Self-care also critical during COVID-19 pandemic.
We’re living and working in tumultuous times since coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) took hold in communities across the nation. As I write this well in advance of publication, nurses remain on the frontlines of this pandemic, continuing to provide care to patients and risking their own health because of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The American Nurses Association (ANA) has been communicating with nurses around the country who express fears about spreading the virus among their patients because they lack the proper gear. We know your worries about potentially infecting family members when you go home. Many of you have shared your experiences of being the person to provide comfort to critically ill and dying patients because their family members aren’t allowed to visit. It’s a lot for you to carry.
Please know that ANA has been continuously advocating in many ways and with numerous stakeholders for much-needed workplace protections and evidence-based protocols so that everyone is safe, including all who are on the frontlines during this pandemic. We will not stop.
I also want to encourage you to engage in self-care whenever you can. It’s not a trivial matter. All the extra stressors that you’re facing can affect you in the moment and in the long-term if they go unchecked.
Getting proper rest and sleep is important, as is staying hydrated and eating real food. Take a quiet moment for yourself—even a few minutes between patients—or to walk outside if you can.
I also encourage you to take a holistic approach so you’re lifted mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Studies have shown that nurses experience significant stress in “ordinary” times that can lead to burnout and serious health consequences. Research further suggests that certain activities and practices, such as mindfulness, can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Everyone must learn the signs and symptoms of stress so you can identify it in yourself and others and help your colleagues engage in self-care. If you see a coworker looking overwhelmed or anxious, offer to cover their workload so they can take a break, or buy them a cup of coffee or a snack. Even small acts of kindness matter, especially when we’re facing many uncertainties. ANA has numerous resources on our Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ website, such as information on mental health help for nurses, incorporating micro-restorative practices at work, and meditation basics. Stress-reducing practices can help you at work and at home now and into the future. ANA’s affiliated specialty organization, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, also has mental health and coping resources at apna.org. And reach out to your nurse ethicist or ANA at firstname.lastname@example.org to help guide you through practice concerns.
Our profession is all about human connections, and I’m asking you to find ways that you can stay connected with family members, friends, your spiritual community, coworkers—and whoever your go-to person is who allows you to share your worries, talk about anything else but your worries, and helps raise you up. Feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and lonely isn’t unusual, especially if you must self-isolate. However, under these stressful working conditions, nurses face a high risk for depression and anxiety, so don’t wait until you’re in a crisis. Talk with a mental health expert or contact your employee assistance plan.
When you read this, we most likely will still be in uncharted territory. But together we will see each other through to the other side.
– Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, President, American Nurses Association