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Guest Post: Nursing Theory In The Real World: 4 Ways To Apply Orem’s Theory of Self Care to Your Daily Practice

Mar 1, 2017 1:55:00 PM / by user

By Marina Matsiukhova

Nursing theory is seldom what draws nurses to this profession. Just for a second, think of the reasons that you became a nurse. Most nurses are drawn to the idea of helping others, increasing their knowledge of medical and health related topics, as well as the lucrative array of work options. Learning about the theorists who built nursing into the profession it is today is usually not at the top of anyone’s list; it’s simply a course subject that we endure in order to earn that coveted degree that will open many doors for us in the world of healthcare.

Image credit: vectorfusionart
What you may not realize is that nursing theory is a cornerstone of nursing for good reason: many theorists have some good advice to offer us. One of these theorists is Dorothea Orem. You may have heard of her Self Care Theory. Orem felt that we as nurses take care of others who have a self care deficit. Self care includes many basic facets of living: air, water, food, shelter, rest.  Patients have additional self care needs when they enter the hospital: need for knowledge, need to learn to care for themselves, and the need for access to healthcare service. Of course, the ability to attend to these needs is determined by outside influences, which Orem called “ conditioning factors.” These include age, gender, socioeconomic status, education, family systems, and many other things. In a nutshell, how well we are able to provide self care to ourselves and others is influenced by many outside forces.
In a nutshell, how well we are able to provide self care to ourselves and others is influenced by many outside forces.
What does this have to do with the practice of nursing? To use an old cliché, you can’t pour from an empty cup. As nurses, we give of ourselves directly to our patients. We strive to provide the best care possible, even to the detriment of our own needs. But how do we replenish? This is where Orem’s theory applies to us. 
Here are four easy suggestions to practice good self care:
1)      Get plenty of rest before your shift
It’s easy to push yourself too hard in our current world.
With smart phones, laptops and tablets, we feel like we always need to be connected to the world, and often to our employers. One of the basic necessities of life is rest. Turn off your devices at a reasonable hour, preferably one hour before you plan to get in bed. Disconnect and allow yourself to wind down. Aim for a minimum of 6-8 hours of consistent sleep per night. The world will still be there in the morning, and you will be better able to face anything with a good night of sleep behind you!
2)      Utilize your breaks
Per labor laws, you are permitted a 30-minute lunch break per 8-hour shift.
For a 12-hour shift, you may take two additional 15-minute breaks as permitted by your employer. It’s easy to put yourself last when you’re taking care of others. Nurses are often spotted eating on the run, scarfing down a meal in 5 minutes so that they can make sure their medicationsare given on time or assist with other patient treatments. While this may seem noble and selfless, the reality is that it reflects poor self care. Allow yourself that 30-minute lunch break to be still, recuperate, and reorganize yourself for the rest of your shift! Your patients will be better off for it!
3)      Ask for help, if needed
Many nurses take their job extremely seriously (as they should) and hold themselves to high standards.
There are days when the workload is manageable, and others when it is outrageously crazy (imagine a full moon on Friday the 13 th, and you’re working the night shift!). You may feel like the patients you are assigned are your responsibility alone. While this is a noble mindset, it’s perfectly fine to reach out for help when things get hectic. No nurse should ever feel alone. Work together as a team with other professionals when the going gets tough and see how much better you feel at the end of your shift.
4)      Enjoy your days off:
How many times have you been enjoying a perfectly beautiful day off of work when you see the phone ringing with a call from your employer, most likely with a plea for extra help on a short-staffed shift? While being a team player is an important aspect of nursing, it is also important to recognize that time off of work is essential for decompressing and maintaining good work-life balance. Enjoy this time off without guilt and let the phone go to voicemail sometimes.

By incorporating Orem’s theory into practice, you will likely notice an improvement in both your mood as well as in your ability to provide excellent care to your patients!

Topics: nursing theory, guest post


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