The Importance Of Self-Care For Nurses

importance of self care for nurses

Self-care encourages better physical, mental and emotional well-being. However, it is something many nurses neglect to do.

Nursing is a stressful profession. The stress increases when health crises, like the pandemic we recently experienced, happen. Nurses are on the frontlines, putting their health at risk while they treat critically ill people. This is typical of what nurses do: caring for others before they care for themselves.

And it is taking a toll. Professional burnout is prevalent in healthcare professions. Many health and occupational studies have focused on burnout among nurses specifically, taking into consideration the demands of the job. Some have detailed the individual, organizational and social factors that lead to burnout. Neglecting self-care is among the individual factors.

Effects of Neglecting Self-Care

Nurses experiencing ongoing stress may find it difficult to accomplish tasks, concentrate, stay motivated and engage with colleagues and patients. Their job performance may be impaired in such a way that it leads to errors that could be detrimental to patients. Additionally, stress can contribute to decreased work performance and absenteeism.

Stress can also lead to illness and disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, common physical effects of stress include headaches, muscle tension or pain, fatigue, upset stomach and sleep problems. Mood and behavioral problems from stress include anxiety, depression, irritability and lack of focus. If left unchecked, stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

How Nurses Can Make Self-Care a Priority

Preventing the harmful effects of stress is a major reason why health and nursing organizations are making self-care initiatives a priority—with the hope that nurses themselves will too.

In 2017, the American Nurses Association launched the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Grand Challenge (HNHN), an ongoing movement focused on improving the health of the nation’s four million registered nurses. 

The HNHN Grand Challenge has goals for nurses to engage in five health areas: activity, sleep, nutrition, quality of life and safety. There is a website for HNHN with content and resources for nurses, including access to healthy challenges and an online community of fellow nurses, employers and organizations.

Nurse Self-Care Strategies

A study published in the Critical Care Nurse journal identified major self-care strategies, including developing a positive attitude, nurturing interpersonal connections, being mindful of emotional health and recognizing one’s uniqueness.

In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health offers these practical self-care tips:

  • Exercise. Regular physical activity, even for just 30 minutes a day, can improve overall health.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Well-balanced meals and plenty of water can boost energy and focus.
  • Prioritize sleep. Stick to a sleep schedule and limit caffeine and screen time before bedtime.
  • Do relaxing activities. Reading a book, writing something, listening to music and more are some stress-relieving activities.
  • Set goals. Working toward simple and realistic goals can lead to more meaningful experiences and being mindful of accomplishments.
  • Practice gratitude. Take time to notice and reflect upon the things to be thankful for.
  • Focus on positivity. Positive thinking and overcoming negative self-talk are effective parts of stress management.
  • Connect with others. Reach out to friends and family members who can provide emotional support, share feelings and offer practical help.

Support for Your Personal GoalsA nursing career offers challenges and rewards. It is important to find personal fulfillment when pursuing a career helping others. Carlow University can help you in your pursuits. In our Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program, you can grow professionally and personally.