Personal care should be the priority for apps
December 17, 2021
4 minutes to read
Exhaustion. Fear. Burnout. Uncertainty. Stress. Trauma. Pain.
How do these words resonate with you?
Over the past 21 months, we have all experienced difficult emotions. The current COVID-19 pandemic, combined with social injustices and civil unrest, has created endless challenges.
Hematology / Oncology APPs bear the brunt of these challenges, not only in the heart of the work we do, but also in our personal lives. On a daily basis, we participate in critical conversations seeing patients and families in their most vulnerable conditions. During the same shift, we can experience a myriad of emotions, from joy and laughter on the inspiration to fear and hopelessness on the exhale. It is in these times that we learn the power, strength and endurance of the human spirit.
Most of us have heard of the saying, “You can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself,” but how often do we follow this advice? The impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers is enormous. Research shows that healthcare workers can experience increased anxiety, depression, insomnia, and distress. Taking care of yourself and integrating personal care into our daily lives must become a priority. The foundation of self-care is recognizing and identifying what you need to fully show yourself.
So how can we continue to provide empathetic, high-quality care to our patients and their families when our own compassionate reservoir is running empty?
Building momentum with gratitude
In a world filled with social injustice, political divisions and economic instability, life can seem overwhelming and chaotic. The universal law of impermanence is a constant reminder of the unpredictable course of life.
Caring for patients with blood disorders and cancer reminds me of celebrating life’s little victories, whether it’s a patient with prolonged pancytopenia who finally has neutrophil count, or the child in palliative care who wants to do one more ride on his tricycle while his patient – the controlled analgesia pump is tucked away in his backpack. For the hem / onc app, these are monumental triumphs as they are a gentle reminder that beauty and tragedy often intersect in our work. Often times these little victories are overlooked in our personal lives, but learning to recognize and celebrate these moments is a form of personal empowerment. It is through the ordinary moments of life, which may seem trivial at the time, that one can cultivate gratitude and grace. One way to create your own gratitude practice is to write down three things that you are thankful for every day.
Develop mindfulness, self-compassion
Do you ever feel like you’re on cruise control – going through the motions without pausing or thinking in the moment because your “to-do” list seems endless?
During these times, it is important to embrace mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness invites us to become aware of the present moment without passing judgment. Helene Langer, Doctorate, a professor in the psychology department at Harvard University known as the “mother of mindfulness” describes mindfulness as “the process of actively noticing new things.” It may seem counterintuitive, although it is intentional. The more we stop and notice what is happening around us in a non-reactive way, the more we welcome the unfolding present moment.
For PPAs, it can be difficult to make yourself a priority because our job requires putting the needs of others before our own. We chose this profession because taking care of others is part of our nature; therefore, if we put our needs first, we may feel guilty or selfish. When you feel this way, try to acknowledge your emotions without judgment and give yourself permission to feel them. Breathe now (breathe in deeply and let out a big sigh as you exhale) and think about how often you come across a situation and react too quickly. When a difference of opinion arises, it becomes familiar to react immediately with our own biases. Instead of that reactive jerk, try to invite curiosity by listening with the intention of understanding a new perspective.
Incorporating intention and mindfulness into our responses and our current lived experience is an important component of self-care. Developing and practicing self-compassion can help us cope with times of turmoil by responding to suffering in an encouraging and heartwarming way. Being aware of a difficult situation by being present allows our body to process reality and âfeelâ feelings, which leads to mindfulness. When we welcome self-awareness into our experience, it can help regulate our emotions, which can increase our well-being, resilience, and compassion.
Find grace for yourself when you feel drowned in self-criticism, and treat yourself with the same kindness that you would treat others. Challenge your mind to be present in the moment and feel all the feelings as you lean into the discomfort with compassion for yourself. Establishing a routine of mindfulness and gratitude allows emotional expression to flow freely and fill our reservoir of compassion.
Self-care is contextual, it is not a linear path, so buckle up and follow the mindfulness and gratitude detour signs along the way to cultivate calm in chaos.
Healio collaborated with the Association of Pediatric Hematology / Oncology Nurses for the submission of this column.
From Kock JH, et al. BMC Public Health. 2021; doi: 10.1186 / s12889-020-10070-3.
Hofmeyer A, et al. Nurse Educ Today. 2020; doi: 10.1016 / j.nedt.2020.104503.
Personal care and privileges during the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.proinspire.org/self-care-privilege-covid19/. Accessed November 30, 2021.
Self-compassion, Dr Kristin Neff. https://self-compassion.org/. Accessed November 30, 2021.
Sinclair S, et al. Appl Psychol Health Well-being. 2017; doi: 10.1111 / aphw.12086.
For more information:
Breanne Roche, DNP, IA, CPNP, CPHON, is a nurse practitioner in pediatric hematology / oncology at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. She can be reached at [email protected]