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Caroline Shuldham: Looking after yourself and your colleagues

With nurses in all settings experiencing increased pressure and greater demands, it has never been more important to look after your health and well-being, says Caroline Shuldham.
Self-care

With nurses in all settings experiencing increased pressure and greater demands, it has never been more important to look after your health and well-being, says Caroline Shuldham

Nurses should follow their own lifestyle advice. Picture: iStock

Nurses in all sectors are under great pressure as they respond to the increasing number of patients, often with multiple problems, and the complexities of care. It is therefore important to look after yourself, both in and outside of work.

While pressure can prompt high performance it can also lead to stress and poorer physical and mental health. One of the first things to do is to recognise when the demands and intensity of work are having a negative impact on your health and well-being, and be alert to signs of stress, such as persistent low mood, making mistakes and poor concentration.

Lifestyle advice

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With nurses in all settings experiencing increased pressure and greater demands, it has never been more important to look after your health and well-being, says Caroline Shuldham

Self-care
Nurses should follow their own lifestyle advice.
Picture: iStock

Nurses in all sectors are under great pressure as they respond to the increasing number of patients, often with multiple problems, and the complexities of care. It is therefore important to look after yourself, both in and outside of work.

While pressure can prompt high performance it can also lead to stress and poorer physical and mental health. One of the first things to do is to recognise when the demands and intensity of work are having a negative impact on your health and well-being, and be alert to signs of stress, such as persistent low mood, making mistakes and poor concentration.

Lifestyle advice

You don’t have to wait until there is a problem. Looking after yourself should be a preemptive strategy, but there’s the rub. As nurses, we need to take control and apply the same lifestyle advice to ourselves that we give to patients.

This includes avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake, not taking recreational drugs, and maintaining optimum weight along with a healthy diet and exercise. Although nurses know this, they do not always manage to do it.

Adequate time off, the companionship and support of family and friends, and having interests beyond the workplace all play their part in maintaining health and well-being, and can help increase confidence and improve performance.

Everyone benefits

Despite busy work schedules we can all help ourselves by learning to relax, asking for help, countering negative thoughts and taking regular exercise. Talking to managers can also be helpful – they need to consider the effect of the working environment on staff, and may be able to make changes to help improve staff well-being.

A recent example is the focus on the lack of meal breaks and low fluid intake among nurses at work, and how these can to be corrected.

Looking after yourself and your colleagues benefits not only you but also your team. Research shows a positive impact of staff well-being on patient care and experience.

As we improve our understanding of the importance of staff well-being for everyone, there can be no better reason for looking after yourself, especially in these times of increased pressures and greater demands on everyone.

Caroline Shuldham

Caroline Shuldham is chair of the RCNi editorial advisory board. A former nursing director, she is an independent adviser on research, teaching and mentoring.

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