Alumna shares the often overlooked importance of self-care for nurses

October 05, 2023

A headshot of Nickia Jackson. She is sitting on a chair with her legs crossed. She is wearing a lavender shirt.

When Quinnipiac alumna Nickia Jackson, MS ‘07, earned her bachelor of nursing degree, she knew she wanted to go back to school. 

A graduate of master's in forensic nursing program, Jackson was an investigative individual.

She loved that she could do something different than the more traditional advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) path, and the program allowed her to integrate her interest in the legal world with her passion for the field of healthcare. 

“As I was looking at programs, I came across the program at Quinnipiac, and it was just like, ‘Oh, this is so different,’” Jackson said. 

After completing her master's degree, Jackson worked on patient advocacy, and delved into patient safety. For almost a decade, this is where she truly opened her investigative character. 

Then, the global pandemic hit. 

“I found myself back taking care of patients, like critically ill patients during the pandemic, and it was not like, ‘Oh, sign me up,’” Jackson said. “I was putting everyone’s needs before my own. I was trying to be that anchor for everyone else, but I was the one drowning.” 

As a nurse, that’s what she was taught to do – put others’ needs first, or so she thought. 

“I just needed to take a step back. I took five months off, which was something I had never done. I really focused on my mental health,” Jackson said. “I was realizing then that I was really going through something, which felt like such a weakness at the time. What I've learned is that strength looks different, and sometimes strength is knowing when you need to take a step back and take care of yourself.” 

After taking a much-needed break, Jackson enrolled in a health-coaching program to help get herself back on track. She didn’t anticipate the profound impact that it would have on her personal and professional life. 

"Once I enrolled in the program, I started to have a very different perspective on health. It's not just about physical health, but it's also about your emotional, mental and spiritual health,” she said. 

Jackson focused in the past on working with moms and high-achieving women. Now, she focuses mainly on nurses and coaching them on the importance of self-care, and how to avoid burnout. 

“I remember times when I was a nurse where I worked a 12-hour shift and got to the end of my shift and would realize I didn’t even go to the bathroom today,” she said. 

Her past experience struggling to learn how to put herself first inspired her to want to expand to help coach those in healthcare. So, she started her own health-coaching business, Holistic Health Coaching with Nickia RN LLC, in October 2022. 

“We're in a profession where you're caring for others. It's about putting the patient's needs first, of course. But you as a caregiver, you have to be first, because if you're not good to yourself, then you can't be good to anyone else,” Jackson said. 

The professors at Quinnipiac played a crucial role in Jackson’s journey, she said.

They opened her up to more than just the bedside clinical world that most nursing students are exposed to, she said. Having professors who had backgrounds in other areas such as law was a huge draw for Jackson. 

“Quinnipiac let me light that spark to do something different. They let me know that you don’t always have to be in a premade box,” Jackson said. “Me doing this wasn’t in the listing of job opportunities in clinical rotations.” 

Jackson now leads workshops with new graduates at hospitals and speaks at women's conferences — including at Quinnipiac. 

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