What a lot of nurses do not seem to realize is that nurse personal care is just as important as patient care. The idea behind this is that you will not be able to care for your patients to the best of your ability if you are not also caring for yourself. This is a service job, and service jobs have a high rate of burnout that you need to avoid.
Tips On Keeping Yourself Well
Keeping well refers to your medical as well as your emotional well being. The basics here include:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Getting enough sleep and rest
- Enjoying some leisure time every day
- Scheduling your check-ups for medical and dental care
- Making time to socialize with those you care about
According to about.com a balanced diet involves eating plenty of “fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as low or no-fat dairy products, and lean animal proteins. Fish is recommended at least two times per week, beans, nuts and seeds are encouraged, and unsaturated fats are always the fats of choice – like olive oil”. There is some dispute as to how much sleep is enough, but generally it is considered wise to get around 7 hours of sleep a night. 15 to 30 minutes of exercising a day is all you need, and it doesn’t have to be intense. Leisure time can simply involve reading a book for half an hour. Medical check-ups will keep your physical health in check and you need to maintain contact with friends and family for your emotional well being. Working shifts may limit the amount of time that you have to attend to these matters, but it is important that you try.
Laughter Is The Best Medicine
Having a good sense of humor will help you maintain your perspective on life and ensure that you are continually able to cope with the challenges that the nursing profession faces you with. Laughter is beneficial because it can:
- Release tension
- Reduce pain
- Improve breathing
- Improve your mood
- Lift your spirits
As a nurse you will need to be able to laugh at yourself and laugh at situations. This is an important aspect of nurse personal care because it encourages you to look at life in a positive way which will affect your ability to effectively cope with the challenges that your job as well as your personal life may throw at you. There are many methods that you can use to make yourself laugh. You could read a funny book, or even just the comic section in the newspaper. Watching comedy movies and TV shows will help you relax as well as help you to laugh. If you are able, attend a comedian show.
How To Find And Get Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed you need to get help. There are a number of community based care services aimed specifically at caregivers like nurses in order to minimize the risk of burnout. Remember that, if you burnout, you will have to cut the care that you are giving your patient or patients short. This means that they will not benefit fully from your skills. Consequently you need to get help when needed. Help can be found at respite care facilities that offer temporary help for caregivers. In addition you can make use of community services that provide you with home health care when necessary or with homemaking such as shopping and doing dishes. This can relieve the pressure you are under. Other community based services that you could benefit from when you feel that you may be losing your ability to cope include:
- Friendly visitor
- Adult day care
- Geriatric care manager
- Caregiver support group
In addition to these there are other community services that you can turn to when you need help as a nurse.
Don’t Take It Home With You
An important part of caring for yourself as a nurse involves leaving work at work, both literally and emotionally. You cannot bring work home with you. A nurse who works in the community travelling from place to place and who is not employed at a set facility may, for example, be tempted to bring the paperwork home. This can have many negative effects, including:
- Neglecting your personal life and family
- Being unable to actually get the work done due to the distractions in the home.
It is important to make time for paperwork. Instead of going straight home spend an hour at the library getting it all done. When you are at home you should do any hospital related work or even speak about it in great detail. Do not let the emotions that you felt during the day affect you at home.
Don’t give your personal details to patients. If you do you will receive phone calls and visits at all hours of the day and night, making it very difficult for you to create the necessary barrier between your job and your personal life.
Keys To Avoiding Burnout
Nurses work in a naturally high stress environment. They also tend to be overachievers. This could lead to them overextending themselves on a regular basis, which in turn could result in burnout. Burnout is a condition whereby you are no longer able to cope with anything on the basis that you have done too much. You will no longer feel in control and you will have to be seen by medical professionals. Some basic tips to avoid burnout include:
- Don’t always accept extra shifts and responsibilities, especially if you’re not sure that you can cope.
- Set boundaries and define your limitations and then be sure to stick to them.
- Make sure that you have a clear idea of what your priorities are in your life as well as in your job and that you have set realistic time frames for seeing to those various priorities.
- Delete things from your task list that simply do not need your attention immediately.
Find Ways To Reward Yourself
As a nurse you will not get a lot of praise or recognition. This is as expected. Nurses do not become nurses for the rewards. Every once in a while a patient may thank you in some small way, but these instances are few and far between and they may not be significant rewards in the long run. Consequently you need to find ways to reward yourself. This includes a mental domain:
- Praise yourself when you have reached a milestone in your career
- Congratulate yourself on handling a difficult situation well
In addition you should discuss your feelings with your friends and co workers while avoiding the tendency to brag. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments in moderation.
You can also set goals for yourself that you can reward yourself for achieving in some small way. For example you can set aside a small amount of money that you can spend on yourself once a certain goal in your job is achieved. Keep a journal of the patients whose lives you made a difference in (without, of course, breaching confidentiality rules).
Managing Your Stress
Being a nurse is a highly stressful job and stress is one of the primary causes of burnout. Consequently it is important that you find ways to handle and control your stress as far as possible. One such method involves listening to music or an audio book while you travel to and from work. This will help you release the tension that you felt at home before work and it will help you distress after work on your way home again. Imagine that when you close the door behind you as you leave work, you are also closing the door on all of the stressful issues that work brings. You do not have to think about them again until you open that door the next time you go to work. Going to the gym can also help you to relieve your stress after work, so, if possible, stop by at the gym on your way home. If you are feeling particularly stressed you can take a longer route home that involves unwinding and listening to music. Home has its own stressors, so you need to let go of the ones from work before you get there. Taking a long hot shower or bath when you get home will also help you let go of your stress and relax more easily.
Your Personal Health Care
When working with patients you need to be careful to take care of your own health needs. This means that you must take all of the required precautions that prevent the transmission of an illness from a patient to you. You will be unable to serve any of your patients if you are a patient yourself. In addition you must not lift a patient who is clearly too heavy for you to lift alone. When necessary, get help so that you do not pull any muscles and seriously hurt yourself. As mentioned previously it is important to go for regular check-ups at your doctor as preventative health care is the best method of ensuring your continued good health and, as a result, your continued ability to care for your patients effectively and efficiently.
Additional Nurse Personal Care Tips
In addition to the above there are a few other nurse personal care tips that you can keep in mind:
- Be realistic about what you can expect from yourself
- Use your skills of empathy and nurturing to identify what you need for yourself
- Care for and understand yourself with the same expertise you give your patients
- Let your body tell you when it is getting tired or frustrated and act on that message
- Say “no” when you are simply too tired to do something
- Unwind after work before you jump into your responsibilities at home
- Allow your care recipient to do something for you or to give something to you (someone who is “taking” needs to “give back” for their own balance, as well)
- Do not base all your self-worth on your profession or your nurturing abilities
- Develop interests outside of work and make time for those interests
- Try not to identify too closely with patients
- Network with other people at work and outside work to develop a support group
- Build up friendships with people who will allow you to discuss your feelings
- Plan breaks and vacations as regularly as possible
As a nurse you may not always have the ability to take regular vacations or work restful hours. The nature of the job is such that there is often not a lot of room to account for your personal care needs. Although you may not be able to fulfill all of the personal care ideals, it is essential that you try to fulfill as many of them as possible without placing any additional strain on yourself. If squeezing in personal times adds to your stress, don’t. Rather find an alternative care method that will allow you to look after yourself without making your current stress situation any worse. Sometimes you will need to drop everything else and just think about you.
As a nurse you may often feel that there is no time for personal care, but it is essential that you make time to do all of the above as often as possible. If you do not take care of yourself you will suffer both physically and emotionally and this will make it difficult to be satisfied and happy in your job. In addition a lack of nurse personal care will also spill over into your personal life and create problems for you there.