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Wellbeing and Self-Care in Nursing & Healthcare: A Guide for New Starters

  • Date: Apr 30, 2024
  • Author: Alastair Tulloch

Nurses and healthcare professionals are the backbone of the NHS. Caring for some of the most vulnerable members of our society makes nursing an incredibly rewarding role. But it can also be challenging. Throughout your nursing career you’ll likely experience difficult situations and demanding workloads which can put you under stress. Research from the Care Quality Commission found that 28% of healthcare staff has experienced abuse from patients or other service users in the last 12 months. Which is why it is so important to practice self-care in nursing, to have the tools at your fingertips to manage your wellbeing and to know how and when to ask for help. 

Looking After Your Mental Health & Wellbeing 

By looking after your own self-care and wellbeing you can continue to offer the best support to those in your care. When you feel good, you provide better care because your well-being affects how well you can understand and communicate with others. Having good stress-management skills also helps prevent burnout, something that can critically affect your self-care in nursing. 

Spotting Signs of Stress  

It's crucial to learn to recognise signs of stress in social care early on so that you can access the help you need or be able to offer help to your colleagues. 20-28% of sickness absence in healthcare staff is due to stress and anxiety. Watch out for indicators like increased irritability, changes in mood, or a decline in performance. You might also experience some physical symptoms such as headaches, tiredness, or loss of appetite.  

If you do notice signs of stress in yourself or others, you should be proactive about accessing support from your supervisors or workplace assistance programs. Having a strong network of peers or a mentor who understand the unique pressures of working in the healthcare sector can also be a valuable resource for getting help with your wellbeing and self-care in nursing. 

Key Self-Care Skills to Develop 

You should also develop some key skills that will help you manage stress, self-care, and wellbeing throughout your career in nursing. 

  1. Professional Development 

    Not only does ongoing learning and skill development, help you stay updated with the latest advancements in healthcare but knowing the next steps in your career path gives you a strong sense of purpose that can reduce anxiety and uncertainty about your future. You’ll be able to quickly identify the skills you need to work on to improve and by setting aside time to work on them you’ll reduce stress and feel more confident and competent in your role, so when things get tough, you’ll be ready. 
     
  2. Stress Management 

    Because nursing can be such a high-pressure role, it’s impossible to always be able to anticipate or avoid stress. Which is it’s important that you have tools and techniques on hand to address sources of anxiety and stress regardless of whether they are work-related or personal. Healthy ways to practice self-care in nursing include stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, exercise, and health eating.  You should also know how to establish boundaries and stick to them. 
     
  3. Communication 

    Improving your communication and collaboration skills can be incredibly valuable in helping you manage your self-care and wellbeing at work. You’ll be better able to express your needs and concerns effectively to you supervisor and establish boundaries and priorities with your colleagues. Good active listening skills and empathy will also help you to foster positive relationships with your colleagues, patients and members of the public. 
     
  4. Resilience 

    Being resilient means being able to bounce back from setbacks and adapt well to changes. You can do that by cultivating a positive mindset that is focused on finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems. Resilient people often see challenges as opportunities for learning and development not as roadblocks to success.  
     
  5. Mindfulness 

    Having insight into your thoughts, feelings and behaviours is a key self-care skill that will help you understand what causes stress for you at work and why you react the way you do. Mindfulness can mean understanding yourself through regular self-reflection – taking timer time to reflect on your day-to-day experiences and long-term goals – compassion for others, and importantly kindness towards yourself.  

With these skills as part of your toolkit you’ll be better able to manage any stressful or challenging circumstances you experience, and they are valuable soft skills to have as part of your career development too.  

Other Ways to Support Your Self-Care and Wellbeing at Work 

It’s likely that your employer has procedures and policies in place to help you with your wellbeing at work including mental health and wellbeing support. Make sure to check your employee handbook or ask your supervisor for any information available. Some examples of support your organisation may have available include: 

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Training 
  • Employee Assistance Groups, Employee Resource Groups, or other peer support groups 
  • Wellness Action Plans 
  • Counselling  
  • Exercise or Meditation Classes 
  • Financial Advice Services 
  • Quiet Spaces, Prayer, or Meditation Rooms 
  • Pastoral Support Services 
  • Flexible Working 
  • The Royal College of Nursing also has a range of resources available around wellbeing and self-care. 

As you start your career in nursing it’s important to remember that these support services are available to you, and to remember that it’s OK to ask for help if you are struggling with aspects of your role or your mental health, wellbeing and self-care in nursing.  

At Vetro we offer expert advice and recruitment support in the healthcare sector. Learn how to develop your career, grow your abilities, and find the perfect roles for you with the help and guidance of our industry-expert consultants.  

If you'd like more information on how Vetro could help you find your next nursing or healthcare role, get in touch or explore our hundreds of live vacancies across the UK. 

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