Creating Change and Practicing Self Care

Chaos abounds; And I sit, becoming a new person.

Moment to moment.

Breathing in and expanding; Breathing out and contracting.

Accepting change, for I am not in charge.

I let go of it all, and rightly place it in God’s hands.

I came to the Nurse Manifest project in 2001 as I was in my doctoral program at the California Institute of Integral Studies, studying group process and transformative learning and change. I related the transdisciplinary concepts I was learning about to the issues we have in the profession of nursing, and I wrote an article about the nursing shortage which was published in Advances in Nursing Science in 2002.  My use of the manifesto in this article lead to my interaction with the nurse manifest group in our first research project in 2002, where using Rogerian narrative analysis methodology, the story Nurse  #65X89 was written. You can access this story through the link to the Nurse Manifest web page.

Over the years I have continued to write and speak about the issues we have in nursing and nursing academia that contribute to our professional oppression. I do believe one of the key concepts that nurses need to embrace is the idea of self-care in order to create change in ourselves and our profession. I learned this for myself as I was honored to study with some of our great nurse theorists and leaders (like Jean Watson and Janet Quinn) and from my own continual process of learning to love and care for myself.

I am currently developing and implementing a caring-holistic RN- BSN curriculum where I use Maslow’s Hierarchy to help these hard-working students focus on their own self-care needs. Some students may need to just “hang out” at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy and focus on sleeping 8 hours/ night (or day if they work night shift) or creating an exercise routine. Other students may really strive to move up the hierarchy and begin to do more “soul care”, or striving toward self actualization, by meditating or practicing yoga. We are currently developing a caring resource area for our ASN and BSN students, and we will begin implementing the use of heart math and em-wave technology to help them come into the heart space when they are providing patient care and when they need to care for themselves.

Many of the RN- BSN students come to our program feeling burned out and disenfranchised;  by supporting their self-care efforts, some of these nurses fall back in love with nursing as they create sustainable caring-healing practices. As these nurses are able to truly care for themselves and their patients, they are also fortified with the strength and energy to create change in their workplaces.

Self care may sound like a challenge to some, but Janet Quinn calls for us to make what she calls “one degree changes”. What small things can you change in your routine or life to create a healing journey for yourself? It could be taking some “me time” for a bubble bath and a good book, starting an exercise or yoga routine to reduce stress just once/ week and building from there. Can you take the time for a creative outlet, like drawing or writing a simple poem like the one I wrote above (which I wrote during a long meeting as a reminder to myself to let go!). Can you learn how to stop during the tasks of the day and just be present and breathe deeply and fully throughout your whole body? Service to others has also been shown to be as effective as exercise at reducing stress levels in the body, so can you find an hour/ week to begin volunteering to help others?

I would love to hear your thoughts on self-care and how it can benefit not only you but the nursing profession at large. How can you, or how do you, make that one degree change to begin taking care of yourself?

6 thoughts on “Creating Change and Practicing Self Care

  1. Like you taking some moments during a meeting to write a poem, I try to integrate self-care into daily activities. Taking my students to the 3rd floor of the hospital, I encourage them to run up the steps as I do: aerobic exercise. Waiting to get meds from the Pyxis I do a yoga forward bend. I plan and prepare my meals so I have lots of fresh organic fruits & vegies, beans, and grains. I make a phone call and get put on hold? Great! A moment to relax and reflect. Take a deep breath. Do a little self-reiki.

    When I care for myself, I’m better able to care for others. As you pointed out: I get to move up Maslow’s hierarchy. When I have enough sleep, activity, nutrition, and social interaction then I’m better able to express my compassion for others. I notice I have more physical energy, hope, and mental acuity. Self-care and balance: key to my well-being and yours.


  2. I personally have been positively affected by the philosophy that Carey brings to the courses and to her students. When I started my studies in the Fall of this year for the Bachelors program for nursing I was burned out and questioning whether to even continue in nursing~ Her idea of self-care was new to me…I was used to putting my family and my patients first…I was quickly coming to the end of myself! I can honestly say that this idea of self-care was a welcome one, and one that I embraced. The courses that I was taking, along with the implementation of yoga, clean eating and aromatherapy have changed my life for the better. I am renewed and have a fresh outlook on patient care. I look forward to the ongoing reward of implementing self-care into my life. I also have a stronger idea of the connection between alternative therapies to promote health for my patients.


  3. Hi Carey! Yes, reiki has certainly been a factor in recognizing the importance and value of self-care. I want to be as healthy as I can be: I want to exude health, love, and joy. Reiki helps me live in the moment, helps me check in with myself, and gives me access to a stream of amazing energy.


  4. Carey,
    Thanks for your post on self-care! What an important concept for nurses…and for moms! Maybe it’s a woman thing – we tend to put others first. I have struggled, since having children, with taking time for myself. I was not good at it for the first several years and that really backfired. Now I think I do a better job, but I’m sure I could do even more!
    I was so excited to hear that you have found nurses to be more excited/rekindle their passion for nursing once they work on self-care. This is so important. I have too often heard nurses say, “I would never want my daughter/son to be a nurse.” I just feel these words are the product of burn-out, and if these nurses could get back to their love for nursing, they probably wouldn’t feel that way. I know I would LOVE for my son or daughter to become a nurse (but I don’t pressure them :)).


  5. Jane, I lost myself in my children as well when they were young. Then we were in a pretty severe car accident, all survived and I am the only one with ongoing physical issues, but it lead me back to my self care and healing process. A big wake up call!

    My children are glad I am a nurse, though they seem to have little interest in my profession. The older one is 5 now and she has the caring compassion to be a great nurse. We will see…


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