Art of Self-Care

As nurses, we have the privilege of caring for patients, families, and even our fellow healthcare workers. It is a noble profession that requires compassion, dedication, and a deep sense of purpose. Being a nurse allows me to fulfill these roles and make a positive impact on people’s lives. 

As healthcare professionals, we may often prioritize the needs of our patients above our own. This means that their well-being is our top priority, and we strive to provide the best possible care to meet their needs.  But we cannot be the best we can be if we neglect our own care and health. 

As a nurse, I have experienced firsthand the demands of the job – long hours, standing on my feet for extended periods, and forgetting to eat or take restroom breaks. I used to believe that this selflessness made me a better nurse until I began to experience burnout and depression, as have many other nurses. It’s easy to forget to drink a glass of water, eat an apple, or take 5 minutes to sit down and regroup.  Because we’re nurses.  We’re supposed to be superhuman or something, right? 

When I worked full-time in home health, I saw 6-8 patients a day, took call on weekends, and worked my share of holidays and night shifts. As I moved along in my nursing career, I no longer worked the night shift. This was a move-up, but I was still not focused on caring for myself. 

When I did home care, I used to leave my home every morning at 8 am and return at 4 pm. During that time, there were many times that I went without taking a break for lunch or even taking the time to use the bathroom. I avoided drinking water during the day because we were instructed not to use the patient’s bathrooms, as it was deemed “unprofessional.”  It can be very challenging to find a clean, safe restroom to use in the inner city areas.

As I look back over the last 20 years, I realize that I prioritized my career over my health and often neglected my basic needs. One day, while running down the stairs, rushing to work, I fell and rolled my right ankle,  putting all my weight on my foot. I  ruptured both the medial and lateral ligaments in my lower leg.  This nasty fall down the stairs was a wake-up call. I took a 21-day break from work to prioritize self-care. 

After my leg healed, I became more dedicated to yoga; I increased my water intake to four quarts per day, started eating three meals with snacks in between, and got 8 hours of sleep each night. 

The art of self-care meant putting my health first so that I could give my best to others. As a result, I was able to fulfill my work responsibilities. When we prioritize self-care, we are better able to care for others.  I no longer work in home health. I  do care transitions now and freelance writing on the side. My life is happier and healthier.  Now,  I am committed to providing the best care to my patients while I also take the best care of “me”.

Janelle Salo RN

Health Writer

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