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The importance of self-care for improving student nurse wellbeing

By Sophie Emery - Student Nurse First published: Last updated:
Research into the benefits of supporting staff wellbeing is growing, with increasing recognition and understanding within the healthcare system that well supported staff are not only beneficial for the individual's health, but can also make us better and safer clinicians.

Self-care strategies

The primary duties of protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce are the responsibility of employers, but I believe there are several self-care practices that I can use to improve my own wellbeing. I have always had a keen passion for discovering strategies to improve my physical and mental wellbeing. In these uncertain times I know how important it is to maintain these self-care rituals. These can include taking allocated breaks, staying active and practising mindfulness. I have chosen to focus on these self-care practices myself, as I feel they have benefitted me most throughout my nursing degree.

Taking allocated breaks

The scheduling of self-care practices, such as taking allocated breaks, helps the conflicts and challenges that arise throughout the day become easier to rationalise and overcome. Rest breaks are very important and help create safe working environments, even more so at times like the present, as fatigue can lead to mistakes and increase the risk of infection. The duty stands with trusts to ensure staff can take regular breaks to recharge and prevent the onset of physical and mental fatigue. Taking allocated breaks whenever possible helps provide the opportunity to rehydrate, which improves concentration and cognitive function. When out in practice, I try to take my breaks whenever I can, and try to view breaks as essential to support a healthy working environment, and not as a luxury.

Mindfulness helps me to feel calmer in the moment and able to leave work-related stresses at work

Exercise and physical activity

Nursing is considered to be a physically demanding profession, with many hours spent standing and moving around. Thus it is vital we look after our own physical wellbeing. Keeping physically active through exercise can also have a direct impact on improving mental wellbeing. Completing exercise benefits us all by releasing ‘happy’ hormones, such as serotonin and endorphins.

I find exercise helps to improve my mood, my concentration levels when completing essays and reduces stress. The current government recommendations for exercise is 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. For me, discovering running as a form of exercise has helped me to keep motivated, and I ensure that I schedule in time to do it.

Practising mindfulness

Stress levels and psychosocial wellbeing are as important as physical health. I have recently started practising mindfulness as a form of meditation. Mindfulness helps you to connect with what is happening in the present moment, rather than being fearful of the past or future. For me, mindfulness helps me to feel calmer in the moment and able to leave work-related stresses at work without taking them home. It is becoming clear that nurses everywhere could benefit from mindfulness. By concentrating on the present moment and not worrying about the past or future, it can enable nurses to provide better patient care.

Concluding thoughts

In this current uncertain time, I am reminded of the importance of looking after myself and ensuring that I seek further advice and support if needed. As a health professional, I have a responsibility to invest in my own mental and physical wellbeing so I can be alert and enthusiastic when providing care for my patients, and to help me succeed in my university work. Over my 3 years of training I have found that it is important to find a self-care method that is individual to me and suits my schedule, helping me to practice regularly. I have found taking an interest in my own health, exploring what makes me a happy and motivated health professional, has helped me with the willingness to care for others to the best of my abilities.

 

Sophie Emery

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