The year 2020 is being designated as the Year of the Nurse. What a year it has been so far.
My life coach quoted me something that I would like to share. I don’t know the author.
A young man dies for a cause and a wise man lives for a cause.
That quote helped me to make my own quote about nursing right now.
A dead nurse takes care of no patients and a quarantined nurse can take care of no patients.
These quotes got me to thinking about my meaning of the Year of the Nurse.
Maybe this is the year that nurses realize that they are human. By that I mean that their lives matter too. You don’t have to be a martyr for your patients. You don’t have to prove to anyone that you are a “good” nurse.
When I started to take care of myself, I realized that I also became a better nurse for my patients. When I took my lunch breaks and bathroom breaks, I was less hurried and less tired at the end of the shift. I had a clear head and was able to make better decisions. I also decided that working a lot of overtime wasn’t helping me to take care of myself. I needed more days off to recuperate. Nursing is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining at times. My days off are for getting myself back into tip top mental, physical, and emotional shape so that I can be the best me that I can be.
During nursing school, I think is when I started to think that is was okay to put my needs behind the patient’s needs. During nursing school, I remember a teacher telling me to always bring something to eat for lunch that didn’t have to go into the microwave and that you could stand up and eat. At the time this made so much sense to me. Looking back now, I would ask why can’t I sit down and eat my lunch. Going to the hospitals during nursing school, I would see the busy nurses and some of them didn’t take their lunch breaks because they were so busy and stressed out. My idea of what nursing was was born in nursing school.
I can see how this thinking led to my burn out and stress. This thinking lead me to not take my lunch breaks or bathroom breaks. My first hospital job told me when I was hired to put a letter into the manager when I didn’t get to take my lunch break so that I would get paid for not taking my lunch break. After the second time that I did that, I was called into the office. The manager then said that I had a time management problem. She wanted me to start taking my lunch breaks. It was hard to take my lunch breaks when I had between 6-7 patients. After getting called into the office, I just stopped putting in the notices to my manger that I didn’t get my lunch breaks. I worked for free during my lunch breaks.
It is okay for nurses to put themselves first. Even before your patients. I know that may shock a lot of nurses but for me that is true.
For example, when I didn’t take my lunch breaks, I would feel physically weak by the end of the shift. I would have a headache and my eyes would burn. I didn’t drink enough water. I felt like a dried sponge. When I started to take my lunch breaks and drink water, those symptoms went away. When I get my patient some water, I drink a glass of water too. That simple act of getting water helped me to see myself as human and worthy of being taken care of. No one was going to take of me for me.
It’s not selfish to take care of yourself first.
Nurses think that if they put themselves first then they are a bad nurse. It doesn’t make you a bad nurse. It doesn’t make you a bad nurse to say no to working overtime. It doesn’t make you a bad nurse to refuse to take a patient assignment that you feel is dangerous for you. Eight patients for one nurse is too many patients. It is okay to say no to that.
I know we are going through a pandemic right now but it is still okay to take care of yourself first. It is not selfish but necessary at this time. You will be more effective when you are well rested, eating healthy, and exercising. You won’t be as effective when you are tired, eating unhealthy, and not exercising.
Nurses I implore you to make this the Year of the Nurse. See yourself as valuable. See yourself as worthy of the same care that you give to your patients. It is okay to be compassionate to yourself. It is okay to be kind to yourself. It is okay to take the time to love yourself. It is okay to get the rest that your body needs. It is okay to take a day off during this rough time. It is okay to drink water at work. It is okay to take a lunch break. It is okay to take a bathroom break. It is okay to say no to working overtime if you don’t want to. It is okay not to allow yourself to be burnt out. It is okay to take care of your mental health.
It is okay to take care of yourself first.