Looking after yourself so you can look after others

Caring for other people’s family and friends is something that comes naturally, but many simply forget to look after themselves.

Nurses spend hours a day attending to patients needs; making sure they are fed, hydrated, pain-free, repositioned, comfortable, clean, medicated and observations recorded - but the one thing nurses are not the best at is making sure their own needs are attended to.

As a student nurse, I understand we are all guilty of neglecting our own needs yet we are knowledgeable about the importance of them for physical and mental health.

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How many of these apply to you?

  • Missing your break or taking your break late because you are focused on making sure your patient is comfortable.
  • Walking around with a full bladder because you are too busy to go to the toilet.
  • Staying late after a shift to fill out paperwork you didn’t have time to do during the day.
  • Mot taking time to sit down and have a drink during the shift.
  • Working back to back shifts not getting a good night of sleep.
  • Eating unhealthy food because you are too tired after a shift to prepare a healthy meal.
  • Working numerous shifts and not being able to spend time with your loved ones.
  • Not taking time to process things seen on shift.
  • Not having the energy or the time to participate in regular exercise.

Nurses do this over and over again without even a thought because they prioritise patient’s needs and want their patients to receive the best care as mentioned in the NMC code (2016).

Can you, hand on heart, say that you provide the best care to your patients when you are tired, hungry, thirsty and have a full bladder? I think the key to a healthy patient is having a healthy nurse behind them, you cannot fully care and support others if you are not caring for yourself.

Steps you can do to look after yourself

  • Plan when your break, discuss with other nurses when they are going and make sure you can take turns to cover the other nurse’s role.
  • Take a bottle of water with you and have this at the nurse’s station, you can buy certain water bottles that indicate hourly how much you should be drinking.
  • Meal preparation- when you have a day off prepare healthy meals so you can put them in the fridge or freeze them - use online websites to find ideas.
  • Set a time or an alarm to be in bed for you can ensure you do get a good night’s sleep
  • Take time to relax- run a warm bath in the evening or read a book to help focus your mind on other things.
  • Get a diary- factor in time to see the family or friends, the key is planning in advance.
  • Walk part way to work or if you prefer evening walks, runs or cycles. Visit the local exercise centre and see if there are any gym glasses or outdoor free events, for example, local runs that you can participate in around work.

Do you have any 'pro-tips' or suggestions to share? Pop them in the comments section.

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