Next week I get to talk to students more about self-care because it is part of an empowerment course I am teaching. I fundamentally believe that self-care is important and I have been intentionally reflecting on my own practices for years with my colleagues. I have actually been invited as a guest speaker to talk to students about “how I manage to do it all.” – The truth is that my answer to that question evolves on a regular basis.

I am not sure how to best facilitate this discussion with my own class next week. I believe that self-care is self-directed. What works for me might give you ideas but it might not work for you. Conversations might be helpful but those same conversations might trigger or be difficult for others. At some point, I plan to review some liberated structures and hopefully find something that will work. First, though, I need to vent a little and ask you for some help.

Well-intentioned people in organizations are working to promote wellness in interesting ways. However, I am a little bitter about some of the implied messages in a lot of “resilience” and “wellness” discourse in some literature, workshops, and messages on social media. If my students do the readings for class I hope that they get the message that while self-care is good and needed but no amount of self-care is going to completely solve the problem we are facing with burnout. I went on a little rant a couple of weeks ago on this in class. Burnout is a SYSTEM issue. Offering social activities is nice, but we need to fix the SYSTEM issues. For example, I have witnessed several different people assigned the same role burnout in a row without any meaningful change in role expectations. Nurses are crying out for support in clinical settings and this pandemic has made an already unsustainable situation even worse. Burnout is a very real phenomenon that has anecdotally increased everywhere I look since the Pandemic.

Yes, a self-care plan will help. I rely on my daily walks with my family as a way to make sure I have daily space for exercise and family time. But it IS NOT ENOUGH!!!

a skeleton leaning on a laptop
Photo by Tara Winstead on

I am tasked with preparing my students to value self-care before they enter practice but guess what … they are burning out too. They are living through a notoriously heavy term in the program, in the middle of a pandemic, while doing front-line healthcare placements, and while war is breaking out between Ukraine and Russia. I need this conversation to fit into a reasonable timeframe and be impactful. I can help but I feel like no matter what I do in class it will not be enough. I can’t fix this issue on my own. We (nurses and educators) need advocacy for change on multiple fronts. Change now, not change sometime in the future.

Anecdotally, flexibility and empathy goes a long way. I think that empathy in this situation needs to result in meaningful and supportive actions to change systems. I welcome any ideas or input you may have.

If you are interested, here are the goals of the discussion:

Ends in View  

  1. Conceptualize effective self-care strategies 
  1. Explore ways to empower yourself to make self-care a priority 
  1. Develop a self-care plan 
  1. Distinguish the elements that have a role in self-actualization and empowerment in nursing 
  1. Examine the effects of the above on one’s nursing practice 


Consider reading three of the following: 

Bratton, B. (2018). Self care for the caregiver: What are the risks if we don’t care for ourselves? Journal of Pediatric Surgical Nursing, 7(1). doi: 10.1097/JPS.0000000000000163 

Gribben, L., & Semple, C. J. (2021). Factors contributing to burnout and work-life balance in adult oncology nursing: An integrative review. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 50, 101887.  

Holland, P., Tham, T. L., Sheehan, C., & Cooper, B. (2019). The impact of perceived workload on nurse satisfaction with work-life balance and intention to leave the occupation. Applied Nursing Research, 49, 70-76. 

Kuokkanen, L., Leino-Kilpi, H., Numminen, O., Isoaho, H., Flinkman, M., & Meretoja, R. (2016). Newly graduated nurses empowerment regarding professional competence and other work-related factors. BMC Nursing, 15. doi: 10.1186/s12912-016-0143-9 

Ross, A., Yang, L., Wehrlen, L., Perez, A., Farmer, N., & Bevans, M. (2019). Nurses and health promoting self-care: Do we practice what we preach? Journal of Nursing Management, 27(3). 

Sekol, M. & Kim, S. C. (2014). Job satisfaction, burnout, and stress among pediatric nurses in various specialty units at an acute care hospital. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 4(12), 115-124.  

A recent webinar I did for CAN-Sim that I haven’t had time to blog about … I talk a bit in the beginning of it about some sources of oppression in education that we can work against.
Categories: Reflections


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.