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June 6, 2017

When The Nurse Can't Stop Giving

By Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

You’re a nurse, and we know you work hard. In fact, you probably work like crazy, just like so many other nurses. And it seems like you’re always doing something for someone. If it’s not a patient or their family, it’s your child, your spouse, your mother-in-law, or your elderly neighbor. 

Nurses Do It All

As a nurse, you know that people trust you and look to you for clear-headed competence, savvy advice, and no-nonsense action. You’ve removed porcupine quills from the mouth of your next door neighbor’s dog. You’ve even attended the births of neonate hamsters when the family who thought both hamsters were female were surprised when a birth began as they left on vacation. 

Nurses get called on for lots of different things. So, like it or not, many of the things we’re asked to do have absolutely nothing to do with what we learned in nursing school. When I was a nursing student, a nurse friend told me that nurses have to be carpenters, plumbers, priests, veterinarians, counselors, and so many other things. He never mentioned hamster midwife, though. 

Hamster birth?” asks the nurse; sure no problem.

Porcupine quills? I’m on it,” replies the nurse who just can’t say no to anyone ever.

Your doctor recommended two Fleet enemas? Let me get dressed and I’ll be right over. No, I wasn’t asleep, I was watching the Late Late Late Show.” 

We nurses do it all, and we continue to reinforce for others that we are simply service personified; how do you give to others both on and off the job? 

Nurses Doing Something For Someone

How many nurses have you known who always seem to be doing something for someone? Are they addicted to giving, or are they just that thoughtful? Some say that nurses are more likely than other professionals to be adult children of alcoholics, or come from otherwise dysfunctional families. Go figure. 

Nurses obviously don’t go into nursing for the glamorous outfits, the sexy shoes, the high pay, the incredible benefits, and the easy hours. We might guess that the majority of people who pursue a nursing career want to give back and be a beacon of hope and compassion to others. 

Nurses are by and large giving people, and their careers are built around doing for others. Whether they work in hospice, med/surg, home health, school nursing, or the ICU, clinical nursing work is about the nurse-patient connection and the natural give and take of relationship. 

For those nurses involved in research or other non-clinical work, service may simply come in a different form, but it’s still about making a positive contribution.

What About You? 

When you get home from work, are you midwifing hamsters and checking on your elderly neighbors? Are you sending helpful emails and advice to your sick brother-in-law? You may also have kids, elderly parents, and many other demands on your time and energy. 

Do you have the resources and time to give to yourself? Do you feel you deserve to get a massage, read a magazine, go for a walk, or take yourself out to dinner and a movie without worrying about anyone else? Can you eat your movie popcorn without guilt? 

Nurses may be fabulous about giving to others, but we can be terrible at even giving ourselves something as simple as a movie date. Does this inability to give to ourselves serve us in any way?

Your Nursing Self-Care Homework

As a nurse who wants to be mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy, you need to activate your self-care plan now, and then be consistent in keeping it activated over the long haul. You need to commit to take care of yourself on an ongoing basis. It’s clear that a burnt out, unhealthy, and unhappy nurse is going to be less effective in her work. Are you that nurse? 

If you decide to make your self-care and personal wellness a way of life, you need some homework and some goals; if you don’t make it tangible, it may not end up happening. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

1) Do I need to level up in terms of my self-care? 

2) Am I willing to commit to my self-care, wellness, and happiness? 

3) What am I willing to do every day in the service of my wellness? 

4) What goals would I like to set for my self-care? 

5) Who can serve as my accountability buddy and keep me on track with my self-care commitments and goals? 

6) When will I begin? 

Giving yourself homework and writing down your goals and commitments is crucial to your success in upping your self-care game. Are you willing to do it? 

Just Choose Health, Nurses

Nurses, you need to choose health. Your personal wellness and self-care need to become priorities. When you make your health a priority, you’re saying yes to your own success.  

Dr. Renee Thompson, a nationally known nurse speaker and consultant, says, “Saying you don’t have time for self-care is like saying you don’t have time to put gas in your car.” 

When you choose to prioritize your own health, you’re also prioritizing your patients; if you’re healthier and more balanced in your life, the care you give will be better and your patients and colleagues will benefit greatly. 

Nurses, you give and give, and then you give again; make the choice to give to yourself, and your personal and professional lives will benefit more than you can imagine. 

Give Yourself A Better Career

High-paying nursing opportunities abound. As a registered nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the best jobs from coast to coast on our job board. Get the pay and career path you deserve. Click here to see open positions for nurses now. 

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach, award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith’s work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications. 

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