Cross-Training for Workforce Resiliency

Cross-Training for Workforce Resiliency

There’s a nursing shortage that is not only affecting the United States, but the entire world. And research is showing that it could to get worse.

That’s why it’s crucial for nurses to stay happy and not completely burnout. And it’s not only up to them to stay that way, but for their employers to keep them pleased and working as well.

Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, Chief Nurse of Health Learning, Research & Practice at Wolters Kluwer, an acute care/critical care nurse practitioner at Penn Medicine, Chester County Hospital; a clinical adjunct faculty member in the graduate nursing program at Drexel University, and author of COVID-19: Transforming the Nursing Workforce in the New Paradigm of Care took the time to answer our questions.

What could the current nursing shortage mean for hospital care quality?   

The nursing shortage is actually a global issue. According to the latest research, it is estimated that the world will need an additional 13 million nurses by 2030; in the U.S., the need is projected to be 1.1 million (International Council of Nurses). There are several reasons for the nursing shortage. As the population of the world increases and Baby Boomers continue to age, the need for care will increase. This is compounded by the fact that nursing schools around the country are struggling to meet the rising demand for nursing education due to limited faculty, resources, and clinical sites; they turn away an estimated 80,000 qualified applicants each year in the U.S. due to this supply and demand issue (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). A large portion of the nursing workforce was set to retire in the next 10 years. However, the pandemic has accelerated this event, and nurses are leaving sooner than expected due to widespread burnout and exhaustion.

If nursing staff are feeling overworked and undervalued, they will more readily leave their institution, and perhaps the nursing profession altogether. This, in turn, increases the current nurse shortage, and the problem continues to worsen. Hospital care quality suffers if nurses are burnt out and overwhelmed, just as it suffers if nurses are missing. Patient wait times increase, and bedside care suffers. For hospital care quality to improve, there needs to be a concentrated effort to fix the supply and demand issue in nursing education, and there needs to be a concentrated effort on workforce well-being and fostering resilience—that is the bottom line.

What can hospitals/medical centers do to increase resilience among their existing nursing staff, while making sure that they don’t burnout and leave?

To foster resilience among the workforce, organizations need to acknowledge there is an issue and focus on workforce well-being. This means providing a safe environment in which to practice and provide patient care. Providing adequate staffing based on acuity/severity of illness and competency not just on numbers is the first step. Building up float pools that are cross-trained to work across adjacent specialties and move from one area to another is essential. While nurses do not like to float outside of their units, in an emergency or disaster situation, having the staff cross-trained to work in adjacent specialties helps to create an agile, efficient workforce.

Health care institutions need to invest in their workforce. Providing adequate breaks, healthy meals, self-scheduling, shorter shifts, and being able to take time off is crucial to preventing burnout. Nurses want to feel valued—providing continuing professional development activities and having the ability to meet career goals with lateral or vertical moves can make the difference between keeping the talent and losing it.

Health care systems must recognize when burnout and moral distress are occurring. That means having trained personnel up on the units evaluating what is really happening and then providing mental health support through employee assistance programs. Often nurses are worried about their families; health care institutions need to provide alternative child or family care or even financial planning.  Burnout can be prevented or at least minimized if health care institutions are actively on the lookout for it, address the issues that cause it and invest in their workforce well-being.

How can nurses prevent their own burnout? Especially when hospitals, etc. are understaffed?   

Preventing burnout is no small task, but nurses can certainly take steps to reduce their stress and prioritize self-care when they feel overwhelmed in the workplace. It’s important for nurses to know how to evaluate their own well-being, recognize their limitations, and be able to advocate for themselves when something is beyond their bandwidth.

Learn to be comfortable with saying, “No.”

Saying no is one of the hardest things for nurses to do; we are a caring profession and we often sacrifice our own self-care to care for others. We need to understand that if we don’t care for ourselves and find our own inner peace, there will be no one left to care for others.

Personally, I recharge by finding my inner peace and joy by reading, enjoying the outdoors, and sitting by water. Reclaiming “me time” within my day to recharge allows me to show up fully ready for my next day of work.

What are some proven strategies for creating a more agile workforce that both addresses the nursing shortage as well as avoids reliance on traveling or temp nurses?  

The agile care model is based on patient acuity, competency of the workforce, and alternative care delivery models. It provides agility that allows hospitals to move their nursing workforce when and where they are needed and uses other members of the health care team to support patient care such as unlicensed assistive personnel, licensed practical nurses, and others. It also switches the care delivery model from a primary nurse model to a hybrid team model of care as needed.

The backbone of this model is cross-training the float pool to work across adjacent specialty areas and as a backup, having the full-time staff cross-trained to work across adjacent specialties in an emergency situation. This interdisciplinary team-based approach facilitates the rapid deployment of staff to areas most in need in a crisis, such as what we’ve experienced with COVID-19, and provides better care for a greater number of patients.

This addresses the nursing shortage by improving the quality-of-life nurses experience at their workplaces. With more nurses trained to work in adjacent areas, staff will be able to take time off and recharge. When nurses feel practice-ready, confident, and able, they are less likely to burn out because they will experience less overall stress at work. Health care institutions must also be on the lookout for early signs of burnout and encourage their nurses to take time off when it is needed.

What are the biggest mistakes that hospitals/medical centers can make with their current staff that could lead faster to burnout and them leaving?   

Health care organizations need to understand that their biggest asset is their workforce. Without nurses and other medical professionals, hospitals and medical centers cease to function. Nurses need to be recognized for their value—their workplaces should support them by looking out for signs of burnout, offering mental health support, offering family/childcare support, and encouraging a healthy work-life integration. Without these basic acknowledgements, it is no surprise the burnout and shortage levels are what we are seeing today.

Nurses’ mental health matters! Nurses need to talk to their organization and be vocal about how they can better support their nursing teams. Whether that is more frequent review of their workforce policies, more transparency in the workplace, or more vacation time, nurses shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and stand up for themselves and for their fellow nurses.

Tips for Balancing Nursing and Motherhood

Tips for Balancing Nursing and Motherhood

As a woman with a successful nursing career, you know that there is nothing more important in life than the health and safety of your child. Whether you are expecting a new baby or you have a bunch of kids already running around, it is essential to cultivate balance within your life so you can successfully manage motherhood and your career while also protecting your own health and well-being.

Unfortunately, that is not always as easy as it sounds. As it is, minority women are already at risk of subpar medical care, as studies have shown that many minorities, including black patients, are not even prescribed the medication that their white counterparts are provided on a routine basis. Because of all this, you must take good care of yourself as a pregnant nurse or a nurse with children. Let’s talk about some great ways to create the balance you need during this exciting time in your life.

Inform The Hospital If You’re Pregnant

As soon as you discover that you are pregnant, you must inform the hospital, and one reason why is because it makes it easier for you and your employer to prepare for the future. Inform them of your due date so they know when you will be taking your leave and will no longer be available. A good tip is to save your paid time off (PTO) for when you take your leave as you may need more time than your maternity leave will provide.

The other reason you want to inform the hospital of your pregnancy is so that you are not put in any dangerous situations that could harm you or the baby. According to federal regulations, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for you if your job puts your pregnancy in jeopardy. For instance, if you typically work in an area where there is constant radiation exposure, you may want to ask for a transfer. Also, it’s a smart idea to stay away from any section of the hospital where patients are dealing with contagious infections so you aren’t put at risk. On that note, with COVID-19 still being a factor, you will still want to wear your mask during this time.

As all nurses know, hospital shifts can create their fair share of stressful situations, but stress can be very dangerous for pregnant women as it can lead to health risks such as high blood pressure and heart disease. To prevent unneeded stress, you might request to work in the recovery area or a department within the hospital with fewer high-risk patients. The same goes for when you return from maternity leave. You’ll want to tell them how you are feeling and potentially adjust your schedule so you can still support your family and your new baby at home.

Take Care of Yourself

If you are expecting, it is also important to practice self-care while you work so you stay healthy and protect the well-being of your child. It is essential to drink a lot of water during your shifts so you can stay hydrated and prevent fatigue. It is also important to have healthy snacks throughout the day to maintain your energy through long shifts. Almonds are a great go-to because they provide nutrients for you and they help to regulate the weight of the baby.

Many pregnant women also feel symptoms of morning sickness, and nurses are no exception. While it is not typically dangerous, you may experience nausea and vomiting, so if you are feeling sick, make sure to take a break. Also, eat plenty of chicken and bananas, which are rich in pyridoxine (vitamin B6), which has been proven to reduce the chance of nausea in pregnant women.

It is also important to know your limits, especially as you get closer to your delivery date. A work/life balance will be essential at this point. You may not have the stamina to work 12-hour shifts and that is okay. You need plenty of rest, especially if you have other children living at home. You do not want to neglect your family. If your company values you as an employee, they will be perfectly understanding of this modified schedule.

Change Your Profession

When you have children at home, the demands of working in a hospital may just be too much to allow you the quality time you need to have with your family. If you are in this boat, then it may be time for a career change that will still keep you in the health field but will also provide the time you need to be with your children. For example, you could become a school nurse where you can still provide healthcare but in a less stressful atmosphere. If you can become a nurse in the school where your children attend, that is even better.

There is also the opportunity to become a home health nurse. In this profession, you go to the homes of patients who are ill, elderly, or disabled, or otherwise lack mobility. The great aspect of this job, especially for working mothers, is that you can often set your own hours and you can choose to work with patients that live close to your home so you can tend to your children quickly in the case of an emergency.

For a chance to really be close to home, you could also opt to become an at-home nurse who stays at home and helps patients via a telehealth platform. Again, you can often set your own hours and be with your family all day. It is also great for pregnant nurses as it allows them to sit for their shift instead and avoid constant standing and walking.

If you are a nurse with children or you are expecting, follow the tips above and learn to balance work and motherhood. By giving your family and your patients equal care, you are making a real difference in your home and community, which should make you very proud.

ANA Takes a Stand on COVID-19 Vaccinations

ANA Takes a Stand on COVID-19 Vaccinations

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads and numbers of those infected and being in treated in ICUs across the country keeps getting worse, it’s important for those not vaccinated to do so.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) recently spoke out and took a stand—stating that nurses should get vaccinated.

ANA President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, took the time to answer out questions about this and why it’s so important.

Why did the ANA feel the need to come out in favor of nurses getting the vaccine for COVID-19?

ANA has a longstanding history and commitment of supporting immunizations to protect nurses, health care professionals, and the public from highly communicable and deadly diseases—and COVID-19 is no different. For our nation to recover, heal, and return to a semblance of normalcy, enough individuals, nurses, and health care professionals must get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The swift development of COVID-19 vaccines and the execution of mass vaccination efforts is a significant public health victory and a scientifically proven strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the loss of more American lives. ANA continues to implore all health care professionals and the public to follow the science, adhere to the latest guidance of public health officials, and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

As we’ve seen, there are nurses and other health care workers willing to lose their jobs when they are required to get the vaccine. Why is this problematic? 

It is very disheartening to hear reports of nurses who are willing to quit their jobs rather than get the COVID-19 vaccine. There is significant clinical evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines being administered under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). To those who are apprehensive about taking a COVID-19 vaccine, I say trust the science and evidence. What is more, the pillars of patient-centered care and the nursing’s own professional standards ethically obligate nurses to model the same prevention measures that nurses recommend to their patients.

Nurses play a critical role in the monumental recovery efforts currently underway to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Our nation will only be successful in recovery efforts with a robust nursing workforce at peak health and wellness, providing safe patient care, administering COVID-19 vaccines, educating communities, and setting an example for millions of Americans.

There are nurses who don’t believe the vaccine works. What can other nurses say to them to help them understand?

It is paramount for nurses to remain knowledgeable and up-to-date on the science behind the vaccines, and the ongoing clinical studies that prove its efficacy. ANA has developed key principles to guide nurses and other health care professionals’ consideration for COVID-19 vaccines. These principles provide recommendations for access, transparency, equity, efficacy, and safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, ANA’s comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine resource page stays up-to-date on the latest clinical information and news. ANA has also created a focused video education series on COVID-19 topics, covering different aspects of this crisis and providing information that nurses can apply immediately when caring for COVID-19 patients. ANA’s COVID-19 videos are FREE for all nurses.

Has the ANA received any backlash from nurses about this stance?

We are seeing more and more nurses getting vaccinated. And based on what we’re hearing from our state associations, organizational affiliates across the country, and our most recent survey, nurses are in favor of the vaccine mandates and trust the COVID-19 safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

Tell us about the support that the ANA has received from this stance.

Nurses working across all areas of the health care system are disseminating culturally relevant information on the COVID-19 vaccines to the communities and patients that they serve. Nurses are connecting with their patients every day to have meaningful conversations and answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines. ANA applauds those nurses who are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and proactively setting an example for their patients and the public.

Is the ANA’s hope that other health care associations will follow their example? Why would this be important?

We strongly encourage other health care organizations and health systems to support of mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 for all health care professionals including nurses.

Most importantly, we urge everyone to follow the evidence and science, so our nation can continue making progress in recovering from this pandemic to restore our health care systems and communities.

Sun Safety and Protecting Yourself

Sun Safety and Protecting Yourself

There’s lots of summer left, but you don’t want to let your guard down on sun safety. The summer months are often a time to catch up on time outdoors, but you want to ensure you keep yourself as protected as possible from damaging UV rays.

While many people correctly associate sun safety with their skin and avoiding sunburns, there are also other protections you need to take from these invisible and damaging rays.

According to the American Cancer Society, UV radiation can come from many sources including the sun, inside lighting, and equipment like welding torches and tanning beds. UV rays are divided into UVA, UVB, and UVC and overexposure to any of them can be harmful.

Keep these protections in mind this summer and share UV safety tips with your patients, too.

Your Skin

UV rays, from natural or manmade sources, cause skin damage, no matter what the color of your skin is. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, with repeated and unprotected exposure UV radiation causes skin damage. That skin damage can lead to wrinkles (primarily from UVA) and dark or light pigmentation changes at best and skin cancer (generally from UVB) at worst. Natural UVC rays from the sun don’t usually reach the ground but are more of a threat from some equipment (welding torches and some sanitizing bulbs). Protecting yourself with sunscreen is an easy way to guard your skin from those harmful rays while still getting to enjoy time outside.

Your Eyes

Most people don’t associate eye problems with UV rays. According to the American Optometric Association, protecting your eyes from UV exposure from indoor and outdoor sources is essential. Over time, exposure can lead to problems like cataracts, eye cancer, or macular degeneration. Proper eye protection includes consistent use of sunglasses or eye gear that block all UV rays.

Your Immune System

Many people associate sunlight with health and growth and will forgo sun protection thinking they are making themselves healthier. And while there are benefits to getting some sunlight, such as production of Vitamin D, UV overexposure can impact some people in a decidedly unhealthy way. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), too much UV exposure can actually suppress the immune system. If your immune system is suppressed at all, it makes  it harder for your body to fight off infections.

Stay Protected

Protecting yourself from UV exposure takes some vigilance but can become a habit over time. Wear sun protection in the form that works best for you. Whether you choose sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, or clothing with UV protection, guarding your skin and eyes from the sun’s rays outside is simple. If UV radiation exposure happens inside, take proper precautions with the right equipment. Avoid tanning beds and get regular skin checks by a dermatologist.

Be aware of any medication that could impact how your body reacts to UV exposure (some antibiotics, for example, increase your chances of sunburn). The EPA offers an easy-to-use UV Index that tells you the daily UV risk depending on your zip code.

Awareness about UV radiation is the first step to protecting yourself.

Preventing Nurse Burnout, Beginning with Hospital Leadership

Preventing Nurse Burnout, Beginning with Hospital Leadership

Nurses—especially in the last year during the pandemic—have been experiencing burnout. Often, articles focus on what they can do to make themselves feel better. But what can their workplaces do?

Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, Chief Nurse of Wolters Kluwer, Health Learning, Research & Practice, a Critical Care Nurse Practitioner at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital, and a Clinical Adjunct Faculty member at Drexel University. She’s also authored and presented on many clinical and professional topics including a recently published eBook, COVID-19: Transforming the Nursing Workforce in the New Paradigm of Care.

She took time to answer our questions about what hospital leadership can do to prevent nurse burnout.

From a hospital leadership standpoint, what are some of the steps they can take to help prevent nurses from burning out?

Health care systems need to recognize that their most valuable commodity is their workforce. For years, health care systems have focused on patient well-being, but now many of those institutions are beginning to see the importance of focusing on workforce well-being too. Hospitals need to provide a safe environment for their workers, recognizing when they’re exhausted, burnt out and/or experiencing moral distress on the job. Safe environments should include the assurance of personal as well as patient safety and having adequate personal protective equipment, clinical decision support resources, and adequate staff to appropriately care for patients.

Staffing needs must be based on clinical acuity and severity of illness, not just on the number of patients. And having an agile workforce that can work in a variety of units as well as be shifted to other units when and where they are needed the most, is also a new essential, thanks to COVID. What we want, and need, are multispecialty nurses who can work across multiple units, not just single-specialty nurses working only with one patient population. Cross-training and upskilling staff to care for patients in a variety of units with a variety of care needs brings flexibility and efficacy to the workforce so managers will not need to overwork staff and can provide necessary time off.

Health care systems need to recognize when a member of their workforce is experiencing burnout and moral distress by having leadership and those trained in recognizing emotional distress available and on the unit to assess for it. Social workers and mental health workers are excellent resources to utilize for this kind of assessment. Taking the time to debrief and discuss what went right and what could have gone better in emergencies is a great opportunity to decompress after stressful situations. Many hospitals have instituted a moment of silence after a death where everyone in the room stops to acknowledge the life that was just lost.

Employee assistance programs (EAP) are good, but only if they can be easily accessed by those who need them. Too often EAP programs are difficult to find on the health care system website, and once they are found, the paperwork and or searching for an available care provider is incredibly challenging. EAP programs need to be made readily accessible and usable.

What should they do first?

 The most important first step is to recognize that there is a problem with burnout. If staff are quitting, retiring early, or are becoming less engaged, there is a real problem. Be present! The leaders within the organization must be up on the units to experience what is going on firsthand. You need to find out if staff able to take breaks and leave the unit to have a meal. Are they able to sit down or are they constantly moving and up on their feet? Are they working as a team or as individuals? Health care is a team activity. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to provide the highest quality care and facilitate the best outcomes. If patient outcomes are not where they need to be, the first place to look is at your caregivers to see if they are exhausted, burned out, or experiencing moral distress.

 What action steps should leaders recommend that nurses take? How can they get this information to them?

The question should not be what steps leaders should recommend to nurses to combat burnout, but how can health care organizations facilitate workforce well-being and prevent burnout? It is the obligation of leaders to assess the situation, make a plan, implement it, and then evaluate if the plan and interventions are working.

Start meeting with the staff, watch and listen to what they have to say, and start implementing these 10 steps:

  1. Assess if the staff are burned out or experiencing moral distress.
  2. Make employee assistance programs easy to access and utilize.
  3. Adequately staff the patient care units with the right staff for the right patient populations.
  4. Cross-train the workforce so they are more agile and can go when and where they are needed.
  5. Provide adequate support systems, unit coordinators, unlicensed assistive personnel, and transporters.
  6. Make sure the workforce takes their breaks and mealtimes.
  7. Offer healthy food. Get a cart and take healthy options to the unit if the staff is too busy to get to the cafeteria at mealtime.
  8. Give the staff time to debrief and collect themselves after a challenging situation.
  9. Decrease documentation burden and make sure nurses have input on what is added to required documentation in the electronic health record.
  10. Offer continuing professional development activities and career ladders to meet the staff’s professional needs.

Remember, nurses have family and financial concerns; offer care alternatives and financial counseling if and when it’s needed.

If nurses are already experiencing burnout, what should hospital leaders do? How can they help? And how can they let nurses know that their jobs aren’t in jeopardy if they need to take time off for their mental health because of burnout?  

Take the time to see, hear, and experience what nurses are experiencing. You can’t do that from an office, so get up on the patient care units and look around. If the workforce doesn’t feel valued by the organization, they will leave, and there will be fewer caregivers left to care for the patients. Develop a “care without judgement model,” meaning that to whomever is in need of care—a patient, a nurse, or another employee—care will be delivered, without judgment. No one’s job should be at risk if they need to take time to step away and focus on self-care. You cannot be a good clinician unless you care for yourself first. Again, make it easy to access employee assistance and mental and physical health resources.

What should hospital leaders absolutely *not do when trying to prevent their nurses from burning out? What are the biggest mistakes they can make?

The biggest mistake health care leaders make is not recognizing that the health care workers are the most important commodity within their organization. Patient outcomes are optimized only if the staff feels valued, have adequate resources, are properly trained, and feel safe in their work environment—both physically and emotionally. Everyone on the health care team needs time to be able to take a moment to step away and recharge.

During COVID-19, what have been the biggest challenges that nurses are facing in terms of burnout? Is there anything that hospital leadership can do to help?

The biggest challenges have been fear and uncertainty. Fear that we initially didn’t know enough about the COVID-19 virus, and we might bring it home to our families or become infected ourselves, and fear that the death we experienced day after day wouldn’t stop. And uncertainty that we wouldn’t be strong enough to keep delivering care to our patients as we fought this seemingly unending pandemic. Yet we did. We looked fear and uncertainty in the face and said—”we will not be daunted!” That’s who we are—we are nurses, and our passion is to care for those in need.

Health care systems need to invest in workforce well-being, retaining the talent they have and recruiting new nurses to take the place of those who have left the profession. Care begins with those in our family. In health care, the workforce is our extended family.

Anything else?

The vaccine is a game-changer for nurses. The more shots in arms, the lower the number of patients we will see fighting for their lives because of COVID-19. Let’s trust in the science and use the evidence to educate people about COVID-19 and how to prevent it.

And finally, nurses need to invest in their own well-being so they can invest in caring for others.

Self-Care Tips for Nurses

Self-Care Tips for Nurses

Oftentimes, nurses don’t take care of themselves like they should. While they focus on taking care of others, their self-care falls by the wayside. Especially during COVID-19 and the pandemic, they’ve put everyone else first.

Imani Wilform, MHC-LP, with Empower Your Mind Therapy, took time to answer our questions and give self-care tips on what nurses can do to make sure that they are making time for self-care. Our interview, which follows, has been edited for length and clarity.

Dealing with COVID-19 and the pandemic has been tough on everyone, but especially difficult on frontline workers such as nurses. Why should nurses be sure to practice self-care now?

As much as nurses care for everyone else, it’s crucial to pay attention to your own needs too. By its own true definition, self-care is about taking intentional care yourself: your mind, your body, your environment, and your spirit.

If we don’t practice self-care, we can become burned out, resentful, angry, and may even start feeling depressed. This also lowers your immune system and can make you feel tired and low. If you’re not feeling your best, how can you manage caring for others?

What are some things that nurses can do to be sure to remember self-care and to fit it into their busy days?

While the occasional self-indulgence like a spa day or getaway can be a great way to express some gratitude to yourself and all you accomplish, self-care is about more than an occasional treat. An intentionally cultivated daily self-care routine can make a huge difference in our lives and allow us to be balanced & more restored.

Today, ask yourself:

  • How do I typically take care of myself day to day?
  • Do I take time to regularly assess and address my needs?
  • How is that impacting both my mental and physical health?

I really want you to think about how (or if) you set aside time each day to take care of yourself. Do you have time to sit back and assess your needs? Do you listen to your body when it tells you that you need a break? When you’re mentally strained, do you have a routine that helps you rest and rejuvenate?

Is there anything they can do at work on a break or at home?

There are a lot of little things that are self-care, but aren’t exciting or Instagram-able. You can do these quickly:

  • Write down your to do list for the week to stop the constant nagging in your head.
  • Set a time to be done with screens before bed.
  • Make a meal plan that gets you excited to eat 3 meals a day.
  • Take a look at your calendar: are you overbooked, need a fun outing to look forward to, need to make a doctor’s appointment?
  • Call a friend to catch up.
  • Spend time outside.

What are absolute must-dos regarding self-care?

Assess your true needs: when we’re talking about daily self-care we’re talking mainly about wellness (mental & physical). For a week, keep a log of your physical and mental expressions of stress or strain. Are you tired? Do you have frequent headaches? Look at what comes up for you and come up with small, incremental steps to take action. Maybe you have constant headaches because you’re dehydrated. Start carrying a water bottle, set some reminders on your phone to actually drink from it.

Take a critical look at your routine: What is taking up your time on a daily basis? Often times we fall so behind on creating an actual daily routine that serves us that we end up playing perpetual catch up. Finding the right way to balance what you need day to day will help ease stress and keep you feeling more balanced and in control.

Prioritize rest: if you have to put it in your schedule or “to do” list to make sure you get time to rest and recharge then do it. Maybe it’s yoga, reading, taking a bath. Rest and rejuvenation should be a priority in your daily routine. Set aside small chunks of time each day where you stop the machine, ignore “productivity” and let yourself rest.

What would you say to a nurse who says s/he doesn’t have time for self-care because too much is going on?

Self-care can be something quick and small to help yourself with your own mental and physical well-being. As a nurse, it’s important to remember that you are just as important as your patients and family. Others rely on you, so rely on yourself too. Even if it’s a quick walk around the block during lunchtime or outsourcing personal to-dos to another family member—such as creating a shopping list or picking up a birthday gift for someone—try to take some time for yourself. Also remember that self-care shouldn’t create more pressure. If it’s too much to take time every day, start with setting aside some time once a month to check in with yourself.

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