3 ways for nurses to take care of themselves on (and off!) the job
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We are nurses—we care for people and we care about people. But for some reason, our own health often isn’t a priority. Whether I’m working locally or as a travel nurse, I’ve noticed that many of us do not care for ourselves. I can admit it; there have been times when I’ve skipped meals due to a crazy patient assignment. It’s something that happens due to the fact that nursing is unpredictable (which is why we love it). But there are things you can do to help you remember that you are just as important as your patients.
1. Set timers (on your phone) for breaks/lunches. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but the day can get away from you. One admission can tie a person up for hours. You have to set yourself up for success. To do that, you have to organize your time. I set a timer on my phone to eat lunch in one hour. I give myself an hour to tie up all the loose ends. The timer helps me to remember that I need to take care of myself. Whether it’s for taking your lunch or a break, the alarm will remind you that you matter, your health matters.
If that hour passes and I haven’t eaten lunch, I might reach out to co-workers or management for help. I have passed out at work due to not taking care of myself. It happened after an intense code blue. I didn’t eat, did too many rounds of CPR and depleted my glucose stores. It was embarrassing being in the ED for something ridiculous. I ignored myself. I ignored my body. Don’t let that be you. Take care of yourself.
2. Take multivitamins. When my husband had a quadruple coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), his surgeon explained the benefits of taking vitamins daily. I’m a nurse, but for some reason I didn’t know the true benefits of vitamins. Now that I’ve had gastric bypass surgery, I MUST take vitamins (twice a day). Before I take my vitamins, I often feel sluggish and sore. But an hour after taking the vitamins, I’m refreshed and focused.
You must give your body what it needs. Vitamins will keep your engine running and help you to perform. Working 12 hours is tough enough. Don’t work against yourself. Vitamins A, B, C and D, and iron and calcium never get enough respect. Don’t let the over-the-counter status fool you; they are very important.
3. If you’re going to eat from the cafeteria where you work, pick healthy options. I’ve been in food comas many times at work. It only slows you down and makes you sleepy (thing you don’t want while trying to work). Keep lunch light and healthy. Oh, and stay away from vending machines! The vending machine tends to not have good food or snack options. Try to pack your lunch, and pack a snack or two as well. If you’re in a hurry, hit a convenience store for a pre-made meal or piece of fruit. Do something; try something before selecting the burger and fries from the cafeteria. Your family and body will thank you.
Nursing is caring. Turn that concept on yourself! If my patient were eating an ice cream sandwich at 2AM (like I used to do frequently), they would have been spoken to regarding making healthier selections. Treat yourself like a patient. Care about what you eat and fuel your body with what it needs.
Don’t expect perfection—each of us is a work in progress. But the more you make healthy choices, the easier it becomes. Oh, and being healthy isn’t number- or pound-based; it’s about how you feel and how your body functions. Don’t compare yourself to others—do what works for your lifestyle.
I wish all the nurses out there a healthy and happy life.
Nacole Riccaboni BSN, RN is a critical care nurse living in Orlando, Fla. She currently is in school for her Doctor of Nursing Practice in family and adult acute care. Nacole, also known as Nurse Nacole, has a YouTube channel with more than a million views. The Nurse Nacole channel provides advice and tips for prospective, new and current nurses. Nacole also shares daily nursing tips and tools for bedside nursing success at nursenacole.com.
By Nacole Riccaboni