Before I begin describing how I prepare mentally and physically to perform life-saving techniques on my patients, I want to discuss the importance behind it. The pandemic and the years following it have been nothing short of a nightmare and being a nurse student has led me to adopt various forms of learning. It’s been hard doing multiple transitions in nursing school and feeling as if I’m missing valuable clinical hours compared to past cohorts purely because of the pandemic. I began to feel burnt out and just irritable at the world, I started to become more pessimistic, and transform into someone I’m not. It took time for me to realize these changes were happening and that I wasn’t enjoying who I was becoming. This led me to realize I need to either slow down or properly take care of myself. If I am not taking care of myself how can I be fit to take care of others in their times of need? Through self-reflection by journaling, I realized the importance of myself preparing or debriefing from a shift through self-care. The importance behind self-care is allowing your body and mind to unwind and calm themselves from the stress that was the work environment. Giving yourself the time and a safe space to decompress can help decrease anxiety and stress, therefore, improving your overall health.
It is important to understand that everyone’s adaption to self-care is different, what one does for self-care another might not. For me, it purely meant taking a nice shower, putting on a comedy sitcom, texting close friends or looking at memes. My self-care essentially was humor and a nice shower. For example, for night shifts I would try to watch part of a funny movie or sitcom and give myself 30 minutes in bed to enjoy it and have a laugh. And for morning shifts, I would self-care after my shift since I didn’t want to get up earlier than I had to. I am by no means an early bird, unfortunately.
As I completed more shifts and went into different units, I began to feel irritable again despite practicing self-care. I was perplexed as to why I was becoming irritable now unlike before. Through journaling, it dawned on me, that I was in an increased state of stress because prior I was on a postpartum unit and now I am on a surgical unit. The information, patient, staff, basically everything now had changed. The patients were more complex and could develop more life-threatening conditions, such as sepsis, more easily. With myself becoming more irritable I also began forgetting things. Being on a new unit requires you to refamiliarize yourself with where what is. For me, I kept forgetting where the AED defibrillators were located, where syringes were, where crackers were etc. Despite asking numerous times it wouldn’t stick in my brain because I was so preoccupied and felt overwhelmed by being in a new unit. The more I would neglect myself the more forgetful I became in the unit, which is something we don’t want.
The self-care approach I had for the postpartum unit needed to be modified for the surgical unit. I did this in a couple of ways. Firstly, during breaks, I would sit away from my peers because I didn’t want to spend my break time discussing cases or what was going on in the unit. I believed my break time is a break from the unit and strongly would prefer not to speak of anything regarding the unit. Sitting away from peers and spending my break with a coffee watching funny videos or looking at memes allowed me to better recharge. I was able to refresh my mind by laughing and was able to relax my mind since I wasn’t talking to anyone. I would also practice self-care in smaller ways on the unit. For example, checking in with myself and drinking more water and allowing myself to go to the bathroom if everything was safe and I made a peer aware instead of holding it. Through these little acts, my irritation began to decrease. And in terms of self-care at home, the same technique was applied but I would also always get a little pick-me-up before coming home, which usually was Starbucks.
Coming back to how self-care differs for others, this was made evident to me by watching my friend’s after-work routine. She would in fact either go to the gym if it was a day out. Or she would come and cook herself dinner and spend the evening talking to her boyfriend. To her, this routine helped her recharge, but to me, if I did this I would be more drained out. What one does for self-care might not resonate with you but the importance behind a self-care routine is your allowing yourself to unwind and recharge for the next shift. It might take trial and error to find what fits for you, but keep trying! If we as health care professionals don’t care for ourselves, how can we go out and save others?