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Self-Care for the Caregiver: What Are the Risks If We Don't Care for Ourselves?

Bratton, Barbara, MSN, PNP-BC

Journal of Pediatric Surgical Nursing: January/March 2018 - Volume 7 - Issue 1 - p 3
doi: 10.1097/JPS.0000000000000163
Message From the President
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Barbara Bratton, MSN, PNP-BC University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Barbara Bratton, MSN, PNP-BC, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA. E-mail: bbratton@mac.com

Nurses are doers, team players, and self-starters. Caring for others comes easily; it is the hallmark of the profession. Nursing is hard work mentally and physically and more technically challenging than ever. It is for good reason nurses take pride and satisfaction in their work. Over time, however, years in the profession can take a toll leading to exhaustion and fatigue or what we know as burnout. Job-related stressors are many and can include protecting patient rights, staffing ratios, patient acuity, challenging work environments, reduced managerial support, role conflict, ambiguity, and lack of power. It is documented that job-related stress can contribute to disease by a decrease in immune system function, aging, and depression (Blum, 2014).

The American Nurses Association position statement published on September 2014 titled “Addressing Nurse Fatigue to Promote Safety and Health: Joint Responsibilities of Registered Nurses and Employers to Reduce Risks” addresses the responsibilities of nurses and employers to create and sustain a healthy work environment and a culture of safety. It further emphasizes the importance of adequate rest and sleep when deciding whether to offer or accept work assignments, including on-call, voluntary, or mandatory overtime.

Why is this important, and what are the risks if we don't care for ourselves? Nurses who are fatigued have performance deficits; an increased risk of errors; a decline in short-term memory; a reduced ability to learn; a negative impact on divergent thinking, innovation, and insight; an increased risk-taking behavior; and impaired mood and communication skills. Worse and most concerning, nurses are more likely to report clinical decision regret, which occurs when their behaviors do not align with professional nursing practice standards (Aiken, 2014; ANA, 2014)

Knowledge is power, and armed with this information, what will you do? My hope is that you will recognize the impact of your responsibilities and take care of yourselves by getting enough sleep and exercise and eating well. Find an activity you are interested in that brings you joy and pursue it. Take time to reflect on your life, consider meditation, or read a book you have longed to read. Go to a movie, take a walk, and visit with friends. Each of you play a critically important role in the lives of your patients and their families, your colleagues at work, and, most importantly, your own families. Let's remember that we are committed to this career and that self-care is critical to sustaining ourselves as well as safely performing our jobs.

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References

Aiken L. (2014, November 11). Interview by P. F. Cipriano. Nursing: The infrastructure of safety (reducing nurse fatigue). Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/Fatigue
ANA. (2014). Addressing nurse fatigue to promote safety and health: Joint responsibilities of registered nurses and employers to reduce risks. Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/DocumentVault/Position-Statements/Practice/Addressing-Nurse-Fatigue-ANA-Position-Statement.pdf
Blum C. A. (2014). Practicing self-care for nurses: A nursing program initiative. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 19(3), 3. http://dx.org/10.3912/OJIN.Vol19No03Man03
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