It is a little known fact that many healthcare providers find it difficult to make time to care for their own health and wellbeing.
As a healthcare provider, caring for your own health doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Techniques for self-care are easy to implement. However, prioritizing the time for self-care, especially during a busy 12-hour shift, is what can make caring for one’s own health and well being nearly impossible.
Nonetheless, it is important that healthcare providers carve out time for their own self-care. Providers are selfless, giving people, and if left unchecked, they will sacrifice their own care for that of others nine times out of ten. However, neglecting their own care will leave them unable to properly care for their patients over time.
Mental health disorders impact one out of five Americans, but hospital nurses are twice as likely as the general public to suffer from clinical depression. This is why it is imperative that our nation’s healthcare providers take care of themselves.
One of the biggest, and most often overlooked indicators of poor mental health in doctors and nurses is burnout. Burnout is defined as, “emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” 63% percent of nurses and 44% of physicians reported burnout in recent surveys.
A provider suffering from burnout may display poor patient engagement and a change in bedside manner. A lack of empathy, depersonalization, insensitivity, a lack of compassion, and cynicism towards both colleagues and patients characterize a healthcare provider suffering from burnout. When a provider neglects one’s own mental health, he or she is, in effect, neglecting their own patients.
To avoid burnout, a healthcare provider should make self-care a priority. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:
1. Take a break. A provider’s schedule is generally hectic, and lunch breaks are elusive. Ease into practicing self-care by implementing the very basics—start with your lunch break. Try to take a break every couple of hours.
2. Step outside. Get some fresh air and enjoy a change of scenery. Briefly stepping away from your work can clear your head and give you a fresh perspective.
3. Practice mindfulness techniques in your downtime. Perform some deep-breathing exercises or try meditation. There are numerous apps that offer free or low-cost meditation exercises tailored to today’s busy professionals who are pressed for time.
4. Process your emotions. Caring for your patients is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. Create friendships with your colleagues, find a mentor or see a counselor and talk through your experiences.
5. Create post-shift rituals. A provider cares for patients at the office, and then often goes home to care for a family. To transition from work life to home life, create rituals at the end of the workday, such as having a cup of tea and unwinding or listening to motivational podcasts on the drive home.
6. Stay healthy. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, spend time outdoors, and prioritize exercise. Implementing a healthy lifestyle will energize your body and fuel a positive outlook on life.
7. Take the time to indulge in the things you enjoy. Bring a good book to work and read it on your lunch break. Head out to dinner with some friends on the weekend. Create a healthy work-life balance.
8. Advocate for yourself. Voice your needs and concerns. If you need help, ask for it. If you can delegate responsibilities, do it. If you are not feeling respected or valued, share your concerns.
Implementing these self-care techniques will help keep burnout at bay. As a healthcare provider, your job depends on your ability to care for others. This care should also extend to yourself. There is a reason why airlines advise passengers to administer the oxygen mask to themselves before providing it to others in their care.