How one nurse made big life changes
Last year was tough for Anna Hjortland, a clinical nurse at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis. She had no focus on self-care, proper eating, exercising or handling stress, which meant she got little sleep and had no energy.
Hjortland says she was at the point of burnout as a nurse, wife and friend with no end in sight. However, with the support from friends and family, Hjortland spoke with her manager who encouraged her to reach out to the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). She received resources she was lacking on how to manage stress in a healthy way, especially as one who constantly serves patients in the hospital.
“It was like I was running on empty. I was trying so hard to meet all the expectations around me, but I wasn’t paying attention to my own self-care, and it was really wearing on me,” Hjortland says. “It was honestly hard for me to pick up the phone at first and to call the EAP number, but once I did, I was so relieved. The resources for stress management and mindfulness that they provided were the first step to a healthier and happier lifestyle.”
Shortly after meeting with EAP, Hjortland attended the 2018 American Nurses Credentialing Center’s National Magnet Conference last fall. She learned about the American Nurse Association’s Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation, which focuses on physical health, rest, nutrition, quality of life and safety for nurses. Hjortland learned the only way to provide the best care for her patients was to take care of herself first, and that self-care isn’t selfish.
Hjortland started following the Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation monthly challenges and receiving wellness tips right to her phone, which she could easily incorporate. She also focused on setting short-term achievable goals, such as adding more fruits and veggies to her diet, moving more, running her first 5K and using mindfulness techniques to help with stress.
“Since starting my wellness journey, I feel more confident in myself and have noticed I have less stress and more balance in my life,” Hjortland says. “My wellness journey continues to be a work in progress every day, but I am proud of how far I’ve come.”
This past year, Hjortland has been sharing her journey with others by signing up to be a Wellness Champion at her hospital site, sharing at work meetings, at her Nursing Shared Governance Council’s wellness subcommittee and helping plan and promote Wellness Wednesdays at St. Luke’s. Her goal is that more nurses will become aware of the helpful resources available to them through tools like the EAP, mindfulness techniques, essential oils and on healthy nurse healthy nation.
“My hope is that by sharing my story, I can help others find resources for their own wellness and self-care. I hope that fellow nurses know they are not alone, and it is OK to ask for help,” she says.
About the Author
Jennifer Benson, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs for Advocate Aurora Health. She has 10+ years of community development and communication experience for non-profits and has a BA in Architecture from Judson University in Elgin, IL. Outside of work, you can find her planning the next adventure near water or rocks, re-organizing spaces, working on her Master’s in Public Health, caring for her senior citizen cat, keeping to healthy moving and eating disciplines and growing green things wherever she can find room.