Self-Care For Women in Healthcare

Read Time: 5 minutes

Women are continually expected to juggle multiple roles related to home and family, sometimes for which they may have the sole or significant responsibility. Because work life is not independent from family life, and women make up a majority of the population in the nursing field, stress is particularly salient to the female profession, with 66% of all caregivers being women. Stress is not inherently harmful, but it has been regarded as an occupational hazard since the mid-1950s. Work stress in nursing has been assessed to find that there are four primary sources of anxiety among nurses: change, taking responsibility, decision making, and patient care. The nurse’s and nursing assistant’s role has been regarded as stress-filled based on the amount of physical labor, work hours, staffing, and interpersonal relationships that are a part of their job. 

Nurses’ work stress is continually escalating, leading to one of the most dangerous states of chronic work stress called “burnout,” otherwise known as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion in workers common to occupations involving numerous direct interactions with people. Burnout causes severe consequences. Work stress from burnout detracts from the quality of care, which is the biggest reason why caregivers must take care of themselves. In a study, 225 physicians reported 76 incidents where they believed that patient care was negatively affected by their stress. Furthermore, caregiver burnout can lead to serious health issues like anxiety and depression. Caregivers who are are caring for dementia patients or working in long-term care (LTC) and nursing homes will need to take extra care as these persons are even more susceptible to burnout. There are also other factors that can contribute to work stress, with a significant factor being the number of hours worked. In a random sample of Michigan nurses, RNs working 12 hours shifts reported higher levels of stress compared to RNs working 8-hour shifts. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 meaning extremely burned out), most nursing professionals reported they were at a 4 or 5, making this an important issue. 

The impact of caregiving that women given is substantial. Because doing what you love can also wear you it, it is crucial to practice self-care (even more on that can be found here). Many workers, whether they are in the nursing profession or some other profession, tend to forget their work is worthwhile. Overestimating work capacity can take a toll on anyone’s health - which is why taking care of yourself is not a luxury, but a necessity. The value of self-care is something often overlooked by most workers, especially in healthcare.  The workers who do overlook it are usually the ones who consistently feel tired and stressed, causing them to become more prone to making mistakes. As touched on before, this is dangerous, because it leads to not only patient injuries, but nurse and staff injuries. Taking advantage of support systems and encouraging self-care in the nursing field is vital to a lower turnover rate and decreasing the likelihood of adverse events.  Knowing the limitations for working is very important for being a caregiver in the nursing field, and practicing self-care regularly will aid in nurturing or restoring the well-being of the mind and body.