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Q&A: Why Nurses Should Practice Self-Care

Nursing is a unique profession, with major psychological stressors and equally great emotional benefits. Who would have better self-care tips for you than a psychiatric nurse practitioner and DNP candidate, Jonathan Llamas, BSN, RN-BC, PHN?

Llamas is pursuing his degree at Loma Linda University in California, while also working full-time as a psychiatric-mental health nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. Obviously, he knows a thing or two about workplace stress! He is a Filipino American, a first-generation college graduate, and an emerging nurse leader who aims to help educate the next generation of nurses.

In this interview, Llamas suggests ways for nurses to practice self-care at any point in their career journey.

How did you become interested in psychiatry?

Llamas: I ended up choosing psychiatry because … I have always been fascinated by the miraculous wonder of the human mind and the inherent beauty and evolution of life that emanates from the adept functioning of the brain.

I developed a profound passion to better understand and treat the psychological, emotional, and spiritual ailments that are often associated with mental illness in contemporary society.

What have you learned — related to stress, self-care, avoiding overwhelm, depression, or burnout — from your psychiatric nurse training that you wish all nurses knew?

The most important concept that I have learned so far during my experience working as a psychiatric-mental health nurse is the importance of self-care. The concept of self-care was never really endorsed, until recently, because of the overwhelming influx of individuals suffering from mental illness in recent years.

The interesting part about mental illness that many people tend to forget is that it is non-discriminatory, meaning that it can affect anyone regardless of their race, gender, creed, or socioeconomic background.

I often make it a point to encourage my fellow nurses and colleagues to not be afraid to care for their mental health and address any issues that may produce additional stress and anxiety in the future.

What personal benefits (emotional, psychological, spiritual, etc.) have accrued to you from pursuing this specialty?

Working in psychiatry is a unique experience because it teaches you a lot about the interplay between the emotional, physical, and psychological components of holistic treatment. As a result of this realization, I try to make a concerted, daily effort to continue to develop not only creative approaches to my nursing care, but also empathetic techniques that ensure patient safety and satisfaction is achieved across the patient gamut.

You also have previous experience in ICU/trauma and emergency department (ED) settings — what did you learn from those roles, related to stress, feeling overwhelmed, and so on?

Although it can be physically and emotionally draining, working in the [ED] and ICU/trauma settings, [they] taught me the significance of perseverance, collaboration, and patience.

I have come to learn that the best way to combat stress and burnout is to surround yourself with people and hobbies that energize [you], and remind you as to why you chose to be a nurse in the first place.

Do you have favorite techniques for de-escalating difficult situations, with patients or co-workers?

In the past decade or so, violent incidents have increased dramatically and are now four times more likely to occur in healthcare than in any other private industry.

Because of this unfortunate reality, one of my favorite de-escalation techniques that I continually perform on a consistent basis is the LOWLINE Model. LOWLINE is a mnemonic that stands for (L)isten, (O)ffer, (W)ait, (L)ook, (I)ncline, (N)od, (E)xpress.

How has being a minority (gender or racial, ethnic, etc.) nurse played out in your career?

Surprisingly, being a minority male nurse in a predominantly female driven profession has been a positive experience for me thus far … I consider myself blessed and fortunate to be able to care for my patients without fear of being judged or discriminated for my racial, ethnic, gender, or socioeconomic profile.

Since I do work in psychiatry, however, I do experience the occasional irreverent name calling from highly psychotic patients, but I do my best to not let it affect me and compromise the type of nursing care I provide.

Listen to Llamas on mental health nursing in an “Alumni Spotlight” video clip.

This story was originally published by Daily Nurse, a trusted source for nursing news and information and a portal for the latest jobs, scholarships, and books from Springer Publishing Company.