Career advice

Develop your career and learn to look after yourself at RCNi jobs fair

Self-care workshop will emphasise importance of work-life balance

The well-being workshop is just one of the attractions at the jobs fair in London.  Picture: Barney Newman

A workshop on the importance of looking after yourself is among the highlights of the RCNi Nursing and Careers Jobs Fair on 20 April in London. 

‘Taking care of yourself is important not only to sustain your nursing practice and provide excellent patient care,’ says RCN counsellor and service co-ordinator, Tanja Koch. ‘It also helps ensure you have a good work-life balance. A good level of self-care benefits all areas of your life.’ 

‘Nurses often put themselves last’

But in reality, many nursing staff don’t value their own needs highly enough, she says. ‘In the counselling service, we often find that nurses put themselves last.

‘They have a real dedication to ensuring patients come first, so they don’t look after themselves, assess how they’re feeling and whether or not they are struggling,’ says Ms Koch. 

This can mean that by the time nursing staff finally seek help, they are no longer coping. ‘More members are coming to us in crisis,’ says Ms Koch. ‘They may have sacrificed their own well-being to look after patients, but if they make a mistake, the responsibility is theirs. We want to avoid that.’ 

A reminder to apply patient care skills to yourself

To that end, the RCN has developed an interactive workshop, delivered nationally since 2015, that encourages participants to share their own experiences after assessing their self-care. ‘It’s to help nurses re-engage with what they already know, transferring some of the skills to themselves that they would apply in patient care,’ explains Ms Koch. ‘It’s a reminder that if they can’t look after themselves, how can they look after patients.’ 

Ms Koch will be running two hour-long workshops at the London Jobs Fair, with up to 40 nursing staff taking part each time. Among the aims is to equip them with tools that encourage them to assess themselves more regularly, even daily. ‘If they then find they’re struggling, we want them to seek help sooner,’ says Ms Koch. ‘If they come to counselling earlier, recovery is a lot quicker.’ 

Signs that you might be struggling

Early warning signs include sleep disturbance, changes in appetite, a lack of concentration, making mistakes and being anxious or irritable. ‘We all go through short-term stresses, and everyone can work with that, but if it’s prolonged and can’t be resolved, then it needs to be addressed,’ she advises. 

Tips to better manage your self-care include regularly asking yourself how you are feeling. ‘You can do it while brushing your teeth or commuting to work,’ says Ms Koch. ‘And remember that small things can make a big difference. 

‘Ask yourself – if there is one thing you could change this week, what would it be? It could be as simple as making sure to take your lunch break or seeing your friends. And if you are really struggling, talk to someone you trust, whether at work, a friend, family member or counsellor.’    

For more on the RCNi Nursing and Careers Jobs Fairs, including the seminar programme and a full list of exhibitors, visit the jobs fair website 

Find out more about the RCN’s Healthy Workplace, Healthy You campaign. 

Lynne Pearce is a freelance health journalist