Whether you're working in oncology, home care or as a school nurse, fueling your nursing engine is an integral part of making sure that you're not running on empty.
So, what does it mean to fuel your nursing engine? This is a metaphor, of course, and we can interpret it in many ways.
The Literal "Engine"
Your literal "nursing engine" is your body. How you fuel that engine--that body--is a cause for thoughtful attention. Many nurses probably don't get time for lunch (or they don't prioritize their time well enough to actually eat it), so snacking is most likely the way that calories are consumed throughout a shift.
When you snack at work, are you snacking on healthy foods that you bring from home for that purpose, or do you pack unhealthy snacks that you know are cheap and filled with sugar to get you through the day? If you don't bring snacks from home, do you just buy whatever is in the hospital gift shop or the local convenience store?
Food is not just fuel. The quality of the food you eat says a lot about your level of self-care, and if you're gorging on quick fixes like candy bars and high-carbohydrate snacks, you're not really doing yourself--or your brain--any favors. A sugar and caffeine jolt may have helpful short-term effects, but the long-term effects are not as good, and your brain (and your ability to concentrate) will suffer the consequences (not to mention your health).
Healthy, nutritious snacks with a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats (plus proper hydration!) will get you through the day in a much more balanced way (without the highs and crashes of sugar), so thoughtful attention in this area can really be a benefit in the long- and short-term.
The Metaphoric "Engine"
Your metaphoric nursing engine is your spirit, or maybe you might call it "the nurse's soul". This part of you needs "feeding" with self-care, kindness and compassion so that you can be the best nurse (and person) you want to be.
Self-care, rest, relaxation, leisure, hydration, time with family, your social life, your spirituality, your creativity--these are all ways to feed your metaphoric engine.
When you're rested, well-fed, hydrated, and have taken time for your own well-being, your work will go better. When you have "fed" your creativity, spirituality, and needs for family, social connection and wellness, your "engine" will run much more smoothly, and various aspects of your life will seem more manageable and satisfying.
Don't Let It Backfire!
The backfiring of your engine may manifest in various ways. Physically, if you're not caring well for yourself, your health will suffer, and you may experience any number of symptoms, including frequent illness, susceptibility to infection, fatigue, frequent absenteeism from work, headaches, poor sleep, brain fog, and a host of other symptoms.
Spiritually and emotionally, if your engine is not tended well, you may experience profound mental fatigue or compassion fatigue, symptoms of burnout, irritability, relationship challenges, and decreased life and work satisfaction. Your life will feel out of balance because it IS out of balance.
So, when your engine backfires, the "exhaust" from the "tailpipe" will be made up of exhaustion, stress and unhappiness.
Feed It Well!
Feeding your nursing engine is not just a choice--it's a necessity. Whether we're discussing nutrition, hydration, rest, leisure time or work-life balance, this engine needs you to pay attention, and when you don't, you'll soon run out of fuel, and your quality of life (and work) will suffer.
If you need help learning how to feed your engine, engage with a coach, therapist or a supportive colleague to help you get on track. Sometimes we just need to change our perspective (or our ingrained habits) in order to turn things around. In this case, an "accountability partner" can help us maintain the healthy changes that we're trying to implement.
Feed your engine well, and your increasingly satisfying and balanced life will "feed" you back--and then some!