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By Eileen P. Williamson
MSN, RN

© 2018 OnCourse Learning Corp. All rights reserved
20225 Water Tower Blvd. Brookfield, WI 53045

Self-care isn’t selfish

Working on your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being is more important than some realize
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is the former senior vice president and chief nurse executive at OnCourse Learning. Williamson continues to write for Nurse.com and serve in an advisory role.
Read more blogs by Williamson
Running on empty
A better you is best for your patients
As nurses we’re no strangers to things like stress, burnout or compassion fatigue, nor are we unfamiliar with physical, emotional or mental exhaustion. But we can’t just say, “it goes with the territory,” because it doesn’t need to. Self-care can be the antidote that can help decrease each of those things, but the first step is to give yourself permission for that self-care. Self-care programs typically include a good diet, regular exercise and improved sleep habits. And maybe you can add in some professional stress management work or even make time for bubble baths or nights out with your friends. It will take some time to set up your plan and to work on those “self” words and see them differently. But it will be worth it. Self-care isn’t a cookie cutter thing; it’s different for each of us. We all have our own preferences when it comes to food, entertainment and clothing, and the same is true when it comes to self-care. It can look very different from one nurse to the next. An article from VeryWell Mind has a great outline of top 10 self-care strategies I think you will find helpful as you make up your self-care plan — as will each article in this digital edition.
But what about you? Do you ever think about investing time in yourself? Probably not, because words like self-worth, self-image and self-esteem may seem too “self”-ish. They aren’t. Having a good sense of self-worth doesn’t mean you’re self-absorbed. A positive self-image doesn’t mean you’re self-centered. Self-esteem is not the same as self-importance. Self-care isn’t self-indulgence.
Not taking caring of yourself is detrimental to your health, and because you’re a nurse, it’s not good for your patients either. When you’re sleep-deprived and your energy is sapped you can’t give patients your best. The American Nurses Association thinks it’s so important for you to take care of yourself, the organization included it in its Code of Ethics in the fifth tenet: “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth. Nurses should pay as much attention to taking care of themselves as they do their patients.” Caring for those who are sick and suffering, being surrounded by illness and trauma, responding to emergencies and dealing with constant emotional and physical stressors are in a day’s work for a nurse. Practicing regular self-care can help counteract and manage a good deal of it. Self-care is not a nicety; it’s a necessity. It’s that simple. If you’re stressed out and exhausted because of work, responsibilities at home, a poor diet, lack of exercise and bad sleeping habits, make up your mind to get started on your self-care plan today. But first, dust off and shine up your estimation of your own personal self-worth. Remember that you matter, you’re allowed, it’s not selfish, and you’re worth it.
As a nurse, you know self-care is important, but you see it as something to teach your patients and not something you need or deserve. But after eight or more grueling hours on the job, you’re exhausted. You may feel like you have nothing left to give when you go home to a personal life that may be as all-consuming as your job.
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