Avoiding Burnout: The Age of Mindfulness

What IS health, anyway?

Nurses should know...we promote health and hope for a living, right? But do we make sure ALL caregivers are cared for?

Even us?

In 2017, the ANA focused on nurses keeping nurses healthy for nurse’s week, which is long overdue! Most consider Florence Nightingale to be the founder of holistic nursing, and nurses are taught to approach their nursing practice with the holism she embodied in her work. The World Health Organization describes health as “a complete physical, mental, and social well- being” not just being without disease or illness. According to the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) holistic nursing practice is an “attitude, a philosophy” which enhances healing of the WHOLE person (http://www.ahna.org/). The AHNA is the organization which first defined the standard of holistic nursing practice over a decade ago. But teaching our clients the “body-mind-spirit connection” is only possible when we integrate self-care into our own lives.

Integrating holistic concepts into practice is what we do, but we must remember not to leave ourselves out!

Taking care of nurses and nursing students is tough–we work long hours in stressful situations and put a lot of strain on our bodies in addition to our spirit. We show up each day to an obstacle course of conflict resolution, a list of hoops to jump through, and often piles of despair. Nursing demands technical skill and a very thick coat of emotional armor–and most of all–care with a smile. “Burnout” is a term you will hear right away when you enter the nursing profession. It’s no wonder we are plagued by this phenomenon. Studies show that burnout contributes to nursing role stress and poorer client outcomes (Fennessey, 2016). In fact, nursing has been found to be a profession with high levels of “burnout syndrome” (Manzano-Garcia, 2017). On top of that, nurses endure physical strain. Safe patient handling policies–even legislation–are commonplace now, and it is not just about providing safety for patients. It stems from studies that show that nurses injure themselves OFTEN because of the work they do. Studies report that nurses are at higher risk for musculoskeletal pain than many other professions. All the more reason to take some time for yourself each day! Nursing students may experience even more stress than nurses. Just think of simply trying to learn staffing patterns at each new clinical site! So how do we care for our own mental and physical health? First, take time this year to reflect on what YOU need for balance. Yes–exactly what Mr. Miyagi touted in The Karate Kid...achieving harmony in life is a personal journey. For some, meditation or massage sets things right, for others, taking time for favorite music each day or a daily workout is a welcome ‘reset’. When I first got started as an emergency room nurse, I quickly discovered I had to make a conscious effort to bring healthy eats and a supply of water.
When things got crazy I could easily go 12 hours without a meal–or worse, resort to dinner a la vending machine at 2 a.m.
Taking the time to plan self-care is as simple as that for most of us, and it is essential for avoiding pitfalls of burnout AND chronic disease.

Some tips to jump-start self-care:

  • “Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow...” Yep, the old adage is true! Do not delay a plan for self-care. Get around to it now.
  • Learn to say no...kindly. Nurses are a jack-of-all-trades, but even still, we overwhelm ourselves by taking on more than we can juggle. Learn to set limits and expectations.
  • Start small. What may seem insignificant in a long day can amount to soul survival–even if it’s making sure you hydrate during your shift! If you have trouble getting started, rely on what you have learned to teach your patients and start there.
  • Be kind to your body. Find routines that allow rest and provide fuel that energizes.
  • Make time...Enough said. Not only for yourself, but be totally present in all interactions with patients, colleagues, and family.
  • Don't 'skip' vacations. Plan time away from work every year.

Building a supportive work and home environment for nurses is important.

There is a reason to believe that reducing burnout and delivering kinder care may actually improve patient outcomes, too! Researchers at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) conducted research that found more compassion at the bedside equals better outcomes. We know that taking care of patients’ caregivers is essential for better outcomes. Providing emotional support and access to resources for a spouse struggling to care for their ill loved one can mean success instead of failure. Let’s not forget about ourselves, AND each other. It may seem like you’re drowning in school or work and have no time for mindfulness or balance, but finding time for self-care will make for a kinder work environment and healthy nurses. -Cindi Bell, RN Sources: Fennessey, A. G. (2016). The Relationship of Burnout, Work Environment, and Knowledge to Self-Reported Performance of Physical Assessment by Registered Nurses. MEDSURG Nursing, 25(5), 346-350 Manzano-García, G., & Ayala, J. (2017). Insufficiently studied factors related to burnout in nursing: Results from an e-Delphi study. Plos ONE, 12(4), 1-20. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0175352 Lee, S., Lee, J. H., & Gershon, R. M. (2015). Musculoskeletal symptoms in nurses in the early implementation phase of California's safe patient handling legislation. Research In Nursing & Health, 38(3), 183-193. doi:10.1002/nur.21657 Blum, C. A. (2014). Practicing Self-Care for Nurses: A Nursing Program Initiative. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 19(3), 3 Dignity, H. (0011, December). Scientific Literature Review Shows Health Care Delivered with Kindness and Compassion Leads to Faster Healing, Reduced Pain. Business Wire (English) Frisch, N. (May 31, 2001). "Standards for Holistic Nursing Practice: A Way to Think About Our Care That Includes Complementary and Alternative Modalities". Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 6 No. 2, Manuscript 4. http://ccare.stanford.edu