5 Self-Care Strategies for Nurses
As you advance in your nursing career, be sure to make time to take care of yourself, too.
When it comes to standards of honesty and ethics, Americans say men and women in nursing careers lead the way. A Gallup poll of U.S. perceptions of 22 different professions has lodged nursing firmly in first place most years since its inception in 1999.1
Nurses earn the trust of patients and their families often while working in life-or-death situations and other high-stress circumstances—92% of nurses in one study rated their stress levels as moderate to very high. 2 But the same survey also concluded that nurses could help ward off any ill effects from stress by implementing healthy coping techniques.2 Keeping self-care top of mind is crucial for workers in this helping profession. The metaphor of the oxygen mask from the airline safety announcement is a good reminder. It encourages you to put on your own oxygen mask, so to speak, before helping others. You’ll be able to take better care of others if you take care of yourself first. This sentiment speaks to the nurse-patient relationship; however, nurse leaders also have a certain responsibility of promoting the importance of self-care to the nurses they supervise. “Being a nurse educator allows one to provide the information needed to deal with nursing stress,” says Dr. Mary A. Bemker, core faculty member with Walden University’s College of Nursing. “A webinar in mindfulness, creating a journal club, or supporting information regarding COVID-19 are some solid ways that nurse educators can promote health and well - being among nurses.”
In an article about self-care practices for nurses on Nurse.org, Keith Carlson, a board-certified nurse coach, suggests applying everyday nursing practices to assess your current state and to set and evaluate your self-care plan. These are his five strategies: 3
Do a self-care assessment: “The nursing process begins with assessment, so one of your first actions is conducting an assessment of how you care for yourself,” the nurse coach says.
Some meditations start with a body scan. You begin with your toes and move up your body to your scalp, tuning in to any tenseness along the way and consciously releasing it. Try taking that comprehensive, “full body” approach—to your physical state, and to your life in general—as you inventory your current self-care measures.
Diagnose a self-care deficit: “The next step in the nursing process is diagnosis, so that’s where we go next on our self-care journey,” Carlson says.
How are you doing? How are you really doing? Be honest with yourself, making a note of where you need to adjust your self-care routine.
Plan a course of action: “Planning comes next in the nursing process, so we’re following the same route and creating a plan for self-care and personal wellness,” Carlson says.
Use the skills you’ve already honed in your nursing career—and what you’re learning in nursing school—to make a plan. Find the fun and satisfaction in stress-relieving activities. Remember, your action items don’t need to be complicated or expensive. Take a walk with friends—two- or four-legged. Spend some time with a good book. Nurses also say they relieve stress by talking with friends and family, listening to music, watching TV, praying or meditating, and enjoying favorite foods. 2
Implement the plan: “We nurses all know what happens once we’ve prudently performed our assessment, made a nursing diagnosis and created a plan—we implement that plan with specific interventions,” Carlson says.
Breaking each action item down into bite-size goals can improve your success. Be sure to chart your progress.
Evaluate your progress: “Finally, when you’ve initiated your interventions, you then evaluate your progress and how you’re doing overall.”
How did you do? Take time to celebrate your successes and tweak your plan where needed. There’s no guilt allowed.
Self-care is a lifelong process, and you’re probably already pretty good at it if you’re an adult learner balancing a nursing career and home life, and considering an RN to MSN online degree program. In selecting a Master of Science in Nursing, choose an accredited university that provides multiple specialization options. Walden University offers eight specializations in its master’s in nursing programs, making it easy to select the track that’s right for you. Focuses include leadership and management, public health nursing, and nursing education. Expand your knowledge and career prospects with an advanced degree from Walden, No. 1 in Master of Science in Nursing graduates in the United States.4
Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
4Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Retrieved July 2017, using CIP code 51.3801 (Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse). Includes 2016 preliminary data.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.