According to the Nurse Practice Act (Article 2) “The nurse's task is to help with basic health care, help people cope with difficulty in daily living that are associated with their actual or potential health or illness problems or treatment etc.” Nowhere in the law is there any mention of the need for the nurse to incorporate self-care measures during training or after licensure to ensure excellent work in the community and to prevent burnout.
Doing something good for your self is a place to start. Bubble baths, body lotions, or tickets to a game might be an answer. Doing something that you are good at is also a good self-care measure. By adding something you do well to your routine, you will keep your spirits high when the demands of the program grow. Engaging in regular exercise is another way that a student can care for themselves – it releases endorphins.
Stress and anxiety are usually noticed first on the body – muscles become tense and breathing becomes shallow. If this happens, it's best to initially try direct your thoughts elsewhere. A reasonable amount of stress actually helps with performance but too much can have a negative impact.
Sixty-one percent of students that enter nursing school complete their training by age 30. For those that have jobs, husbands, boyfriends and children, learning how to juggle is a must. If you are cooking for many, buy or cook a week's worth of meals on one day and freeze for the rest of the week. If your kids or life partner tell you that they feel you are abandoning them, try to spend as much time as you can with them and remind them that nursing school is temporary.
Join a support group of your peers. The most supportive individuals during this time will be your classmates. Who else will be viewing those enema videotapes in the clinical lab? Who else will be required to know every muscle in the body? Who else will come in contact with very sick people that bring up memories of loved ones?
There is great joy in taking care of others. When you enter the field of nursing you will meet people from different walks of life and cultures. No matter what you do for your future patients, your compassion and care will be what they remember most. Don't forget to take care of yourself! Nursing is like no other profession – your actions touch lives!
Diane Alvy, RN MA is a registered nurse that runs Special Support Groups for Student Nurses. She is also a freelance writer and writes articles advocating safe nurse-patient ratios and senior advocacy. For more information, call (323) 304-9771.