Self-Care Equals Better Patient Care
A Fertility Nurse Gets Real About Steps To Be Your Best Self at Work
By Tara Brandner, DNP, FNP-C
In the world of fertility medicine, nurses confront a lot of emotionally difficult situations. When a regular part of the job is telling people they’ve had a miscarriage, a treatment wasn’t successful, or they have a condition that causes infertility, it’s taxing for even the most seasoned professionals. It can even make people want to leave the profession they love.
That’s why self-care is so important. People working in healthcare often need to go the extra mile with self-care to build their emotional endurance. That’s why I have several rituals that are part of daily life for me. I’m fairly strict about sticking to these practices because I’ve realized how critical it is for patient care. When people are experiencing their worst days, I need to be bringing my best self to give them the care they deserve.
Ritual #1: Protect your time
Protection of your time takes being mindful and intentional about how you want your day to play out. This includes the time you spend with patients during visits and with follow-up care—and everything else you do. One great practice is having an open discussion during an initial visit about how communication works within your clinic. This helps set expectations around appointments and follow-up communications.
It’s also important to protect your time outside of the workday. I’ve found this area to be more tricky, particularly when I know a patient is having difficulty. I’ll feel more of a pull to respond 24/7. That’s why I pick set times during the day to respond to patient messages. Of course, if I see something time-sensitive outside of that time, I respond. Otherwise, I stick to a routine.
I often ask myself during the day if what I’m doing is essential at that moment. Can it wait? Is it a productive use of my time? Asking these questions alone is helpful because it raises your awareness. You may find that tasks you believe are essential can wait. And you’ll have more time for patients when they need you.
Ritual #2 It’s not always an emergency
This is related to protecting your time, but I believe this requires some special attention. Every situation you encounter isn’t a fire. That seems obvious, right? But when you’re in the thick of it on the job, it can be hard to not feel like everything is critical. This is where effective time management can become a struggle.
If you find yourself constantly shifting gears and multi-tasking, or you can’t find room in your day to complete tasks, much less eat or go to the bathroom, you may be treating too many situations like they are a fire. It’s easy to feel that way, especially when heightened emotions are at play.
Mastering the art of time management requires you to ask: Is this a fire? Can it wait until the time you set aside for that task? If the situation isn’t a fire, then put it where it belongs in your day.
Ritual #3 Sleep, exercise, and eat healthy
We’ve all heard about the importance of getting enough sleep and exercise, along with having a healthy diet. But, it can be challenging for medical professionals to follow their advice, especially with a hectic, busy schedule. That’s why I build this into my daily routine and treat it like it’s just as critical as taking prescribed medication.
What works for you may not work for me, but I make sure to stick to a solid sleep routine. I exercise for 20-30 minutes 5-6 days per week. And, to keep eating in check, I do meal prep each week. I follow all of this because if it’s imbalanced, so are other aspects of my life.
Ritual #4 Meditation or relaxation techniques
This was a tool I learned during infertility treatments and haven’t stopped since. Meditation quiets my brain. People who meditate and cultivate mindfulness reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditation also helps you to become more self-aware. The good news is there are many ways to learn how to meditate, including a variety of apps like Headspace, Calm or Breathe that can help you integrate this practice into your life.
Ritual #5 Talk to someone
We have so many emotionally charged situations to deal with, but we’re not always equipped to handle them. If you’re like me, you feel like you should always be able to manage the emotional load that comes with patient care. But, the reality is that we’re human.
Talking with coworkers or professional mentors can help you understand how to handle situations or how to take care of yourself. You may talk with your spouse, friend, and family, but recognize they may not be able to fully understand your challenges unless they work in medicine.
You can also talk with other professionals through Organic Conceptions. They have a private community for healthcare professionals where we can discuss all the issues we face and find solutions.
When you care for yourself, you can be your best at work.
Just like me, you chose to enter the medical field to help others. Working in reproductive medicine is rewarding, but it takes resilience to serve this community. You can be present and available for patients and calm the most challenging storms. You can be the rock your patients need you to be. But to do that, you also need care.
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