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Nurses’ Personal Growth: A Parallel Focus

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

Becoming a nurse is a meaningful act with far-reaching impact. Nurses are the connective tissue of healthcare, and a nursing career can take an earnest individual down many roads, from the ICU and home health to academia, research and entrepreneurship.

If a nurse maintains an open mind and an eye for opportunity, the world is truly that nurse’s oyster. Meanwhile, the stoking of the fire of personal growth is essential to ultimate satisfaction and work-life balance.

The Rigors of Nursing and Healthcare

No one will argue that nursing and healthcare are challenging for even the strongest individuals. The healthcare workplace can be stressful, and multiple factors can lead to burnout, compassion fatigue and eventual attrition from the workforce.

Nurses can face bullying, mandatory overtime, untenable nurse-patient ratios and a feeling of always being behind. No one chooses nursing for the fashionable outfits and easy hours — nursing is a call to profound contribution to both individual patients and society as a whole.

If overwork, fatigue and other symptoms are normal aspects of nurses’ lives, those lives must be balanced by a parallel focus on self-care and personal growth. This is where many nurses could do better, especially since a common denominator is being overly attuned to others and ignoring one’s own needs.

Tuning into the Self

"Self-care" has almost become a cliché in the early 21st century, but its crucial importance is undeniable as a key to a happy and balanced life.

In an era when selfies and an external focus on the self are all too common, the most important focus should be the picture on the inside. If we gave as much thought to our interior life as we do to outward appearances, perhaps many of us would be much more joyful and healed of our spiritual and psycho-emotional afflictions.

Forms of Self-Care and Personal Growth

One nurse’s personal growth may involve meditation practice and personal retreats. Counseling or psychotherapy can be tapped for the healing of wounds and inner struggles. Another may seek spiritual guidance from a rabbi, imam, priest or minister. Yet another may want support from a trusted mentor or coach.

In terms of creative pursuits, a nurse may find solace in painting and drawing, dancing, creative writing, learning to play chess, knitting or doing ceramics.

For the welcoming of more pleasure in life, time in nature can be healing, as can art galleries, museums, concerts, poetry readings or other cultural events.

For physical self-care, the options are limitless in terms of yoga, fitness classes, and gyms and athletic clubs. For nurses with physically strenuous jobs, staying in optimal physical condition is a way to simultaneously prevent injury, reduce stress and focus the mind.

Enriching the Fabric of Life

In the end, hard-working nurses need to enrich their own lives so that nursing and caring for others is not the sole focus in life, as gratifying as that can be. Seeking pleasure, cultivating joy, taking the time to play, tuning into the body, quieting the mind and being creative are all means of personal enrichment and self-care.

And for those nurses who feel that self-care means having less time and energy for others, the opposing argument would be that caring for the self makes the nurse more balanced, whole, healthy and prepared to meet the demands of work and family.

Reading novels is not a selfish act — it provides a means of escape and pleasure, as well as insights into the human condition that can improve insight into the lives of patients. Looking at art calms the mind and encourages new ways of looking at the world. And studying yoga or meditation also contribute to focus and overall well-being.

Enriching the fabric of life, practicing self-care and engaging in activities that promote personal growth are the stuff of a life well-lived. For stressed nurses, such personal work is crucial to moving from surviving to thriving, and a thriving nurse is a happy nurse indeed.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, has been a nurse since 1996. He is the blogger behind the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway and a widely read freelance nurse writer. Keith is also the co-host of RNFM Radio, a popular Internet radio station devoted to the nursing profession. Under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, Keith's passion is helping nurses and healthcare professionals create ultimate satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives.


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