So let’s be real. We all went into nursing because we genuinely love people. We wanted a career that we felt made a difference. We love taking care of others and walking along side them in the process of healing. It’s such a unique and intentional role that we wouldn’t change for the world! But guess what? Nursing is HARD! And I will be the first person to say that! Never did I ever think walking into this career 4 years ago that I would work as hard and long during a 12 hour period (physically and emotionally) and get back up the next day only to do it all over again! I realized quickly that this job was not for the faint and weak-hearted!
Nursing isn’t just a job that you can just show up to work under any circumstance and perform well. You have to be on your A-Game ALL of the time! You have to have had a good nights rest. You have to be taking care of your body. You have to be thinking all day long and being able to focus, no matter what is going on in your life! And why, you ask? Life is why. These are people’s LIVES! These are precious irreplaceable beings that are under your care, and any little mistake could go really wrong. As crazy and scary as that sounds, it’s so true! And that’s why this profession is amazing. Because we take safe care of patients every day! We have to be taking good care of ourselves in order to be taking good care of our patients. That’s the bottom line!
Four years ago when I started nursing, I was working night shift. My circadian rhythm was thrown off. I was eating the midnight chicken finger buffet with fires just about every night. I would fill up a large cup of caffeine and sugar to get me through the night, and then I would go out to breakfast in the morning with my night shift buddies and pack down some pancakes! Before I knew it, I was 30 pounds heavier and experiencing anxiety and other health issues like I never had before. The task of caring for patients every day became extremely draining. I was tired, fatigued, depressed, and just didn’t have it in me to truly “care.” My lack of self care was overflowing into my job and stealing for the joy and beauty of what this profession really was all about.
My journey to clean eating started about two and a half years into my nursing career! After feeling so held back in a days worth of work, fatigue like no other, achey joints, anxiety, and my lack of joy for what I was doing, I decided it was time to change. I researched and researched how to naturally restore energy and help ease anxiety and depression! All research came back to food and exercise. I know that sounds so boring and cliche, but it really was true! But not in the way you would typically think. And over those next couple of years, I did just that. I started eating clean and simply moving more!
As healthcare professionals, I do think it is important to practice what we preach! And no, I’m not referring to a number on a scale being the reason. I’m referring to simply fueling our bodies with clean nutrition and moving more often than not. I have never been one to spend hours at the gym, and I never will be! But as I started fueling my body with clean eats, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the end of the parking lot, replacing soda with water, and really just eliminating processed foods in a whole. I started to reap the amazing benefits of ENERGY, happiness, confidence, weight-loss, and JOY! I started to ENJOY my job and was able to give back in the way I had always wanted to.
We work in a “Patient-Centered” profession. Everything is about the patient in our job. And lets be real, sometimes it can be a little extreme with the extent we asked to go to. Ultimately though, if we aren’t putting ourselves in the center, taking care of ourselves FIRST, there will be no patient centered care. There will be no care at all. Taking care of others 100% starts with taking care of yourself first! I really think hospitals world wide to to truly understand that.
This year, I want to challenge nurses all over to set some health goals for yourself. Start with simple steps to clean up your diet. Stop the soda today and start with the water. Try preparing homemade lunches at the beginning of the week that you can grab and go! One of my favorite go-to’s is my salad in a jar! Simply layering all of the wet ingredients first in a mason jar and then stacking the dry ingredients and greens at the top so they don’t get soggy! Grab and go! Eating clean can be really delicious and fun! Add lots of color to your meals! Color= Nutrition! Opt for clean and healthy “scrub snacks” and ditch the candy bars and processed vending machine foods. It’s always good to have healthy bars-on-the-go handy! Not for a meal replacement, but something to snack on to get you to that meal break that will fuel you with energy and not give you a sugar crash. It starts with baby steps. But you just have to START!
I never realized how impactful food and movement could be on my body. I also don’t want to underestimate the importance of SLEEP! If you aren’t getting enough zzzz’s at night, none of this other stuff will matter! So get that rest and reset yourself! The amount of energy you will have and the happiness you will acquire will be every bit WORTH! Remember that when our bodies are hungry, they’re hungry for NUTRITION! And as busy and hard working nurses, we need all of the clean energy that we can get to help fuel ourselves through a long day!
When you learn to truly take care of yourself, taking care of your patients comes easy. We all deserve to feel energized, happy, and confident. We all owe it to ourselves to take the best care of our bodies because we are in a hard career! A beautiful, fulfilling, and life-giving career, but hard nonetheless. Do yourself a favor and put “YOU” first! Evaluate where you are at right now in your health, and take baby steps towards changing that! When you start truly taking care of you, performing as a nurse on a daily basis starts to remind you off all of the reasons you came into this profession. The focus starts to drift away from all of the negatives, and you start to see the beauty as you thrive and put your energy into taking care of LIVES!
Kelsey Rowell, RN