Working in the nursing profession takes physical strength, emotional intelligence and the ability to handle the stress of caring for others. It can be exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. This is especially true for mature nurses age 50 and older. So here are some tips to help practice self-care to stay healthy, engaged and able to serve your patients:
- Be mentally ready when you arrive at work – Practice deep breathing to focus and calm yourself. During the day if you feel overwhelmed or anxious, take a few deep breathes. Be confident, honest, focused and available to your fellow nurses.
- Lean on your instincts and remember what you are known for – What is your expertise? Take the lead in that area and share your knowledge with coworkers.
- You are what you eat! Eat small meals including fresh whole foods. Try to avoid sugar, caffeine and starches that can give you a “lunch hangover”. This will keep your energy up during the day.
- Get enough rest – try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night (or day if you work a night shift). A deep sleep of at least six hours is when major restoration and repair of the body starts on a cellular level. This is especially important for older nursing professionals.
- Make daily exercise a priority – if you don’t already have a daily routine, begin slowly and build your strength and stamina. Measure your progress as encouragement to continue. Focus on strengthening your core for more flexibility and to help avoid injuries.
- Focus on being mindful in every situation – listen, observe and learn what you need in that moment. Form a bond with colleagues so you know you can count on them and they can count on you. Be grateful for help and acknowledge gratitude from others.
- Take care of each other – When your shift is over, find ways to enjoy your career by serving your fellow nurses. Mentor a student nurse, visit a sick colleague, take the time to talk with someone who is struggling at work. Being an older nurse, you can pass your years of experience, wisdom and empathy to the younger nurses.
If you are one of the hardworking nursing professionals over age 50, you know it is a challenge to maintain your energy level and avoid burnout. Conditions seem to be improving for older nurses and more hospitals and other healthcare facilities are improving conditions to encourage experienced nurses to stay in the workforce. If you feel the need for help in surviving and thriving, consider asking your employer for accommodations such as:
- Reduced Workload – If you work 12 hour shifts, request a change to 8 hour shifts.
- Physical Assistance – If you suffer with back pain, or are having difficulty moving patients, it’s reasonable to ask that hoists and lifts be provided to help with this.
- Reduce Eyestrain – Request larger text on computers and other medical equipment to ensure accuracy and reduce eyestrain.
- Switch Units – Ask to work in a unit which is typically less physical demanding such as pediatrics or outpatient surgery.
What is the one pearl of wisdom you would like to pass to your fellow nurses?