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Self-care for the Nurse Leader during the pandemic

Leading during a crisis is a heavy responsibility.  While there are many strategic meetings and operational demands to attend to, there is also the need to be visible among the people at the point-of-care. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to take care of all these necessities.

The leader could literally be present 20 hours a day, but the unintentional result would be exhaustion and decreased capacity to make decisions and lead effectively.

Having been in the role of the Chief Nursing Officer, and admittedly not taking very good care of myself, here are a few thoughts that I’ve learned over past couple of years:

  • Recognize that leading during a crisis requires that the leader be resilient.  Resiliency doesn’t come for enduring; it comes from recharging.  Let RECHARGING be part of your daily routine.  It may look a little different to each of us, but the importance is paramount.
  • Plan your work hours to see both shifts but not necessarily both shifts in the same day.  Use other means of communication such as a daily update, a daily thank you, or a daily inspiration sent out through email or other digital means to be “in-touch” with those at the point-of-care.
  • Team up with other leaders to ensure that the staff see different leaders throughout their shifts.  This will not only be meaningful to the staff but will strengthen the alignment of the team.
  • Take a couple of minutes before work to determine your intention for the day.  For example, “Today, I will stay grounded; be aware of others’ feelings; see the good in everyone; be patient; or be helpful.”  Check in with yourself during the day to help stay true to your intention. Your interactions can become more meaningful and at the end of the day, you will feel more in touch with your purpose.
  • Make time to eat.  You want staff members to take their breaks and you should do the same.  Ideally, eat with a friend, slow down, and enjoy your food.
  • You must get sleep – the experts say, 7 hours.  If you’re like me, it’s difficult to quiet your brain from the day’s interactions, challenges, and decisions not to mention thoughts around the uncertainty of the situations you will face tomorrow.  Try keeping a journal beside your bed and jot down any thoughts running through your brain.  The process or writing and reflecting on the day can free up your thoughts so you can relax.  If you practice mindfulness, do a “body scan” to relieve tension and promote relaxation.
  • Stay in touch with your spiritual self. Pray. Meditate.
  • Practice self-compassion. When you fall short or make a mistake, learn from it and speak to yourself as you would to your best friend.  Self-compassion has many benefits, but most importantly during a crisis, when you are likely stressed, it releases oxytocin which is the antidote to the stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Be kind to yourself!!!

Our team, at uleadership, is doing research on Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare and what we believe and see validated in our work is that the leader must learn to practice self-care, self-compassion, self-awareness and mindfulness in order to develop resiliency and the capacity to focus their leadership outward.  Remember… It starts with you but it’s not about you!

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Human Centered Leadership In Healthcare
Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare

Evolution of a Revolution


The Journal for Nurses by Nurses

Self care during a pandemic!!
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