Every nurse in every country in the world is now connected in some way to the novel coronavirus emergency. Resources are strained at the least or non-existent at the most. The rule book is being thrown out of the window in some cases due to the hourly shifts in information, changes in strategy and the increase in patient flow into our hospitals.
We’ve all heard it said that we need to care for ourselves before we can properly care for others. Although nurses are trained caregivers, many often forget the importance of self-care. Nurses everywhere during this crisis will continue to be selfless and regularly sacrifice time and effort, placing themselves at even more risk during these times of urgent need, increased requests to work longer hours, and shrinking access to personal protective equipment. Inevitably this can lead to errors on the job, fatigue, burnout, and reduced immunity to getting sick yourselves.
How can we handle this? We wish we could send you more than virtual hugs and support, but in the absence of that, here are 5 tips that may help you as nurses and healthcare workers to feel more empowered as you struggle through the current crisis.
Mindfulness means being careful of what you allow into your mind before you even start your shift. The primary need in a crisis is to build resilience against all the negativity and panic we see circling around us. Mindfully consider how you are personally responding to the crisis. Try to establish something proactive you can do to be part of a solution to a particularly frustrating problem. Limit bad news intake. Play some great motivational music in your car or over your device on your way to work. (Try this list from The Daily Telegraph, UK “Don’t stop me now”- Queen, “Dancing Queen”- Abba, “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor, “I’m a believer” – Monkees, “Livin’ on a Prayer” -Bon Jovi, “I will survive” Gloria Gaynor, “Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina and the Waves. “The boys are back in town” – Thin Lizzy…or build your own list). If nothing else, practice mindful breathing.
2. Get enough sleep
During stressful times, we’re likely to skip sleep, either voluntarily or not. But you will need more quality sleep during stressful times than ever so that you can remain energetic, clear-headed, and focused to figure out your next steps.
3. Eat properly
We’ve all done it. “I don’t have time to go to the cafeteria or lunchroom. A couple of bites on this candy bar will have to do,” or “I’ll just live on coffee.” If you think your work schedule is going to be crazy with no time for breaks, eat a good solid and nutritious meal prior to your shift including all four food groups. Sorry, chocolate is not a food group. Drink enough fluids during your shift but remember, caffeine is a diuretic. If possible, have a healthy sandwich or snack waiting in your bag or car for the way home so you’re not tempted to stop at the local drive-through.
4. Talk to other nurses or people who understand
What we don’t express, we suppress. It never ends well. Find support from all of the strong, amazing nurses and people you know. You will find this uplifting.
5. Take care of each other
You are not alone during these difficult times. There are likely to be many colleagues who feel disheartened even though they may not say it. Your colleagues will appreciate your proactive approach and may even be glad that there is someone who shares the same feelings they have. The many friendships that you will make during hard times could become lifelong bonds, and even turn into unexpected help in the future.
We hope you’re able to implement these 5 tips as you work through this pandemic, and every day moving forward. Thank you for your tireless efforts to keep us healthy. We are thinking of you!