Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Nursing Valentine

Nurses, it doesn't take teddy bear scrubs or a box of candy at the nurses station to celebrate Valentine's Day. In fact, all of the hearts and flowers in the world can't really address the lives you save, the souls you soothe, and the care you give. When it comes down to it, self-love and self appreciation are the balms that will serve you best this Valentine's Day.

I've said this before, but nurses are generally terrible at self care. We care for others, place ourselves at the bottom of our own priority list, and frequently ignore signs of burnout until it's too late. I've been as guilty as the rest of them, and I have the burnout history to prove it.

When you arrive to the nurses station, office or workplace on Valentine's Day, there may be flowers or candy on the counter--or not. Your workplace may serve a special cake or lunch--or not. Meanwhile, some of your colleagues will be wearing heart-covered scrubs that are an attempt to display their caring nature--literally--on their sleeves. (Don't get me started about scrubs with cartoons, hearts and teddy bears, attire that infantalizes nurses and further subjugates us to physicians by diminishing our professionalism.)

Hearts, flowers, teddy bears and chocolate aside, we nurses (myself included) need to look within our own hearts for the love, affection, gratitude and self-nurturing that we want--nay, that we need and deserve. Self-care is not something that your boss will necessarily remind you to do (unless you're very, very blessed and lucky), and it's a rare workplace that does anything beyond the superficial acknowledgment of your gifts and service.

So, dear nurses, it's high time for you to strike out on your own, take your self-care to heart, and begin to give yourself everything that you ever needed or deserved.

"What can I do", you ask? Here are a few ideas...
  • Praise yourself: Do it out loud, in writing, or in your head. 
  • Give yourself a gift: What is it that would light you up? 
  • Exercise: Taking care of your body every day is a wonderful gift of self-care and self-love. 
  • Eat well: This is another gift that keeps on giving. 
  • Socialize: Spend time with favorite friends or family members 
  • Take yourself out: Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? 
  • Create time: Set aside time for yourself, no matter what you plan to do. (You can even nap!)
 For me, it's taking ballroom dance lessons with my wife of 24 years (we're working on the waltz at the moment), taking walks in the New Mexican sun, spending time with people in my community and neighborhood, making special "super foods" that we love (write me for recipes!), and planning a very active camping season as soon as the weather warms up.

In the end, nurses, it doesn't really matter what you do. What matters is the intention behind it. Let's face it--no one is going to do it for you, and since today is the first day of the rest of your life (and your career), there's no better time to start than now.

I write these things because I need to hear them myself, and if just one of you makes a change or somehow catalyzes your own self-care and self-love, then this post has done it's job.

Anyway, happy Valentine's Day, and remember that you don't need heart-covered scrubs to show your love. But a little chocolate couldn't hurt!


Unknown said...

Hi Keith
I echo your opinion about nurses wearing Sponge Bob Square Pants and Scooby Doo scrubs! You don't see physicians or pharmacists wearing cutesy uniforms.

I also agree that nurses take really good care of others but rarely take care of themselves.

Thanks for reminding us!

Keep up the great work

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Thanks, Renee! I appreciate you chiming in, and I;m glad you agree about the scrubs issue! I have a post about it in the Digital Doorway archives.

Elizabeth Scala said...

You are so right about all of the external signs of love and affection. It burns me up watching people send flowers, balloons, and chocolates on a day that is supposed to be about love. Why do we not love every day? Why must we send these outward signs of affection?

And what I totally agree with you most on is the self-love. Very often, where we are lacking, is with self-love and self-appreciation.

Nurses can feel better about themselves and the work that they do when they take just a few minutes a day to love themselves!

Self-love IS self-care!

I like to read a good book, listen to relaxing music, give myself a Reiki treatment, journal, walk, and practice Yoga.

Thanks for a great post!
Elizabeth Scala

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...


You're the queen of self-care and self-love! Thanks for the support and for sharing your thoughts!