From Type E to Me: Self-Care in Nursing


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Note from the author: Before I begin, I want to tell you that I am writing primarily as a clinician and secondarily as a researcher. You will find much of this information supported in the literature; however, this comes from my clinical mind and experiences more than scholarly articles. 

When treating and consulting with nurses in my private psychology practice, I lightheartedly reference a Type E personality: Everything to Everyone.

You will not find this personality type in an official diagnostic manual. In fact, outside of working with my own clients, only in a self-care blog would I playfully reference this personality type. The problem with Type E is that caring for “me” is deprioritized. This is a problematic way of working and living. Self-care might be likened to an oxygen mask in a depressurized air cabin: you must secure your own before helping others. 

The essence of self-care is nurturing oneself – holistically – in an intentional, meaningful and active way

Self-nurturing is equally important – if not more important – than nurturing those around you. This is not selfish. It is necessary for health and wellness.

True self-care is holistic, complex and highly individualized. One size does not fit all, and many different domains are targeted: physical, emotional, spiritual, social and professional.

Self-care is intentional and active. This is critical: self-care can easily fall by the wayside if not actively scheduled into your life. In my practice, health care professionals and nurses reconceptualize self-care similarly to hygiene self-care. You would NOT go without brushing your teeth, for example, for X days. Start to think of self-care activities as rituals, whether they happen daily or weekly. I recommend integrating at least one self-care activity – just for you at least once daily. 

Effective self-care should leave you feeling recharged.

You should derive pleasure, comfort or some kind of intrinsic reinforcement from the activity. It is for you and only you. It may involve other people; however, you must ultimately conceptualize it as something that recharges, invigorates or comforts you

There is literature to support the idea that nurse self-care improves patient care. It reduces stress, burnout and compassion fatigue. Burnout and compassion fatigue influence our work: nurses who are burned out are overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, and at increased risk for having negative feelings toward and depersonalizing patients (see Berry, 2012).          

I hope I have inspired at least a few of you to treat yourselves as well as you treat others. Increasing meaningful, intentional self-care activities will bring more contentment, fulfillment and hope into your lives. Why not give it a try?

Berry, J. O. (2012). My clients, my students, my patients, myself: Self-care advice for caring professionals, Center for Learning and Leadership/UCEDD.