With a bump in hospital presentations of between 20 and 40% over Christmas holidays, it is essential for nurses to ensure that they are caring for themselves, as well as those in their care, at this busy time (Western Sydney Local Health District 2015; Kelly 2015).
Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) (2015) highlights that Christmas can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, resulting in more hospitalisations for depression and self-harm. This should emphasise the need for nurses, like all people, to be extra mindful of any signs of mental health issues over summer and to seek professional help immediately if any concerns arise.
Heart health is another important aspect of nurses looking after themselves over the festive season. Kelly (2015) reported that deaths from heart issues escalate by 5% over the Christmas holidays, with the most incidents occurring on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Again, like the rest of the community, nurses should be aware of their intake of alcohol over summer. VicHealth (2012) conveys that there is a significant increase in alcohol-related issues in the days prior to most public holidays. It is reported that December is the month of the year with the most need for emergency services support for cases of alcohol intoxication and assaults.
To truly look after yourself, it is necessary to take care of your overall wellbeing. Better Health Channel describes wellbeing as the way you feel about yourself and your life.
Mind Health Connect (2014) recognise the following elements that can contribute to a person’s wellbeing:
- Personal relationships
- Feelings of safety
- Standard of living
- Sense of achievement and purpose
- Feeling part of the community; and
- Future security.
Based on these factors, suggestions to help look after yourself this summer could include:
- Participating in regular exercise
- Budgeting your money
- Having a good, nutritional diet
- Making sure that you get enough sleep (especially if you are a shift worker!)
- Making time to engage in enjoyable hobbies
- Spending time with your family
- Going on dates with your partner
- Catching up with and strengthening your bonds with close friends
- Practicing mindful techniques to promote a positive outlook on life events/situations
- Join clubs/activities that are of interest to you (e.g. sports, study, social)
- ‘Try to find work that you find enjoyable and rewarding, rather than just working for the best pay.’
(Better Health Channel 2016)
Therefore, from a professional perspective, it is important to reflect on your career and consider if your work contributes to your wellbeing. If not, it may be time to consider ‘finding enjoyable and rewarding’ work. This may mean looking at other roles, departments, organisations, occupations, or even the amount of time spent working.
For further resources on self care, see Why Nurses Should Know About Psychoneuroimmunology, Mindfulness in Nursing and Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and Secondary Post Traumatic Stress.
Ausmed is hosting a conference, Beating Burnout in Nursing, designed to help nurses and midwives tackle stress, burnout and compassion fatigue in their workplace. Learn more on the Beating Burnout in Nursing event page.
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- Better Health Channel 2016, Wellbeing, Better Health Channel, Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, viewed 7 November 2016, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/wellbeing
- Kelly, C 2015, ‘Holiday wish list for paramedics’, The Australian Hospital Healthcare Bulletin, 11 December, viewed 5 November 2016, http://www.hospitalhealth.com.au…wish-list-paramedics/
- Mind Health Connect 2014, Wellbeing, Mind Health Connect, Healthdirect Australia, viewed 7 November 2016, http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/wellbeing
- VicHealth 2012, Drinking Cultures and Social Occasions – Public holidays: Research Summary, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Carlton South, Victoria, viewed 12 December 2016, https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au…drinking-cultures-and-social-occasions
- Western Sydney Local Health District 2015, Emergency department boss reveals top reasons for hospital presentations over the holiday season, New South Wales Government Health, NSW, viewed 5 November 2016, https://www.wslhd.health.nsw.gov.au…presentations-over-the-holiday-season
Madeline Gilkes focused her research project for her Master's of Healthcare Leadership on Health Coaching for Long-Term Weight Loss in Obese Adults. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate in Aged Care, Bachelor of Nursing, Certificate IV Weight Management and Certificate IV Frontline Management. Madeline is an academic and registered nurse. Her vision is to prevent lifestyle diseases, obesogenic environments, dementia and metabolic syndrome. She has spent the past years in the role of Clinical Facilitator and Clinical Nurse Specialist (Gerontology and Education).