Top Ten Challenges for Nurses’ Self-Care…and What to Do About Them!


By Elizabeth Scala

  • Being always on the job leaves no time for self
  • Too many commitments puts us at the bottom of the priority list
  • Limited resources, staff, or support at work leaves us feeling frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed
  • Always available by pager, phone, or call light makes it hard to find a break
  • Organizational policy and politics that don’t support self-care ruins our chances for being healthy
  • Fast-paced and physically demanding jobs leave us exhausted and drained
  • Low morale and workplace bullying make us feel sad and lonely
  • Few outlets for stress reduction and debriefing causing us to drink and abuse drugs
  • Self-care isn’t in the budget
  • “On call” or rotating shifts- it’s hard to have a life outside of work!

That’s my “short list”. I am sure there is much more we can all add. In fact, leave a comment below to let us know of the struggles you come up against with respect to taking care of yourself.

Since we’ve gotten that out of the way- let’s focus on the fun stuff… solutions!

Here’s what we know:

  • Nursing is a tough and stressful job that leaves little time for us.
  • What it takes to be healthy- we learn the information in school and teach it to our patients.

Now what? Here are a few easy and practical self-care tools you can start to implement today:

°  Value: In order to actually have time and space for our health we have to value, appreciate, and respect ourselves. You have to place YOU at the tippy-top of your priority list- or as close to it as you can. I know we have children, spouses, and adult parents to take care of- but try. Think and feel as if you are your first priority and you will act that way.

How can we do this? One simple way we discussed on the RN.FM Radio show was through an exercise I do called “I love me”. It’s very simple- when you get out of the shower, look into your eyes, and say out loud three times in the third person: “Elizabeth I completely and absolutely love you.” Try this for a week or two and start to notice the shifts in your life.

°  Support: Nurses are notorious for saying “Yes”. “Can you stay late to cover the floor? Can you switch weekends with me?” And our response: YES, YES, YES. Now I’m not suggesting we become this mean-hearted, unhelpful person who is heard saying “No” all of the time. Not at all!

I encourage you to realize there are people out there who want to help you! Think about it this way: you’re a nurse who likes to say “Yes” and help people out, right? Well, guess what- other nurses think, feel, and act the same way. They want to help and say “Yes” to you! So why not let them?

Here’s what you do: take a blank piece of paper and start a tally. On the top of the page write the title of the place or person you have a hard time saying “No” to. Draw a line down the center of the page: one column “Yes”, one column “No”. Now keep track. Each time that person or place calls you for help, based on your response, put a check mark in that column. Begin to balance your yes and no responses. Say “Yes” only when you can and want to. And realize that it’s ok to accept help and support sometimes; it’s ok to say “No”.

°  Fun: My favorite topic! If it isn’t fun- we won’t do it, right? Health and wellness should not feel like a chore. When healthy behaviors begin to feel like work; we let them go. We avoid them. We procrastinate or stop doing them. Find the healthy behaviors you enjoy. Do you love to dance? Then instead of forcing yourself to go to a gym- take salsa lessons. Have fun with yourself and your health!

In my new process, “Rejuvenate ME!” we’ll go through each of the strategies mentioned above… and more! If you are looking to have more energy, enjoy your life, and feel alive in your body- I’ll be answering questions about “Rejuvenate ME!” on my blog next week. This process is fun, highly interactive, and totally supportive to your health and holistic well-being.

“As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul, and body of our patients, their families and ourselves.” -Maya Angelou