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Handling Stress
Making You a Priority
A new nurse self-care survey can help you identify your blind-spots.

“Take care of yourself!” - Wouldn’t it be nice if your job description included this directive?

Unfortunately, nurses, who pour themselves into caring for others, are notorious for self-neglect. There’s no one around to make sure you make “you” a priority.

It’s a conundrum—you know you ought to take better care of yourself, but you don’t. Maybe you’re too tired to care. Maybe you don’t know where to start.

If you’re one of the many nurses languishing in this predicament, a fellow RN, Brenda McLaughlin, wants to hear from you. Alongside her advisor Dr. Sirois, from the University of Windsor, Department of Psychology, McLaughlin has developed a nurse self-care survey at

RealityRN recently spoke with McLaughlin and Sirois about their research, and how it will benefit nurses across the globe:

RealityRN: What led you to conduct the study?

McLaughlin: I’ve always been interested in health and making my body work better. When I got into nursing, I found many nurses would complain about leg problems and back problems, yet they wouldn’t exercise. I would see nurses using poor ergonomics and again complain. I’d see nurses going out for cigarette breaks and drinking coke and eating chips for breakfast. I thought, As nurses, we know better. When I sat back and looked at my own behaviors, I realized I do similar things. For instance, I procrastinate with exercise and don’t eat healthy all the time.

What are the results of poor self-care?

McL: Obesity, stiffness, poor balance, high stress levels, type 2 diabetes, and irregular menstrual cycles, among others. Because of this, nurses often call in sick more frequently and experience less job satisfaction.

If these are the results, why don’t nurses make self-care a priority?

Dr. Sirois: Procrastination is probably the biggest factor. Through my research, I’ve found that when people are under a great deal of stress they tend to not look after themselves very well. The higher the stress level, the poorer the self-care– even when you know better. Stress wreaks havoc on your ability to look after or care for yourself--the way that you know you need to.

I also think that nurses fall into a “role” of looking after others, but the job requirement doesn’t say you should look after yourself. By focusing on others’ health, nurses have blind-spots when it comes to caring for themselves.

How do you hope your research will benefit nurses?

McL: We hope to detangle the issues around why it’s so easy to look after others’ health but not ourselves. We also hope to provide insight on how nurses can take responsibility for their health.

We’re also finding that nurses who fill out the survey become more self-aware of their self-care. In the survey we ask, “Did this survey bring attention to an area you need to improve on?” And about 50 percent of the group said yes.

Dr. S: You might be fooling yourself, thinking you’re on top of your health. Through the survey, you may discover areas where you’re not doing as well as you thought.

That awareness in itself can actually provide good motivation to think of better ways to take care of yourself.
To fill out the survey go to:

Read more Handling Stress articles

5 Responses to “Making You a Priority”

  1. Melissa Granger Says:

    That is so true that nurses don’t take care of themselves. Most nurses don’t even go to the doctor when they are sick they just wait it out and get even sicker. This is a great article to read to remind oursleves how important it is to DO what we preach everyday at work.

  2. Adam Shaw Says:

    After 13 years of working in the NHS it is my opinion that if nurses cared even a fraction for themselves as they do their patients, there would be way less sickness, stress and back problems within the profession. I realised that my own health was suffering as a nurse and left the profession last year. I have now set up my own programme to help nurses value their own health. Details can be found on . My aim is to shift the focus of care to the carers.

  3. Kim Richards, RN Says:

    After almost 20 years as an executive nurse recruiter, and having spent years attending nursing conferences, I frankly am fed up with the lack of self care nurses exhibit. Nurse recruitement is a revoling door yet hospitals haven’t seen the need to RETAIN the aging workforce. I have been speaking at nursing conferences around the country about “Compassion Fatigue”, the S&S, and how it translates to retention rates. As a fitness instructor and a 50 y.o. nurse, I created a program called NurseFit. Check it out at We have to get hospitals to invest in the mental, physical, emotional needs of nurses to keep them!!

  4. Kathy Quan Says:

    When caregivers don’t take care of themselves, they become part of the problem. We teach this to patients and family members every day! And yet we are the worst at making sure we take care of ourselves.

    We all know that this behavior leads to burnout, and burnout is a tremendous problem for nurses.

    BEFORE the stress leads to more physical problems, deal with the problem and TAKE CARE OF YOU!!!

    Here are some suggestions for Avoiding Burnout from


  5. rondodondo Says:

    I would like to know how taking better care of ourselves would resolve “back problems” when not one hospital I have ever worked for used any kind of “lift device” to move patients around? The hospitals all expect the nurses to move people in/out bed by sheer physical strength alone which in turn leads to all the back problems. The hospitals are the problem, because to them we are a disposable commodity and your unit manager only cares about one thing: staffing the floor. They could care less if you drop over dead, unless of course it’s during the middle of the shift which would leave the floor staffed inadequately…..

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