Keeping Yourself Healthy

July 23, 2009
Colleen O'Leary

In my last blog I mentioned a decision I had made to aid in keeping myself healthy. I believe this is one of the most important things that we can do as oncology nurses to keep us oncology nurses.

In my last blog I mentioned a decision I had made to aid in keeping myself healthy. I believe this is one of the most important things that we can do as oncology nurses to keep us oncology nurses. It’s not an easy career choice. I’ve said before how you always get that grimaced look from someone when you tell them what kind of nurse you are. “That must be so hard, so sad, so depressing” we hear, but if that were the case, then why would so many of us continue to do this for so many years.

One thing I know that helps me to keep going is to take care of myself when I’m at work and when I’m not. It’s something that I try to drive home with newer oncology nurses, as well as those who think they have it all together. What do you do for yourself? When you have those bad days, those days that you wonder why do you keep doing this, how do you get through that? I would venture to guess that not many of us have family or friends outside of work that really get what we’re talking about when we tell them what it was like dealing with a difficult patient situation. First you have to explain the entire scenario, explain why it would be so difficult, then maybe even try to explain other options that just takes too much time and energy. I’m sure we all have the work friends that we get together with and it seems like all you do is talk about work. It’s hard not to when that’s what you spend the majority of your time doing. And they get it. No explanations necessary. But sometimes when I have those kinds of days I just need to be.

I have tried to teach many other oncology nurses that they need to find ways to take care of themselves if they want to continue in this wonderful journey. But what does that entail? So many healthcare facilities are now picking up on this and are offering wellness opportunities that range from fitness classes, to yoga, to smoking cessation classes. It’s hard to find a healthcare facility that doesn’t offer some kind of yearly health fair for employees that gears everyone up for a year of good health and well being. Those are all great options and that might be all someone needs to take care of themselves. But I think we need to look beyond that to what can bring more of a peace and a joy for life. For me that’s a massage or a hot bath or as I explained in the last blog, I will not see movies with a bad ending. Sure movies are sad, but that doesn’t mean they have a bad ending. Although we have many good endings, and that doesn’t always include curing someone of their disease, we also see our patients and families through bad endings. Those are what can take the toll.

So if I have to live with that in my real life, why would I want to endure it when I’m trying to relax and escape real life for a while? That’s just an example of some of the things that you can do. Maybe it is exercise, maybe it’s getting a manicure and pedicure, maybe it’s taking your dog to the park or eating ice cream with your grandchildren, or listening to your favorite music blasting out from your speakers. Whatever it is that brings you peace and refreshes life you need to do. You need to find that for yourself and make a commitment that you will do it often. Not just on the hard days. Do it often. Build up an armory of joy that allows you to face difficult days, brush them off and still sleep well that night. We spend most of the hours in our days caring for other people and as simple as it might sound, we need to learn to care for ourselves a little more. You deserve it just as much as everyone else. So figure it out, choose your armor and as I say I choose to do, “Live out Loud.”