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Diagnosis: Stress

Nurses offer self-care tips for colleagues

Monday July 11, 2011
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For the nursing staff of St. John Hospital & Medical Center in Detroit, providing optimal patient care requires brains and stamina.

“To handle the daily demands, you have to be on top of your game,” said Brenda Belbot, RN, MSN, MHA and clinical practice manager of the center’s Acute Care for the Elderly unit. Belbot’s de-stressing antidote? At least once a day, she ducks into one of the hospital’s "renewal rooms" to meditate.

She sits on a couch, curls up her toes on the foot massager, closes her eyes, focuses on her breath and lets her mind "rest,” she said. St. John’s nursing staff is embracing this relaxation ritual, taking 10-minute mini-retreats in one of the 11 renewal rooms scattered throughout the hospital. The rooms are equipped with desktop waterfalls, journaling stations, guided meditation tapes, inspirational books and aromatherapy.

Belbot teamed up with the hospital’s integrative healing arts nurse to create these nooks for nurses. “The idea is to give our nurses a safe place to escape and to catch their breath,” she said.

The St. John’s initiative is one of many innovative ideas designed to help nurses take better care of their patients by taking better care of themselves.

“Nurses are about the last persons to care for themselves,” said Linda Bub, RN, GCNS-BC, director of senior health services for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Brookfield, Wis., and the hospital’s Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders coordinator. NICHE is a nationwide program that helps hospitals implement evidence-based procedures to enhance care of older patients. “We spend our days instructing patients and their families how to take care of themselves and forget ourselves,” Bub said.

And now, along with the minute-by-minute tension of 10-12 hour shifts, the pressures of the current healthcare system and an ever-increasing workload, nurses are confronting and coping with double-duty care giving.

“So many nurses today fall into the sandwich generation, we’re taking care of our children, our parents and our patients," said Marie Boltz, PhD, RN, GNP-BC, associate director for practice initiatives at the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University, and NICHE practice director, “As NICHE nurses, we focus on providing the best care for our elder patients. And increasingly we’re seeing that self-care is a critical component of providing that high level of patient care.”

At the recent NICHE national conference, self-care was a major topic of discussion among the 430 nurses, nurse educators and other healthcare professionals who attended. NICHE is ramping up its efforts to make nurses’ self-care an active component of its multifaceted program. •

Mary Beth Sammons is a Chicago-based freelance writer. She’s the author of “We Carry Each Other: Getting Through Life’s Toughest Times.”
Stress-relieving tips

NICHE nurses from the Midwest and Heartland discuss their hospital’s self-care initiatives and share their tips for re-energizing and reducing stress:

Make time for yourself. Nurses in the Wisconsin-based Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare system are encouraged to participate in massage and energy healing sessions at its Pavlic Center/Health & Wellness and ongoing workshops on nutrition and exercise, Linda Bub said. The nurses also meet regularly to share their strategies for balancing life and career. “Mine is getting up early and walking before work,” Bub said.

Play mind games. Denise Kresevic, RN, PhD, APN-BC, geriatric nurse practitioner at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, encourages nurses there to “pack a lunch and head over to the wellness center for guided imagery,” she said. “I tell them all it takes is two minutes a day to empower yourself, just close your eyes, take long slow breaths and spend those two minutes picturing a relaxing scene.”

Share the care. NICHE nurses at Louis Stokes and University Hospital Case Medical Center in Ohio have formed support teams to share self-care goals and develop remedies for compassion fatigue, said Denise Kresevic, NICHE coordinator at Louis Stokes.

Seek out what you need. Sometimes nurses need to be nursed. “One of the options we provide is access to a healing and wellness counselor who meets with nurses to outline individual plans for a balanced lifestyle,” said Linda Bub of Wheaton Franciscan.