Self-Care for Nurses Starts With Leaders’ Support

Content courtesy of Children’s National Hospital.

It’s no secret that self-care is an important part of maintaining overall health. But finding the time to nourish their bodies, minds, and spirits can be a challenge for nurses.

“Nurses are trained to provide compassionate care for patients, yet we’re not trained in the compassion of caring for ourselves,” says Pam Ressler, MS, RN, HNB-BC, founder of in Concord, Mass.

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit nurses especially hard. A recent survey conducted by the American Nurses Association (ANA), found that one out of three nurses reported not feeling emotionally healthy. Most reported feeling stressed (75%), frustrated (69%), and overwhelmed (62%).

In a news release, Kate Judge, ANA Executive Director, said “The data collected from this survey overwhelmingly demonstrates the need to provide consistent and comprehensive support for our nation’s nurses.”

Pam Ressler, RN

Ressler agrees, noting that self-care needs to start at the top with nurse leaders serving as role models for their staff, prioritizing their own self-care, and providing a supportive environment where nurses are encouraged to take regular breaks and lunches. Ressler regularly consults with healthcare leaders and others, teaching them how to cultivate “sustainable resilience.”

“One way to create more sustainable resilience is by cultivating mindful moments throughout your day,” Ressler said. “Look for the beauty in your surroundings. One of my favorite quotes is from the late writer, Lisa Bonchek Adams, who said, ‘Find a bit of beauty in the world today. If you can’t find it, create it.’”

If finding time for self-care is difficult — as it often is for nurses — nurse experts recommend the following resources:

Lead by Example: In their book, “Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare: Evolution of a Revolution,” authors Lucy Leclerc, PhD, RN, NPD-BC; Kay Kennedy, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ; and Susan Campis, MSN, RN, NE-BC, discuss human-centered leadership, a concept that puts people first by making employee wellness a priority. The three tenets of human-centered leadership are empathy, vulnerability, and humility. The three nurses launched a company, uLeadership, that offers consulting, in-person workshops, and virtual workshops for nurses, including “Care for the Caregiver: It Starts with You.”

“One thing we found in our research is that there isn’t a leadership approach specific to health care,” Leclerc said. “We found that strong nursing leadership thrives on self-care — nurse leaders advocating for their own self-care and encouraging their nurses to do the same. That self-care then extends to their teams and subsequently their patients. That’s why one of our taglines is ‘It starts with you but it’s not about you.’” Leclerc said in a news release issued by Kennesaw State University.

The book offers guidance for nurse leaders on the value of “starting with self,” which includes practicing self-care, self-compassion, self-awareness, and mindfulness.

Practice Pam’s 1-5-7 Plan: Ressler put together a list of ideas ranging from choosing to be gentle with your body by spending five minutes each morning doing gentle stretches or connecting with your breathing. Nurse …read more

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