Be Your Own Steward

The fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose.”~~Ghandi
Are you being a good steward of your health?  Ponder the question before you answer.  As nurses we are indoctrinated and well accustomed to giving. We care.  Caring oftentimes involves giving up much of our time to our clients, the facilities where we work, and our families at home.  The action word “give” may have been tattooed on our arms and imbedded on our minds when we reached forward to accept our diplomas.  Many have sacrificed decades of their lives and their own health–giving and caring for others.  As a result (when the giving bank runs low or dry), many nurses turn to cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, unhealthy foods, and a sedentary lifestyle (Of course, after we clock out).  A nurse who has a hard time coping with stressors may default on these unhealthy behaviors.
Even before the profession of nursing dropped on the scene, women (Just a minute guys!) were nurturing the young, sick, old, the pet, the man, the land…  And so the profession evolved and branches out still yet in places where it was hot, mild, and even cold.   Cold!  I especially remember how sad I felt one long night, when I worked that god-awful nigh shift, holding the hand of an elderly client who was exiting the door (of life, as we know it).  As she was took her last breath (a DNR patient guys) I felt helpless.  Oftentimes felt cold, the wind, as I clocked out and walked out the hospital door.  Do you feel me?
I am pouring of my heart to thee
It is time we take care of “me”
But enough of this poetry
Reality is, we are strong beings.  Called to served.  Not to drive ourselves into the ground.  So we need to care for ourselves, which also means supporting ourselves.  So when one nurse calls in due to illness indeed, we can sincerely  wish him or her Godspeed.
Yes, nurses have to first care for themselves.  Altruism is in your nature, but if you are sick, feeling debilitated, and with the chronics, you may only be a warm body at work.  This in terms becomes a nice Petri dish for growing the bug of “burnout“, not only in yourself, but in the nurses that will have to take on the slack of pulling your weight.  You know what I mean.  It’s hard for any nurse to pass by a room assigned to another nurse and not help a client in need.  Believe me, some folks know how to “be missing in action,” especially when the unit roof is blowing off in a nimble fashion!  If this be the case, take a peek in their Petri-dish.  Me OYES?
Some nurses, for one reasons or another, work two jobs to keep their life afloat.  This could put a heavy strain on the physical, mental, and Spiritual aspects of their being.  I’ve done this before, and it is not easy when you are younger much less when you are up there in age.  I know some nurses who barely get any sleep because of running from one hospital to the next.  The long term effect of this could predispose one to physical illness, nervous problems, and burnout–pointing you straight to the doctor and then the local pharmacist.

Hospital in Madrid, Spain.

I say, care for yourself first.  Get yourself in the best shape.  For you.  If you want to function maximally, giving the patients and the hospital where you work the best service for their bucks, become your greatest patron. This might make some dignified folks cringe, but who cares?  Consider why you have to work so many shifts or jobs.  Is it because of the Joneses?  Well, your eyes are not as big as a tarsier, so why try to keep up with the Joneses?

You are creative.  Find creative ways to keep life simple.  Work only what you can handle and try to enjoy your life.  I bet when the ceiling of the hospital is falling down, you find creative ways to hold it up and still care for the sick, homeless, and pomeless (Sorry, it just rhymed).  You should not be heavily challenged being creative to find time to care for yourself. Exercise that body.  Eat well.  Think beautiful thoughts.
If you are sick and/or are feeling burned out, consider that the root cause of your chronics (burn out, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure) could very well be all the weight you’ve been dragging most of your career.  Obesity can put a heavy strain on you.  Huffing and puffing running to the call-light?  Some nurses gain weight due to the nature of the work: stressful long shift hours, not finding enough time in the day to exercise, and to eat right, etc.
I’ve had to precept many new grads.  Many young new grads enter the profession with healthy bodies, slim figures, and a bouncy ponytails.  A year or so later, some are constantly frowning, dragging, and in need of larger scrubs.  A frequent place one starts to gain weight when handling lots of stress or living an unhealthy lifestyle, it seems, is around the waistline.  This is usually the first indication that our health is on the decline.  And you may already know, an increase in the circumference of the waistline is associated with greater chances of having chronic diseases.  Hey, think we can blame administration for this?  You know, all that pizza they provide us when we are short-staffed…  Just saying….
So go on and give yourself permission.  You deserve it!   Why would you not find time to care for you? Consider a nurse who once asked me to listen (keep an eye) out for her patients.  There was one client in particularly who was steadily on the call light asking her for pain medicines.  The nurse asked me listen out for her two patients for a minute so she could run take her anti-cholesterol pill to protect her from the supposed “stress of dealing” with her client’s pain.   I found the situation a bit amusing as I watched that nurse hurriedly walk away, with hair disheveled and all, to take care of herself.  For one minute.
You may not be a fan of running as I am, but consider some of the many benefits of running: loosing weight, lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, staying in shape, effective in smoking cessation, drug addiction, helps increase good cholesterol level and decreases triglyceride level, good in helping with clinical depression and mood improvement (research shows it may be better results than many anti-depressive medications), and improves bone health.  First consult with your physician before taking on running.  Running could be an awesome sport for a great nurse to keep stress at bay.  Look into it and let us know what you think.  Consider joining a local running group or a local Team In Training group. They’ll help get you on your way to safely discovering the joy of running.
OYE!  If you let your health go down the drain and have to take drugs to manage your chronic diseases, consider that some prescription drugs to treat some of these diseases may also contribute to weight gain, thereby predisposing you to other illnesses.  If you suspect your  psychotropic prescription drug (e.g.  antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety meds) is the probable cause of your weight gain, which could be more depressing and disheartening, consult with your health-care provider to consider your options.  Prevention is key to wellness, this is why we suggest you be your own steward and take care of your health first.  If you are healthy and fit, you will probably be more effective in carrying out your duties as a nurse, and may live longer having fun under the benevolent sun.  Don’t forget to smell the rose! Or at least the scent it leave on your hands.