Autumn Edition 2018

Edition 2 – Self-care and celebrating our first year!
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Self-care for nurses and midwives
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By Dianne Lee and Cassandra Jovic

As nurses and midwives, we understand the importance of supporting patients, families and colleagues, but sometimes we put our own wellbeing last. No matter what stressors we face at work and home, we need to nurture our own emotional, physical and social health. What techniques can we build into our day so that we don’t just cope, but thrive?

We hear from some nurses and midwives who feel that self-care is an extravagance or something only a weak person would need, but this is not true. While self-care once seemed like a foreign concept, there is increasing understanding within the healthcare industry that not only is it beneficial for our personal heath, but by taking time for ourselves we also become better clinicians.

Self-care isn’t selfish

“Some people might think that it’s a selfish act, but it’s not selfish,” says Teresa Conte, PhD, CRNP, Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Scranton, USA. She discovered early in her training that no matter how tight her budget, she could make it through the bad days knowing that she had scheduled a massage in the next few weeks.

Teresa says, “as nurses we always see ourselves as caregivers. But if you get so bogged down in being a helper that you’re fatigued or constantly thinking of leaving the profession, what good is that? You’re doing more for your patients by honouring and taking care of yourself.”

How to get started

You are probably already familiar with the basics — a balanced diet, plenty of rest, and regular exercise. These lifestyle choices help us cope physically and emotionally with stress.

But it’s not just about looking after our body; our mind is important as well. We all need to be uplifted in other ways so that we’re energised to adequately care for ourselves and our patients.

Self-care can be really simple. You could try:

  • yoga
  • a meditation app
  • dancing
  • cooking or baking
  • massage
  • reading
  • enjoying a coffee before work at your favourite cafe.

It’s important to find self-care methods that work for you, and carving out the time so that you do them and celebrate it regularly. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. By scheduling self-care practices, any conflicts or challenges that arise throughout the day become easier to tackle.

Beyond activities

In addition to scheduling activities worthy of your time, there are other steps you can take to centre yourself personally, so you’re prepared professionally. Prior to work, for example, you can prepare for the challenges ahead by repeating a favourite mantra like, “I plan to make a positive difference by being here today. May I be calm and focused.”

Dianne, a registered nurse, finds it really helpful to look after her feet at the end of a long day, “I often end my working day with a foot spa,” Dianne says. “I use an electric one that vibrates and bubbles. It also gently massages my feet. You can also use a large bowl instead. I use warm/hot lemon-scented water or mineral salts, or both!”

Dianne says that just 10 minutes makes a big difference to her mental health, “Listening to music or silently meditating at the same time is deeply relaxing. Following the foot spa, I wipe my feet thoroughly with a fresh towel and apply some soothing foot balm. Lovely.”

Ending your day and your shift well

At the end of the day, we usually retreat to our homes where boundaries should be set. One suggestion is to not carry stress and conflict from work through the front door. Visualise leaving it in your place of work as you leave for the day. Some people find that removing their watch, ID badge and uniform can be a ritualistic reminder that they’re off duty and away from work.

Of course, if we’ve had a really tough day, some stress may come home with us. Even then, we can learn tactics to try and dispatch it. Practise only dwelling on a work issue for a few minutes and release it like a balloon into the air. We don’t want stress or negativity to permeate our sanctuary.

How to get started­

If you want some more tips about self-care, or have any other questions, please get in contact with us. There is no reason too big or small to call our service. We are here for you anytime on 1800 667 877 and are looking forward to taking your call.

What can I do next?

We have more information on staying healthy or you could check out some of our other articles on:

Our service provides free and confidential support 24/7 to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. Call 1800 667 877, or request support via email.

If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact, take a look through accessing support.

If you would like to read more about self-care you can check out some of these resources:

50 self-care ideas for nurses to recharge on days off, Ameritech – College of Healthcare

111 creative self care ideas to nurture your mind, body and soul, Inner Compass Designs

25 self-care tips for the body and soul, Strong Sensitive Souls

Self-care concepts – CareSearch palliative care knowledge network, and

8 Quick Self-Care Strategies for College Students – Mindsoother Therapy Center.

Budget conscious self-care
Body

By T. Vella 

We understand that sometimes the budget won’t allow for expensive self-care activities, or it simply may not be something you feel comfortable doing. Balancing your finances can be stressful, and the aim of self-care is to reduce stress. 

Wallet 

Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive; we have some affordable suggestions on how to look after yourself without hurting your budget.

 You could try: 

  • Yoga or gym session instructional videos – there are loads online, including on YouTube. They are free and you can do them without leaving the house.
  • If you regularly drink coffee, the costs can add up. Using a percolator or coffee bags end up being much cheaper per cup. This also saves you lining up during your tea breaks, giving you more time for activities such as walking or sitting in a park.
  • Invest in an all-in-one cooking appliance and make your food in bulk – convenience foods are expensive and usually full of nasties. While this can feel like a big one-off expense, over time it can really save you time and money.
  • Want to unwind with a massage but don’t want to spend half a shift’s wages? Search online for local education providers that teach massage or myotherapy. They usually offer massages by students for a fraction of the price.
  • Try a free meditation or relaxation app – you can engage in self-care with these anywhere and anytime for nothing!
  • Feel like going to the day spa but don’t have a spare $300? Try making your own scrub and facial. There are loads of recipes online which can be made with the contents of your fridge/pantry.
  • Read a book. We know the costs of books can add up, or perhaps you struggle to relax enough to read. Try visiting the library – the books are free and the environment is quiet, calm and relaxing.
  • Take a nap or go to bed early – you can make this even better by changing your sheets and washing them with a few drops of essential oils.
  • Search online for free and local events. Getting out of the house can be great for your mood.
  • Make your own eye pillow - everyone has odd socks – turn them into an eye pillow by filling it with barley and a few drops of essential oils then tie a knot in the end. You can heat them in the microwave (Just make sure you wash them first)

We hope you like these ideas and that they inspire you to enjoy self-care without breaking the bank. Remember these are just some tips to get you started; we encourage you to brainstorm ideas you think would work for you.

We would love to hear your ideas; you can share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or through our contact us page.

If you would like to speak to someone about self-care options that would work for you, or any other topic call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

Clinician profile - Sarah
Body

Sarah* is one of our dedicated support clinicians at NM Support. She has a background in mental health nursing and is passionate about improving the health of nurses and midwives. Sarah sat down with us to share a little bit about her life, professional experience and self-care tips.

How long have you been a nurse or midwife?

I’ve been a nurse for five years. In 2015 I completed my post graduate diploma in psychiatric nursing.

Why did you become a nurse?

Growing up, I wanted to be a nutritionist. It was actually my grandmother who encouraged me to be a nurse. I chose psychiatric nursing because I felt it was the right fit for me and I enjoyed making people laugh – when I was a student nurse I often got in trouble for spending too much time talking to the patients!

When I was on general placement as a student, there was one client in particular who made me realise psychiatric nursing was for me. He was a homeless man with chronic schizophrenia. After a few days of caring for this client at random allocation, the nurses on the ward started allocating him to me because they saw I enjoyed his company and aiding his recovery, and that he did too. I’ll never forget laughing with him about the quirky stories he told. Unfortunately he passed away just before my placement ended; sometimes I wish I could have told him how he shaped my career path.

Can you tell us about your nursing journey so far?

I’ve worked in a range of different areas including acute mental health, community mental health, ECT, neuropsychiatry and eating disorders. I love working with the human brain and behaviours. Psychology is incredibly interesting and something I feel I am forever learning about. Mental health nursing can be challenging for various reasons, but making a sad patient smile or making a scared patient feel safe is a truly rewarding part of job.

Why do you work at NM Support?

I work at NM Support because I have a passion for the profession and the people in it. I see a great importance in keeping my colleagues healthy so they can continue to do the job they have trained so hard for and dedicated themselves to. Working in healthcare is a noble task to undertake but I don’t think it should take over your life and make you forget who you are, what you do for fun and most importantly how to live, laugh and love.

I enjoy reminding people of the good things and encouraging them to care for themselves the way they would care for a patient or client. I love making people realise they are worthy of that. I am very passionate about work-life balance and self-care/self-love and think it is an imperative element in how we can continue to improve our profession.

What types of calls do you receive?

We receive a range of calls but I particularly enjoy receiving calls from students and graduates. Students and graduates seem to be quite a vulnerable group within the nursing and midwifery population. I feel great satisfaction when I am able to motivate this group to keep going and learn the principles of self-care. I believe showing care for ourselves and our colleagues promotes our longevity in the industry.

We also receive calls about further education and career change or progression. These calls are fantastic and I enjoy brainstorming all the possibilities nursing and midwifery have to offer.

What are your thoughts on self-care – do you think it is important? Why?

I truly believe that without self-care there is no healthcare. We can all identify areas within our profession that may need improvement; rates of burnout and compassion fatigue appear to be increasing. I think it’s beneficial for nurses and midwives to be taught principles of self-care; it’s never too late to get started and I hope we can slowly embed this in the industry by teaching people during their studies. Widespread change is possible and I strongly believe organisations should promote these principles so that we can have happy, healthy staff who love their job and work efficiently.

What self-care strategies do you use? How do you find that these help you in your everyday life?

It’s important to find self-care strategies that energise, de-stress, and fit in with your daily schedule. Sometimes it can take time to test a few out and find the ones that suit you. I have five main self-care strategies that work really well for me. They are:

  1. “Meal prep” – I enjoy cooking and I find it relaxing, but I hate dishes! So I cook all my meals and prepare all my food for the week ahead on one particular day. If the food won’t keep for a whole week, I’ll freeze it. It maximises my time and reduce my dishes.
  2. Yoga – There a lots of different varieties of yoga you could try. From hot yoga, to sleep yoga, to more strength-focussed yoga. My personal favourite is Bikram, which is performed in a hot room. It helps me get rid of any negative energies I may have absorbed at work and it makes me feel cleansed.
  3. Gym – Spending some time at the gym helps me release pent-up energy and also allows me to enjoy a few treats during the week as part of my meal plan.
  4. Meditating – If I am verbally threatened or abused by a client, I will try to take a moment to meditate afterwards. Yes, sometimes in the bathroom, as it’s a quiet space where I can have a moment to myself. Taking a moment to meditate helps reduce anxiety caused by these types of incidents and also helps me separate the incident from the part of me I take home.
  5. Regular annual leave – I try to have a holiday once every quarter. I think it’s important to regularly get away from the workplace. I don’t always go away during my leave – sometimes it’s nice to stay local and have a staycation. 

*name changed for privacy. 

A year on the road
Body

By Mark Aitken Stakeholder Engagement Manager - RN 

It’s been a year since we launched Nurse & Midwife Support – a service we are extremely proud of, and what a year it has been! I have travelled extensively throughout Australia and every stop along the way has led me to passionate and caring nurses and midwives. 

Thanks for inviting me to events, conferences and seminars. It is a privilege to continue meeting members of my profession who are as passionate about this service as I am. I also want to take a moment to thank every nurse and midwife who has shared their story with me this year! Your feedback and support make our team love what we do and help us continue to shape Nurse & Midwife Support.

Why self-care?

We have dedicated this newsletter to self-care because we are regularly told that you are stressed or burnt-out. It is our hope that over time we will see systemic change across the industry which will reduce some of the major stressors, but we also want to give you a set of tools that you can use to improve your health right now. 

empty cup image

Self-care and self-compassion were not historically part of our professional language, but it feels like we are gradually accepting the importance of looking after ourselves. Research shows us that self-care is important and makes us healthier– which means we can look after those we care for better. So everyone is a winner!

This year I started regular meditation and mindfulness practice using the Headspace app. This daily practice has made a big difference to how I interact with the world. Living in the moment is truly refreshing. As they say at Headspace, “a few minutes of mindfulness could change your whole day”.

I recently read two studies on the effects of self-compassion and the correlation with burnout for community nurses and student midwives. Both studies found that those who scored highly on measures of self-compassion were linked with lower levels of burnout. While this doesn’t surprise me, it is validating to have this confirmed by facts and figures.

If you aren’t sure where to start, I recommend this article that one of our team members has written on self-care; it’s full of easy and practical tips that you can try. 

Where we have been recently

Since our last edition, we have continued to attend events across the country including:

  • Nursing and Midwifery Leaders and Advisory Forum South Australia
  • South Eastern Sydney Local District Nursing and Midwifery Health and wellbeing forum
  • Australian College of Midwives (ACM) National Conference in Adelaide.

We also attended the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) conference “Claiming Our Future" in Queensland. We were proud to sponsor and participate in this important conference.  Janine Mohamed, CATSINAM CEO, spoke about how proud CATSINaM were to be working with Nurse & Midwife Support to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses, midwives and students.

It was great to meet so many inspiring nurses and midwives at all of these events and if we haven’t seen you yet, we hope we will soon.

A moment to reflect

I was recently asked why Nurse & Midwife Support is so important. While I could write all day about its virtues, I think it comes down to a few simple facts. Being a nurse or a midwife is a privilege; people let us into their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. We share their joy, despair, their highs and lows. We see and experience things that most people will never see. As humans, sometimes these experiences evoke emotions or responses that require support. Nurse & Midwife Support is able to provide this support when and if nurses and midwives need it.

Our students and graduates are our future. They tell us that being a student and graduate can be stressful, daunting and exciting. We remember these feelings and have spent time consulting with students and graduates to develop our resources.

Please take the time to stay healthy, look after yourself and your colleagues, and remember it’s OK to say “I’m not OK” and to call us for support 

If you haven’t already, please help us spread the word about NM Support in 2018. Our aim is to ensure every Australian nurse, midwife and student knows that we are here to support them, 24/7. 

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