Although the good pay and employment prospects of the nursing profession may appeal to many, most people go into nursing out of altruism. They want to help people. They are genuinely caring people who know they are suited for one of the “helping” professions. They may be highly idealistic. If they can keep in touch with that original motivation for entering the field, nurses are more likely to succeed in the profession long-term.
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Caregivers Need to Care for Themselves, Too
In part because of their caring and altruistic natures, nurses may find themselves unable to say “no” to five twelve-hour shifts in the same week because they feel the desperate need for patient care. They are concerned about their patients and want to give their all to help them, above and beyond the call of duty. They are generous and giving people in the first place, and it is only too easy to give too much without the matching self-care that could make them more resilient against the pressures and stresses of their jobs.
Setting boundaries and engaging in self-care are crucial not only to the individual nurse to prevent burnout: it is essential to patient well being.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation did a 2004 study of “Nurse Burnout and Patient Satisfaction” and reported it in their online magazine Quality/Equality in February 2004. The authors (Aiken, LH, Sloane, DM, Clarke, SP, and Vargas, D) found that nurse burnout had a large impact on patient satisfaction with their care. Statistics have also shown that overburdened nurses give lesser-quality care, resulting in more patient deaths.
In addition to health care policymakers working for systemic changes that can ease the burdens of nurses and improve their working environments, successful nurses need to take a hand in their own self-care.
Success Secrets for Staying Sane as a Nurse
Nurses who have succeeded in the long-term recommend various ways to take care of one’s self. They recommend that nurses set boundaries in how many hours they are willing to work, only working as much as they need to for the lifestyle they choose to maintain or for their families. Some recommend taking up art or other pastimes and hobbies as a sort of therapy—nurturing the inner self with a life outside of nursing. Some recommend switching venues—perhaps a stint as a travel nurse or cruise nurse might be refreshing. Even switching floors in the same hospital or switching from one hospital in town to another might be eye-opening as far as quality of work life goes.
Nurses caution one another to catch burnout early and begin active self-nurturing. They recommend taking time off—even medical leave—if necessary. Emotional and psychological maladies are not given the same amount of credibility in our society as physical maladies–yet they are just as real and need to be attended to seriously.
A sense of humor helps. Nurses laughingly recount becoming “crispy critters” they were so burned out, and note they were headed straight for “the toaster” before they started to help themselves so they could help others.
Nurses need to check to see if their own selflessness is actually hurting their patients. If a nurse realizes that his or her own self-nurturing and self-care will ultimately benefit patients, the nurse need not feel guilty about taking needed time off or engaging in activities outside of work that nourish the inner life. He or she will be a better nurse for being a little “selfish” once in a while.
What Are Your Secrets for a Successful Nursing Career?
Please take a moment and share your secrets for keeping yourself healthy in mind, spirit, and body?