Practicing self-care is essential to not only a nurse’s personal health, but for professional growth as well. It is an understatement to say self-care is important in the life of a nurse. Rather, it is critical, especially in the current landscape of healthcare. Below, Tammy Chapin Ph.D., MSN, RN, Assistant Professor, Nurse Learning Specialist explores how Marian University exposes its students to this important topic.

How do you highlight the importance of self-care in the courses you teach?

Starting the first semester of the nursing program, emphasis is placed specifically on self-care with students. One of these courses is taught by Dr. Christine Laurent wherein the concept of self-care is discussed in depth and includes activities in which students define what self-care means to them and to identify their own unique strategies they use. This concept of being the best you is taught and stressed to our nursing students at Marian University.

Not only is self-care taught to nursing students as it relates to educating and encouraging practices with clients to improve their health and well-being, but it is stressed to our students to take good care of themselves during their academic career. This is especially true for our nursing students at Marian University as they try to navigate through the rigorous curriculum to become a competent, safe, critically-thinking professional nurse.

Why is it important for nursing students to learn the asset self-care can be?

The demands of nursing school is well known and a difficult journey on its best day, but add the challenge of unexpectedly learning solely online has led to a very different layer of stress and distress. Instead of practicing skills, knowledge, and assessments on one another, a skills lab dummy, or in high-definition simulation, students have needed to adapt to online resources, lecture, video simulations and more to continue to meet courses objectives and accreditation standards.

Early on in the nursing program, courses focus and thread the concept of self-care as critical component to not only teach to clients but also to be practiced by our students. While our nursing students are taught about the concept of self-care and various self-care strategies early in the nursing program as a critical component to caring for clients and engaging them in their own health and healing, self-care is stressed as also important for the student to be engaged in.

In nursing education, nursing students are taught to care for others as well as to educate individuals on the importance of self-care in order to take a more active role in their health, including nutrition, exercise, stress strategies, psychological health measures, and spiritual health.

What suggestions do you have for nursing students to conduct self-care while in school?

Self-care, according to graduation senior nursing student Calli Malter, is finding ways to lower stress levels and is about finding a balance. During her time at Marian University, she found that it was helpful but necessary to use working out as an outlet to relieve the stress and anxiety of nursing school. She also found that making and sustaining certain relationships were critical to her mental wellbeing.

What do you recommend nursing students do for self-care once they’ve entered the profession?

Central to understanding self-care is that it is not just related to nutritional health or exercise. Rather, care of oneself includes multiple vital components. In other words, self-care is holistic care. This is to emphasize the need to practice ways to ensure that individuals are the ‘best you that you can be’. Ironically, although nurses are taught and are knowledgeable about the importance of caring for oneself and health strategies, this concept doesn’t always translate into the nurse’s own self-care.

Nurses do a wonderful job of placing the health, wellness, and safety of their clients well before their own needs, lacking practice in what they teach others. The level of stress that nurses experience every day in practice, handling the life of individuals from birth to death, brings an overwhelming challenge unlike any profession. Thus, it’s understandable and critical to value ourselves by being mindful and aware of the necessity to first focus care where it belongs: the nurse-self.