Being a nurse is tough. Not only do they have to deal with trauma on an everyday basis, but it’s also one of the most physically demanding jobs there is. It’s estimated that a nurse can travel as far as 4 miles in a 12-hour shift. When you add the fact that so many nurses work overtime and at night, it’s easy to see how it can start taking its toll on the body.
There are plenty of ways that you can make the job easier for you, however. Sometimes, it’s a question of changing habits. In other cases, you might have to reevaluate your work situation. Let’s take a look at how nurses can stay emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy.
Improve Your Strength and Fitness Levels
Having more strength and stamina can make your job so much easier for you. Not only that, but regular exercise can work wonders to elevate your mood and your overall energy levels.
There are plenty of exercises that will allow you to perform better in your functions. If you have to do a lot of lifting, deadlifts and any type of exercise that works your posterior chain will help. You also want to add exercises that will work your lower back and upper body. Back extensions, the reverse fly, and shoulder shrugs should all be part of your routine.
We suggest you add core exercises and stretching to your routine as well. Stretching is especially important if you want to improve your range of motion. This is also what could prevent a lot of injuries from happening.
If you’re walking a lot in your current position, there is no need to do any cardio during your sessions. You don’t want to overwork yourself. We would suggest that you focus on building strength instead. You’d be surprised at how much having a strong core and posterior chain can help. This could help you stay on your feet for longer hours without feeling as much pain and discomfort. At the end of it, it could even add years to your career.
We suggest that you dedicate at least two days to training per week, though 3 to 4 would be optimal. Two days of training followed by a day of rest is perfect to allow your body to recover. Some people like to dedicate a day to each body part, while others prefer to work on areas of the body. For instance, you could work on your lower body one day and the upper body the next.
Your routine will also be very important. If you are looking for a great routine to build overall strength, we suggest you check out StrongLifts 5X5. This will give you a good foundation and allow you to increase the strength of your whole body without putting too much stress on it.
Keep Learning and Consider Specializations
Another thing we encourage nurses to do is always keep learning. This is what will prevent you from stalling in your position. Learning new things will also allow you to become a more valuable player to your team.
It’s good to start with a few years on the floor, but you should consider looking at bigger and better roles as you get more experienced. You might feel like you have 10 or 15 years more to give in your current position, but it’s better to prepare now than to be sorry if you suddenly fall out of love with the job.
This is why we would suggest that you consider looking at advanced qualifications while you’re working. You can either take these classes part-time or move to a different shift structure so you can study full-time and still earn an income. Another thing you could do is look at online classes. These are better than ever and will be recognized as long as you get them from an accredited university. You could get something like a Family Nurse Practitioner degree from a school like Marymount and earn well into the 6 figures when you’re done. You can find more information at https://online.marymount.edu/programs/online-msn-fnp-program.
Not only that, but the pace will be totally different as an FNP. You’ll be able to enjoy fixed hours and work at a much slower pace. You’ll have the chance to build strong bonds with the people you’re working with and see them improve thanks to your advice. You could also help them make decisions from an early age that help them grow into healthy adults. This could also allow you to work as your own boss by operating your clinic. Sure, working on the floor is great, but you can’t deny that having your own clinic could be much more rewarding.
The goal here is to always progress and never stay stuck. Look at various units where you’re working and ask if you could be moved. This could allow you to discover a field you’re truly passionate about that will make going to work fun for you.
Some may even decide to switch to moving in a non-clinical setting after a while. Some may decide to work as legal and forensic nurses and work on solving cases and discovering evidence. Others may decide to move to research. Teaching could also be a great way to change the air and work on forming the next generation of nurses. Variety is what will make the field interesting to you, and the more you know, the better positioned you’ll be to find a role you really love.
Improve Your Nutrition
Nutrition plays an essential role in your general well-being, and if you aren’t eating right, you will suffer the consequences. Even doing something as simple as drinking more water could help you be more alert and have more endurance at work. The problem is that so many people walk around dehydrated without knowing it.
First of all, know that there isn’t a magic amount of water for each person. This depends on many things such as your age, weight, activity, and habits. For instance, if you’re a heavy coffee drinker, you will need to drink more water as coffee is a diuretic. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggest that men drink at least 3.7 liters of water per day and 2.7 liters for women, but you also have to listen to your body.
If you’re constantly feeling thirsty, sluggish, and your urine is dark yellow and has a strong scent, these are usually clear signs that you’re dehydrated. If that’s your case, we suggest that you portion the amount of water that you need each day into bottles and drink from them throughout the day. This will allow you to tell if you have drunk enough water for the day. If you have symptoms of dehydration, drink more.
Now, when it comes to food, you have to make sound choices if you want to operate on all cylinders. It will also affect your mood. For example, things like coffee could provide you with a quick jolt of energy, but also increase your chances of experiencing mood swings. Instead, you want to get a constant supply of energy. If you want to get this, we suggest you start adding more complex carbs to your diet.
What makes complex carbs different from simple carbs is how they’re digested. Simple carbs are digested fast and give you a sudden rush of energy followed by a debilitating crash. These are your white rice, fizzy drinks, and even fruit drinks. Complex carbs, on the other hand, are digested slowly by the body which gives you energy for longer. These include things like whole-grain bread and pasta, beans and legumes, and brown rice.
Also, you want to make sure that you have enough protein. Protein is what will give you endurance and will also allow you to be more alert and focused. So, make sure that you start the day with a nice balanced meal. You also want to make sure that you watch what you eat during the day. Snacking smart will allow you to keep your energy levels high.
Things like string cheese, yogurt, and hummus will give you all the protein you need. Instead of sugary fruit drinks, go for whole fruits with edible peels since these are high in fiber and will allow your blood sugar level to remain steady.
You should also make sure that you get the essential vitamins and nutrients needed. Some of these can make a big difference in how you perform. For instance, things like glucosamine could help relieve your joints. Omega 3s have also been shown to relieve inflammation. Be sure that your diet is high in vitamin D and calcium as well, as both will help improve your bone density, making you less prone to injuries.
Look at Your Life Outside of Work
You also have to make sure that everything else in your life is in order if you want to remain happy and sane at work. First of all, how much time do you give to yourself and how’s your sleep? Do you wake up feeling groggy every morning? If you have to hit the snooze button three times before pulling yourself out of bed, there might be something wrong there.
Maybe it has to do with your habits after work. If you like to go out for drinks after shifts, try to limit those nights as alcohol will interfere with your sleep cycles. You also have to make sure that you create the perfect environment for sleep while avoiding other habits that could affect your sleep negatively.
If you have a TV in your room, we suggest that you either take it out or get into the habit of turning it off at least two hours before going to sleep. This goes for all screens. The type of light that electronic screens emit will affect your body’s internal clock and trick it into thinking that the sun is still up. Instead of watching screens, we would suggest you consider listening to audiobooks or other types of audio content instead.
Review Your Mental State
You also need to consistently keep tabs on your mental state. If you notice that you’re starting to bring cases home with you, then it might be time for you to look for something else. Again, you don’t have to completely leave the profession. There are plenty of positions that won’t require you to be exposed to tough situations all the time.
There are some times, however, where you might be facing burnout and only professional help will work in this case. If you find yourself suddenly not caring about the job, lacking compassion and patience, or you don’t feel a sense of accomplishment anymore, then these could be signs that you’re burning out.
However, if you’re simply feeling stuck, getting higher credentials and looking for administrative roles or related work could be all that it takes to give your career a second life.
If you’re positive that it’s burnout, we suggest you take advantage of any therapy or assistance program there may be where you work. If there aren’t any or if they’re inadequate, you can find those outside of your place of work.
There are also things that you can do to reduce the chance of developing burnout. It all starts with a strong support system. Don’t isolate yourself from other nurses where you work and find yourself a few allies. Even if you see yourself as independent, these are the only ones who will be able to understand what you’re going through.
We also suggest that you set clear boundaries between work and your personal life. You have to be able to let go of everything the minute your shift ends. Do not feel guilty as you’ve already done all that you can. Be present and mindful and use your time to do things that you love.
Staying healthy from an emotional, mental, and physical standpoint is important for every nurse. Take these few steps and you’ll be able to enjoy work more, be happier and more fulfilled, and possibly add longevity to your career.