Self-care can be defined as any deliberate act that we do to provide for and revitalize our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Mental health in any job field is important, but for healthcare workers, it becomes even more so. According to the American Nurses Association, there is “an urgent need to improve [nurses’] health, particularly in the areas of physical activity, nutrition, rest, safety, and quality of life.” Self-care practices are especially crucial for health care workers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the importance. In a 2020 Nursing Standard survey, eight out of ten nurses reported that their mental health had been negatively impacted by COVID, while six out of ten nurses reported a negative impact on their physical health as well. Now, more than ever, it’s important to identify the importance of and put into practice self-care.
Self-care is so critical that it’s even in the American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics. It is stated that the moral respect and care that nurses extend to all human beings “extends to oneself as well: the same duties that we owe to others we owe to ourselves.” These duties include:
Promoting one’s health and safety
Preserving the wholeness of one’s character and integrity
Continuing personal and professional growth
Self-care serves all of these responsibilities. Self-care keeps healthcare workers safe, healthy, and promotes well-being. It alleviates the stress that healthcare workers experience as a natural part of caregiving. No one can pour from an empty cup. Self-care and patient care go hand-in-hand.
Healthcare workers must practice regular self-care, however, the facilities that staff them can contribute to the self-care of their own nurses. To uplift the mental health of staff, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities should:
Provide adequate staffing support to prevent staff burnout
Encourage and facilitate clear and frequent communication
Rotate staff out of high-stress assignments for mental health breaks
Implement flexible scheduling
Support staff with readily available and easily accessible mental health resources
Nurses must advocate for themselves in order to advocate for their patients, and healthcare facilities must advocate for the medical professionals that staff them. Through practicing self-care, nurses become better caregivers. Healthcare facilities can further contribute to that by upholding values that encourage positive mental health.