Self-Care in the Nursing Profession

After graduating with my BSN in 2013, me and my new nursing scrubs landed in the cutest town working at a small 72-bed ‘rural’ hospital in Walla Walla, Washington. It was the most exciting time in my life because I was beginning the first chapter of ‘adulting’. It was a series of firsts with my first ‘real’ job, first apartment, and first time truly being on my own. Initially, it was everything I thought it would be; intense learning and serious excitement. About six months into it, my passion began to slowly fade into exhaustion and poor health habits set in.

My first three months in nursing, like any new graduate nurse were spent orienting. Due to the nature of small hospitals, cross training is important and also budget friendly. I trained in the Intensive Care Unit, Medical Surgical floor, PACU, and the Cardiac Cath Lab. I absolutely loved the flexibility and variety. What I didn’t love, was working a 12 hour overnight shift and then responding to STEMI call before noon. My body became run down so quickly. I was not sure what I needed but I knew that I needed a change.

"Without a healthy me, my work truly suffered."

At the six-month mark, I requested to come of nights because my body was ultimately saying “HELL NO”. I just always felt tired and exhausted and I really began to worry that it was impacting my care with my patients. I realized that many people in my department were working hard and I didn’t want to seem like a ‘millennial cry-baby’.

However, increasing anxiety, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and increasing gastric reflux began to cripple me. I quickly realized the most important factor in the care of my patients, was me. Without a healthy me, my work truly suffered. I made more mistakes, I missed things, and I just found it hard to really use my working power to be 100% present for my patients. I found support and understanding from a handful of other nurses but also resistance and shame from some. I was caught between standing up for sanity or just pushing through no matter the cost. Ultimately, after several months, I crippled under pressure and took a couple of weeks off to get away so that I could restore my energy.

"If we promoted self-care amongst staff daily, ultimately, that would translate to better patient care."

Why is self-care not promoted in nursing or in healthcare? After four years and two facilities, I have concluded that taking personal time to promote mental and physical health is usually seen as taboo. However, there are many reasons to why in healthcare your theme song is “Work” by Rihanna. These reasons include short staffing, scheduling, patient load, budget deficits, and many more.

After taking those two weeks off, I came back rejuvenated and ready. However, I began to think that if we promoted self-care amongst staff daily, ultimately, that would translate to better patient care. Self-care in the workplace would look like proper assignments, adequate resources in staff, and efficient and safe scheduling. Now as a graduate Nurse practitioner student, my aim is to further this grassroots idea of self-care as I transition into my last year through research.

About the author:

Nonee Ngazimbi, RN, BSN is a Critical Care Nurse and MSN-AGACNP student living and working in Connecticut. Nonee has been a nurse for almost 4 years and she is excited to continue her education during her journey to become a nurse practitioner. When Nonee is not busy with her day job, she enjoys chatting with her friends and writing for her part-time blog about life and style.


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