New data from wellbeing and productivity company First Care show that mental health related absences among the UK’s NHS workforce have jumped by almost 40% in the past few months.
Almost 4,000 more staff were off work in June 2021 than the same time last year. The research shows that workers are around three times more likely to be absent due to mental health issues than to COVID-19 sickness or medical problems.
Obviously, the last winter wave of the pandemic has been particularly gruelling for nurses and other NHS staff. The best ways of taking care of your physical health in the pandemic have been extremely well advertised, but taking care of your mental health is equally important. Nursing leaders are calling for improved investment in accessible mental health support for staff. In the meantime, here are our top tips for self care in the workplace:
Choose your shifts wisely
When you’re an agency nurse, it can be tempting to accept every shift offered to you, but that can lead you to burn out extremely quickly. It’s important to maintain your work-life balance and set criteria around your ideal locations and timings for shifts, and let your consultant know.
Working with a framework agency like MSI means you get offered the widest range of available shifts, and we’ll approach you whenever a shift comes up that matches your preferences.
Saying no can be difficult and uncomfortable, particularly for agency nurses, as you don’t want to be seen as uncooperative or disruptive, but it’s far better to turn down shifts when you don’t feel able to cover them safely.
Take your breaks
When you’re busy it can be tempting just to keep working through your breaks, but it’s important to take some time to rest and recuperate, even if it’s just for a short period of time. Taking a break is not something that should make you feel guilty. After all, it’s for the benefit of your patients and their safety and wellbeing as well as yours.
Sitting down and having a cup of tea and a biscuit allows you to rest, rehydrate and refuel and will ultimately make you a more effective nurse for the rest of your shift.
Ask for help
If you’re an agency nurse working in an unfamiliar environment with unknown colleagues, you may feel awkward asking for help, but it is vital that you do so if you are struggling. Failing to ask for help when you need it can put both yourself and your patients at risk. Don’t struggle in silence!
Keep a friendly, open and receptive attitude, ask for a handover with every shift and voice any concerns you have straight away.
Avoid workplace gossip and politics
Chatting to your colleagues is a great way to get to know them and bond, and when you’re stressed and busy it can be tempting to vent your difficulties or indulge in some workplace gossip. However, this can be detrimental to both your health and wellbeing and your career.
Resist getting drawn into petty workplace politics and gossip and just focus on yourself, even if it means being antisocial on occasion. Concentrating on the work can help you avoid conflict and maintain a harmonious work environment for yourself.
Look after your physical health
Healthcare professionals know better than anyone the link between your physical and mental health. While it’s not always easy to eat well, stay hydrated and establish a good sleep pattern, the more you can do to keep yourself healthy, the more resilient your mental health will be.
Prepping healthy food in advance and cooking bulk meals can make it easier to avoid grabbing some junk food when you’re exhausted after your shift.
It’s more evident than ever before that the NHS needs its nursing workforce to stay healthy and there are lots of resources to help you look after your mental health:
NHS – Our NHS People
NHS - NHS Support Offers
Interested in working with MSI?
If you’re tempted by the idea of becoming an independent nurse and choosing when and where you work, or if you’d simply like to work a few more shifts and pick up some extra income, MSI Recruitment can help.