In the past few years, there has been a much-needed push for nurses to be aware of and undertake self-care. However, the vast majority of this focuses on the before and after work periods. Whilst the importance of self-care has been acknowledged, it remains a low priority during a nursing shift. How many lunches have been skipped, bladders held too long and even drinks of water abandoned in our pursuit of providing the best care possible to our patients? How do we balance caring for ourselves with caring for our patients?
To attain this balance, frontline nurses need a combination of three crucial elements; good teamwork, strong leadership and responsive management. Team work is critical in nursing. We need teams where our colleagues feel they can ask for help, without being dismissed or ridiculed. Every nurse, no matter how experienced, will have shifts when they struggle, and we need to feel confident asking for a lifeline, rather than letting ourselves drown.
Our leaders need to be cognisant of how their teams are coping. A good leader needs to know details such as which nurses skipped morning tea or lunch, have a heavy patient load or high acuity patients or might be reluctant to ask for help. They need to know what resources they have at their disposal to help their team and how to access them. Importantly, they need to communicate issues to management and advocate for their team.
Our frontline nurses need responsive management who give their staff’s welfare the priority it deserves. A manager who values the health and welfare of the nurses working for them, who realises that a little flexibility can prevent a break, will create a culture where self-care is a priority for all.
**Laurie is a regular columnist for the Australian College of Nursing “The Hive” Magazine offering her perspective as an early career nurse. This column was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue ***