Without Proper Self-Care, You Can’t Provide Your Best Care
I’ve had a rough couple of weeks at work. Whether it was me working as the only nurse in the unit with a high acuity or working with another nurse and a high acuity, it has been rough.
I normally have several days before I start a new work week, but not this week. I was not looking forward to this new week, without a longer stretch, but I was going to go in with a positive attitude and put the last few weeks behind me. I had to practice what I preach. I tell my patients sometimes, “It’s a new day to make new choices and have a good day.” If the patient is a voluntary patient, I add “You should be proud that you’re making a choice to get help.” Side note: I believe I in meeting people where they are and not what we want them to be. It works out better for all involved.
Anyway, as the time approached to go to work, I realized I just didn’t want to go if I didn’t have to. I saw the schedule, knew we had “extra” coverage, and a low census. I asked to be put on call if the above criteria stayed the same. I rarely do that, but I knew I needed to do it, and more importantly, my potential patients needed that.
Without low census, I was still likely to call out. You can’t pour from an empty well. As a nurse or any healthcare professional, you have to know when to take a break. I am not naive enough to think that people can just take off, as people may not have enough PTO, there’s individual money and staffing issues. That said, you have to put yourself first. Pick up a hobby, meditate for a few minutes, read a few chapters, etc., do something for yourself
I did a lot of crafting yesterday, as crafting truly does soothe my soul. I spent quality time with my family. We ate out and took a long two-mile walk. Even doing all of that self-care, it still wasn’t enough to get me ready for my next shift. And you know what, that’s okay. Knowing is half the battle.
I am fortunate to work in an environment that does not give you grief if you call in sick, get sick or have some type of family emergency during your shift . Not every healthcare professional is that fortunate. Some of the stories I’ve seen nurses post as it relates to calling out and being berated for it are shameful. Unless there is a disciplinary issue prior to the callout, people should be able to call out without issue. Employees should not be questioned or made to feel bad with lines like “We’re short, can’t you just XYZ.” if they call out. No, management, they cannot come in after telling you no, because if an employee does it once, there will always be an excuse on management’s part as to why they should sacrifice their time and health to come in for the greater good of patients and their fellow employees.
Nurses and healthcare professionals are human and have lives outside of work. Sometimes that means we can’t come to work, and that is okay, even if it’s a mental health day. Mental health is just as important as physical health.
Some facilities should stop giving lip service about self-care and how it’s important, if the facility is going to attempt to make staff feel bad for performing self-care. Employers start small. Employees are entitled to two breaks and a 30-minute lunch. Make sure staff is getting those breaks. Even just a few minutes away from the unit is enough to rejuvenate you to get you through the rest of a shift.
Does it suck for managers and supervisors when people call out, absolutely, but that’s a reality of any job, it just so happens as healthcare providers there is more at stake when someone calls out. But you know what would be even worse, employees providing care when they’re not their physical or mental best.
My ultimate goal as a nurse is to provide the best care I care I know how to, and sometimes, not giving any care is the best thing I can do for me and the patient.