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Alene Nitzky is an oncology nurse, author of Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts the Course for Cancer Survivorship Care, Blue Bayou Press, 2018. She is a cancer exercise trainer and health coach, and is CEO/Founder of Cancer Harbors®.

Gifts for Nurses that Last All Year

I give myself gifts, but not at the holidays. I spread them out over the entire year, and those are gifts of self-care.
I have never been one to celebrate the holidays, but I do appreciate the contrast of bright lights against the long night in December. I spend a lot of time outdoors, and this time of year I enjoy the cover of darkness to reflect and pay attention to my needs for the coming year.

I give myself gifts, but not at the holidays. I spread them out over the entire year, and those are gifts of self-care. I learned from a wise mentor before I started nursing school that the only way to survive nursing was to take care of myself.

I use 3 self-care techniques to keep me going, and they each recharge me for different aspects of my work. These are all necessary whether you work in a clinical setting, or in the community, as I do now.


Nursing requires time on my feet, standing or walking for long periods of time, in between extended bouts of sitting (think “documentation”). I get daily physical exercise, which comes in the form of running and walking. It gives me endurance for those long, upright days.

Over the New Year holiday, one of my favorite rituals is to participate in an ultradistance run called Across the Years. This year, I will be moving forward for 24 hours, which gives me plenty of time to reflect on the year behind and think about what I’d like to see in the year ahead.


Nursing is mentally taxing. It requires focusing on details while keeping multiple bits of information in my head, and the ability to recall those details after being interrupted multiple times, even after many hours when fatigue sets in. It’s important to let go of the things we worry about, wish we did differently, or can’t control, and allow peace and stillness to overtake the space that is occupied by daily concerns.

I take time to stop, lie still, close my eyes, and clear my mind. I use a combination of restorative yoga and meditation techniques to allow myself to release the mental burdens that manifest themselves in physical discomfort. Nurses experiencing any type of physical pain can often benefit from these practices.


Nursing lays bare the struggles, pain, and vulnerabilities of the many patients and clients we serve. Our unique perspective on the lives of others as we work to relieve their suffering is a gift itself.  We relate to their pain. We can also realize the contrast with our own reality where we are fortunate enough to be free of those struggles in our own lives. We not only appreciate the human condition and see ourselves as part of it, but we can more clearly see the parts of our own lives where they are intact and functioning well.

I am fortunate and thankful that I can go home to my family, my dogs, and my comfortable home at the end of my work day. Taking a moment to remember that, along with a slow, deep breath, before I get out of my car in the driveway, has become a part of my routine.

I wish you all an enjoyable holiday and a peaceful and happy new year.

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
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