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"I didn't want to come back to work." That got my attention. I pulled up a chair, sat down, and listened intently while she told her story. As it happened, this particular nurse bore the emotional scars of dealing with an extremely difficult patient and family member who treated her like a psychological punching bag for an entire shift. The strain of that episode had taken its toll.
Soft-spoken, caring, and competent, this nurse critically considered what else she could have done to de-escalate the behavior and better meet their needs. Whether or not that would have been possible is another subject altogether. She was a seasoned nurse, but her eyes revealed sadness, fatigue, and what looked like resignation to the realities of the career path she'd chosen. The healer needed healing.
We talked for a while about the inherent challenges of working with people. I related anecdotes about an airline passenger who loudly berated a gate agent when a flight was delayed, and a bank customer who had a complete meltdown in front of a teller. No occupation is immune from angry outbursts. And we know being ill, injured, or otherwise stressed can bring out the worst in some people, including patients and even our own coworkers.
Surviving such an onslaught emotionally intact is all about resilience. The thesaurus uses terms such as buoyancy, spirit, and hardiness to describe the concept of resilience. The keys to personal resilience, I've come to realize, involve how we choose to let these distressing episodes affect us, as well as what we as individuals and members of the nursing profession do together to alleviate the damaging effects.
Resilience starts with taking good care of yourself. That means positive self-talk about the value you bring to the workplace as a nurse. Resilience also comes from healthy lifestyle choices, including adequate rest, time away from the routine, nutritious food, exercise, and play. It comes from openness to new knowledge, a love of learning, and a sense of humor.
As members of the nursing profession, we can support one another by committing to excellent teamwork and camaraderie, never to denigration or horizontal violence. As you celebrate Nurses Week 2011, go forth and do your part to inspire resilience!!
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2011 Vice President, Emergency, Trauma, and Aeromedical Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.
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