Between the threat of the virus itself and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been an extraordinarily stressful time for healthcare providers – including oncology nurses. However, it is essential that clinicians practice self-care in these trying times.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) teamed up with its partner institutions and recently published a self-care and stress management toolkit
for oncology professionals to use during the outbreak.
While the NCCN said that it is common for providers to feel scared, stressed, or anxious, the organization emphasized, “Your wellbeing and emotional resilience is essential to our patients as we work to help our community through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The guidelines note that it is important for oncology clinicians to schedule time to de-stress and engage in activities that bring them joy, even if it is just for a moment. “A few minutes of a break during a shift can be calming. Even a 5-minute walk can improve energy and focus,” the guidelines say.
The NCCN also recommends exercise (even stretching at work, if possible), limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption, seeing a mental health professional, and more.
When it comes to the cognitive impacts of the pandemic, the NCCN recommends getting news and information from reputable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the organization noted that individuals should limit the amount of news consumed, as it can become overwhelming. Instead, it added, healthcare professionals should focus on what they can control.
“Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol based hand sanitizer; try to maintain a 6 foot distance from someone who is coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs; prevent yourself from touching your face,” the NCCN says.
They also recommend a shift in the way one thinks about the virus, as scary as it may be.
“Check in with and reframe anxiety-provoking statements to statements that better reflect the evidence. This can reduce stress and increase coping abilities. For example, reframe, ‘my family will get the virus and die” to “the majority of people who get the virus recover.’”
While nurses may feel like they are constantly supporting others, it is important that they seek out those who they can fall back on, too. The NCCN says to share concerns with friends, family, and colleagues, and problem-solve together. Nurses can be there co-workers, and trust that they can be there in return. And finally, the organization recommends to find novel ways to connect with others during this time of social distancing: call, video chat, reach out on social media, and more.
“Increased anxiety is common as we navigate Covid-19 and the broad impacts to our communities. It is a normal, natural response to have increased emotions during this time of uncertainty, including feeling stressed, worried, sad, scared, disappointed, and confused. The more we focus on what is out of our control, the more stressed and anxious we begin to feel.”
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