This week is not only National Nurses Week but also Mental Health Awareness Week, ending on Friday 12th which falls on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. It’s the perfect time to thank the nurses and caregivers in your life and to pay special attention to how to care for your caregivers.
Many nurses go through their healthcare career as unsung heroes. Strain and burden are symptoms that many caregivers have to cope with. Since nurses are acclimatised to stressful situations, they may not realise they themselves are stressed. This can lead to ‘burnout’; fatigue, exhaustion and stress. Caregivers become increasingly distressed if they aren’t able to participate in their favourite hobbies and interests. (6)
Tips for Care
It is recommended that caregivers receive therapies that enhance coping mechanisms, which could include things like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). (4). The benefits of learning how to manage stress responses lead to an increased perception of their ability to control situations. (5).
Common themes for care centre around healthy diet and exercise, and stress-reduction techniques. (1, 2, 3). Here are some tips that carers can use for themselves, or friends-of-nurses can adopt to help them out.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT equips nurses with skills to monitor and manage their personal distress. By pinpointing how different behaviours and thoughts lead to different feelings, it can intercept the ones that induce stress. It develops skills for problem-solving, time management and responding with healthy emotional reactions to stressful situations.
Accepting that self-care is not selfish
Whilst caring for others is ingrained into a nurse’s working day, many nurses and nursing students express reluctance to take the time to care for themselves. For instance, treating each other to spa days!
A debrief is a session where nurses can report on their experiences and analyse how they felt and performed. This is an opportunity to discuss the areas that went well, the areas that need improvement, and the reasons for each area. These sessions are commonplace after traumatic events and can provide support.
Adjusting working hours to reduce stress may seem daunting, and for many nurses on call or just starting their career, this is difficult to impossible. It is important to take holidays appropriately and ensure that off time is quality time.
Developing hobbies outside of work
Aside from being something you can talk about at parties, hobbies give you an identity outside of nursing. They increase the facets of your self-identity and help the brain switch off from other problems.
Everyone can take this mental health score quiz by the Mental Health Foundation for quick and easy starting point to assessing your mental health.
Nurses who want to take active steps towards their well-being can consider the Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation challenge. It is a challenge to nurses to make healthier life choices so they can be an inspiration to themselves and their patients.
Call for Action
We want to thank all our nurses for the essential service they provide! With your hard work, diligence and commitment, you make the backbone of the healthcare industry. Balancing emotional, physical, professional and social well-being is a complex task that starts with taking care of number one. Also, remember to take care of each other – smile, say thank you, and give out a few hugs!
Our own Christie Heiberg wrote a poem in appreciation of some of the nurses at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. We would like to thank all our nurses for all the hard work that they do. Please enjoy ‘Our Alphabet of Nurses’.
Written by Caroline Reid
- Richards, K. (2013). Self-care is a lifelong journey. Nursing Economic$, 31(4), 198-202.
- Malloy, P., Thrane, S., Winston, T., Virani, R., & Kelly, K. (2013). Do nurses who care for patients in palliative and end-of-life settings perform good self-care? Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing, 15(2), 99-106. doi:10.1097/NJH.0b013e31826bef72
- Gabrielle, S., Jackson, D. & Mannix, J. (2008). Older women nurses: Health, ageing concerns, and self-care strategies. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 61(3), 316–325. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04530.x
- Honea, N.J., Sherwood, P.R., & Belansky, H. (2009). Caregiver strain and burden. In L.H. Eaton & J.M. Tipton (Eds.), Putting Evidence Into Practice: Improving oncology patient outcomes (pp. 51-62). Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Society.
- Sorenson, S., Pinquart, M., & Duberstein, P. (2002). How effective are interventions with caregivers? An updated meta-analysis. Gerontologist, 42, 356-372.
- Cameron J, Franche R, Cheung A, et al. Lifestyle interference and emotional distress in family caregivers of advanced cancer patients. Cancer. 2002;94(2):521–7.