Self-Care for Nurses

self care nurseAs health care professionals, we can often assess a patient and see what is needed.  They receive the information and hopefully implement health saving strategies.  The results are what encourage us to keep going and do our jobs.  It’s the simple effect of positive reinforcement.

But we often neglect to apply that in our own life, whether it be personal or professional.  Some of my favorite interventions with patients are ones that don’t require a prescription or a doctors order.  One example would be to drink fluids and rest.

In order to keep providing care, we have to care for ourselves.  Following are some things that can decrease the stress and keep us going stronger.

 Take breaks:

We encourage our CNA’s to take breaks.  They come back refreshed.  Our patients take breaks while completing therapy.

Behavioral studies have shown that a person comes back with increased attention and less stress.  A person’s blood pressure lowers.

Even if you feel like you don’t have a moment, that’s probably when you need to take one.  Have a nurse you can trust cover for you and do the same in return.  Your patients will thank you and so will your body.

Drink plenty of fluids:

Yes, we need to stay hydrated.  This does not mean fluids solely consisting of caffeine.  As a shift worker, you may feel you need coffee to survive.  The opposite is actually true.  When you are tired, you need water to hydrate your brain.  Your body uses water to lubricate those sore joints made tired by being on your feet all day long.  Help your knees and back out with some water.

If you cannot have a drink at your work station, place one within walking distance.  Take a drink every time you walk by that place.  If it’s in the break room?  More reason to take that so badly needed break.

Eat a balanced diet:

We literally preach about diet to our patients and then have a twelve hour shift that consists of a few bites of chocolate and a protein bar.  That doesn’t make us tough.  It’s makes us stupid.

Give your body the protein and nutrients to support cell growth and the fuel to keep your feet walking.  Choose foods low in chemicals.  After a few days of eating a balanced diet you will have more energy.

Can’t find the time to sit down?  Make your meals into bite size items.  Every time you go to the bathroom, take a few bites on the go.  Be creative about how you get your nutrition.


This cannot be underestimated.  Your body needs time to regenerate cells.  It needs time for the muscles to relax.  Your brain needs time to process what’s going on in your life.

I guard my sleep very carefully.  I know I am not my best self without at least eight hours.  Some people boast that they can come to work after three hours of sleep.  Yes, they can.  But are they giving their best to their patients or even themselves?  A habit of not sleeping leads to burn out, fatigue and illness.

Create that place in your house that is dark and quiet.  A place where you can relax and optimize your own personal biorhythm.  Take the time to find out for yourself what will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.


Yes, you feel like you walked five miles during your twelve hour shift.  Perhaps you did.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t count towards health as much as you’d like to think.  Granted, it’s better than not moving at all.

The benefits of walking/exercising without the work environment are exponential.  Your circulation increases.  The change in the environment mentally invigorates you.  It’s a time of processing.  Stretching your muscles that have done repetitive motions cannot be denied.

Sometimes, after a long day at work, a little exercise is what makes my tired feet and legs feel better.  My back doesn’t hurt as much.  Although I can’t exercise every day that I work, a lifestyle of consistent exercise helps me get through those long days.  I’m stronger and my heart works better.  The exercise also helps me rest better when I go to sleep.

Find a hobby:

The suggestions before are mostly physically beneficial.  But find some time where you are not concentrated on your job.  Find something that thrills your soul.

There is a point where all of us have or are married to our job.  We live for our job.  It is good to have devotion.  But don’t let your job own you.  Life is about more than a job.  Taking care of patients and health systems is noble.

We all need a break.  We need something that takes care of us, nourishes our soul.  Hobbies can range be anything from yoga, knitting, tennis, writing, music….

That break and enjoyment in life will bring us back mentally stronger.  Having a life outside of work give you the break you need to come back more alert and with more vitality.

Taking care of yourself is a lifestyle.  It’s not a check list done once.  The results may be seen immediately or it may take a little bit.  The long lasting effects are worth more than your hourly rate to be “busy and stressed” at work.  A life lived is worth more.  We have all seen patients suffer because of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Let’s be a living example of the words we tell them.  May our words not just be spoken, but seen as well.

For some additional tips on self care, see the following site:




Kristen Palser
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