Self-Care for New and Student Nurses

Self-Care for New and Student Nurses presents techniques to prepare you for stressors present now and those to come. No matter where you are in your nursing career, this book offers you multiple ways to prioritize your own mental, physical, and emotional health.

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“From working in a global pandemic to countering systemic racism, the book identifies anticipatory challenges and provides tools and resources for self-care and leadership. This is an astonishingly rich and relevant text that truly should be required in every nursing program. If widely adopted, this text has the potential to transform the profession.”

–Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing
Professor, University of Minnesota School of Nursing

Self-care. Well-being. Resilience. Happiness. Self-compassion.

These are among today's self-help buzzwords. There are countless books, articles, and podcasts on these topics, and many of them are essential resources for anyone seeking solid footing in the world today. Self-care remains an imperative for nurses and other healthcare professionals as burnout, high attrition rates, emotional fatigue, and moral distress loom large over us, especially in the age of COVID-19. The people who so compassionately care for others are in dire need of care themselves.Self-care practices are important because we need you.

We need all the gifts that you bring to the nursing profession. Your future patients need you. Your future colleagues need you. We need you to become the best nurse you can possibly be so that you can support other young nurses as they, too, enter this profession. Nursing will afford you daily interactions that will change the lives of your patients, strengthen the resolve of your colleagues, and ripple beyond your immediate circle to surprising places. The gifts that you bring are beyond measure.

Imagine for a moment a patient who is a young mother. Perhaps she is facing her health challenges while trying to be strong for her children and partner. The kindness, wisdom, and support that you bring to your interactions with her will have a downstream impact on her children and family. Even her children's children. Think about yourself or your nursing school peers who, when asked why they wanted to become a nurse, tell a story about growing up and seeing a nurse who cared for them or a loved one during a health crisis. So many nurses are nurses because they experienced the compassion of someone like you when they were in need. These nurses' compassion may have started you on your own journey to nursing, even though they may never know the impact they had on you. That is one of the superpowers of nursing: the impact you have on others. You will matter in ways big and small, in ways that the universe may never even be able to reveal to you.

But here is the hard, honest truth: while you have chosen one of the most noble professions, you have also chosen one of the most difficult. In your career, you will face challenges big and small, whether it is a problematic coworker, the death of a favorite patient, or a global pandemic. You will have bad days or weeks when you ask yourself why you didn't choose a less demanding path in life. You will experience exhaustion, frustration, and grief. You will balance not only your nursing responsibilities, but also your commitments to your family and community. But as you question your life choices and wonder how you can take one more step forward, that voice inside you will whisper, "You are a nurse."

Our goal in writing this book is that you never have to betray that voice. No matter what comes your way, you will have the strength, skills, and resilience to keep moving forward. But let us be clear: we do not want you to move forward at the expense of yourself or your well-being. We want you to move forward with wisdom and clarity of purpose by using every resource you can muster. We hope that what is contained in this book will become a valuable resource throughout the early years of your career, and even beyond.

We welcome you on this journey, and we hope you welcome the opportunity to explore the concept of self-care, what it means, what works best for you, and how it can help you flourish in good times and help you grow in difficult ones. We are especially grateful, and humbled, that we can do it with you.


  • Student Workbook
  • Instructor’s Guide
  • Bonus content: Additional Readings
  • Chapter 6: Self-Care for LGBTQ+ Nursing Students
  • Expanded author bios

These free downloads are available at the Sigma Repository.


Section I: Fundamentals

1. The Fundamentals of Stress, Burnout, and Self-Care

2. The Fundamentals of Resilience, Growth, and Wisdom

3. Developing a Resilient Mindset Using Appreciative Practices

4. The Community Resiliency Model (CRM)®?Approach to Mental Wellness?for Nursing Students?and New Graduate Nurses

Section II: The Mind of a Nurse

5. Self-Care, Communal Care, and Resilience Among Underrepresented Minority Nursing Professionals and Students

6. Self-Care for LGBTQ+ Nursing Students

7. Nursing Our Identities: Self-Compassion and Intersectionality

8. Narrative Practices

9. Mindful Compassion: A Life in Practice

10. Self-Care and Systemic Change: What You Need to Know

11. Strengths-Based Self-Care: Good Enough, Strong Enough, Wise Enough

Section III: The Body and Spirit of a Nurse

12. Reclaiming, Recalling, and Remembering: Spirituality and Self-Care

13. Sleep, Exercise, and Nutrition: Self-Care the Kaizen Way

14. Six Steps to Compassion: Practicing T'ai Chi in a Healthcare Setting

15. Reflections on Self-Care and Your Clinical Practice

Section IV: The Transition to Nursing Practice

16. Supportive Professional Relationships: Mentoring and Nurse Residency Programs

17. Healthy Work Environment: How to Choose One for Your First Job

18. Self-Care for Humanitarian Aid Workers

19. Sowing Seeds of Resilience: Compassionate Care Ambassadors

Section V: The Heart of a Nurse

20. Mattering: Creating a Rich Work Life

21. Integrating a Life That Works with a Life That Counts

22. Providing Compassionate Care and Addressing Unmet Social Needs Can Reduce Your Burnout

23. Showing Up with Grit and Grace: How to Lead Under Pressure as a Nurse Clinician and Leader


Dorrie K. Fontaine, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the Dean Emerita at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Nursing and founder of UVA’s Compassionate Care Initiative, which has grown to be a guiding force in transforming the culture of the school with a focus on fostering human flourishing and resilience for students, faculty, and staff.

Tim Cunningham, DrPH, MSN, RN, FAAN, is the Vice President of Practice and Innovation at Emory Healthcare, where he also holds a joint appointment as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University.

Natalie May, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Nursing, where she is a founding member of the UVA Center for Appreciative Practice where she develops and teaches appreciative inquiry projects and workshops.