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5 Ways How Nurses Can Squeeze in Self-Care

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By Rozzette Cabrera, R.N.

When you’re a nurse, it’s relatively easy to get lost in your busy shift. Before you know it, you’re already holding your bladder for eight hours straight, you missed your lunch and your legs are feeling numb.

These scenarios happen almost all the time. However, although very common, it doesn’t mean they’re right. The truth is nurses’ inability to perform self-care is one of the reasons why they experience burnout and compassion fatigue. If you haven’t done any adjustments on your working routine up to now, then there’s a good chance you’re putting yourself and your career to their breaking points.

What nurses often fail to remember is their well body, mind, and soul is their main capital investment and source of income in this industry. Sounding cliche as much but health is truly your wealth.

Nurses can easily care and cure other people but they often forget to take care of themselves. To prevent these issues from happening, here are five ways you can perform self-care even while on duty.

1. Manage your time.

Most of the time, an 8-hour shift is still not enough to attend to all your patients’ needs. This is what makes time management an essential skill for nurses. Without the ability to set a reasonable time frame and to follow it accordingly, you lose not only the chance to take care of everyone in your area but yourself, too.

Getting ready for a shift doesn’t only mean preparing your paperwork, it also means setting yourself up for your duty. Go to work ahead of time. This extra time will allow you to physically prepare yourself. Pee before the actual shift begins and put snacks in your pocket to munch on in case it gets busy.

2. Be prepared.

A nurse’s work is very unpredictable, but it doesn’t mean we can never be prepared. In fact, nurses are flexible to make adjustments whenever needed.

If you anticipate a busy shift, bringing your own lunch to work can help make sure you have something quick to eat during your break. Because you’ll never know when you can walk back to your locker during your shift, it’s also wise if you can take your water bottle with you to the nurses’ station.

Getting enough rest before your shift is another helpful idea. A regular nursing shift is already exhausting on its own. Admitting a critical care patient or scrubbing for a five-hour surgery can be twice as taxing. To avoid feeling drained, make sure you’ve made enough physical preparations, too.

3. Ask and give help.

One of the most common reasons why nurses tend to skip lunch and bathroom breaks is the idea that no one else will watch over their patients. The truth is there are people who can but you might just be too afraid or shy to reach out. If you have a good relationship with your colleagues, then compromising on lunch and bathroom breaks shouldn’t be that hard. Nurses not only look out for their patients but also for one another.

You have probably received “that look” from co-workers whenever they see us taking a quick bathroom break while they don’t. Compromise and making agreements on schedule can help avoid these professional conflicts. As compromise is a two-way street, you must bear in mind that if you take, then you must also be willing to give.

4. Say no when you need to.

Self-care isn’t all about meeting your physiological needs. It also involves giving yourself enough time to rest and unwind. While compassion is innate among nurses, it doesn’t mean you always have to say yes to every request, particularly if it doesn’t really agree to what you feel.

Saying no is saying no. It doesn’t need you to feel guilty or remorseful that you denied a favor. It may take time before you get comfortable saying the word, but it’s something your future self will thank you for.

5. Take a break.

If you feel the need to use the restroom, then use it. If you need to take a quick break, then take it. Neglecting yourself can have long-term effects that can potentially stop you from rendering any form of care to your patients in the future.

Sleep disorders, severe UTI, chronic pain and even depression are some of the most common diagnoses we can end up with if we don’t change anything in our work habits. Taking a break doesn’t mean we’ll stop taking care of our patients. It’s just a way of making sure we’re well and strong enough to take care of them.


Rozzette Cabrera is a registered nurse pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a professional writer. She spent a few years putting her profession into practice until she decided to take her chances with freelance writing over a year ago. Her life has never been the same since then.

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