The Health and Wellness of Nurses

In the mid 1990’s, I presented a topic titled, “Caring for the Caregiver”. The presentation was geared toward Nurses, primarily the females in this role, as they were also wives, mothers and daughters. During a 24 hour period, they would focus little on themselves, having a mere 15 minutes per day to accomplish something related to their own health. Self-care for the caregiver was almost non-existent and I have verbalized this, to multiple individuals, over the past 20 years.

Fast forward to 2016 and both male and female nurses are worn out and need some time to care for themselves, as well as others. One of my mantras: “One thing we do well in healthcare is take good care of people. However, one thing that we do not do very well, is take care of our own people”.

As we concentrate on wellness and preventative medicine, we need to think about the health and wellness of our own people. This would include the nurses and the other healthcare professionals. Remember that a part of wellness is being helpful and looking out for each other.

A positive attitude does a lot for wellness and mental health. Having positive role models contributes to everyone’s overall wellness. The job is stressful enough, without added issues. Nurses are involved in the technology aspect of healthcare and this has created changes in the way we care for patients. Additionally, Nursing is both an art and a science. It is one job that is demanding on multiple levels (e.g. physically, mentally and emotionally). Instead of letting the demands of the job contribute to anger and frustration, stop and think how this negative energy could be channeled into positive energy.

I was recently involved in a LinkedIn discussion with nurses in relation to work place bullying. Nurses are a team, “a type of family unit”. When I travel, I find an instant connection when nurses meet. Why then do some of these professionals bully each other?

Here are my thoughts: It is not the individual nurse or business unit. It relates to the overall organizational culture. Do employees know what is expected of them, from the organization? Are there methods of assisting nurses with reducing anxiety? Remember that nurses are not robots and they are not related to the Energizer Bunny! They are more like a Timex watch, which keeps on ticking, no matter what! I bet many of you have never thought of it that way!

In my past experience, I managed neurological surgery and surgical trauma units. When things were tough and the nurses were stressed, I would seek assistance from a psychologist or clinical nurse specialist in the Psychiatry Department. They were invited to assist the Nursing Staff and multiple individuals were scheduled to attend. It was held in a conference room on the nursing unit. I found that sometimes they just needed to decompress, because they could not emotionally deal with a particularly difficult situation and yet they were trying to support the family. In many of these instances they were crying with the family members. This support from the professionals was very successful!

So as we celebrate National Nurses’ Week this year, let us think of the health and wellness of our nurses. A note to executive management and everyone involved in making healthcare decisions…take care of these talented professionals. And Nurses…TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER!

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