Stop pouring from an empty cup

by Jennifer Barber - Doctoral Intern, FirstNet Program at AT&T and Dr. Anna Fitch Courie - Director, Responder Wellness FirstNet Program at AT&T

Nurses are the safety net of healthcare, but they need to make their own health a priority is critical

As a nurse, it’s all too common to see colleagues who are afraid to take a lunch break; afraid to take a moment for themselves; or even too afraid to sit down. So often, our brains are rapidly firing for our patients’ needs. And we push our own needs aside.

At the heart of this is our deep-seated call to care for people. We see our role as nurses as a sort of safety net for healthcare – and for the patients we serve.

But there is a growing need to help nurses prioritize self-care and work toward a better balance.

This is an urgent need to help them avoid the dangers of stress, depression and anxiety that often come with the job. About 68% of nurses have reported that they put the health, safety and wellness of their patients before their own needs.1 And this can lead to burnout.

Solutions and support

That’s why the FirstNet Program at AT&T has gone beyond its commitment to build out a network for first responders by helping to deliver solutions that support the health and well-being of workers on the front lines.

The FirstNet Health and Wellness Program is supporting evidence-based solutions to address the health, wellness, and resiliency of first responders and front line healthcare workers who support public safety.2

When it feels as though the only option is to jump from task to task, it’s time to take a moment and breathe. Letting ourselves seize the opportunities to refresh, even for a moment, can have a profound impact. The chart below provides tips to get you started in creating your own safety net of self-care.

Physical tips

Mindfulness tips

  • Practice tactical breathing: Pause and take two deep breaths before entering a patient’s room.
  • Meditate before, during or after your shift.
  • Express gratitude.
  • Use mindfulness apps such as Better app.

Positive energy tips

  • Mentor new nurses.
  • Share your passion with others; excitement can be contagious. 
  • Simply smile.
  • Practice resiliency techniques such as 10-4 Resilience (PDF).

Organizations also can help support their nurses in strategic and well-planned ways, such as incorporating the American Nurses Association’s Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation (HNHN) program into their healthcare culture.

And they can get their nurses out of the hospital for meetings, provide hydration and healthy snacks, and relaxation rooms to support the culture of wellness3.

Embracing wellness

The benefits of embracing the wellness of nurses can have a positive impact on the nurse both personally and professionally.4 Just taking on one wellness practice such as mindfulness can improve the quality of the workplace and decrease nursing burnout and turnover rates.

Nurses practicing mindfulness have reported a 28% decrease in stress levels4. This decrease in stress levels is estimated to result in 62 minutes of increased productivity and a savings of approximately $3,000 in healthcare costs annually.4

So nurses, it’s ok to fill up your cup with the tools that improve your well-being. Not only are you likely to feel better, it will  better prepare you to help others. 

Jennifer Barber has been a Registered Nurse since 2005 and is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Mercy College of Ohio. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing Education at the University of Toledo. Her areas of clinical experience are in pulmonary, critical care and trauma nursing care. Jennifer is certified as a Certified Nurse Educator by the National League for Nursing.

Dr. Anna Fitch Courie, Director of Responder Wellness, FirstNet Program at AT&T is a nurse, Army wife, former university faculty and author. Dr. Courie has worked for over 20 years in healthcare, including bone marrow transplant, intensive care, public health and health promotion practices. She holds a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Clemson University; a Masters in Nursing Education from the University of Wyoming; and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Ohio State University. Dr. Courie’s area of expertise is the integration of public health strategy across disparate organizations to achieve health improvement goals.

1 American Nurses Association (2017). Executive Summary: American Nurses Association Health Risk Appraisal. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from

2 FirstNet Health and Wellness Program for first responders. FirstNet. (n.d.). Retrieved February 23, 2022, from

3 Solomon, A. (2017). How employers can help keep nurses healthy - viewing blog post. Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from

4 Belton, S. (2018). Caring for the Caregivers: Making the Case for Mindfulness-Based Wellness Programming to Support Nurses and Prevent Staff Turnover. Nursing Economics, 36 (4): 191-194.