The contributions of a nurse in today’s crisis-stricken society are countless, especially in the midst of this pandemic. For that reason, thorough explanation of the nurses’ role is imperative for greater appreciation.
Nurses have well known responsibilities including, but not limited to, recording medical history, vital signs and symptoms, patient advocacy, monitoring patient health and administering medications and/or treatments. Nurses collaborate with members of the interdisciplinary team for better patient outcomes and educate patients and their families about the management of illnesses.
In academic settings, practicing nurses educate aspiring nurses and propel them to achieve their goals in the midst of challenging life circumstances. Nurses also care for patients’ families. Difficult conversations must occur and nurses are challenged to interact with those on the receiving end. In short, nurses wear many hats and are at increased risk for burnout.
Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. In a 2017 study, burnout was a significant predictor of the following physical consequences:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Hospitalization due to cardiovascular disorder
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Changes in pain experiences
- Prolonged fatigue
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Respiratory problems
- Severe injuries
- Mortality below age of 45
A 2019 study found that 14.4% of nurses surveyed reported being unengaged with their work, and more than 40% of those respondents reported symptoms of burnout.
A Personal Health Scare
In September 2018, I was transported by an ambulance from a clinical setting to the hospital. Runs of atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia flooded the heart monitor. “Look! You can show these rhythms to your students!” said the EMT as life threatening rhythms printed from the monitor.
At the time, I was a nursing education supervisor for a technical school. The program grew exponentially and I was expected to supervise both day and evening programs. This not only meant overseeing and executing the curriculum’s development and application, but also subbing for instructors as necessary, which was quite often.
I was a single mother in need of more support. My divorce was recently finalized. Ageism and racism were also my foes in the work environment. I was challenged when giving direction to a group of women, my staff, who were older and looked different from me. I was expected to provide hope for my students who had lost hope in themselves due to extenuating life circumstances.
Due to the physical and emotional demands of the job, I found myself experiencing the warning signs of burnout.
In 2019, I went on a quest to find a work environment that was more holistic and welcoming. The familiar saying, “Nurses eat their young” resonated within me. My mental health suffered as I experienced feelings of being unappreciated and belittled. Nonetheless, in the midst of all of this rain, the sun did shine again. I decided to return to my home district as a school nurse, which gave me an opportunity to give back to my community and encouraged healing for my broken soul.
So who nurses the nurse? If possible, nurses must nurse themselves by doing the following.
Evaluate Your Own Personal Life
Ask yourself, have I recently experienced life-changing events and have I taken enough time to ride life’s emotional roller coaster?
Trying to balance work and these emotions can lead to burnout. One may need to request time off from work or even take a leave of absence. Taking these actions does not mean that you are weak. It just means that you are taking a step closer to healing.
Ask For Help
As John Donne said, “No man is an island. No man stands alone.” Nurses have a tendency to practice autonomy and often forget about asking for help.
But it is impossible to navigate through difficult times in solitude, so finding a trusted confidant is important. It may be a family member or a close friend. For some, it may involve getting help from a licensed therapist. Having a support system will show you that you are not alone.
Diet and Exercise
You are what you eat. Therefore in order to promote feelings of wellness, we need to eat foods and participate in activities that support wellness. Overall, one should base a diet on whole grains and increased fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as reduced fat, salt, and sugar intake. We should also aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.
Watch Your Water Intake
Men and women need approximately 3 liters of fluid daily. As it pertains to burnout, water can help maximize physical performance as well as improve energy levels and brain function.
Make Time For Hobbies
Do not forget about your interests. Make time for these activities. It could be as simple as listening to music or watching an interesting TV show. I’ve always loved dancing. Since my experience in 2018, I joined a ballroom dancing/social community.
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
This practice of being present in the moment trains you to become more aware throughout the day, particularly during stressful situations. There are an abundance of mindfulness meditation exercises that can be found on the internet. I do these exercises daily.
Get Enough Sleep
We need at least 7-9 hours of sleep daily to function at our best. If you are having a hard time achieving this, talk to your doctor. You can consider non-pharmacological methods such as teas and lavender oils. According to the National Sleep Foundation, obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health, improving productivity, and overall quality of life.
Watch Your Appearance
If you think you look good, chances are you will feel good too. Participate in practices that enhance positive feelings about personal appearance. Do a facial. Get your eyebrows waxed and your hair done. Do you!
This story was originally published by Minority Nurse, a trusted source for nursing news and information and a portal for the latest jobs, scholarships, and books from Springer Publishing Company.