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Nurses Need to Care for Themselves, Too

A nurse talks with a patient in a wheelchair

As a practical nurse (PN), you have a wide range of responsibilities each day. With the fast pace and high demands of a medical environment, it can be easy to forget to take time for yourself. But prioritizing self-care and managing stress are important for medical professionals. Prism Career Institute trains practical nurses at its campuses in Philadelphia, PA, and Cherry Hill and Egg Harbor Township, NJ. Here, we offer important advice for self-care.

What is Self-Care?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), self-care means taking the time to do things that improve one’s mental and physical wellness. Self-care practices can help individuals do the following:

  • Manage feelings of stress
  • Lower their risk of illness
  • Improve overall wellbeing

Unfortunately, many people who work in caring professions such as nursing tend to put others before themselves, and so they may neglect self-care. Not only are they caring for patients, but nurses also may be serving as a liaison to the patient’s family. This can be an especially emotional responsibility with patients who are extremely ill. And with medical teams spread thin throughout pandemics and other challenging times, nurses may have an added layer of stress caused by insufficient staffing. Without coping strategies, stress can have long-term negative impacts on a nurse’s health and wellbeing, leading to feelings of overwhelm and burnout at work.

Tips for Practicing Self-Care

Although many nurses are already very busy on the job, there are small things they can do both at work and at home to support their well-being. Self-care includes tending to your:

  • Emotional needs
  • Physical needs
  • Social needs
  • Practical needs
  • Mental needs
  • Spiritual needs

Try incorporating these practices to establish a self-care routine:

Get Plenty of Sleep

A good night’s rest is crucial for both your physical and mental well-being. According to a study from New York University, nurses tend to get less sleep before workdays than they do on their days off. Strive to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, so you wake up feeling refreshed.

Spend Time Outside

Whether it’s hiking, biking, fishing, or just going for a walk around your neighborhood, make sure you’re spending some time outdoors each week. The sunshine and fresh air are good for your mental health, and physical activity will improve your circulation and release endorphins into your body.

Eat Well and Stay Hydrated

A balanced diet is an important part of maintaining your physical health. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you typically choose fast food for a quick meal during the workday, try bringing your lunch from home instead. And make sure you’re drinking plenty of water – try swapping out soda or juice and drinking a bottle of water or seltzer instead.

Find a Hobby You Enjoy

Between work and responsibilities at home, it can feel challenging to find time for yourself. But setting aside a little time to focus on your hobbies can be restorative. Activities such as painting, gardening, playing sports, or cooking can give your brain a break from work (and bring you joy, too).

Connect With Your Loved Ones

Your family and friends can be a big source of support, so make sure to spend time with your loved ones during your days off. You can even keep in touch with family members who live far away via phone or video calls. After all, humans are social beings – we need to connect with others.

Ask for Help When You Need It

Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. If you’re struggling at work, let your supervisor know and ask for support. Some healthcare companies offer employee assistance programs to support physical, mental, and emotional health.

As a nurse, you may put pressure on yourself to go above and beyond for each patient. But remember that to take good care of others, you must take care of yourself first.

Find Career Support at Prism Career Institute’s Practical Nursing Program

Nursing students can find comprehensive training at Prism Career Institute, where courses are taught by caring and experienced instructors. Our practical nursing program prepares students with the knowledge necessary to find fulfilling jobs in the healthcare industry. Prism Career Institute offers daytime and evening classes at our campuses in Philadelphia, PA, as well as Cherry Hill and Egg Harbor Township, NJ. Financial aid is available to students who qualify. To talk with a member of our admissions team, contact us today.