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7 Self-Care Tips for Nurses

Nursing is rigorous work involving long hours, intense focus, continual motion and fast thinking. And the caregiving may not end once nurses arrive home. Nurses may have partners, spouses, children or other family who need their attention and time. Nurses deal with sick, injured and terminally ill patients at work in addition to taking care of everyday responsibilities like laundry, cooking, cleaning and other projects or upkeep at home.

Plus, if a registered nurse (RN) decides to go back to school to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, they can add coursework and studying to their extensive list of responsibilities and time commitments. Degree programs like La Salle University’s online RN to BSN offer extremely flexible options to help nurses balance their many obligations effectively. But — even if an online BSN offers convenience and benefits like an increased income potential and opportunities to pursue leadership positions — rigorous coursework still adds to the challenge of achieving a healthy work-life balance.

This challenge became particularly apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with unprecedented numbers of nurses leaving the workforce due to stress, burnout and retirement. Further, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reports that many more nurses — hundreds of thousands of them — intend to leave the profession soon, for the same reasons. Clearly, working nurses should not ignore the constant stress and exhaustion they feel. They need to take care of themselves so they can provide safe care to patients, avoid burnout and enjoy their time away from work.

What Is Self-care and Why Is It so Important for Nurses?

Self-care means doing something that helps you maintain your mental, emotional and physical health. Everyone has a different way of coping and decompressing, so the right kind of self-care depends on the individual.

Without practicing self-care, nurses may experience burnout, compassion fatigue or depression. Nurses who do not find ways to restore their energy and mental capacity run the risk of becoming unmotivated and lethargic at work. This can negatively impact their quality of life and ability to provide proper care to patients, thus increasing the occurrence of avoidable medical errors and poor patient satisfaction while compounding and adding to nurse burnout and attrition.

What Are Some Self-Care Steps Nurses Can Follow?

Nurses need to make room in their day, both at work and at home, to relax and revitalize their body and mind. Here are seven self-care suggestions for nurses:

  1. Pause during the day. You need to find moments in your workday to get away from patients so you can breathe and disconnect for short periods. Maybe you want to listen to a song, fit in a quick walk or meditate. Do whatever helps you unwind. Additionally, you should not put off taking a bathroom or lunch break because relief and nourishment aid you in staying attentive to your patients’ needs.
  2. Set boundaries at work and home. Often, nurses must work mandatory overtime. But that does not mean you have to always be readily available to work on your scheduled off days. The best way to avoid answering calls, texts and emails is to turn off phones and computers. You must let go of the guilt and savor your downtime.

You can also free up time at home by choosing your commitments. Understandably, you may have family obligations that you want to engage in or that require your participation. However, you do not have to say yes to every invitation you receive. Sometimes you want to read a book or watch a movie instead of going to another barbecue.

  1. Exercise. Even though you are moving on the floor, it is not the same as aerobic exercise, which can improve your cardiovascular health, trim your waistline, raise your stamina, boost your mood and increase brain function. Anything that gets your heart pumping is good. Cardio exercise may include:
    • Cycling
    • Running
    • Speed walking
    • Stair climbing
    • Pickleball
  1. Get enough sleep. Restorative sleep is essential for a nurse’s overall well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends seven or more hours of sleep per night for adults. Nurses can judge if they are meeting their sleep requirements by evaluating how alert and energetic they are throughout their shift.
  1. Get regular health checkups. Nurses must maintain their own health in order to deliver optimal care to patients. Nurses need a record of their health history just like their patients. Regular examinations can assist nurses with managing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure while also detecting any potential health concerns.
  1. Travel. You can pack up the car, book a flight or sail away. Sometimes all you need is to set out on an adventure or lounge on a beach — leave your worries behind while vacationing.
  1. Find hobbies or activities you enjoy. Everyone has a different way of relaxing. You can choose from a variety of hobbies and activities that may ease your anxiety, lift your spirits and make you happy. Examples of hobbies or activities that can release tension are:
    • Gardening
    • Hiking
    • Painting
    • Knitting or crocheting
    • Woodworking
    • Yoga

Employers and managers need to eliminate any policies in their organizations that cause nurses to neglect themselves. If you work in a healthcare environment that does not support self-care for nurses, you may want to consider seeking a job at another facility. If you are thinking of earning a BSN, consider flexible online options that are designed for working nurses. If you are a BSN-prepared nurse leader, you can help set policies that promote self-care and a healthy work-life balance in your workplace.

When nurses are at home, they should elicit the help of their loved ones and form a plan to share household responsibilities. Ultimately, nurses must be their own caregivers and determine the best course of action regarding their self-care and how to find tranquility.

Learn more about La Salle University’s online RN to BSN program.

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