Working in the nursing field can be tremendously fulfilling, but it can also—ironically—take a toll on your health if you’re not careful.
Caring for ill patients, coping with the stress of the job, and managing long shifts can all affect your own health—physically, emotionally, and mentally. For you to stay healthy, you need to attend to your own needs with as much care as you offer your patients. But that can be challenging.
Recognizing this challenge, the American Nursing Association designated 2017 as “Year of the Healthy Nurse,” and the theme for National Nurses Week (May 6-12) is “Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit.”
We asked nurses from Capella’s nursing programs what they do themselves, and what they recommend to other nurses, to stay healthy. And by healthy, we mean several different things along with physical health. The nurses had great suggestions in the seven different categories that ANA defines as a Healthy Nurse.
If you’re sick or suffer from injuries or pain, you’re not in the best position to care for others. Several nurses point to preventive actions as the best way to approach physical health and suggest these tips:
- “Incorporate healthy food into your diet.” – MSN in Nursing Education student
- “Get exercise. Take a lunch break to go for a walk, and don’t forget the old (but valuable) trick of parking your car at the far end of the parking lot. I prefer to park my vehicle in the farthest parking lot as it’s my opportunity for a brisk walk twice a day, coming into and leaving work.” – MSN in Nursing Informatics student
- “I don’t sit at the nurses’ station. Instead, I walk the hallways and check on all my patients and do my documentation using a roll-around computer.” – MSN in Nursing Education graduate
Treat your brain like a muscle that needs regular workouts to stay strong. Keeping your mind sharp will help you feel confident and at the top of your game. Some ways to do that include:
- “Keep up on nursing journals and magazines and attend in-service training.” – MSN in Nursing Education graduate
- “Share knowledge with peers and students and make suggestions for changes that can improve your workplace.” – RN-to-BSN graduate
Caring for your emotional health is vital as well. This one is sometimes hard to manage because emotions can be stirred unexpectedly and unpredictably. But here are some suggestions for trying to maintain an even emotional keel.
- “Share special moments—like birthdays, anniversaries, or good news—with patients, families, and coworkers, and let everyone know that they are appreciated and doing an excellent job.” – MSN in Nursing Education graduate
- “Be empathetic. Everyone makes mistakes and has bad days. Take a deep breath, keep your chin up, and keep moving through the rough obstacles.” – MSN in Nursing Informatics student
Spirituality is highly personal and can take many forms depending on an individual’s beliefs and practices. Whether you believe in a specific faith or not, there are things you can do that will help ground you and support you spiritually.
- “Engage in a faith or spiritual community.” – DNP student
- “Encourage others to be themselves and to respect the culture, religious affiliation, and gender identity of others.” – MSN in Nursing Education graduate
- “Add mindfulness activities such as meditation or yoga to your week.” – RN-to-BSN graduate
This category is ripe with possibility. Anything you do outside of work that enriches your life fits in. These are just a few of the options:
- “Explore a hobby or passion. This can include dancing, knitting, singing or playing a musical instrument, basketball, writing, genealogy, cooking—anything that you enjoy and that you look forward to doing.” – DNP student
- “Volunteer. Giving your time to an organization you believe in is a win-win situation.” – RN-to-BSN graduate
Professional health, in the form of professionalism in the workplace as well as professional development that prevents career stagnation and burnout, plays a role in your overall well-being, too.
- “Always remain calm and collected. Show respect to the people around you—both patients and coworkers.” – MSN in Nursing Education graduate
- “Help your colleagues overcome obstacles.”- MSN in Nursing Informatics student
- “Remember: For every failure, there is a lesson. Take that failure and learn from it, share it, and move on.” – DNP student
- “If you’re an introvert, make sure to schedule time alone each week. If you’re an extrovert, make sure to have adequate socializing set up. If, like many people, you’re a combination of both, figure out the best balance for yourself, and don’t feel bad about it.” – RN to BSN alumni
- “Spend time with people who are important to you, like close friends and family.” – DNP student
Capella offers online nursing programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels.