RPNAO heard from our provincial Innovation Fund tour in 2017 that nurses were looking for education and support with engaging in self-care. As a result, RPNAO is developing a self-care learning module. The purpose of the Self-care for Nurses module is to introduce nurses and other health care providers (HCPs) to the concepts, theory, and philosophy of self-care to help support nurses and other HCPs to care for themselves so that they may continue to provide the highest quality care for others.

Why is self-care important? Self-care can help health care providers cope with the inherent stressors of their profession, and restore and maintain balance in our lives.

There are some very specific barriers that prevent or limit nurses from engaging in deliberate self-care activities. Nurses are taught and socialized to care for others often at the expense of their own physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Due to the nature of shift work, working weekends and holidays, and a frequently asynchronous non-traditional work schedule, nurses expressed difficulty finding self-care activities that match their interests or fit with their lifestyle.

Whether preparing for and managing the physical demands of nursing, or rising to meet mental challenges such as complex problem-solving in stressful situations and supporting patients and families, or bringing self-awareness and expertly honed social skills into the infinite variety of interpersonal interactions – health care providers must attend to their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing through deliberate acts of self-care.

What happens when we don’t care for ourselves? There are many concerning implications of inattention to self-care in health professions including but not limited to impaired clinical decision-making, absenteeism, and burnout.

Moreover, lack of preparation and inability to cope with the physical, mental, and emotional stressors of nursing can affect recruitment and retention of nurses contributing to staffing and workload issues.

Finally, a lack of healthy coping strategies for stress can lead to a rise in systemic cortisol which puts us at risk for impaired immunity, weight gain, a number of cardiovascular risks including hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and heart disease as well as increased risk for depression and an overall lower life expectancy.

Research has demonstrated many positive outcomes related to the implementation of self-care activities for nurses and HCPs including the ability to confidently manage complex clinical dilemmas with emotional resilience, decreasing impairment from burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress, professional and personal wellbeing through career and life satisfaction.

Most importantly, all of these positive outcomes contribute to the improved wellbeing of health care providers, which is the one of four aspects of the quadruple aim in health care: better health outcomes, better patient experience, reduced costs, and improved wellbeing of health care providers.

RPNAO is developing a learning module that will discuss the definition of self-care, the importance of self-care, including specifically for nurses, and learners will conduct a self-assessment. Next we will discuss the three components of self-care: physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing including theory, philosophy, activities, and resources. Finally, learners will return to their self-assessment, complete a goal-setting worksheet and engage in reflective journaling. Learners will have what they need to develop a personalized self-care wellness plan at the completion of the module.


Holly Byrne, RPN
Professional Practice


Category: Education and PracticeDate: Thursday, March 29, 2018