It’s your ethical duty to be a healthy nurse
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Following code of ethics means practicing self-care
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Carol Taylor, PhD, RN, is a senior clinical scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and a professor of nursing and the former director of the university’s Center for Clinical Bioethics.
The American Nurses Association has designated 2017 the Year of the Healthy Nurse. Provision 5 of the Code of Ethics states, “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity ... and continue personal and professional growth.”
Nurses Week is an opportunity to reflect on how well we are executing our ethical duty to care for ourselves. Healthy nurses live life to the fullest as they become stronger role models and advocates. It’s easy to identify nurses’ challenges in living life to the fullest — unrealistic nurse-patient ratios, for instance. And many of us are caring for children or aging parents.

When I asked a group of nurses about self-care, a nurse who is raising three grandchildren, said, “The only time I am alone is when I lock myself in the bathroom with my Bible and my bills. And my grandson learned how to pick the lock!” I could only imagine how she found energy each day to report to work. Maintaining our wholeness of character and moral integrity can be even more demanding. I have yet to meet the nurse who hasn’t grieved over the inability to do what he or she believes is the ethically right thing to do.

So many variables and obstacles — our fears and pressure from leadership, for instance — prevent us from acting on our ethical beliefs and convictions. And our integrity suffers as a consequence.

Literature on moral distress and moral resilience addresses these challenges. And here is my personal daily practice for becoming more intentional about developing moral resilience.
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By Carol Taylor
PhD, RN
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Begin and end the day with gratitude.
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Practice mindfulness. What is the most important thing right now that I need to focus on?
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Appreciate that all humans are limited. Some things can’t be fixed.
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Appreciate the power of connectedness and presence.
I smiled when I read about nurse Sharon Tucker’s “Vital Signs Selfie Campaign.” She urges nurses to “take evidence-based action” on a set of vital signs for nurses that includes: BP-being present in each human encounter; T-tracking the numbers important to my health, such as blood pressure, weight, blood sugar and lipid levels; P-practicing health and wellness behaviors; and R-refueling when I am running on empty. What do your vital signs say about your health? Why not treat yourself to a massage; an overnight get away; or another activity that will renew and lift your spirit. We may not all be able to sign up for a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, but we can all do something that’s revitalizing. We are nurses — time to pause and be grateful for the privilege of serving those in need, and definitely time to celebrate. Salud! To your health!
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Stop frequently to stretch and take deep diaphragmatic breaths.
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Reflect on what brings you joy. Be grateful for these things.
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Keep a positive, hopeful outlook. Hope allows us to envision a positive future and work to bring this into being.
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