Self-Care Practice Resuscitation (sCPR): Breathing Life Back Into the Hearts of Nurses

A student framing his hands in the shape of a heart over a UB tshirt.

By Loralee Sessanna, DNS, RN, CNS, AHN-BC, faith community nurse

Jean Watson, a holistic nurse and founder and director of the Watson Caring Science Institute, noted, “Nurses are a unique kind. They have this insatiable need to care for others, which is both their greatest strength and fatal flaw.” Nurses often forget the essential and critical need to love, be kind to, and compassionately care for themselves and each other.

national survey of over 11,000 nurses conducted by Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) revealed that 70% of nurses reported putting the health, safety and well-being of their patients before their own. This finding is no secret, since nurses practicing what they preach has historically remained a significant and ongoing self-care deficit, placing them at high risk for compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress. It’s sadly ironic that despite the intense education and training that nurses undergo to prepare for a profession dedicated to human caring, a call to action is needed to promote their own personal self-care practices.  

In 2017, the American Nurses Association (ANA) Enterprise launched an ongoing HNHN “Grand Challenge” directed at transforming the health of our nation by first improving the health of our nation’s almost 4 million registered nurses. According to HNHN, domains of self-care among nurses needing immediate attention include physical activity, quality of life, rest, nutrition, and safety.

Combined examples of suggested tips for helping nurses address and improve self-care by the HNHN and the American Holistic Nurses Association include the following: 

Spend time on physical activity

  • Substitute exercise solutions for excuses – make time 
  • Engage in exercise without distraction from electronics  
  • Take the stairs instead of elevators 
  • Park away from your destination (in a safe place) and walk 
  • Join physical activity challenges and classes   

Improve your quality of life

  • Practice mindfulness, self-reflection, and meditation 
  • Pause and just breathe throughout the day 
  • Practice presencing and being in the moment 
  • Spend time outdoors and in nature and enjoy the sights, smells, and scenery 
  • Practice self-kindness, self-care, self-forgiveness and self-love 
  • Enjoy humor and take time to laugh 
  • Engage in hobbies  
  • Spend time with family, loved ones, friends and pets 

Let yourself rest

  • Limit or avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bedtime 
  • Turn off all electronics 30 to 60 minutes before bed 
  • Consider room darkening shades, earplugs or white noise machines 
  • Establish a regular bedtime and wake time ritual 
  • Get adequate sleep—aim for seven to nine hours  
  • Create a healing sleep environment that is cool in temperature, dark and quiet 
  • Limit naps to 30 minutes a day and avoid napping right before bedtime 

Prioritize your nutrition

  • Select healthier food options with whole- and plant-based foods 
  • Substitute store-bought snacks for homemade healthy snacks 
  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Plan and shop for healthy meals ahead of time 
  • Eat meals slowly and without distractions and practice mindful eating 
  • Avoid being under or overweight  
  • Read ingredients and nutritional information on food labels 
  • Take healthy cooking and nutrition classes   

Watch out for your safety

  • Reduce stress that leads to toxic cultures, incivility, bullying and workplace violence 
  • Promote and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for bullying 
  • Participate in violence prevention training or classes 
  • Learn and practice conflict resolution and negotiation skills 
  • Encourage safe staffing by participating in staff decision making and professional collaboration with supervisors and administration 
  • Prevent sharps and needle stick injuries by following proper procedures, policies and guidelines 
  • Use needles only one time; do not recap needles and dispose of needles in a sharps-approved container 
  • Practice Safe Patient Handling and Movement (SPHM)  
  • Get your annual influenza vaccination 

The World Health Organization declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse, and the American Nurses Association Enterprise has made self-care among nurses a top priority goal. Nurses are devoted and dedicated instruments of healing who are responsible for role modeling, mentoring, teaching and advocating best care practices for those they work alongside with, as well as those placed in the hands of their care. 

Resuscitation is defined as the act of restoring someone to an active or flourishing state. Self-care practice resuscitation (sCPR!) among nurses is a current and emergent necessity needed to inspire and encourage nurses to restore themselves to their most optimal healthy, balanced and flourishing state. In the words of Eleanor Brownn, “When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” 

Nurses: love, respect, cherish and take care of yourself just as you love, respect, cherish and take care of others. It’s time that we practice what we preach and breathe life back into our own hearts as nurses. ❤️