Six Cornerstones of Wellness

Why nurses should focus on their own health

By Mallory Hatmaker, MSN, CNP

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The nurse: intelligent, caring, provider, responder, listener, healer, the ultimate caregiver. You are an expert when caring for others. But has anyone ever stressed to you the importance of caring for yourself? At Cleveland Clinic, we are striving to create a culture that helps nurses care for themselves and prioritize their own well-being.

Demanding profession requires self-maintenance

I could go on and on about how wonderful it is to be a nurse, how caring for others is the ultimate gift, and how respected we are in our communities. But nursing also is a very demanding profession. There are 12-hour shifts, rotating shifts, difficult patients, sleep deprived days, stress, chart checks, Q2 turns and call lights. We do a lot more than wear white and make a patient’s bed!

The key to reaping the benefits of the nursing profession without getting burned out from the challenges is tied to maintaining personal wellness. There are six cornerstones to wellness. Without a balance between these six categories, you truly cannot achieve overall success with personal wellness:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Physical activity
  3. Stress management
  4. Sleep
  5. Weight management
  6. Prevention and treatment of chronic diseases

How many nurses can say they have all of these six foundations in check? The job of a nurse is to be the ultimate giver, but what happens if a nurse gives too much without first assessing his or her own needs? Your health and well-being is imperative not only to you, but also to patients who rely on your care.

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Striking a work-life balance

If you read this and thought “No way!” I am here to tell you that balance is possible. The first step is learning about how to create equilibrium, then implementing that into your life one step at a time. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has a program called HealthyNurse™, which describes a healthy nurse like this:

“… one who actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal and professional wellbeing. A healthy nurse lives life to the fullest capacity, across the wellness/illness continuum, as they become stronger role models, advocates, and educators, personally, for their families, their communities and work environments, and ultimately for their patients. Just think, if all 3.1 million registered nurses increase their personal wellness and that of just some of their family, community, co-workers and patients, what a healthier world we would live in!”

It’s a great definition. But I believe we need clear-cut ways to obtain these qualities and fit them into our personal and professional lives. In future posts, I will delve into each specific cornerstone of wellness and offer advice on how you can restore yourself because a nurse is a patient, too!

Let me leave you with a few things to consider. How would you feel if you:

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  • Slept a solid 7 to 8 hours a night for one straight week?
  • Cut out fast food and soda for 2 weeks?
  • Started walking 20 minutes a day?
  • Did deep breathing exercises or chair yoga at work when things got stressful?

My goal is to help you love your body, soul and mind so that you can be a better nurse, parent, sibling, grandparent, caregiver, friend and provider. We only live once—why not feel good every day?

Mallory Hatmaker, MSN, CNP, is a regular contributor to Consult QD—Nursing. She is an Adult/Gerontology Certified Nurse Practitioner who has been a staff nurse at Cleveland Clinic since 2009. She currently works in the Employee Wellness at Cleveland Clinic, where she spearheads the initiative on Nursing Wellness.