by Susan Sanders, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Learning & Innovation Officer, CGFNS International
National Nurses Month: You Make A Difference – May 2022
CGFNS joins the world in recognizing the nursing profession during the month of May. This celebration coincides with the birthday of Florence Nightingale on May 12th. The American Nurses Association has announced their Nurses Month theme “You Make A Difference”. We celebrate to provide support and express value for the nursing profession. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare delivery system providing care for patients and their families as well as advocating for the same.
Making Self-Care a Priority
Recognizing the mental, emotional, and physical stressors experienced by nurses will lead us to talk about prioritizing self-care. We also remember that these stressors don’t just affect practicing nurses but also impacts the nursing student! Therefore, the first week of the month-long recognition (May 1-7) is dedicated to “Self-Care” where nurses and students prioritize self-care by engaging in healthy activities for body & mind.
Blum (2014) reviewed stressors experienced by nurses and students. Jimenez (2009) grouped the types of stressors as clinical, academic, and external. Students primarily related their stressors to learning how to care for clients in their clinical practice. The authors encouraged faculty to make students aware of the possible stressors associated with the nursing profession, and to introduce coping mechanisms during their learning process. The practicing nurse listed a broader group of stressors such as staffing patterns, patient advocacy, violence in the workplace, protecting patient’s rights and other non-clinical issues.
Nurses Need to Care for Themselves
Nurses are taught to care for others, while putting their own needs aside. This practice, however, will lead to burnout and the inability to cope with the needs of patients and families. Faculty and administrators should support the needs of their students/nurses in order to meet the needs of their patients. As we have seen with the recent pandemic, the challenges of nursing have increased beyond basic care and comfort of the patient to a feeling of helplessness and caregivers’ fatigue, resulting in nurses that are leaving their jobs and even the profession at an alarming rate. A recent publication by the International Center on Nurse Migration (ICNM, 2022) shares that 11% of nurses with 25+ years of experience intend to leave their position and another 20% were undecided if they would stay or go. And this percentage was on the lower end of the results! The rates of intention to leave went as high as 61% in Ireland!
Models of self-care have been implemented and reviewed by various authors (Kravits et al., 2008; Mackenzie et al., 2006). Kravits et al. (2008) evaluated relaxation and art as interventions while Mackenzie et al. (2006) implemented a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. These and other stress-reduction programs have been found effective initially and can continue to provide lasting effects with continued follow-up. While both person-directed and organization-directed interventions reduced burnout in the short-term, the findings indicate programs with both intervention types created longer lasting positive effects.
Self-Care: Where to Begin?
Common themes of self-care for each of these groups included proper diet, exercise, and stress-reduction techniques. Alternate thinking for self-care can also be introduced and includes such activities as: yoga, herbal therapy, meditation, mindfulness training, labyrinth walks, music therapy and massage.
I challenge you to devise a plan to provide you some balance in your busy life and career! You are vital to the health of so many and it all begins with caring for yourself!
Awa, W. L., Plaumann, M., & Walter, U. (2010). Burnout prevention: A review of intervention programs. Patient Education and Counseling, 78, 184–190. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2009.04.008.
Blum, C., (September 30, 2014) “Practicing Self-Care for Nurses: A Nursing Program Initiative” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 19, No. 3, Manuscript 3.
International Center on Nurse Migration, (2022). Sustain and retain in 2022 and beyond. https://www.intlnursemigration.org/news/.
Jimenez, C., Navia-Osorio, P. M., & Diaz, C. V. (2009). Stress and health in novice and experienced nursing students. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 66(2), 442–455. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2009.05183.x
Kravits, K., McAllister-Black, R., Grant, M., & Kirk, C. (2008). Self-care strategies for nurses: A psycho-educational intervention for stress reduction and the prevention of burnout. Applied Nursing Research, 23, 130–138. doi:10.1016/j.apnr.2008.08.002
Mackenzie, C. A., Poulin, P. A., & Seidman-Carlson, R. (2006). A brief mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for nurses and nurse aides. Applied Nursing Research, 19, 105-109. doi:10.1016/j.apnr.2005.08.002