Nurses can be unkind toward each other and sometimes not be as present and attentive as they should be when caring for patients. I believe one reason for this behavior is their attitudes toward themselves.

My work on the Theory of Human Caring is founded on the principle that practicing kindness, compassion and equanimity toward yourself is an important process to go through before you can be caring, loving and compassionate — or caritas — toward another person. Self-care is integral to a nurse’s job.

Luckily, there are infinite possibilities on how to accomplish both. By using theory-guided practices of self-care and healing — such as creating quiet time, engaging in silence, pausing when most hurried, praying and asking for help you can change negative patterns that interfere with caritas.

Caring for oneself also involves paying attention to inner messages and using mantras and affirmations to quiet the busy mind. Slow down the pace to be present in the moment.

Journaling, heart-centered breathing, meditation, massage, enjoying nature and all forms of artistic expression — singing, movement, dance — can contribute to self-love and self-compassion. Each person’s individual talents and gifts can help determine his or her self-care practices.

Compassion for yourself first, then compassion for others

When nurses are practicing self-care, they have more compassion, are less judgmental of themselves and are, therefore, less likely to judge others.

The Theory of Human Caring involves a transpersonal state of consciousness as the basis for self-care. If one person is raising his or her consciousness to allow for more self-love and self-care, that person can inspire kindness and peace in others.

Transpersonal consciousness also involves going beyond ego and connecting with a higher source or spirit, which leads to an even deeper understanding of self-care as foundational to caring for others, the community or the planet.

Self-care feeds caritas processes such as practicing kindness and compassion; authentic presence; enabling faith and hope; developing and sustaining loving, trusting and caring relationships; allowing for the expression of positive and negative feelings (either from yourself or others); being sensitive to yourself and others by cultivating spiritual practices; and creating a healing environment, among others.

“Touchstones: Setting Intentionality & Consciousness for Caring /Healing” was developed as a guide for sustaining caring practices.

These practices include:

  • Caring in the beginning — Begin the day with silent gratitude. Be open to giving and receiving. Intend to bring your full self in the day-to-day moments and to cultivate a loving-caring consciousness.
  • Caring in the middle — Take quiet moments to “center” and be still within yourself before entering a patient’s room or when entering a meeting. Cultivate a loving-caring consciousness toward each person and each situation you encounter throughout the day. Make an effort to see who the spirit-filled person is behind the patient or colleague. In the middle of stressful moments, remember to breathe and ask for guidance when unsure. Let go of that which you cannot control.
  • Caring in the end — Commit yourself to cultivating a loving, caring practice. Use whatever has happened this day as lessons to grow into your own humanity and inner wisdom. Offer gratitude for all that has entered the circle of your life and work this day.
  • Caring continues — Create your own intentions and authentic practices. Find your own spiritual path toward cultivating caring and meaningful experiences in your life, work and the world.

In the end, being more kind and accepting of yourself will lead you to be that person to your patients.

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