My good friend Alex, a Registered Practical Nurse, is launching a new website on self-care for healthcare workers hersunnydisposition.com. It isn’t live yet, but I’m a healthcare provider who frequently emails clients and updates her website at 11pm, so I thought I should get some tips.
Jen: Your current project is a blog for healthcare workers; what motivated you to put that together?
Alex: My biggest fear before I got into healthcare was that I would be overworked and eventually develop an injury [coincidentally, massage therapy is a great way to maintain your health and prevent injuries – JH]. Taking care of myself physically has been on my mind ever since I started a nursing career. Based on my experience, taking of myself physically is just 25% of self-care. Prioritizing more “me-time” and guarding my day off is another big chunk. Another aspect of self-care is paying more attention to your mental health – including seeking professional help. I believe health care providers always put themselves last. Even after realizing this I still have difficulty in managing my self-care and so I thought if I’m fighting so hard for this to happen, how about establishing a community to bring forth a spotlight on strengthening personal boundaries, especially for new grads.
Me: I’m feeling very proud of myself right now for heading to a counselor before I started to get caregiver fatigue. What makes someone a creative healthcare provider? And how do these people provide their patients with better care?
Alex: Everybody has a creative streak, I believe healthcare providers just don’t let it out much. With a constant focus on clinical and technological topics, our [health care providers] sense of self and the expression of it is moved to the back burner. An interaction with a client or an event on the field subconsciously influences us and that’s why being “burned out” is more than about your work/life schedule(s). You may not be emotionally “letting go” of an issue or an incident and doing something creative provides a safe place to release that. Along with this benefit, creativity also allows you to step back. I don’t know about other regulated associations but in nursing, a reflective practice is mandatory for Quality Assurance purposes. Putting forth a creative aspect in your personal life would lead to a quicker access to your reflective mindset.
An article from UofT Medicine (http://medicine.utoronto.ca/news/putting-i-you-medical-practice) makes a great point on why reading up on the humanities and including creative aspects in your life results in positive benefits at work. They’ve argued that enriching our personal life helps break down the barrier of the “I-It [the diagnosis/problem” mindset to a “I-You [patients’ stories/humanity]”, which results to a more compassionate, culturally sensitive mindset and this can add more meaning to our work and thus provide better care.
Me: That makes so much sense! I have a philosophy degree, and always keep reading, but maybe not creating as much as I should. I feel like I’m always busy. As a nurse, what does your schedule look like? How do you make time for your own healthcare? Is there anything that you think people should always make time for, no matter what?
Alex: My schedule differs all the time – on paper, it’s nicely organized for the upcoming month but in real life, you can be called last minute to cover a shift. If I would draw my schedule it would include lots of loops. I try to book medical appointments all on the same day as per my work schedule(s), but then again I also have to deal with my practitioners’ hours…I had to cancel my dental hygienist many times now. People should protect their “me-time” no matter what, it’s good for your own sanity and your clients too.
Me: Please do, and then we’ll have more time to get coffee. Are there any areas of healthcare that you specialize in? What makes you more interested in those?
Alex: I’ve always been interested with topics around sexual health and I’m currently completing workshops on transgender and gender-diverse health care. I never questioned or given a thought of my own gender identity but starting this training opened my eyes about how our health care system may not be as inclusive for the marginalized populations.