Pennsylvania nurse calls for better self-care among those in an overworked population

Most American nurses put their patients’ health and safety above their own, potentially impacting patient care, one Pennsylvania nurse wrote in the Journal of Radiology Nursing this month.

“It has long been recognized that healthcare providers and nurses in particular do not take adequate care of ourselves despite our commitments to assist our patients to achieve optimal health,” Lora K. Hromadik, PhD, RN, with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, wrote. “This phenomenon of neglecting self in our efforts to further a career, to have dedication toward a profession or simply to make a living is not new.”

Most nurses—in radiology or otherwise—in the U.S. report working more than 10 hours a day, Hromadik said, and more than half admit they come in early, stay late or power through their shift breaks to get work done. In a 2017 report from the American Nurses Association, 68 percent of more than 10,000 nurses said they put their patients’ health, safety and wellness above their own, while 82 percent reported significant stress at work.

Hromadik said those statistics aren’t particularly surprising, especially since research has supported similar findings in the past. But that so many nurses are reporting high-stress work environments and a lack of self care are concerning, because such things can impact patient care.

Nurses who don’t get enough sleep or exercise, which is often the case, tend to suffer from impaired judgment, similar to that of a drunk driver, Hromadik wrote. Until personal well-being becomes a priority in the nursing community, “the important and crucial work that we do cannot be done with excellence.”

“In line with the [Institute for Healthcare Improvement] steps for personal responsibility to patient safety, a healthier nurse means a potentially safer nurse who can perform to the best of their ability,” she said, noting that working in such high-stress environments can compromise patient safety. “It is important for nurses to show up to work at their best and to put forth their best in an attempt to keep patients safe while providing good care.”

Hromadik said the ANA’s initiative, “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation,” is a good place for positive reinforcement, self-care resources and support, and the program can be tailored to individual preferences and needs.  More than 14,000 nurses have joined so far, she said.

“We have the choice to adhere to written policies when providing care,” Hromadik wrote. “We have the choice to speak up when patients are unsafe. We have the choice to listen to our patients and colleagues, and last but not least, we have the choice to be the best personal self that we can be.”