This blog post was written by Marquina Watts, MSN, RN, CNL, who is a Nurse at Independence Plus.

img_7611A great friend of mine sent me a wonderful message attached with a photo titled “Anatomy of a Nurse.” It included “a mind that’s always assessing,” “warm heart,” “warped senses of humor,” “eyes that have seen it all.” It also included “aching back,” “empty stomach,” “full bladder,” “tired feet,” and “dry, chapped hands.” As I continued to read, although my friend was thoughtful with great intentions, the nurse in me said, “wait a minute, that’s not a good anatomy.” It is not okay to be hungry, have back pain, nor a full bladder. We would not tell our patients that those things were “okay.” Most of us would use these as teaching opportunities and educate our patients on the risks and benefits, as well as alternatives to positive self-care. So why do we think it is acceptable for us? Has it become socially acceptable and the subconsciously the new norm for nurses to sacrifice their health in the name of patient care?

The way we provide care for our patients must be the way we provide care for ourselves.  Nurses’ physical use of self is, figuratively, a money-maker and our livelihood depends on it. Self-care is a necessity to preserve it. Below are 9 tips to help preserve your moneymaker:

  1. Hand care. Constant hand washing, in my case, equates to dry cracked hands. Have some good moisturizing lotion in the car or in your bag to be used as soon as you leave work. A regimen to use before bed and/or days off is to moisturize your hands with petroleum jelly and cover your hands with plastic wrap or thin socks. I personally use petroleum jelly mixed with Palmer’s Cocoa Butter.  If you are feeling fancy, schedule a nice, professional hand massage!
  1. Stop smoking. Or at least try.
  1. Use proper body mechanics. Preserve your body! Bend your knees. Stretch! Maintain your center of gravity. Practice what you were taught. If needed, use support garments such as back braces and/or support hose. Invest in a good pair of shoes. It might be pricey in the beginning but in the long run, they will pay off. (Check out a great past IPI blog on the 12 Rules of Body Mechanics!  https://www.independenceplus.com/education/12-rules-of-body-mechanics-infographic)
  1. Eat! We all know that shifts can get busy, so start getting quick snacks (no junk food) where you can take a bite then go off to handle business. Something I like to call “the bite & go.” Raise your hand if you want to pass out in front of patient(s) due to hypoglycemia.
  1. Don’t “hold it”! You may feel like you do not have enough time to run to the restroom, but you do. “Holding it” may not seem like much now, but let’s think about this: urine contains all sorts of things that our body does not need. Simply put, urine is waste, which includes bacteria. The longer urine stays in your bladder, the risks of bacteria growing into an infection increases. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, you can comfortably hold up to 2 cups of urine for 2 to 5 hours. Once it is no longer comfortable, listen to your body and head towards the bathroom. Over time, the risks of urine retention and incontinence are increased as a result of frequently overstretching your bladder.
  1. Hydrate! Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces. If you weigh 100 lbs, drink at least 50 oz. of water daily. We have read and learned the many benefits of water and its role in mood and energy enhancement, possible headache alleviation, and improvement to your thought processes and bowels. Your kidneys also look for it to aid in filtering the waste in your body that you eliminate by, you got it… urinating! If you are going to the bathroom 1-2 times a 12-hour shift, you’re probably not drinking enough water.
  1. Get adequate rest. Easier said than done, but keep working on it!
  1. Practice what you preach! Anything you tell your patients regarding self-care, you should be doing for yourself, if applicable. You will have a different glow about your delivery when you teach your patient about proper care because of the genuine self-care you give yourself. Your patient(s) will sense that you are not just reading from a teaching plan that is pre-written.
  1. Mind Management. Reduce your stress, worries, anxieties, etc! Mental health is extremely important and has a major impact on your physical health. Happiness is a crucial component in life, especially as a nurse. Treat others kindly. Do something you enjoy, even if it’s just once a week. Think about positive ways that help you relax and do them, mindfully.

At the end of the day, if you do not holistically take care of yourself, how long do you expect your “moneymaker” to last? Are you truly able to provide the best quality health care to your patients if you are not mindful of the health aspect in your life? I am not exempt from these questions. I frequently consider my anatomy as a nurse. No one is perfect. Honesty is the first step to self-awareness.

What is your anatomy as a nurse?

Join the American Nurses’ Association’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge (www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/WorkplaceSafety/Healthy-Nurse)

Upcoming ANA online course Healthy Nurse, Health Nation: A Journey to Self-Care (https://learn.ana-nursingknowledge.org/catalog.php?category=133&keyword=healthy+nurse%2C+healthy+nation&searchcategory)