Fitness to Practice: Nursing, Mental Health & The Gym

Fitness to Practice: Nursing, Mental Health & The Gym

Millennial In Medicine:  Amber Good, RN


We have all heard that saying, "you have to take care of yourself before you take care of others". Well, in the health care profession, that couldn't be more true. I am a Registered Nurse from Ontario Canada, a novice nurse just shy of 2 years, may I add. And let me tell you, nothing can prepare you for what nursing truly is, not even nursing school. For 12+ hours a day, whether your in the hospital or community, you are fully invested in other people. Their lives, their losses, their reality. Now don't get me wrong, this is an absolute privilege. But immersing yourself in the hardships of others, being the person these patients and families look to for answers, is a large responsibility to carry on your shoulders. Especially being a new nurse, I strive to put myself in my patient's shoes with the uttermost empathy, however I still have periods of self doubt. In this profession, you are constantly challenged emotionally, ethically, physically, and mentally. While these challenges are what makes the job so special, there is a fine line between helping others, and helping at the expense of ourselves. 


Like many of you reading this, I have struggled with mental health challenges in my life. My mental health journey stems back to my childhood, making it important to take care of myself now, working a job with a highly physical and psychological demand. Reflecting back to my third year of nursing school, I found myself stuck in an insurmountable rut. The demands of nursing school, clinical experiences, stress at home and at work, all built up and came crashing down at once (as it usually does). Perhaps the most important decision I made was to introduce myself to the gym, using it as a form of stress relief. Moving my body, lifting weights, and the benefits of exercise, truly changed my life. I fell in love with the way I felt mentally, and the positive effect it had on my self esteem. Over the years, my gym-going habit matured into a lifestyle of healthy eating and positive self image. But most of all, the gym is time I set aside each day, entirely for myself. 

I take what the gym has brought into my life, and carry this into my nursing practice. It is more than just the physical strength and endurance. It is the choice you make every day, to continuously put yourself first. It is the positive attitude you bring that is virtually contagious to those around you. It is the self confidence that may inspire others to be confident in themselves. And most of all, by taking care of yourself, you are able to give that same amount of love and energy you give to yourself, to your patients. So go ahead, take some time out of your day to solely focus on yourself, and make it a habit. In this selfless profession, it isn't selfish to take care of yourself. It is liberating, and absolutely necessary. 
Much love, 
Amber Good RN, BScN

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