Terri Wentzell

Terri Wentzell, BSN, RN, a clinical nurse in the Cardiovascular Recovery Room, shares advice for nurses about self-care strategies. She recently published a book, Nurse Gone Strong, on this topic. 

Why is it challenging for nurses to make their health and wellness a priority?

Nurses are caretakers by nature. It is just who we are. Our drive to meet others’ needs first can be a blessing, yet also a curse. As nurse theorist Jean Watson said:

“Nurses are a unique kind. They have this insatiable need to care for others, which is both their greatest strength and fatal flaw.”

It is certainly a wonderful thing to care for others, yet when this desire overshadows the need to care for one’s self, it can be detrimental. We sometimes forget about ourselves, not realizing that the nature of our profession can ultimately hinder our own health and well-being if we are not paying attention.

Why is self-care so important for nurses, and how does it tie into relationship-based care, our care delivery system?

If we as nurses are not taking time to care for ourselves, then what good are we to others in the end? When we give and give and give some more, we leave nothing for ourselves. This makes our ability to care for others much less effective in the long run, not to mention unhealthy for our own personal well-being. We can better care for others when we first take care of ourselves. This is true not only for our patients, but also for our own families, friends and others we care for.

What self-care strategies would you recommend to your fellow nurses?

I recommend many self-care strategies in my book and also on my website nursegonestrong.com. Some recommendations include:

Exercise: Get exercise outside of work to improve your overall health, relieve stress and increase your energy levels. Exercise doesn’t need to be long and tedious. Find ways to get short bursts of exercise instead of trying to fit longer exercise periods into your busy schedule.

Eat healthy: Take time to make more meals at home and bring them to work. Eat more real, fresh food rather than processed food.

De-stress: Find time to de-stress, such as with a yoga class, 5-10 minutes of meditation or by practicing mindfulness through breathing exercises.

What self-care strategies do you use?

Exercise is a priority for me, not something I try to squeeze in after everything else on my “to-do”. I enjoy going to the gym and lifting some heavy weights and working out in my own backyard with kettlebells or even just bodyweight exercises. I also love doing yoga and occasionally going for a quick run. Taking time to prepare fresh food at home is also important. Meal planning takes time, but it can save you from eating whatever is in front of you at the moment and ruining your best intentions. I try to eat little to no processed foods so I can fuel my body the best way possible for my overall health. Also, I try to keep stress levels in check. I like to take time to sit back and evaluate the situation and look at the big picture. I also practice awareness and mindfulness through meditation and deep breathing exercises.

How can nurses find the right self-care strategies for them?

Finding self-care strategies that will work for you requires some experimenting. We are all different – our schedules are different, our likes and dislikes are different, and our taste buds are different. I encourage nurses to experiment with different exercise options, making new foods and trying different stress-relief strategies to see what feels right. It may also help to find like-minded people to support you and go through this with you.

Self-care Resources at BWH

BWH sponsors the largest Reiki volunteer program in the country. Once a month, Reiki is offered to all staff. For more information, contact Sharon Dickinson, program coordinator, at sdickinson1@bwh.harvard.edu. Upcoming sessions will be listed in Brigham in Brief.

Caritas Rooms
These dedicated rooms provide a quiet space for staff to relax and meditate. There are Caritas Rooms on Shapiro 8, Tower 11, Tower 14 and in palliative care.

Tea for the Soul
Members of Spiritual Care Services offer tea, cookies, fresh fruit and other treats to staff as a way of showing gratitude for exceptional service or relieving stress following a difficult time. To organize a Tea for the Soul for you and your colleagues, call ext. 2-7480.

Chapel and Interfaith Chapel Service
The BWH chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for patients, families and staff to spend time in quiet reflection, meditation or prayer. An Interfaith Chapel Service is held daily from 12 p.m.-12:15 p.m., and all are welcome to attend.

C.A.R.E. Relaxation Channel 11
Staff, patients and families can relax by listening to BWH’s harpist, Nancy Kleiman, play soothing melodies and by learning Reiki techniques on Channel 11.

Visit BWHheartandscience.org to learn more about these offerings and how to register.