In nursing, we have seen language move from person-centered care to whole person care. We think the theme for National Nurses Week (this year from May 6–12)—The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit—exemplifies the importance of balance for all health care professionals, especially nurses.
It makes sense when the flight attendant instructs passengers to put on their own oxygen mask first, then apply the mask of their neighbor. In other words, you can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first. This makes sense for nurses, too. As Registered Nurses, we’ve learned the importance of finding balance, especially during times of personal transition—work changes, surgeries, and loss of family, friends, and patients—in order to help others.
The 2016–2017 flu season exemplifies the importance of nurses “putting on their mask first.” With flu rates hitting epidemic numbers across the state, we saw a direct impact to our front line medical providers—nurses. With increasingly high numbers of patients seeking medical attention, nurses were at an increasingly higher risk of contracting the virus, impacting their availability to work their scheduled shifts. We heard many stories about fellow nurses having to work extra shifts to cover for teammates due to illnesses and other absences. Clearly, this was a time when practicing self-care—and balancing mind, body, and spirit—was utterly important. It is imperative for nurses to continue focusing on ways to provide excellent care to patients despite sometimes dire circumstances.
We know that nurses do not get enough credit for the daily challenges they face and overcome. Nurses are faced with challenges of an ever-changing workforce and health care system. Changes in electronic medical records, telehealth, quality measures in health care, and the movement from service-based to value-based purchasing must be learned, all while keeping our patients’ healthcare wants and needs in the forefront of what we do. How does one balance all the quality metrics—access measures, outcome measures, patient experience measures, process measures, structure measures, costs of care, efficiency measures—and maintain balance? The nursing profession requires equilibrium—sharing a person’s journey through health, sickness, and management of chronic conditions with our own health and wellness.
With that in mind, in recognition of National Nurses Week, we celebrate all nurses, including Aging and Disability Services (ADS) and Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS) nurses. We encourage all nurses to take a few moments for themselves, to ensure they are taking time to balance their mind, body, and spirit, so we can continue to represent the most trusted and most respected professionals in the country for the 15th year in a row!
Rawsi Williams, a Registered Nurse, attorney, and human rights activist, once said:
To do what nobody else will do,
A way that nobody else can do,
In spite of all we go through;
That is to be a Nurse.
We go forth … balancing excellence.
Contributors Mary Pat O’Leary and Erika Parada are Registered Nurses. Mary Pat is a planner at Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. Erika manages Nurse Delegation and Adult Day Services in the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.