Being prepared for clinical as a nurse practitioner student entails more than just having a stethoscope, medical apps, and a few quick reference pocket guides on hand. NP students should arrive at clinical rested and ready to engage with patients, preceptors, and office staff to meet the course objectives for the week. As graduate students, we are under a lot of pressure from our families, jobs, school, work, and clinicals. According to Lavin and Carley (2019), in order for NPs to care for others, they must practice self-care and health promotion. Have you ever heard the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup”?
Nurses are recognized for their comprehensive approach to patient care and efforts to improve patient safety (2017). To maintain our position as the most trusted profession, we must practice self-care. Burnout is caused by a lack of self-care, which has a direct impact on patient safety. According to Garcia et al. (2019), burnout is associated with heavy workloads and long hours. While working, raising a family, and dealing with life, this almost defines graduate school.
To prepare for clinical, I had to miss my first day (Monday, 10/24) this week so that I could care for myself. My father died last Wednesday. His funeral was held on Saturday. Because my cup was empty, I knew I couldn’t go to clinical on Monday. I had nothing to offer but my despair. I emailed my preceptor (who, after meeting her yesterday, I discovered is an angel) on Sunday evening to let her know I had to reschedule my first day with her. That gave me two extra days to prepare my mind and heart to face my obligations and responsibilities. I spent the entire day Monday doing something I really enjoy: processing all of my tobasco peppers from my garden and putting them in jars to ferment so I can make tobasco sauce. I’ve got 12 quarts! This procedure was extremely amusing, and I desperately needed to laugh. All day I sneezed, coughed, and had watery eyes! The following day, Tuesday, I spent the day preparing for clinical. I enjoyed it and realized how much I had anticipated it. It felt great. I needed to give myself two extra days before returning to school. When I went to clinical yesterday (Wednesday, 10/26), I was optimistic and eager to learn. I was much more assertive, asking to be hands-on all day despite my doubts that I was doing everything correctly. It turned out to be one of my favorite days in a long time. I am certain that my father was present the entire time.
J. L. Fencl and D. Grant (2017). Self-care leads to safer patient care. The AORN Journal, 105(5), pp. 506-509. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aorn.2017.03.008
C. Garcia, L. Abreu, J. Ramos, C. Castro, F. Smiderle, J. Santos, and I. Bezerra (2019). Burnout’s impact on patient safety: a systematic review and meta-analysis 553 in Medicina, 55(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina55090553
M. Lavin, R. Carley, B. Porter, and D. Thomas (2019). Caring for oneself is an example of self-care. Primary care the art and science of advanced practice nursing-an interprofessional approach, edited by L. Dunphy and J. Winland-Brown (5th ed., pp. 1354–1359). Davis, F.A.