Are You a Well Being?

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Flower Bowl, Spa / Badruddeen, via Flickr

A tweet from the UK’s Nursing Times recently caught my eye. It was directing Twitter followers to a post on its Web site, asking what “well-being” meant to them. The post discusses the work life vs. home life seesaw and whether readers’ chosen careers leave them time to enjoy other aspects of life. There’s actually a national well-being debate in the UK, where the Office for National Statistics is seeking public input in developing new measures of national well-being.

We measure well-being here in the U.S. too, with the CDC’s measures of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) index. While noting that “there is no consensus around a general definition of well-being,” the CDC sketches the concept of well-being in the following way:

“. . . at minimum, well-being includes the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning. In simple terms, well-being can be described as judging life positively and feeling good. . . . physical well-being (e.g., feeling very healthy and full of energy) is also viewed as critical to overall well-being.”

Most people I know say they’re working harder than they ever did before. I see single parents and don’t know how they work full-time, deal with childrens’ schedules and needs, and make time for themselves. (I guess mostly they don’t—especially the part about making time for themselves.) I know many people who’ve taken on additional jobs—they teach but now also work per diem, or they work full-time in one setting and pick up weekend shifts elsewhere.

I’m sure patients feel the pressures, as we rush in and out of rooms, checking bar codes and IV pumps, and then whisking away to do it again in another room. Or what about in home health care, where visiting nurses don’t have time to “visit,” or even in psychiatry, which has morphed into a “get-em-in, get-em-out” assembly line. (See this recent post re. the demise of talk therapy.)  I hear from nurses who say that we’ve cut costs as much as we can—there’s no “doing more with less”; we’re doing less with less, and not doing it well. This discourages many nurses and can lead to burnout.

So I wonder: Do most nurses have a sense of well-being? Do you?

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Deanna November 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I believe that the well being of nurses is a constant balancing act. Our jobs predispose us to factors that that are in direct opposition to a healthy well being. We work long hours, often short staffed, and frequently leave at the end of our day feeling like, because of circumstances outside of our control, we were not able to provide the patient care that we got into nursing to provide. With that said, I believe that nursing as a career provides us with many opportunities to enhance our sense of well being, such as flexible hours, decent pay, and endless opportunity for change. I think what’s important is self-examination, and recognition of burnout. Too many nurses stay in an environment that makes them miserable, and this negatively effects not only their well being, but also the well being of their co-workers and patients. If a nurse is unhappy working in a certain department, he or she can transfer to other departments until they find the one that enhances their well being. That’s the beauty of nursing. I know this was the case for me, until I recently transferred into a new department, and now I enjoy going to work. I enjoy my co-workers, and I leave every day feeling like I helped my patients, and this has enhanced my sense of well being ten fold.

  2. Jasmin Malloy April 16, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Do most nurses have a sense of well-being? Sadly, I believe most nurses do not have a sense of well-being, particularly in bedside nursing. I am a medical-surgical nurse and we are increasingly expected to “do more with less”. Nurse-to-patient ratios are increasing. The average nurse in my community cares for 6 to 8 patients per shift. This workload puts high demands on nurses and leads to burnout. As a result, nurses are “doing less with less”, staff members call out frequently, and there is high turnover. In addition to the stresses on the job, many nurses also have responsibilities as a mother and wife, for example. I believe that the majority of nurses take care of others first and themselves last. I also believe this decreases the quality of care that is provided to our patients. If nurses are not at their optimal state of well-being, how can we assist others in reaching that goal?

  3. Freler Castillo April 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I do believe most nurses have a sense of well-being. I have worked at different hospitals and different units where I have seen so many nurses who manages to keep their balance of well-being even though everything else around them are unraveling. It does not mean their state of well-being each time is not being challenged or have even lost it but in so many ways nurses have a good sense of understanding and balancing for all the distractions, questions, problems, etc to a minimum in order not to loose the state of well-being or to gain it back. Keeping our well-being in this profession is a must, if we can’t we would not last long or enjoy this rewarding profession. I know for myself the state of well-being is a constant balancing act in order for me to be productive. Having a good support system from family, friends, and co-workers helps tremendously to keep you from losing it when you feel like you’re having a bad day.

  4. Liane Hernandez November 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    As nursing professionals, we are continuously striving to promote health and wellness for the community in order to achieve well-beings. This article discusses well-being as the existence of positive emotions such as happiness and the absenteeism of negative emotions. As nurses we must question our definition of well-being. We must try to achieve wellness ourselves in order to help others obtain it. Nurses work long hours and are put under constant stress where at times it is hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If we really take the time and focus on healthy choices of lifestyle then we can truly promote wellness for our patients. I found this article to be interesting because of the fact that each individual has a different definition of “well-being”.

  5. Natalie Felipe November 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    As future nurses, we are constantly promoting health and helping others achieve their optimal state of wellness. This article defines well-being as satisfaction with life, having positive emotions replace feelings of negativity. Working long stressful hours and often being responsible for high patient-nurse ratios, the author puts into question nurses’ sense of “well-being”. It is of essence for nurses to practice what they preach and evaluate their well-being before delivering care to others. When nurses learn how to maintain a healthy balance between their professional and personal life, everyone benefits.

  6. Ester Rodriguez-Montano November 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Well-being is an interesting question one should frequently ask one self as a nurse. In my experience as a nurse at different levels and in different areas of nursing I have noted nurses’ nursing others and not themselves. In my area of neuron-oncology I have felt the burden of my profession, often times I feel “drained to the core”. I have found that in the nursing profession it is our counterparts who are often our worst enemies. It is my thought that we as nurses’ should work together instead working against each other. We should work together to make our profession more tolerable. It is no wonder more and more each day nurses’ are leaving the profession. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will get any better, a few years back we had a nursing shortage and now we have to many nurses’ and limited facilities to work at, medical institutions are doing with less nurses’ so nurses’ are still feeling the shortage. I hope that the future holds a more positive outlook for nurses’. In my opinion looking out for once well-being should be a priority.

  7. Tahnee Clark November 21, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Well-being is a balancing act that each nurse must accept as inherent in this profession. It is a personal responsibility that I am constantly struggling with even as a student. Between projects, exams, clinical rotations, care plans, etc., I frequently find myself losing my well-being when stretched too thin. I know that I will constantly be subject to this but I’ve found that being self-aware and having a safety net (friends, family, classmates, and other nurses) helps keep the balance. The future choices that will also be important in maintaining my well-being will be where I choose to practice, what area I choose to practice and the schedule that I keep. Being a nurse will always be a balance between a caregiver and taking care of yourself.

  8. Cristina Carnicer November 21, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Comment on Harm Reduction or Stigmatization: What’s your approach to drug-addicted clients

    Drug addiction is a major problem throughout the U.S. Not only are drug addicts addicted to drugs, they are also exposed to countless communicable diseases each day. The approach that the Bevel Up Outreach Nurses use is not only creative, it also seems to be beneficial. These nurses are going out into communities where nursing care is rarely seen. While there, they are providing willing individuals with condoms, clean needles, and blood tests. Although not treating the drug problem directly, they are reducing the chances of spreading disease, and opening up channels of communication to eventually help with the actual addiction. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful and creative idea that will hopefully reduce the number of drug-addicted individuals as well as the incidence of communicable diseases.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the great comment. I think you probably meant this comment to be a response to the following post instead of this one:
    Feel free to repost this comment there instead, to add to the ongoing conversation on the appropriate way to treat drug addiction. -Jacob, AJN senior editor/blog editor

  9. Noyra Martinez November 21, 2011 at 8:18 am

    With the current economic predicament in the U.S. and the constant sea of patients nurses need to assess, treat, and care for there seems to be less and less emotional involvement with the patients. As a student nurse – I can attest to the high patient to nurse ratios and how grateful the nurses are to have student nurses so that we can care for the patient’s needs – in terms of one-one care, small efforts (food, juice, etc.), and even just spending time with the patients and speaking with them about their concerns. I feel that as a society we have trouble dedicating time to ourselves and caring for ourselves because we are always striving to do the utmost for those in our personal and professional lives. Perhaps nurses feel it more because their job is to give of themselves to their patients and if you add this stress with that of family obligations, long work hours, and not enough time in the day – it’s no wonder that nurses feel emotionally and physically drained.

  10. Mirella L. Joyce November 11, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    The well being of nurses is a very hard concept to determine. This is mainly because of the numerous amount of different nursing career one could be involved in. Nursing satisfaction and well being in their jobs are pushed to the extreme. Most nurses are expected to perform their tasks fast, effective, with no mistakes, and with a high patient satisfaction. This causes much stress among the nurses and could lead to burn out. On the other hand, nursing could be a very rewarding career. Being able to follow your patients through the process of getting to their optimal level is very satisfying. So the well being of nurses is a complicated subject to address.

  11. Jessica Escobar August 1, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    The well being of nurses is not really addressed in most hospital settings. The importance is the patient and the patient satisfaction level. Nurses are stretched to their maximum capacity and this causes burnout in the units. From experience of working in the emergency department i know the the nurses are pushed to do tasks fast, with no mistakes and a huge smile on their faces. Working as a nurse we are dealing with patients life, we should have the patients as our priority but the nurse can not be neglected. Staff managers and hospital board members should try and keep nurses stress free and if a nurse is feeling a little overwhelmed she would have the option of having time off, whether it be a 30 min break or a day off. The goal should be to keep staff happy which equals to happy patient care.

  12. Fatima Siddiqui April 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    The Well-being of nurses… hmmm that is a hard question to ask. Depending on what type of nursing one participates in, that can provide more answers. Nurses who work in the hospital are stretched to their maxium capability and even more and even on top of all the responsibilities are expected to chatty with the patients. Having positive emtions and voiding out the negative is hard to achieve in nursing, so the well-being of nurses are questionable due to the fact that we have no time to process of feel what is going on with time. We are rushed and hurried to complete our tasks and go on to the next one. Well-being is hard to say for nurses and the stresses it comes with.

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