Winter Edition 2018

Edition 3 — Thriving in nursing and midwifery

Welcome to the latest edition of the Nurse & Midwife Support newsletter.

We are excited to bring you this newsletter that provides stories, tips and opportunities to assist you to thrive.

We invited some of our supporters to write for us and were overwhelmed with their responses. We will continue to provide these articles to you via our website and social media posts, so stay tuned.
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Thriving in caring professions: My journey

By Mark Aitken, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Nurse & Midwife Support.

As I travel the country to spread the word about Nurse & Midwife Support, I hear so many stories about the great work you do and some of the challenges you face.

Nurses, midwives and students tell me they love their profession, but struggle to find balance in their lives or the time to do what they need to thrive. Hearing these stories, I wonder: what does it mean to thrive? How do we prioritise our own well-being?


To thrive is to be prosperous, flourish and grow – it is to live our best lives.

I took my own journey from living to thriving. That’s one reason I love working for Nurse & Midwife Support. We support nurses, midwives and students every day, because your health matters.

Not so many years ago, back in the 1980s, I was a student nurse full of the possibilities and excitement of my future career. I trained in a teaching hospital in Melbourne, in the days when lifting equipment consisted of ‘nurse power’, and manual handling was a concept still to evolve. The shoulder lift, top and tail, and cradle lift were part of our daily work.

Like most of us, I now know I did things that would inevitably lead to injury.

The day I hurt my back seemed like any other workday. It was my ninth shift in a row and I was allocated ten patients. I was asked to assist with returning a patient to bed from her chair. The bed and chairs were fixed in position. As always, I took the top and my lifting buddy took the patient’s legs. I remembered to keep my back straight and bend my knees.

On the count of three, we lifted the patient from the low chair to the high bed and just as the patient was placed on the bed, I felt an excruciating pain in my lower back. The pain progressed to muscle spasm and an inability to walk and I was sent home to rest. I went home to bed and put my head under the doona.

My back slowly improved, and several days later I returned to work and more lifting — but my back never really returned to normal. Over the years I learned to manage it. I still live with chronic back pain. I decided that I didn’t want any other nurses to go through what I did, so after the first OH&S safety act was passed in 1985, I became one of the first safety reps.

I’ve worked as a nurse for 34 years. Like most nurses and midwives I know, I put the needs of others before my own. In the past, this often meant that I didn’t listen to the signs that my back needed rest, or that I needed to prioritise exercise, treatment, or a holiday.  I wouldn’t accept that I needed to nurture myself to protect my back and keep doing all the things in life that I loved to do.

As a result, my back pain often defined the way I lived and worked. At a certain point, I had to make the choice that I did not want to be defined as a person with chronic back pain. I took control and managed my back pain, instead of letting the back pain and disability control me. It was an empowering moment.

I found a great GP, went to a myotherapist for treatment, started pilates and joined a gym. I connected with the importance of core strength, regular exercise, rest and mindfulness. I learned to thrive.

Then I took on a desk job, working at a computer rather than running around a ward, which was good and bad — good, because I wasn’t aggravating my back by lifting and being on my feet all day, but bad because sitting at a desk, working at a computer is one of the worst things for chronic back pain. The pain returned and so did my despair.

This time, I didn’t just accept the pain. I discovered the benefits of seeing an osteopath and seeking advice from the OH&S representative. An ergonomic assessment of my workstation and seating was conducted and recommended a sitting standing desk. The OH&S representative provided tips on adjusting and readjusting my workstation, reminded me to have regular breaks and take time to do maintenance exercise at work.

I gave myself permission to look after myself and do all that things that allow me to flourish. Now, I am back in control and thriving.

Living a full life is about thriving and not just surviving.

Thanks and look after yourself and each other.

Surviving to thriving in 10 steps

By Marie Louise, Co-founder at Evolve Yourself Institute (EYI)

‘An empty lantern shines no light, self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly’ — unknown.


Do you find yourself consistently meeting the needs of a roster that just keeps pulling you in: your friends, your family, the children's school, the local footy or netball team, giving only to the outside world?

Life as a compulsive carer has many rewards: a smile from a child, the relief when you promise a friend you will be by their side in a time of need, or the gratitude families feel when you go the extra mile for their unwell loved one.

However, if you expend your energy without ‘filling your own cup’, you will quickly find yourself suffering from more ailments than if you came down with the winter flu — such as burnout, stress, physical exhaustion, loss of motivation, reduced productivity, detachment, or food or substance abuse.

A 2016 survey, ‘What Nurses & Midwives Want’ by Monash Business School’s Australian Consortium for Research on Employment and Work (ACREW) found over a third of nurses and midwives have considered leaving the professions due to rising work demands and burnout. We are an industry that is having an epiphany: we need to change.

Back in the 80s, I took my two-month-old child on a trip to Sweden. Listening to the flight attendants’ safety demonstration, I reflected deeply for the first time on the instruction to make sure to put the life-saving oxygen mask on myself first. At the time, this seemed absurd.  I was young and confident: saving my boy would absolutely be my priority. Now, with a little age and wisdom, I know that I would be useless to my son if I could not breathe myself.

Are you wearing your oxygen mask?

The desire to help others is what draws people to the service industry. That need to help is not only our collective strength but our greatest vulnerability.

Stress, anxiety and burnout are rising to the level of an epidemic. The time has come to listen to your cabin crew and put your oxygen mask on first.

10 powerful steps to go from surviving to thriving

  • Fill your own cup.
  • Shift your mindset: self-care is not selfish, it’s self-less.
  • Take up meditation. Meditation is making its way into every industry. Play with the tool that is changing lives everywhere.
  • Get out in nature. Nature nurtures and has the ability to regenerate just by being in it.
  • Remember what you are grateful for and feel it with every cell. Gratitude has been shown to support immunity.
  • Movement and motion. Your body was born to move. Regenerate and renew by allowing your body to do what it was born to do.
  • Remember you are worth the love you give to others.
  • Turn off the TV. Our world is full of drama and working in health care takes you to the front line. Give yourself some love by turning off the drama when you get home, you are worth it.
  • Limit processed foods. The more processed they are the more work it takes your body to digest. When your immunity is down, that added effort is the last thing it needs.
  • Remember to breathe.

“Those who think they don’t have time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” — Edward Stanley
The Evolve Yourself Institute delivers the only teacher, nurse and midwife CPD accredited self-awareness and self-care education in Australia. Programs and information can be found on their website.

Strong like an Amazon: Exercise as self-care


I didn’t think I would enjoy exercise.

I had worked in a relatively physical job, nursing, and never consciously sought to exercise. I was sceptical of its benefits until I experienced them: better sleep, more energy, stress relief and weight maintenance/loss. There are a host of other physiological benefits, but those ones are the most rewarding for me.

I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of joining a gym, so I promised myself I would walk consistently to either better my time over the distance or increase the distance I walked. I still walk because it is now something I enjoy especially on a day off. I walk dogs, spend time with family and friends and enjoy being outdoors.

I developed an interest in joining a group activity. A friend said I should join a boxing class she attended. She sold it really well: wear what you like, with a group of about 10 women aged 50+, working out for an hour from 7.00 pm on a weekday night. For some of us in the group who work a rotating roster or have evening work commitments, the fixed night makes it impossible to be there every week, but it’s easy to catch up if you miss a session.

Boxing is great cardiovascular exercise, utilizing muscles you didn’t know existed! It also improves your hand-eye coordination, destresses you and builds muscle. I am not a natural pugilist, I am not violent and we do not spar. I do like the feeling of being an Amazon, a physically capable strong being with enhanced balance, strong bones and awesome core.

So I guess the moral of the story is: explore the types of exercise that might suit you, and be open to the unusual or unconventional!

Watering our souls – daily practice for self-care!

By Sarah Cosgrave, ‘The Nurtured Nurse Project’.

As an Intensive Care Nurse and aspiring green thumb, I have been learning a lot about growth, both personally and professionally.

Just as my plants require water, sunshine and nutrients to grow and thrive, so too do nurses and midwives. We are all unique individuals who need to adapt to our external environments. Hospital environments are often spaces of chaos, stress and high energy.

It used to be common for me to leave a shift feeling dehydrated and exhausted. It often felt like there was no time for something as simple as a toilet break or a drink of water. I was very aware that I wasn’t doing the best I could to look after myself.

The last four years I have committed myself to my own wellbeing. I have been exploring and practicing ways to nurture myself so that I may better nurture others.


My gardening has taught me a lot about self-care.  I was reminded recently of the importance of watering my plants. I had been mostly consistent with my watering but a few nights, I was working evening shifts and I was too tired to water the plants. It highlighted to me that it really is the daily routine of self-care that makes the difference. In only a few nights without water, I could see some of the leaves were already browning.

My garden taught me that self-care is a daily practice that supports our growth. It requires consistent practice and routine.

It’s a challenging idea:  as nurses, we know there is not necessarily a routine in our schedules. I needed to be creative with the time I did have to improve my daily practice.

For me, a daily practice includes:

  • No matter the weather, a walk outside in nature. Fresh air and grounding.
  • Meditation. I started using a meditation phone app (headspace) to support this practice so I can do it at home, at work or where ever I am.

Yoga classes on YouTube. No matter the time of night/day I can always access some stretching and breath through Yoga with Adriene.

My daily practice gives me grounding and accessible tools so that even without my phone I have been learning the skills of mindfulness. I found this especially necessary between our late/early reality so that I do not spend my dream at work!

These are but three examples of a daily practice that can help you to water your soul, body and mind.

Learn how to nurture yourself so that you can grow, thrive and continue nurturing others.

Get help today

If you need support our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

If you’d like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.

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