*Post contains affiliate links/Updated from 2/2/18
Are you a dedicated nurse working tirelessly through long 12-hour shifts? Your commitment to this noble and philanthropic profession is truly admirable. However, as with many shift workers, you may sometimes feel drained, overwhelmed, and even burnt out.
It’s no secret that working 12-hour shifts can take a significant toll on your physical and mental well-being. But what steps are you taking to prioritize your health and thrive in your career?
By taking a proactive approach to self-care and making it a top priority, you can ensure that you remain a healthy and effective nurse, delivering exceptional care to your patients. It’s time to invest in your own well-being and prioritize nurse self-care.
Thriving, Not Just Surviving: 11 Tips for Nurses on 12-Hour Shifts
Nurse self-care should be a priority. That includes getting a good night’s sleep!
Nurses are at the forefront of 24/7 patient care, and this means that their work schedules often involve long day and night shifts that can result in sleep deprivation.
However, it’s crucial for nurses to prioritize their own well-being by getting a good night’s rest after completing a demanding 12-hour shift.
Here are a few tips that can help nurses establish healthier sleep habits:
⇒ Unwind Without Screen Time
Avoid watching television or scrolling through your phone before going to bed. Instead, opt for relaxing activities that can calm your mind and body, such as reading a book or listening to soft music.
⇒ Stretch and Soothe
Ease into a state of relaxation with some gentle yoga stretches. Restorative yoga props such as a mat, blocks, and a yoga strap can help enhance the experience and promote deeper relaxation.
Consider using a meditation app such as Headspace to help clear your mind and reduce stress. Taking just a few minutes to meditate before bed can help you feel more relaxed and ready for a restful night’s sleep.
⇒ Block Out Distractions
Invest in a good pair of earplugs and a sleep mask to help minimize any noise or light that might disrupt your sleep.
Try to adjust your bedtime routine by getting into bed an hour earlier than usual. This small change can help you establish a healthier sleep schedule and reap the benefits of a more restful night’s sleep. Give it a try for one week and notice how much better you feel both mentally and physically.
By prioritizing nurse self-care and adopting these simple yet effective sleep habits, nurses can ensure they are well-rested and energized for their next shift, ready to provide the best possible care for their patients.
Nurse, get your heart rate up!
Regular exercise is a vital component of nurse self-care that can have a significant impact on physical and mental well-being. Not only does exercise help maintain a healthy weight, but it also boosts overall energy levels, improves mood, and reduces stress.
Additionally, exercise can help nurses maintain the stamina needed to provide top-quality care for their patients. (Make sure you talk you your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have health concerns).
Here are some ideas to keep in mind when incorporating exercise into your nurse self-care routine:
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. This can include activities such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.
Don’t have 30 minutes to spare? Try breaking up your exercise routine into shorter, more manageable segments throughout the day. Even a 10-minute walk can provide physical and mental benefits.
Make exercise a social activity. Consider joining a workout class or finding a workout buddy to help keep you motivated and accountable.
Mix up your routine. Incorporate a variety of exercises such as strength training, cardio, and stretching to keep things interesting and challenge your body in different ways.
Take advantage of outdoor exercise opportunities. Spending time in nature has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety.
Don’t forget to warm up and cool down properly to prevent injury and promote recovery.
In addition to its physical benefits, exercise can also help manage stress and reduce caregiver burden. Yoga and other mindfulness practices can be particularly effective in this regard. These types of exercises focus on deep breathing and relaxation techniques, which can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calm and well-being.
By incorporating regular exercise into their nurse self-care routine, nurses can improve their overall health and well-being, better manage stress and caregiver burden, and maintain the stamina needed to provide exceptional care for their patients. So, take the time to get your heart rate up on your days off – it is a win-win for everyone.
#3. Grocery Shop For Healthy Shift Food
A well-balanced diet is essential for nurse health and wellness.
Grocery shopping is so important for nurses and other hospital workers to ensure proper nutrition. It is no secret that healthy food choices are crucial for overall good health and well-being. Make sure you are filling your plate with high-density vitamins and minerals. You simply can’t maintain good energy and stamina over a 12-hour shift on sugary snacks and fast food!
Plan ahead by creating a grocery list of the foods you want to eat while you are at work. That way, you won’t be tempted to reach for something unhealthy when you have a few moments to eat in-between caring for patients.
Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast: Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice, or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge. These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around. When you get hungry, you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt.
The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.
Oats: a nutritious and easy way to start a 12-hour shift.
Did you know that starting your day with a nutritious breakfast can have a big impact on your 12-hour shift? Studies have shown that a healthy breakfast can provide you with more strength and endurance to:
Keep up with physical activity
Maintain stamina throughout the day
Improve concentration, and
Provide a diet rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
As a nurse, it’s important to take care of yourself, and preparing a nutritious breakfast before your shift is a great way to start.
One easy and delicious option is to make overnight oats in mason jars with a variety of flavors, such as:
Peanut butter and maple
Banana and walnut, or
Almond and raisin
You can also add ground flaxseed or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefits. And don’t forget to top it off with a dash of cinnamon for some added flavor!
By taking the time to prepare a nutritious breakfast, you’ll have the energy and focus needed to provide the best possible care to your patients throughout your 12-hour shift. So give it a try and see how it can make a difference in your day!
As a nurse, it’s essential to fuel your body with nutritious food to keep you energized throughout your 12-hour shift. Bringing a packed lunch not only helps you make healthy food choices, but it can also save you money in the long run.
Here are some items that can make packing your lunch for work easier and more enjoyable:
As a hardworking nurse, you deserve to have the energy to make it through your 12-hour shift without relying on sugary snacks in the breakroom. While it may be tempting to indulge in those donuts or cookies, there are healthier options that will keep you fueled and focused throughout the day.
Here are some snack ideas that are easy to pack to maintain energy:
Crunchy baby carrots, broccoli, or other veggies with a side of hummus for protein
Celery sticks with almond butter for a satisfying combination of healthy fat and fiber
Fresh strawberries and blueberries for a sweet and nutritious pick-me-up
Granola and yogurt for a quick and filling snack
Almonds or cashews for a protein-packed option
Avocado toast for a tasty and satisfying snack
Sliced apples with peanut butter for a classic and delicious combination
Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana for a protein-rich and refreshing snack
Trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and seeds for a convenient and tasty option.
By bringing your own nutritious snacks to work, you can fuel your body and brain without experiencing the sugar crashes that come with breakroom donuts.
Green tea: a healthy drink for 12-hour shift workers!
Green tea is a popular beverage that is enjoyed all over the world, and for good reason! Here are some reasons why green tea is a healthy choice:
⇒ Rich in Antioxidants
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants called catechins that help to protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. The antioxidants in green tea help to neutralize these harmful molecules and keep your body healthy.
⇒ Boosts Brain Function
Green tea contains caffeine, a natural stimulant that can help to improve brain function, including memory, reaction time, and mood. Additionally, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has a calming effect on the brain and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
⇒ It may Aid in Weight Loss
Green tea has been shown to boost metabolism, which can help to increase calorie burning and aid in weight loss. It also contains a compound called EGCG, which has been shown to help break down fat and reduce the formation of new fat cells.
⇒ Supports Heart Health
Drinking green tea regularly has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. It may help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow, all of which can contribute to a healthy heart.
Incorporating green tea into your daily routine is a simple way to boost your health and well-being. Whether you enjoy it hot or iced, with honey or lemon, green tea is a delicious and healthy choice that you can feel good about.
Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.
As a nurse, your job demands long hours on your feet, and it is crucial to take good care of them. Choosing the right shoes can make a huge difference in your comfort and well-being during and after your shifts. Here are some reasons why wearing good shoes is essential for nurses:
⇒ Comfort: Wearing comfortable shoes is a must for any nurse who wants to work without experiencing any foot pain, leg cramps, or backaches. Good shoes offer proper cushioning and arch support, which reduces the pressure on your feet and legs.
⇒ Safety: Wearing the right shoes can also help prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. Shoes with non-slip soles will provide a better grip on slippery floors, decreasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
⇒ Durability: The right pair of shoes can also withstand the demands of the job. Investing in a pair of durable and well-made shoes will ensure that they last longer and need to be replaced less often.
⇒ Style: Good shoes can be stylish too! You don’t have to sacrifice fashion for function. Many brands now offer shoes that are both comfortable and stylish, so you can feel good and look good at the same time.
The Nike Women’s Air Zoom Pegasus Running Shoes have great cushioning and are often worn by runners training for and running in marathons. They have great cushion and arch support without being too heavy.
Also, the cushion provides additional support for the knees and ankles. That is why these shoes are also great for nurses who often walk 15,000-20,000 steps or more in a single shift. There are over 25 other great colors to choose from.
#9. Stay Hydrated: Keep a Reusable Water Bottle
Drink water throughout your 12-hour shift and stay hydrated!
Have you ever worked an entire shift and realized at the end that you forgot to drink water for the whole day? It is so easy to do when you are extremely busy with back-to-back patients and heavy work assignments.
Invest in a good water bottle with a sealable lid (to prevent accidental spillage). Keep it where you do most of your charting in the nurse’s station. And try to make it a priority to drink your water every hour during your shift to stay hydrated.
Here are some of the most important reasons why nurses (and all healthcare workers) should drink water during their shifts:
⇒ Dehydration can cause a range of negative effects, including headaches, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and muscle cramps.
⇒ Drinking water can help keep nurses alert and focused, which is crucial in a fast-paced, high-pressure healthcare environment.
⇒ Staying hydrated may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can be a problem for people who are not drinking enough fluids. UTIs can be particularly uncomfortable and disruptive for nurses, who may not have easy access to bathroom breaks during their shifts.
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Make your own chia seed water: Add 3 tbsp of organic chia seeds to your water bottle and mix well (you can add more or less to your liking). Within a few hours, the seeds will blow up in size and into a gelatinous consistency.
(Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron, and calcium. Just another easy way to add nutrients to your busy day!)
#10. Wear compression socks
Nurse health & your venous system: wear compression socks!
Prevention of varicose veins: Standing for extended periods causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge, increase in pressure and stretch, causing unsightly varicose veins.
Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots: A study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours.
Decreased swelling of ankles and feet: Swollen ankles and feet are a common side effect of being on one’s feet for a 12-hour shift.
Many nurses who wear compression socks say that their legs “feel more energized” after a 12-hour shift. Pregnant shift workers are especially at risk of leg swelling (due to increased blood volumes during pregnancy) and should consider wearing them to prevent venous issues.
Nurses need yoga, period. Not only does yoga replenishes depleted reserves after a 12-hour shift, but a relaxed and more focused nurse can give better patient care.
Yoga’s amazing benefits on physical and mental health are well documented in the literature. The Mayo Clinic reports that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and lower your heart rate,” among many other benefits.
Nurse self-care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:
A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only eight weeks of yoga, the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure.
Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain.
Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced-based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Yoga not only increases flexibility but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue.
A study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.”
Nurse Health & Self Care for Nurses Frequently Asked Questions
What is self-care as a nurse?
Self-care for nurses involves intentional actions that promote physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It’s a way for nurses to prioritize their own health and wellness so that they can continue to provide effective care for their patients.
What is an example of an effective self-care strategy for a nurse?
An effective self-care strategy for a nurse could be taking regular breaks during their shift to stretch, hydrate, or engage in a calming activity such as deep breathing. Another example could be making time for activities outside of work that they enjoy, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with loved ones.
Why is self-care important for nurses?
Self-care is important for nurses because it helps prevent burnout, reduces stress, and improves overall job satisfaction. When nurses take care of themselves, they are better able to provide high-quality care to their patients.
What are the four basics of self-care?
The four basics of self-care are eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress.
What are three examples of self-care?
Three examples of self-care could be taking a relaxing bath, going for a walk in nature, or practicing meditation or yoga.
Why do nurses lack self-care?
Nurses often lack self-care because they are so focused on caring for others that they neglect their own needs. Additionally, many nurses work long hours and have demanding schedules, which can make it difficult to find time for self-care.
What are the seven pillars of self-care?
The seven pillars of self-care are sleep, nutrition, physical activity, hygiene, social connection, stress management, and spiritual practice.
What are the ABCS of self-care?
The ABCs of self-care are Awareness, Balance, Connection, and Support. These elements are essential for maintaining a healthy self-care practice.
What are the five domains of self-care?
The five domains of self-care are physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and professional.
What is a nurse’s barrier to self-care?
A nurse’s barrier to self-care could be a lack of time, resources, or support. Additionally, some nurses may feel guilty for taking time for themselves instead of focusing on their patients.
How can nurses prevent burnout?
Nurses can prevent burnout by practicing effective self-care, setting realistic expectations, seeking support from colleagues and loved ones, and making time for activities outside of work that they enjoy.
Why is nursing the hardest job?
Nursing is considered one of the hardest jobs because it is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Nurses are often required to work long hours and deal with high levels of stress, while also providing compassionate care to patients who may be in pain or distress.
What is the highest form of self-care?
The highest form of self-care is to cultivate a sense of self-compassion and self-love. This involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding, and prioritizing your own well-being in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling.
Effective Strategies To Combat Nurse Burnout and Moral Injury
Have you ever experienced an overwhelming amount of stress or exhaustion from work? You wouldn’t be the only one. These extreme feelings are often referred to as burnout, which is categorized by a decrease in emotional, physical, and psychological energy resulting from work-related stress. This is a problem employees face in all industries but is particularly trying for those in demanding professions such as healthcare.
How can you tell if an employee is suffering from burnout or moral injury instead of just normal levels of work-related stress? Researchers have indicated that there are three primary aspects of burnout in employees.
#1. Emotional Exhaustion
Emotional exhaustion results from the feelings of immense stress and pressure on employees that leave them feeling emotionally and physically spent by the time they’ve finished their shift.
Emotional exhaustion goes hand in hand with another aspect of burnout, depersonalization. This type of detachment reduces the amount of empathy an employee is able to expend toward the people they work with and for. In the healthcare industry, this can raise questions regarding the quality of care that nurses are able to provide when they’re experiencing burnout.
#3. Feelings Of Low Accomplishment
The final aspect of burnout is described as a feeling of low accomplishment. Employees may feel worthless despite their established skills and contribute less toward the responsibilities of their position. This can have some serious implications in the case of nurses and other healthcare professionals.
For as common as burnout and moral injury is in the healthcare industry, not many organizations feel they have a good grasp on programs to address these issues. Below are a few strategies that would serve as effective tools for combating nurse burnout.
Creation and Implementation of Wellness Programs: programs designed to educate nurses on stress reduction and wellness strategies are a great start. These programs would provide methods that can be incorporated in their days to maintain stress levels.
Healthy Work Environments: providing nurses with an environment where they’re respected and able to communicate about their issues openly has a positive effect on their performance and stress levels.
Incorporation of Scheduling Software: integrated scheduling tools that provide clear information for nurses allows for a higher quality of care for patients.
Establishing Healthy Habits: though it may seem cliché, the basics are often the most important. A nutritious diet, a full night’s sleep, and exercise go a long way in terms of positive mental health.
Management Involvement: for the management staff, allowing nurses to bring attention to workplace issues with confidence and establishing an open dialogue will allow for a greater understanding of the employees and how they respond to stress.
For more information on how burnout affects the healthcare industry and nurses, as well as strategies to combat this burnout, be sure to review the accompanying infographic courtesy of ScheduleAnywhere.
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.
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 fewer 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 fewer holidays as well. The same goes for weekends.
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 whammy.
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 it’s 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’ 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!
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.
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!
(This post about simple stress management for nurses may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more information.)
Nurses are more stressed-out than ever.
It is no surprise that prolonged stress damages the body. Yet many nurses are dealing with unchecked, chronic stress for years, or even decades. Still, the passion that many nurses have for helping others drives them to continue forward in their nursing careers. But who is helping nurses?
The unfortunate truth is that nurses themselves are the ones who must take care of themselves first. Nurse safety and well-being are not being taken seriously by the very own hospitals where we work so hard and strive to give only the very best patient care. Nationwide, it appears that hospital administrator’s main priority is making money for the hospital, and the health and well-being of their nurses doesn’t even make the list.
Simple stress management for nurses
Do some hospitals see nurses as indispensable?
For some nurses, it may feel like it. Even I have felt that despite my own dependability, clinical knowledge, and positive attitude that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if I left. The feeling is disheartening.
For example, I became a per diem nurse after the birth of my first child because a unit director stated that they were “unable” to give me consistent scheduling so I could plan daycare for my child. Per diem nursing gives me the flexibility to schedule my days to fit my childcare situation; however, now I have no benefits, no disability, no retirement, and no maternity leave – and I had another baby this year! Needless to say, it was a hyper-expensive year for us and caused a lot of stress for me.
But, they knew another nurse would come along and fill my spot. So why be flexible with my schedule so that I could stay?
I still have a passion for nursing, despite the stress.
Workplace stress in nursing is common. I am not leaving the profession soon because my children are still very small, and I still do have a strong desire and passion for helping others. So in the meantime, I make stress management a huge priority in my life.
If you are a nurse who feels like me, keep an eye out for nurse burnout symptoms that could be wreaking havoc on your overall health and happiness. And start taking simple steps to help keep stress in check, so you don’t end up as a patient yourself. Nurses shouldn’t be creating unhealthy habits to cope with their stressful nursing careers. And if it becomes too much where your health is severely being affected negatively, then consider other nursing options away from the bedside. Nurse, you need to take care of yourself first!
Simple Stress Management Techniques For Nurses:
1. Watch a funny movie
When was the last time you had a good laugh? Do you even remember how good it feels to laugh out loud? Watching a funny movie is a great way to passively tune out and focus on something more light-hearted. Especially for nurses who deal with immense stress in the workplace.
Studies show that laughter is so good for your health. A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Also, laughter increases your immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter makes people feel good, which is precisely what stressed-out nurses need. It releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Studies show that laughter has the power to promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
2. Get moving: endorphins are natural stress reducers
Get your heart rate up on your days off! The benefits of exercise have been well documented is essential for nurse self-care. It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood, and helps decrease stress levels. Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also allows nurses to have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.
Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Which, in turn, will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.
3. Yoga: learn the art of how to relax
Yoga is a great stress management tool for nurses. Compassion fatigue can be overwhelming for nurses, and learning how to use yoga for relaxation can help.
A study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.
Nurse self-care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:
Stress management. A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only eight weeks of yoga, the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a significant reduction in perceived mental pressure. (If that is what can happen after only eight weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain. Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced-based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Yoga not only increases flexibility but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
Good friends can help you manage chronic stress. It is essential to find balance when you work as a nurse, and that includes making time for friendships and a social life outside of the hospital.
Nurses with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure, and an unhealthy body mass index. Talking with other nurses who are struggling with the same stressors, you are can help provide support when you need it most.
Having a good social support group can help in many other ways:
Increase your sense of belonging and purpose as a nurse
Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
Help you cope with traumatic situations in the workplace, such as patient deaths and abusive or combative patient situations
Supportive friendships can encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. It is claimed to reduce stress, anxiety, and burnout, and enhance resilience. And stressed-out nurses working long, arduous shifts with often changing schedules need this more than anyone.
A few benefits of meditation:
Better focus and ability to ignore distractions
Happier state of mind
Headspace is an app for your phone that has many different meditations, each lasting 10 to 60 minutes. If you can find 10 minutes in your day, then you have no excuse not to meditate! Meditation is attainable for even the busiest of nurses!
Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It is just what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation, and it becomes easier.
It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families. However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads and have a quiet moment to themselves. This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus on giving better patient care.
6. Eat nutritious foods
Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach. Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy. But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired. On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12-hour shift.
Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:
Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
Celery and almond butter
Granola and yogurt
Almonds or cashews
Sliced apples and peanut butter
Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast: Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice, or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge. These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around. When you get hungry, you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt. The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.
P.S. HEY, NURSES! Remember to grab your FREE E-Book “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” below! (scroll down)
(This post about nurse burnout symptoms may contain affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
The nursing profession tends to attract the most compassionate and empathetic people alive. For that reason, nurses are also the most susceptible to experiencing “burnout.” Eventually, chronic overwork and stress can lead to nurse burnout symptoms such as exhaustion, anxiety, physical injury, or even depression. If you have been a nurse for a while, then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
Nurse burnout symptoms don’t start right away.
A novice nurse is so fresh. The happiness to be done with nursing school combined with the excitement of having the title R.N. after your name moves the new nurse optimistically through each 12-hour shift.
Yet, many nurses find themselves experiencing nurse burnout symptoms, sometimes after only a year or two in the profession. Still, they continue working with the same rigor and determination without taking good care of themselves.
Here are a few nurse burnout symptoms to look out for:
1. Chronic exhaustion
Have you ever gotten 8 hours of sleep yet still felt exhausted when you woke up? Or, are you so tired that you can’t imagine how you are going to make it through another 12-hour shift? If so, you may be experiencing chronic exhaustion.
Nursing is a caring profession, and compassion is one of the essential elements of patient care. However, constantly caring for others’ needs before your own can lead to compassion fatigue. Symptoms of compassion fatigue include emotional exhaustion, irritability, and poor job satisfaction. You simply cannot be a good nurse if you begin to dislike your job.
If you find yourself feeling like you are losing compassion for your patients because you are experiencing this nurse burnout symptom, then you owe it to your patients and yourself to take a break. Go on a vacation, play a round of golf, take a yoga class, or find a way to get some quality alone time to recharge your batteries.
3. Losing your passion
When many nurses are asked why they decided to go into the nursing profession, they say it was because they had a “passion” for helping humankind. Passion is exactly what drives us to do good work. So, if you feel you are losing your passion, then it may be a good time to find it again.
Stagnation is the killer of passion. Do you feel like you are no longer learning within your specialty? Perhaps it is time to become certified within your specialty or even find a new specialty altogether. Nursing is a career for lifelong learners. Learning keeps us educated, and it can also help you find your passion for nursing again. It’s a win-win!
More is expected of nurses than ever before.
Nurses need to find a work-life balance more than ever. Heavier patient loads and the physical demands that come with working arduous 12-hour shifts are killing the spirit of many R.N.’s. To top it off, it seems as if hospitals are trying to save money in any way they can, and unfortunately, that usually translates into less and less resources for nurses.
The bottom line is this: when nurses take care of themselves, they can give the best possible care to their patients. This scenario is a win-win for everyone involved: nurses, patients, and the business people who are managing healthcare.
As nurses, we simply cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and expect a good outcome.
If you are experiencing nurse burnout, there is hope! You can beat nurse burnout and even rediscover your passion for nursing. A result of my own nurse burnout was that I became a nurse blogger to vent my frustrations and help find solutions for my own burnout. However, it is your responsibility to figure out why you are unhappy within your career and find your nursing passion once again. You too, can beat nurse burnout!
P.S. Sign up to receive your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health And Self Care” at the bottom of this post!