This article was provided by AMN Healthcare.
Shift work is par for the nursing course, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. A study originally published by the Department of Health and Human Services noted that long hours and odd shifts could lead to negative consequences, such as injuries, poor job performance, obesity, and chronic illnesses.
In short, if you’re not taking care of yourself as a nurse, you put yourself and your patients at risk for harm. One way to reduce those issues is to follow some proven self-care tips.
Check out these seven self-care ideas for nurses who are looking to reduce stress.
7 Self-Care Activities for Travel Nurses
1. Don’t sacrifice your own nutritional needs.
With a busy patient roster and an emergency always seemingly around the corner, it can be difficult for many nurses to take a break for a wholesome snack or meal. That leaves a lot of healthcare pros munching on less-than-healthy alternatives in the few minutes they can steal for lunch. And working shifts outside of the traditional 9 to 5 doesn’t just make it hard to eat lunch; it could impact your breakfast and dinner, too. Margaret Roth, a retired RN, says she used to work weekends, pulling long shifts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. She made extra food on Thursday and prepared it in to-go containers, so she didn’t have to think about eating healthy when she worked.
2. Use a sleep app for power napping.
Shift work or just the stress of a normal day in a physician’s office can play havoc with sleep cycles. The Joint Commission notes that insufficient or poor-quality sleep over a long period of time can cause a variety of problems for healthcare workers and their patients, so sleep is one of the most important self-care tips. If you’re struggling with nightly Zs or want to foster a strong power-napping habit, consider investing in an app like Pzizz, which uses the power of binaural beats to soothe you into rest at night or during a quick daytime nap, even when you’re sleeping in a new place or hotel. “If I had to think about it or do too much during those days, I’d end up with fast food,” she says. That’s double trouble for a nurse who travels.
3. Enjoy time with friends both within and outside of your career.
Don’t make your entire life about your career. Enjoying spending time with people you really care about, including family, friends, and even colleagues is an important self-care activity. Roth recommends striking a balance and not only hanging around with other nurses. “Nursing was a huge part of my life,” she says, “but I wasn’t just a nurse. I loved being around people who really understood … really knew what I did every day, but I also needed to be around my family, too.” Some ideas for spending time with people outside of work include creating a special family dinner night, getting together once a month with old friends, and taking staycations and mini-vacations with friends or family once a quarter. Take time to return to cities and connect with friends and make new friends in travel nursing locations.
4. Find a hobby you enjoy.
When considering self-care ideas, think about stuff that you enjoy doing. Yes, you might enjoy your job — nursing is often a passion or calling, after all. But it’s probably not all you like or want to do, and engaging in other activities can boost your morale, improve focus and creativity, and provide an outlet for frustrations. Potential hobbies might include hiking, horseback riding, needlework, cooking, painting, writing, carpentry, antiquing, or gardening. Choose something that sounds interesting to you, and don’t be afraid you have to commit to it. The great thing about a hobby is that you can change it when you get bored with it.
5. Care for your personality type appropriately.
When it comes to putting self-care tips into action, it helps to know your own personality type. Introverts engage in self-care activities differently than extroverts. While both do need time for rest and relaxation, extroverts tend to draw energy from being around others, while introverts gain energy from being alone. And while it might seem like most people choosing to enter the nursing field would be extroverts, American Nursing Today points out that many nurses — and nurse leaders — are introverts.
6. Get exercise off the nursing floor.
You might be ready for a hot shower and relaxation at the end of a long shift, but that doesn’t always mean you got cardio in. A busy trauma nurse might run the halls, and any nurse in a facility setting probably puts his or her muscles to work regularly. But you might also sit at a desk or nurse’s station for hours, and that isn’t ideal for your health. Give your cardiovascular system a boost by engaging in aerobic exercise regularly. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends engaging in walking, jogging, rowing, biking, or similar activities for 20 minutes to one hour between three and five times each week.
7. Set appropriate challenges for yourself to stay engaged in your career.
Implementing all these self-care tips may not help if you’re constantly placing undue stress on yourself at work. Take some time to consider your career and what you want from it and set appropriate goals that challenge you without being impossible. Expect the same of others, too. Roth said she saw a lot of nurses struggle with untenable positions over the years. “Sometimes you have to be brave enough to say no or make a change,” she says. While nursing is definitely a challenging career, it’s an in-demand one. If you aren’t satisfied with your current position, chances are you can find another if you start applying to different opportunities.