A study from the Journal for Nurses in Professional Development revealed that nurses who demonstrate compassionate concern, openness, physical availability and empathetic attention foster stronger patient relationships, encouraging them to be more proactive participants in their care plan.
But how can a nurse provide this level of care if her own wellness needs aren’t being met? Through the practice of self-care, nurses can focus on keeping themselves healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – to bring their best selves to the job every day.
To emphasize the importance of self-care for nurses and how it can positively impact patients, Elizabeth Fildes, EdD, RN, CNE, CARN-AP, APHN-BC, DACACD, a professor in Chamberlain’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program and vice president of the Nevada Nurses Association’s (NNA) state board of directors, helped launch the Healthy Nevada Nurses initiative in 2013.
“The mission of Healthy Nurses Nevada (HNN) is to empower nurses to take care of themselves holistically so they can, in turn, elevate the level of care they provide to patients,” explains Dr. Fildes.
She cites a recent study that revealed that healthcare providers who are fit are more likely to advise patients to adopt an active lifestyle. “Nurses are the largest single component of the healthcare profession, meaning they are poised to create a ripple effect of positive outcomes upon others, but they can only achieve this if they incorporate self-care into their lifestyle.”
A Caring Call to Action
Dr. Fildes says HNN takes a holistic approach to the implementation of self-care. “This means nurses must exercise not only physical muscles but also their emotional, mental and spiritual muscles.”
HNN offers nurses resources that promote the importance of putting each holistic pillar of self-care into practice. For example, to promote physical well-being, HNN challenged nurses from northern and southern Nevada to walk 10,000 steps every day during the month of February in honor of American Heart Month.
The challenge created a domino effect, as families and friends of participating nurses quickly joined in the competition to achieve more steps. “We received phone calls and emails from nurses in both districts explaining how their participation in the challenge inspired others to join in, illustrating nurses’ positive impact beyond the bedside.”
Educating Nurses on Self-Care
HNN also offers monthly webinars that align with its holistic pillars of self-care. A March webinar highlighted the mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga, and included demonstrations of specific poses nurses can practice.
“Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Fildes. “With just a few simple poses, nurses can improve their health on a daily basis.”
Upcoming webinars will focus on spirituality and weight management. HNN also distributes a monthly e-newsletter, Healthy News You Can Use, which includes helpful self-care information and resources for nurses.
“Nurses must practice self-care in order to improve the care they provide to their patients,” adds Dr. Fildes. “Its significance must be emphasized in the classroom and reinforced in the workplace. HNN is one small step in the broader path to increasing the awareness of the importance of self-care. It’s up to nurses and healthcare organizations nationwide to encourage participation in their communities.”
Tips for Practicing Self-Care
Dr. Fildes practices the following self-care strategies in her daily life and encourages others to try them:
- Maintain a Strong Emotional Reserve:
Nursing education institutions and leadership are recognizing that how nurses manage the rigor of their role ultimately influences the well-being of patients. At Chamberlain, our educational foundation is built on care to help achieve this. Nurses who are empowered to care for themselves and each other in the same multi-dimensional way they care for their patients have the capacity and emotional reserve to provide extraordinary care every day and transform the delivery of healthcare.
- Utilize Your Support System:
We often underestimate the health benefits of our relationships with others. Schedule time to meet with peers, friends and family a priority. Simply having the ability to talk and share your day-to-day concerns can be surprisingly therapeutic.
- Practice Meditation:
Meditation is a proven stress reliever and can be done anywhere – all you need is a quiet area to put it into practice. A conscious focus on breathing and clearing one’s mind reaps both physiological and psychological benefits.
Feeling sad or lonely? There’s an old adage that states, “Serving others is often the perfect antidote to loneliness.” Furthermore, a recent study revealed that volunteering was found to decrease hypertension risk among adults. Dr. Fildes volunteers with many foundations to improve access to quality healthcare services and notes that helping others makes her feel instantly more fulfilled on an emotional and spiritual level.
- Continue Your Education:
A commitment to life-long learning can have positive implications for well-being as a springboard to career advancement and confidence booster. Attending seminars, earning additional certifications and participating in continuing education opportunities not only enriches and expands professional knowledge, but can help nurses create and implement systems that increase access to quality, patient-centered care.
How do you initiate the practice of self-care in your daily life?
By Natalie Sobolewski
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