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Passionate about self-care and mindfulness, Elaina has been nursing for over 19 years and has written for The Nurse Break to share some of her experience and tips on staying mentally fit. We hope you enjoy!
Hi everyone, my name is Elaina. I am thirty-nine years old, a Mum to two gorgeous boys and I am a Registered Nurse. I have lived in Perth, Australia for the past nine years but I am originally from Aberdeen, Scotland. I studied Nursing in Aberdeen as soon as I left school in 1997 following in my Mums footsteps who had graduated as a Nurse-only the year before.
I have first hand experience of stress and burnout. It was this experience which led me to develop a passion for personal development. I did a diploma in Mindfulness and Meditation, am a certified hypnotherapist and a certified NLP Practitioner.
As a result, I have created the Happy Nurse https://happynurse.com.au/.
The first area I worked in was an Orthopaedic Trauma ward. I spent six months there before securing a role in Theatre. I have been in Peri-Operative Nursing ever since; PACU in particular since 2004. I currently work part-time in PACU and the rest of the week I run my own business educating Nurses on the importance of self-care.
Advice for those wanting to get into PACU
If Peri-Operative Nursing is something that interests you, try and secure yourself a place on a Peri-Operative Grad Program. This will give you a good grounding in the different roles within the Peri-Operative environment. Also, consider getting a part-time position as a Theatre Orderly during your studies. This will give you the advantage of understanding how an Operating Department runs and make you familiar with the environment.
What do you carry on you during a shift?
I travel pretty light as each PACU bay is equipped with most things I require during a shift. A couple of pens (incase a Doctor ‘borrows’ one), my ID and security pass and a pen- torch.
What’s in your lunchbox?
It’s rare that I bring a lunchbox to work. I am fortunate enough to work in a facility that provides morning and afternoon tea and subsidised meals to staff for lunch. I do on occasion bring some leftovers from the night before. My big tip would be to try and ensure that you are staying hydrated. I know there are occasions when I don’t drink enough water during a shift and I feel worse for it by the end of the shift.
What is one piece of advice for students you would give who are worried about starting a graduate year?
I chose not to do a grad year, instead, I went straight onto the Orthopaedic Trauma Unit where I had spent twelve weeks on a practical placement earlier that year. I then went to Peri Operative where I spent the first two years rotating through Scrub /Scout, Anaesthetics and PACU. I believe the key to getting the most out of any new role is to ask lots of questions. There are no silly questions and uncertainty leads to errors. You are not expected to know everything straight away.
The Importance of Self Care for Nurses
Nursing is a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding career. Nurses are always there to care for a stranger as if they were one of their own. One in four nurses is reported to experience burnout1 at some point in their career. This impacts the nurse both professionally and personally and has a negative impact on patient care and the organisation in which they are employed.
Self-care has a positive impact on the prevention of compassion fatigue and burnout in health professionals.2 Education on the early signs of burnout and the encouragement of a personal self-care program is a matter of importance to the nursing profession in my opinion.
Utilising my training in Mindfulness, Meditation, Hypnotherapy and Neuro-linguistic Programming, I have developed a model of self-care which addresses five social – psychological aspects of self, creating a holistic approach. This model allows us, the nurse to develop a deeper level of self-awareness whilst caring for our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and indulgent self-care needs.
I will address each aspect briefly.
Mental – As Nurses we spend a lot of time in our heads, constantly observing and analysing our patients, relying on our thought processes and responding to their needs as necessary. This is a skill that strengthens with time and experience.
On a personal level, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in our heads. What is our self talk like? Are we our biggest fans or our biggest critics? Are we procrastinators or perfectionists? Our nurse brains are programmed to analyse and observe, this can lead us down the path of being judgemental and over critical of ourselves.
Pass your self talk through the gates of T.H.I.N.K. Is what you are saying to yourself True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary or Kind? If it’s none of the above then it’s not really worth listening to.
Your own voice is the one you hear the most. Make sure it’s saying nice things to you.
Emotional – Life can be a rollercoaster. There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day as a Nurse. Each shift is different and each patient is different. We can walk out of a patients room and into another; the energy of each room can be very different. One patient could have days to live, the next has had a close call but is now embracing all life has to offer.
I believe that as a Nurse the ability to be present is very important. Presence allows us to be in the moment and there for the patient and their specific needs. Presence also allows us to not get caught up in the patient’s emotional state whilst being compassionate and understanding of their emotions.
Having a mindfulness practise has allowed me to be more present with my patients and my colleagues. Being aware, present and non-judgemental of your own, and your patient’s emotional needs.
Physical – Nursing is a physically demanding career. We are on our feet all day. Looking after our physical health is very important.
Eat a nutritionally balanced diet. Try to meal plan or cook ahead to accommodate your shift pattern.
Spend time in nature – nature is very healing after spending the day in stark, fluorescent-lit hospitals.
Move your body – Our bodies seize up if they are not moved. Find a way to move that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be at a gym. You could combine time with nature with moving your body by doing something outdoor based, or you could dance around the house to loud music with wild abandon like no one is watching.
Spiritual – Ensuring that we are following the practices of any Spiritual, Cultural or Religious beliefs that we have is very important in looking after our spiritual needs.
Meditation is also a great way to look after our spiritual self. Spending time in meditation does not have to be sitting in the Lotus Position chanting om. Meditation can be achieved whilst outside walking, exercising or even whilst doing the washing up. The key to meditation is presence and awareness. Awareness of the sights, sounds, smells around us and the feelings arising in our body at the time. The key is to not buy into these feelings with your thoughts. Don’t go off down rabbit warrens in your mind. Simply witness how you are feeling and let it be. There is no need to analyse or judge your thoughts.
If you prefer to meditate the more traditional way there are some amazing free apps out there. I will attach a link to a short meditation for stress and anxiety on my YouTube channel at the bottom.
Indulgence – It’s important that we remember to create time for ourselves. Self-care is not selfish, its important to fill your own cup up so you can freely give to others.
The indulgent aspect of self-care can be anything that brings you joy. Different things bring each of us joy, the important thing is to ensure that whatever we are indulging in is lighting us up and filling up our cup.
Each aspect of the model can impact on one or more aspects.
For example – a walk in the park to spend time in nature could meet our physical needs, it can also fulfil our indulgent needs if it’s something that brings us joy and our spiritual needs if we use it as a walking meditation.
1Poghosyan, Lusine et al. (2010). Nurse Burnout and Quality of Care: Cross-National Investigation in Six Countries. Research in nursing & health, 33.4, 288 – 298.
2 Maytum, J. C., Heiman, M. B., & Garwick, A. W. (2004). Compassion fatigue and burnout in nurses who work with children with chronic conditions and their families. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 18, 171–179.