The world plunged into a global pandemic while I was midway through my MSN program. While preparing for graduation in December 2020, I reflected on my almost three decades in nursing and felt compelled to implore all nurses to restore, recognize, and use their individual and collective power to heal themselves, each other, and our nation. Nurses have consistently been recognized as the most trusted profession in America. It’s time for us to seize the power and responsibility that accompanies that well-earned designation.
Improve our self-care
Nurses must do better at prioritizing self-care and begin the work toward better health for themselves. We are the most trusted voices in healthcare and in the nation. Our nation follows us. We must demonstrate ourselves worthy of this honor and make a commitment to follow our own advice. We must act as if all eyes are upon us, and all ears are listening, and become the beacon of hope and healing and the possibility of health that our nation and our world needs—especially during this time of global pandemic.
Find our voice
Nurses must do better at supporting each other and joining forces to use our power for the good of all. There is no room for bullying or aggression in healthcare. It’s counterproductive to our purpose.
But we must go beyond the avoidance of harming one another. We must focus our power. There is power in knowledge. Nurses have that. There is power in numbers. We have that too. There is power in the trust and respect that the public holds for the nursing profession. We must transform the essence of nursing into a force of its own. During this pandemic, we have the attention of the entire world. If all nurses spoke with one voice, everyone, including the nation and the entire world, would hear us. Just imagine what we could accomplish.
Heal our nation
Once we have restored our own health through better self-care and restored the health of the nursing profession, only then can we accomplish our best work toward restoring the health of our nation. We have the knowledge. We have the ability. We most definitely have the passion. We must become our best selves, help each other become their best, and work together to enact the meaningful change that is required to improve the health of our healthcare system, our nation, and our world. Isn’t that what we all set out to do when we began our journey into nursing?
Not just a call to action, a call to self-preservation
October 10 was World Mental Health Day. What did you do to recognize it and/or celebrate? Did you do something for yourself? Did you even know about the day? As nurses, we’re the caretakers of the nation. So, who takes care of us? We must take up that mantle ourselves. We must because the health of the nation is failing. We must because our country is watching us so we can show them the way. We must because one cannot pour from an empty cup. Nurses can be the calm in this storm. But just as a worn-out tool can be less efficient, or a phone with a dead battery doesn’t work at all, we’re not doing our best work when we are physically and mentally depleted. If we allow ourselves to become too exhausted in mind and body, we run the risk of making an error and causing harm rather than aiding in healing.
We all know the guidelines: eat right, drink water, and get enough exercise. As nurses we’re often focused on the doing of tasks, but we also need to take a break and rest sometimes too. It’s time to rest and refuel with intention. Rest your body and mind with a walk out in nature, a little pampering time for yourself or with friends, or by protecting the time you set aside to read or create or do whatever it is that fills and feeds your soul. Then embrace your inner kindergartner and share what you’ve done with someone else. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t even need to be good. In fact, laughing at yourself after an epic fail is healing too. And it shows others that it is OK to try and try again, and to keep on trying—even when things get difficult. We did not get to this unhealthy place quickly and we won’t get out of it overnight. As nurses we need to get started and get out in front of this so others have something to follow.
Get some rest
You are tired and frustrated, I know. We all are. You don’t have to be perfect, just better. If you can’t do it all, just do one thing. Then tomorrow, do another. I can offer a perspective I gained recently as both a nurse and a patient. Just this year, while I was waiting for heart surgery, I was shocked at my level of fatigue. I struggled to accomplish even minor daily tasks and fought to find a way to just keep moving. I tried to capture the sentiment in these words…
I’m often told that I ask a lot of questions, but I think questions make good teachers. I have another for all of you. What are you going to do today to support your own health—both mental and physical? You matter. Self-care matters. You CAN do it. You must. Because the nation is watching.
Cheryl Mann is process improvement manager at Pentec Health, Inc., in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania.