I’ve worked with many nurses over the years and one thing they all have in common is the uncanny ability to care for everyone around them; not necessarily themselves. When you’re on your seventh shift of the week, the kids are calling about something they need for school, you’re figuring out how you’re going to pay the bills this month, and you have no idea what you’re cooking the family for dinner, it can be really difficult to just stop for a minute, take a deep breath and ask what you have done to care for yourself today.
This year’s National Nurses Week, May 6 to 12, is all about encouraging nurses to take the time to nurture themselves so they have the resilience to care for others. With a theme of “Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit,” the American Nurses Association is reminding us to look after our own well-being.
Nurses are naturally caring people, predominantly female, and have numerous responsibilities at work and home. We tend to live by the rule, “Do as I say, not as I do,” because while we understand the importance of getting good nutrition, plenty of rest and enough exercise, we aren’t very good at doing so ourselves. As a group we are getting older too, with 55 percent of the RN workforce age 50 or older, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. As much as I hate to admit it, as we age we can’t do quite as much as we did when we were younger.
We also need to be more careful to avoid workplace hazards and on-the-job injuries, such as when using lift equipment, turning patients and avoiding needle sticks by using the appropriate safety devices. Voalte solutions not only offer more timely communication between staff and physicians, but also give nurses tools to manage their safety. When you have a patient who weighs 600 pounds, you can refer to the Voalte Directory to see who is available and send a text message requesting help, without leaving the bedside. You can create teams for turning, send reminders or perhaps even send a caring message to another nurse having a hard time that shift.
Not only do Voalte products offer the opportunity to consider safety – they offer the gift of time. By eliminating the need to chase down physicians or locate the appropriate team member, we can give nurses a little time back in their day. These minutes add up, making it easier for you to take breaks, make sure you stay hydrated and get the nutrition you need. Maybe you can even take a few minutes to clear your thoughts and just be present.
Our jobs and our lives will always be full, but we can strive to find balance by constantly recalibrating how much we do and what we contribute for each aspect of our lives. As we consider how to balance “mind, body and spirit” this Nurses Week, think about how you’re stimulating your mind with education and new skills, whether your body is getting enough rest and ample exercise, and the ways you are feeding your soul, whether participating in your local church or practicing meditation.
Trying to find your balance also means giving yourself a break when you don’t meet all the goals you set for the different parts of your life. My husband calls it the 80/20 rule: If we’re pretty good most of the time, it’s OK to indulge or slip into unhealthy habits sometimes. It’s a good rule to live by! So here’s to each of you finding your balance so you can take care of yourselves as well as you care for all those around you.
Cheryl McKay, PhD, RN, is Chief Nursing Officer at Voalte.