of your heart and rest there for 15-20 minutes at the end of your day. This position will harness the power of gravity to drain the blood and lymph from your legs, encouraging it to flow back to your core instead.

If you struggle with a lot of foot swelling and pain, compression stockings–combined with leg elevation–could really make a significant difference for you.

#7.  Pamper your feet

women pampering her feet in water

A great nurse foot pain remedy after a 12 hour shift is to pamper your feet with a massage and soak them in warm water.

If you were looking for an excuse to spoil yourself, this is it.

A cold bath will help reduce swelling in your feet and calves, while a warm soak will loosen up stiff joints and help you move easier. Add some Epsom salts or essential oils to the water for added benefits and a nice smell.

After you soak, gently massage your feet with moisturizer while you check them for signs of calluses, bunions, injuries and anything else that could lead to foot pain.

#8.  Stretch and exercise your legs

Exercising on your days off can strengthen your feet and lower legs and help prevent pain on the days that you work.

Try calf raises, ankle rolls, toe presses and other similar exercises. Both cardiovascular and strength training activities will build your stamina more generally and make all of your body stronger, including your lower legs.

If your feet are stiff at the end of a shift, it can help to take a few minutes to stretch when you get home. This will lengthen the muscles after 12 hours of work and help keep them from cramping.

#9.  Replace your shoes often

Depending on how hard you are on your shoes and how far you walk each shift, you’ll need to replace your nursing shoes every three to six months. This may sound like a lot, but trust us, it’s worth it.

Wearing worn-out shoes increases your chance of developing both temporary and chronic foot problems. It’s much better to be proactive, buy a new pair of shoes and prevent the problems before they even start.

You only have one pair of feet, so take care of them!

In conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this post about relieving foot pain as a nurse or other healthcare professional who spends a lot of time standing and walking during the day.   Managing foot pain as a nurse or other medical professional is so important.

After all, debilitating foot pain could potentially compromise your ability to do your job and give the best quality patient care that you can.

Follow these nine steps to prevent and manage foot pain so you can take the next step forward in your career!

About The Author

Debbie Swanson, Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com

Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com – a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys.  She keeps busy by interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.

A Nurse’s Guide To Soothing Common Aches And Pains

A Nurse’s Guide To Soothing Common Aches And Pains

(This post about managing nurse aches and pains may have affiliate links.  You can find our disclosure page here).  

Written by Deborah Swanson at allheart.com

Nursing is tough on your body – even a single shift can lead to a variety of aches and pains!

Nursing also has incredibly high rates of occupational injuries, with 19,790 nonfatal injuries and illnesses occurring in 2016 due to workplace hazards.

While not every injury is avoidable, there are certain steps that nurses can take to prevent and manage some of the most common complaints.

Here are 9 strategies that will help you manage the aches and pains that come with being a nurse:

 

#1.  Wear comfortable shoes

NIKE shoes for nurses

Nurses must wear comfortable shoes to help manage and prevent back and body pain.

Wearing comfortable nursing shoes in the proper size will go a long way towards preventing and managing foot pain. Invest in good quality shoes, even if they cost a bit more, and replace them every three to six months depending on how much you walk per shift.

If you have foot issues, such as high arches or bunions, custom orthotic inserts will help correct your walking form and accommodate the unique shape of your foot.

 

#2.  Use proper form

Nurses standing tall

Standing correctly and using proper body mechanics will help decrease the likelihood and intensity of the aches and pains that come with working 12 hour shifts as a nurse.

Walking, standing and lifting with good body mechanics will help prevent occupational injuries. Walk and stand with your head high and shoulders back to keep your spine in alignment, while keeping your feet planted firmly on the floor and your knees slightly bent.

When lifting patients or objects, use your legs and not your back, and don’t twist at the waist while holding anything. When in doubt, ask for assistance rather than risk injury to yourself.

 

#3.  Try hot and cold therapy

Nurse using hot therapy to help manage neck pain

Using hot and/or cold therapy can help manage some of the minor aches and pains that come with working long 12 hours shifts.

If you’ve ever iced a swollen ankle or soaked your stiff muscles in a warm bath, you’ve used hot and cold therapy.

Heat promotes blood flow to an area by dilating the blood vessels, while cold reduces swelling by constricting them. Just make sure to match the type of therapy to your ailments—heat will make swelling worse, for example.

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#4.  Book yourself a massage

If you can afford the time and money, booking yourself a massage can really help with serious muscle stiffness.

While you can massage your own feet at home, it’s hard to reach other areas like your back, which is why it helps to see a professional. You can book a standard Swedish massage or, if you can stand it, a deep tissue massage that really kneads the muscles.

Some massages also offer other add-ons such as hot stones or essential oil rubs if you’d like to treat yourself a bit.

 

#5.  Exercise and stretch regularly

female nurse doing yoga for exercise

Yoga can help relax the body and manage some aches and pains that come with working as a nurse.

The last thing you may feel like doing on your days off is exercise—but trust us, it really makes a difference.

The heat from exercise can help alleviate stiffness and soreness, and it strengthens your heart, lungs and muscles to better withstand a 12-hour shift.

For maximum benefits, you should do a mix of cardiovascular and strength training exercises, which can take many forms. Many nurses find Pilates and yoga especially beneficial for their gentle, low-impact poses and focus on core strength and proper form.

 

#6.  Wear compression stockings and sleeves

Man wearing compression socks

Compression socks and stockings can help nurses manage leg and foot swelling.

If you struggle with swollen, aching legs, compression stockings can help prevent them.

Gravity pulls down on blood, lymph and other fluids throughout the day, causing them to pool and making your legs feel tired and painful. Compression stockings provide just the right amount of graduated pressure to keep blood flowing and prevent fluids from pooling.

While compression socks are the most popular type of compression gear among nurses, if you suffer from swelling in other parts of your body—such as the upper arms—other types of sleeves and wraps are also available.

 

#7.  Consider losing weight

women on scale

Carrying extra body weight puts more pressure on joints and may cause additional body aches and pains for nurses working 12 hour shifts.

You can be unhealthy at any weight, but it’s true that carrying around excess pounds does put a lot of added pressure on your joints and muscles. Nursing already does a number on your body even if you are fit, but extra weight can compound the problem.

Losing even just a few pounds can lighten the load (literally) and help reduce inflammation and pain. Rather than trying to crash diet and lose a bunch of weight at once, focus on sustainable changes you can maintain over time. It’ll be easier to keep the weight off if you slowly transition to a permanently healthy diet rather than eating a very restrictive fad diet for a short amount of time.

 

#8.  Stay hydrated

water bottles for nurses working 12 hour shifts

Keep yourself accountable by keeping a water bottle with you at work

What if we told you there was a magical elixir you could drink that would lubricate your joints, protect sensitive tissues, regulate your body temperature, prevent kidney damage, deliver oxygen to your body, open up your airways, flush out waste and even boost skin health?

Well, that elixir exists—and it’s called water. Yep, good old H20 provides all these benefits to your health, which is why it’s so important to stay hydrated. In general, men need about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day while women need about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day. These fluids can come from food and other beverages as well as water. Make it a point to sip water throughout your shift as well as on your days off.

Hydro Flask 32 oz Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
  • Meets your everyday hydration needs in one container, all while keeping it piping hot or ice cold

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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the respective Amazon site that you are redirected to at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

#9.  Pay attention to warning signs

nurse foot pain

Don’t ignore aches and pains as a nurse, especially if they are not getting better with rest.

Don’t ignore your aches and pains. That’s how they develop into chronic problems. If you notice yourself developing the same symptoms over and over again after a shift, take action rather than waiting for them to become “something serious.” As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and you don’t want to risk developing a serious chronic condition that will impair your ability to do your nursing job or forces you to go on medical leave (or worse, make a career change entirely). If you take care of your body, in many cases, it will take care of you.

In conclusion

Nursing is hard on your physical health, but you don’t have to take it lying down—er, standing up. Follow these nine preventive tips to help fend off common aches and pains that often follow a 12-hour shift.

And always take care of yourself first, nurse!

 

About The Author

Debbie Swanson, Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com

Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com – a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys.  She keeps busy by interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.

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Tired Nurse Health Tips: When Sufficient Sleep Isn’t Possible

Tired Nurse Health Tips: When Sufficient Sleep Isn’t Possible

(This article about tired nurse health tips contains affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure page for more information.)

Nurses are needed round-the-clock, so what if getting enough sleep just isn’t possible?

It is no surprise to hear that getting enough sleep is important for good health.  In fact, a lack of sleep is connected to everything from increased risk of obesity, heart disease, depression and even getting in a car accident on the way home from work.

This is not great news for nurses working long 12 hours shifts.  Especially if they work mid-shifts, night shifts or swing shifts (alternating day and night shifts).

There is an abundance of information on why sleep is good for us and how to get more of it.  Those are easy tips to give when you don’t work long 12+ hour shifts throughout the day and/or night as a nurse.

But, when you add parenthood into the picture, getting enough quality sleep sometimes becomes impossible.  Just ask a shift worker with kids!

Getting enough quality sleep is always the goal

When we sleep our bodies do a lot of necessary and important work. Throughout the night (or day if you are a night shift worker) our body enters REM sleep (our dream state) between 3-5 times.  This is controlled by our body’s circadian rhythm, which is also responsible for helping to regenerate every cell in our body.

Without restorative sleep cycles our body loses the opportunity to regenerate our organs and cells.  We essentially lose our battery power.  Then we feel tired, cranky and unwell when we get up the next day.

But patient care is needed 24/7, 365 days a year and nurses are working some pretty crazy hours.

So the question is:  how are sleep deprived nurses supposed to care for their health when getting enough sleep is sometimes not a realistic option?

7 Nurse Health Tips When Getting Enough Sleep Isn’t Possible

Again – getting enough restorative sleep is the goal.  But if that is not an option due to your work and/or family schedule, here are a few tips to take better care of yourself in the interim.

1. Drink matcha green tea instead of coffee

a mug of match tea

Tired nurse health tip #1: drink matcha tea instead of coffee

Matcha green tea contains vitamin A and C, iron, calcium, protein, and potassium – none of which are found in coffee.  Matcha also contains types of antioxidants called catechins, which are known to prevent cancer in the body.  Many studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits such as weight loss, preventing heart disease and preventing type 2 diabetes.

In addition, matcha green tea provides a less jittery caffeine high than coffee.  That is because matcha contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps your body process caffeine differently than coffee.   As a result, matcha contains much less caffeine than coffee yet has a more sustained energy boost, without the crash later on.

As you probably know, nurse break rooms are filled with junk foods like donuts and cookies.  Not getting enough shut eye may make you more likely to reach for those unhealthy snacks for extra energy.  Adding a cup or two of matcha green tea instead can help nurses get a little extra nutritional fuel while also maintaining alertness throughout the day.

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2. Get some exercise

Woman Running

Tired nurse health tip #2:  get moving for more energy!

When you’re sleep deprived, the last thing you want to think about is moving more.  But, sleep and exercise are inter-correlated with one another in a way that may benefit the sleep-deprived nurse.

First of all, when you are fatigued, getting in a little exercise might be exactly what you need to feel more energized and boost overall health.  I know what you’re thinking – lack of sleep makes people not want to exercise.  However, even a 20-30 minute brisk walk can help you feel better when you are fatigued.

Second, exercise has long been associated with achieving higher quality sleep.  Many nurses work odd hours – so the opportunity for slumber can fall at really odd times.   Evidence demonstrates that exercise helps you fall asleep faster and achieve better quality sleep – a benefit to shift workers who have difficulty sleeping during unusual times.

3. Pack a lunch bag

lunch box preparation

Tired nurse health tip #3: pack your lunch so you don’t reach for unhealthy snacks when you are tired!

When nurses are tired and short on time we tend to gravitate towards unhealthy convenience foods.   A helpful way to prevent this from happening is to prepare all of your meals and snacks for your shifts ahead of time.  By preparing ahead, you can plan healthy easy-to-grab snacks instead of reaching for the donuts or other junk food lurking in the break room.

Start by meal prepping one day a week, or if you are like me, just pack your lunch the day before your shifts.  As a mom, I’m always preparing food for my kids so I just use that time to make my own lunches as well.

Then it’s easy to pack it into your lunch bag the night before.

Here are a few healthy, easy snack foods for tired nurses on-the-go:

  • apples and almond butter
  • almonds or trail mix
  • smoothies (put all the chopped ingredients in a Nutribullet, add liquid and blend when you are ready to eat!)
  • veggies and hummus or guacamole dip
  • hard boiled eggs
  • cottage cheese and pineapple
  • string cheese
  • peanut butter and celery
  • pumpkin seeds
  • edamame
  • overnight oatmeal

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4. Power napping

To be a healthy nurse you must get a good night's sleep.

Tired nurse health tip #4:  take power naps to recharge during the day.

Taking a power nap helps refuel your body in the middle of the day.

According to the National Sleep Foundation naps can:

  • Restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. In fact, a study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%!
  • Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day.  Great for nurses working 12+ hour shifts!
  • Napping is psychologically beneficial and provides an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again –  nurses should have sleep pods at the hospital they can access during any break.  Imagine how much more productive we would be!

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5. Avoid mindless social media browsing when you do have the opportunity to sleep

Nurse on smart phone using nurse apps

Tired nurse health tip #5:  sleep when you have the opportunity to sleep.  

Not only is 99% of social media browsing a huge time-suck, but the light from your cell phone really messes up your sleep.

Cell phones emit bright blue light that is meant to stimulate the brain. By looking at a cell phone before bed it causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that cues the brain that its time for slumber. As a result, smartphone light can disrupt the sleep cycle which makes it hard to fall and stay asleep.

In other words, better quality sleep = happier, healthier nurse.

 

6. Drink lots of water (get a water bottle!)

Helpful tips to stay hydrated for nurses

Tired nurse health tip #6:  always have a water bottle with you at work so you drink enough water during shifts!

Nursing is a physically active profession.  In fact, many nurses are walking several miles and/or are on their feet for most of a single shift.  Making sure you are adequately hydrated can make a big difference in how you feel because dehydration can make sleep deprivation even worse.

Water helps carry nutrients to your body’s cells and helps remove waste.  Which is why when you are dehydrated you may feel tired and weaker than usual. Consuming a sufficient amount of fluids in beverages and water-filled food (such as fruits, vegetables, and soup) will help replenish the water your body loses throughout your shifts and can help you maintain your energy.

The Food and Nutrition Board set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water.  However, the reality is that a person’s size, activity level and medical needs, among other factors, will result in different fluid intake requirements for different people.
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7. Do restorative yoga before bed

Woman doing child's pose.

Tired nurse health tip #7:  restorative yoga will help you fall asleep faster.

Restorative yoga is a great way to wind down from a shift at work, especially when you need a little TLC.  The practice allows you to be still, focus on your breathing and invite a sense of calm into your body.  All of which helps to relax the nervous system and prepare your body for a good sleep.

Yoga also helps relieve stress and anxiety that come with busy nursing shifts, especially when they are exacerbated by chronic sleep deprivation.  Start with a few rounds of deep breathing and tune into yourself.  Follow with a seated twist, knees-to-chest pose, happy baby, a reclining twist and then end your practice with your legs up the wall.

Why not start a nightly restorative yoga ritual to help to drift off to sleep peacefully instead of losing sleep by getting stuck on your phone?

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Tired yet?

Sleep is crucial for overall good health.  Unfortunately many nurses work unpredictable and unusual hours compared to the rest of the world.  That often leaves nurses in a position where no matter what they do, getting enough sleep during the night doesn’t always happen.

But when you prepare ahead, there are still other ways that you can take good care of yourself.  At least until you are able to get a good night of sleep!

Take care of your health, nurse!

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4 Reasons Why Nurses Should Drink Matcha Green Tea

4 Reasons Why Nurses Should Drink Matcha Green Tea

(This post contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

The benefits of green tea have been touted for decades.  But I recently discovered a new shade of green tea that I’m pretty obsessed with called matcha.

I initially tried matcha green tea because I was tired of the caffeine highs and lows that I got with coffee.  As a nurse and new mom who works 12 hour shifts in an emergency room I need caffeine, but coffee can be intense.  So as an experiment, I decided to switch out my coffee habit entirely with matcha green tea for 30 days to see if I noticed any differences.  (And by the way, this was a huge step for me, as I am a coffee addict and a coffee snob!).

I put my Kuerig in the pantry and set my electric kettle in its place.  I didn’t want the temptation to brew my regular coffee in a moment of weakness.

And guess what?  It has been several months and I’m still drinking a cup of matcha green tea every morning.  I feel better when I drink matcha than I do coffee – and I can see a noticeable improvement in my skin as well!

What is Matcha Green Tea?

All green teas, matcha included, are derived from a plant called Camellia Sinensis.  As opposed to regular green tea that comes in a tea bag, matcha is 100% green tea leaves that have been ground into a fine powder.  That is why matcha is so concentrated and why you only need 1/2 teaspoon per cup!

In addition, matcha is higher in caffeine than

regular green tea so you don’t need to add more then 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup of tea.  However, you can vary the amount of caffeine based on how much powder you add.

Nurses should drink matcha green tea instead of coffee

Matcha green tea offers many health benefits compared to coffee.

4 Reasons Nurses Should Drink Matcha Green Tea Instead Of Coffee:

#1.  Matcha is healthier for you

Like other green teas, Matcha contains a type of antioxidants called catechins.   It is specifically high in a type of catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is known to prevent cancer in the body.  Many studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits such as weight loss, preventing heart disease and preventing type 2 diabetes.

As a nurse who practices evidence-based care, I know it is important to create healthy habits to help prevent illnesses in my future. Matcha is just another way for me to take better care of myself on the job.

#2.  Matcha is high in vitamins

Compared to coffee, matcha scores significantly higher in nutrition.  It contains vitamin A and C, iron, calcium, protein, and potassium.  In addition, the high chlorophyll content in matcha also makes it an effective detoxifier that helps the body rid itself of toxins and heavy metals.

Coffee does not even compete with the nutrition that you get from matcha.  By starting the day off on the right nutritional foot with a cup of matcha tea nurses can help meet their nutritional needs. Not to mention,  many break rooms are fills with sweets like donuts and cookies.  Adding a cup or two of matcha can help nurses get the nutritional fuel they need to continue giving great patient care.

#3.  Matcha creates a sense of calm alertness and concentration

As opposed to the highs and lows that many people get with drinking coffee, matcha provides a less jittery caffeine high.  That is because Matcha contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps your body to process caffeine differently than coffee.   As a result, matcha contains much less caffeine than coffee yet has a more sustained energy boost, without the crash later on.

As front line workers in the hospital, nurses need to stay calm in stressful situations. Our patients lives depend on us to make critical decisions that effect their overall health and well-being.  In addition, nurses need to be able to focus clearly, often for hours on end without breaks.  A slip-up , such as a medication error, could be deadly.

#4.  Matcha gives you whiter teeth

And better oral hygiene as well.   Matcha has antibacterial properties that provide vital protection to the teeth, prevent plaque build up and improves oral health. On the other hand, coffee stains the teeth and causes bad breath – a major turn off for patients.

Most nurses I know don’t brush their teeth after drinking coffee or eating meals at work – even if they had the time.  Drinking matcha helps eliminate coffee breath and keeps nurses’ oral hygiene healthy to boot.

What you need to make your own matcha green tea at home:

Making matcha green tea at home is an easy as making a pot of coffee.  Just add 1/2 teaspoon matcha to 12 ounces hot water.  Add sweetener and milk if desired.  Enjoy!

Electric Kettle

 

Organic Matcha Green Tea

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9 Personal Self Care Goals I Set For Myself as a Nurse

9 Personal Self Care Goals I Set For Myself as a Nurse

As s a nurse I have been exposed to so many stressful situations.  I’ve been cussed at by angry patients (more times then I can count), swung at, kicked, had a full urinal thrown at me, been exposed to, been in the middle of dozens of violent patient situations and take-downs, and been the victim of nurse bullying.

In addition, I see other nurses being treated poorly from patients, family members, doctors and even sometimes other nurses.  In fact, it’s not even unusual.  And, like other nurses, I am expected to continue giving compassionate patient care without regard to my own well being.

This sacrificial attitude of putting myself last on a very long spectrum of compassionate care is just not going to cut it anymore.  The thought of spending an entire career with this amount of wear-and-tear is frightening.  Something has to give before I completely fizzle and burn to a crisp.

Nurses need to have compassion for themselves too.

I came out of nursing school with equal parts compassion and adrenaline to save lives and make a positive difference in the world!   In fact, I left a very lucrative 10 year medical equipment sales career so I could do just that.  I was determined to advocate for and serve my patients to the best of my ability.  Compassion was one of my greatest strengths.

As an overachiever for most of my life I have always maintained the attitude that I can do anything as long as I try hard enough.  And now, after 7 years as a registered nurse, I am discovering that I am failing at the one thing that actually defines a great nurse:  compassion.

The nurse burnout is real.

What I am currently experiencing is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that is more extreme than anything that I have ever experienced in my adult life.  I started my nursing career with the determination to give amazing patient care and here I am, 7 years later, losing my compassion.

(And just so you know – this has been hard for me to acknowledge because I have been a “yes” person my entire life.)

There is beauty in the breakdown.

My nursing burnout amplified after the birth of my first child in 2015.  Then, it got even worse after my second child in 2018.  In fact, I started writing regularly again out of desperation to find an outlet for the exhaustion and overwhelming fatigue I was feeling as a nurse and new mom.  My goal was to find more effective ways to take better care of myself and make my life a little easier.  And it actually has helped me find a little reprieve.

But most importantly, it has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to make some huge changes in my life.  Most of all, I need to find my compassion again.  But this time I am unapologetically focusing my compassion on myself, first.

So, in light of this discovery I am 100% accepting and honoring these uncomfortable feelings.  I am using them as a catalyst to make changes in my professional and personal life.  My mental and physical pain will be an opportunity for growth and finding self-compassion.

9 Personal Nurse Self Care Goals

I rarely take the time to do nothing and reflect. This is a good year for more of that.

I am on a mission for self-compassion.

You know how when you fly in an airplane, there is the safety warning before take-off?  Passengers are instructed to put the oxygen mask on themselves first, then help others around them.  Because if you pass out from lack of oxygen, you’re not helpful to anyone!

So, here is me putting the oxygen mask on myself first.  Some of the changes I am making are professional and some are personal.  But they are all things I have been wanting to do for a really long time but haven’t because I was thinking about others’ needs before my own.

Here are my new personal nurse self-care and self-compassion goals:

#1. Work two 12 hour shifts a week instead of three

This one is hard for me because it equates to a significant decrease in pay (and I really like money!).  With two toddler age children, child care is our biggest expense (besides housing) and it’s not going away any time soon.  But fortunately, we are in a position to afford it for the time being and I want to use the extra day off to spend more one-on-one time with my adorable babies.

In addition, since most hospital shifts are 12 to 13 hours I don’t get to see my children at all on the days that I work.  I am also staying away from working back-to-back shifts, because I just don’t want to be away from my children for more than one day at a time.

#2.  Work less holidays and as few weekends as possible

After I had children I really hated having to work on holidays.   I have missed so many birthdays, Easters, 4th of Julys, Thanksgivings, Christmas and New Years to be working at the hospital.  At some point I started to resent missing that time with my family.  Working on holidays is the norm for many nurses, and I expect to work some.  But since I will be working a little less anyway this will also equate to working less holidays as well.  Same goes for weekends.

9 Personal Self Care Goals I Set For Myself As A Nurse

Self Care for nurses is more important now than ever.

#3.  Continue working per diem

There are a lot of benefits and drawbacks to being a per diem nurse.  For example, I love that I can schedule myself to work on the exact days I WANT to work.  However, it also means that if I am not needed then I get canceled at 0400 and then I don’t make any money for that day.  And since I end up paying for a nanny regardless, that’s a double whammie.

The best part of being a per diem nurse is that it offers me a much better work-life balance.  When I worked as a career nurse it was almost impossible for me to secure childcare because my work schedule was always changing.  Some weeks I got the schedule I needed and others I didn’t. So on the whole, being a per diem nurse is the right choice for me and my family.

#4.  Continue writing and growing my website to help other nurse moms

In 2016 I became a nurse blogger.   My venture was born out of my frustration with burnout as a registered nurse and my desire to create a more flexible work-life balance.  Writing about nurse lifestyle topics that interest me and exploring ways that nurses can take better care of themselves helps me to take care of myself better too.

My little blog is even starting to make a small monthly income, which absolutely thrills me.  I have a dream that if I keep working hard my website will make enough money that I can work one day a week instead of two.

#5.  Take a comprehensive course in website management and blogging

Last week I signed up for a comprehensive blogging course that will probably take me the next 6-8 months to complete.  I honestly haven’t been more excited to do something for myself like this in a really long time.  In fact, I can’t wait to see my progress over the next year!

#6.  Explore other medical related career options

A few weeks ago I interviewed for an aesthetic sales position.  Although I didn’t end up working for the company, it did open my eyes to the fact that there are so many other great opportunities that I could be interested in and also fit my skill set as a nurse.  A nursing practice can take many forms and I am giving myself permission to continue learning about other nursing career options.

#7.  Focus more energy into my family and friends

One of my New Years resolutions this year was to “choose fun.”  So many studies have shown that spending quality time with family and friends is incredibly helpful in decreasing stress and improving burnout symptoms.  Since I will be working a little less I will have more time to focus my energy on the people who matter most to me.

#8.  Enjoy my new fancy gym membership (with childcare on site!)

In the spirit of investing more in myself, I started 2019 off with a gym membership.  It has been a complete game changer for me.  In fact, the old me would never have never splurged on a fancy gym membership. Making regular time to work out always makes me feel great, clears my head and gives me more stamina.  And my 1 year old loves the Kid’s Club, so its a win-win.

As a nurse and mom my life basically revolves around caring for everyone else, and I am SO GRATEFUL to be able to do that.  But if there is one thing I have learned through my own compassion fatigue it is that I need to put the same care into myself as I do into my patients and family.  So in the spirit of self-compassion, I am metaphorically putting on my oxygen mask first, before helping those around me.

#9.  Practice more yoga

I have been regularly practicing yoga for 14 years.  Finally, in 2o15 I completed Yoga Works’s 4 month Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program for medical professionals.  I learned how to teach simple yoga, do guided meditation and perform Reiki.  It was amazing!

However, in recent years I have not been practicing as much as I would like, and that is going to change.  My goal is to incorporate yoga into my busy schedule every single day. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes.  Yoga helps me stay balanced in times of great stress, gives me flexibility (both physically and mentally) and has been extremely grounding.  In fact, I recently started teaching my 3 year old daughter a series of yoga poses and it is bringing us both great joy!

9 Personal Nurse Self Care Goals

These two are already happy about self-care goal #1:  Work two 12 hour shifts a week instead of three.  Job flexibility has never been so important to me.

In conclusion….

Nurse self care matters.  If we don’t care for ourselves then how can we expect patients to listen to our health advice and education.  I am taking this opportunity to give myself compassion and hopefully lead others by example.

If other nurses find themselves feeling as unappreciated and burnt out as me I encourage them to find ways to care for themselves first.  Otherwise, we are perpetuating a broken system that does not acknowledge that nursing burnout is a real issue and ignoring nurse health and well being.

So nurse, what are you going to do to take care of yourself today? Leave a comment!

Additional Recommended Reading:

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7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses (With Photos!)

7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses (With Photos!)

(This post is not a substitution for medical care.  Please consult with your physician before starting any exercise routine.  This post also contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

Nurse practicing yoga pose

7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses

What do you think would happen if every nurse did an energizing 20 minute yoga routine before every shift?  

Its likely nurses have a chance to clear their heads, connect with themselves, and give themselves a moment to prepare for the busy 12 hour shift ahead.  Not a bad way to start off the day.

Many nurses may underestimate the physical and mental wear-and-tear of long shifts.  The start the day fueled on cups of coffee and then they are not getting the rest and recovery they need afterward.

So, as nurses we must do the best we can to take care of ourselves the best we can (obviously no one else at the hospital is going to help up out with that).  This includes giving our bodies the rest, rejuvenation and tender love that we give to our patients each shift!  No more self-sacrificing attitudes!

Yoga is a fantastic way for nurses to reconnect with their bodies and make sure they are in a healthy and happy mental state – both before and after a nursing shift.

7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses To Start The Shift Off Right:

#1.  Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain Pose is a great yoga pose for nurses to start with in the morning. Ground your feet and press evenly through all four corners of each foot.  Stretch your arms towards the floor and draw your abdominals in and up.

Hold for five to eight breaths to get focused and ready to move deeper into your practice.

Benefits of Mountain Pose for nurses:

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Increases awareness
  • Increases strength and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips
  • Firms abdomen and buttocks

#2. Upward Salute Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

From Mountain Pose, lift your arms up overhead and press your palms firmly together. Keep the tops of your shoulders released away from your ears and activate your triceps. Keep the abdominals engaged and the legs firm.

Hold for five to eight breaths.

Benefits of  Upward Salute Pose for nurses:

  • Stretches the sides of the body, spine, shoulders, and belly
  • Tones the thighs
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps to relieve anxiety and fatigue.
  • Helps create space in the chest and lungs

#3.  Cat-Cow Pose

Cat Pose

Cat Pose

Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.

Cow Pose:  Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling.

Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back.  Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.

Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.

Repeat 5-20 times, and then rest by sitting back on your heels with your torso upright.

Benefits of Cat Cow Pose for nurses:

  • Brings flexibility to the spine
  • Stretches the back torso and neck
  • Softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs
  • Open the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep.
  • Calms the mind
  • Helps develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body and brings spine into correct alignment

#4.  Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho mukha svanasana)

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

From neutral Cat Cow pose, push your hips up into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

Press firmly into your hands and roll your up arms outwards. Lengthen up through your torso and keep your abdominals engaged. Actively use your legs to keep bringing your torso back in space.  Bend your knees if needed.

Hold here for eight to ten breaths.

Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog Pose for nurses:

  • Helps build bone density in the arms
  • Builds upper body strength
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Helps to decrease back pain and stiffness.
  • Helps boost circulation by putting your heart above your head

#5.  Warrior I (Virabhadra I)

Warrior I Pose

Warrior I Pose

Step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach your hands actively towards the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx.

Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right.  Align the right heel with the left heel. Rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis to the front of your mat. As the left hip point turns forward.  Lengthen your coccyx toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly.

Exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor Reach strongly through your arms, lifting the rib cage away from the pelvis.

Stay for 30 to 60 seconds and switch sides.

Benefits of Warrior I Pose for nurses:

  • Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck and belly
  • Strengthens your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles and back
  • Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles
  • Opens yours hips, chest and lungs.
  • Improves focus, balance and stability
  • Energizes the whole  body

#6.  Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

Forward Fold Pose

Forward Fold Pose

Stand in Mountain Pose with your hands on your hips.  Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso. Bend your elbows and hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor and lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Turn the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don’t lock your knees.

Engage your quadriceps and draw them up toward the ceiling.  Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles. Let your head hang.

Hold the pose for up to one minute. To release, place your hands on your hips. Keep your back flat as you inhale and return to Mountain Pose. Repeat 2-5 times.

Benefits of Forward Fold for nurses:

  • Helps to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia
  • Stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves
  • Opens the hips and can relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.

#7.  Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child's Pose

Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is a beginner’s yoga pose often performed to rest between more difficult poses. The position stretches the thighs, hips and ankles and helps relax the body and mind.

Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs.

On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed.

Benefits of Child’s Pose for Nurses:

  • Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Reduces stress and fatigue
  • Relaxes the muscles on the front of the body
  • Elongates the lower back
  • Improves digestion
  • Calms the mind
  • Rests the body

Care for yourself first through yoga, then care better for patients afterwards.

Nurses must get into the practice of taking good care of themselves first, so they can continue to take great care of patients as well.  After all, nurses serve as role models for our patients.   If we don’t take our own health advice, why should our patients listen to us about anything else?

A good way to start is by practicing these energizing pre-shift yoga poses for nurses.  And then see how much better you feel heading into your shifts!

Essential yoga props to start your yoga practice:

After 13 years of yoga practice and have tried many yoga props along the way.  You don’t need much to get started.  Here are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home.

1.  Yoga Mat, by Yoga Nat

I love this yoga mat.   The quality is very good for the price.  I have this exact mat in my living room and after 2 years it still looks brand new.  It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried.  In addition, it has nice grooves that keep the mat in place.

Yoga for nurses: yoga mat
Yoga for nurses: yoga mat

Manduka yoga blocks (with strap included)

Yoga straps are useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture.  In addition I love the Manduka cork yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new!  Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate over time due to sweat and regular use.  They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip.  It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.

Yoga for nurses: yoga blocks and strap

Yoga for nurses: yoga blocks and strap

Additional Recommended Reading:

What are you doing to take better care of yourself, nurse?  Feel free to leave a comment below!