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6 tips for managing patient care while living with chronic illness

Shutterstock | PathDoc
Shutterstock | PathDoc

For nurses, patient care is priority numero uno. From the moment you clock in until the moment you clock out (and often on your drive home), you are concerned about the health, safety and well-being of the individuals placed in your care. But for some nurses, illness is something that is understood on both a professional and deeply personal level.

So how do nurses living with chronic conditions do it? We turned to the nurses on the Scrubs Mag Facebook page to hear from them on what gets them through the tough shifts.

“I have Sjögrens, and also residual left side nerve damage from West Nile. I pace myself during flareups. The chronic left leg pain is ever present; however, the patients I care for in ICU help me keep the pain in perspective. My leg hurts if I’m at work or at home. At work, my focus is on my patients.” —Lyn W.

“It is the hardest thing in the world to take care of others while you feel your own body is failing you, but I took strength from my patients as a lot of them were going through a harder time than I was, health-wise. Even with all my knowledge, I still felt completely overwhelmed and scared. After two years of unsuccessful anti-thyroid medication, I did the radioactive iodine treatment (and got worse before I got better), but I finally feel human again. I will never forget how incredibly vulnerable you feel as a patient. I am a better nurse for it in the end.” —KT M.

“I hope that I’ve at least set a foundation for knowing how to take care of myself so that I can take care of my patients. So no all-nighters for me (or 24 hours awake, I should say…I’m a night shifter), and I stuff my pockets with fluids, snacks and my own meds that I cannot miss…I’ve even used my tube at work on really bad days. Bottom line, I had to learn not to feel guilty for taking care of myself or having needs that aren’t identical to those of my peers.” —Rachel N.

“I have rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and hypothyroid. Some days it’s hard to just get out of bed from fatigue, and that is before the pain starts. I really have to pace myself and not use up what energy that I have early on in my shift. I also think positive thoughts, love nursing and I am attempting to further myself by going back to school as soon as i can afford it to become a RN BSN.” —Carrie P.

“Goodness it’s hard. Sometimes it involves advocating for myself (‘I know we’re busy, but I need five minutes to get some water, use the bathroom and take my medication’) and standing up to doctors…I try my best to take care of myself at work, but also at home. Getting adequate rest is a struggle, as is proper nutrition for my conditions, but I do try. The same goes for exercise. If I’m treating my body like crap all the time, I can’t expect it to function properly.” —Kelly V.

“I transitioned from the Adult ICU to a multi-practice outpatient center. The schedule, hours and less physically demanding workload help. But I do miss the ICU setting sometimes.” —Di M.

Do you have experience in balancing work with personal health issues? Share any tips you’ve learned along the way in a comment below!

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One Response to 6 tips for managing patient care while living with chronic illness

  1. RNwithMS

    I’m a Med Surg nurse recently diagnosed with MS. I am lucky to have only had visual symptoms that are in remission thus far. I haven’t told any of my coworkers because I fear being fired for any other reason they can find as it would be illegal to fire me for my diagnosis. Thus far I’ve only had issues at work because of side effects of Tecfidera and I was lucky because it was when we were low census & I could take call or I had plenty of time to take care of myself at work. I fear the day that I have a symptom that interferes with my work & I have to tell my boss that I have MS.

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