1. Section Editor(s): Donnelly, Gloria F. PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Editor-in-Chief

Article Content

We gathered in the nurse manager's office. Cheryl, a seasoned staff nurse, was seated in the corner crying. She had a particularly bad run-in with one of the nursing directors who took the liberty of "reading her out" in the presence of staff and patients. The nurse manager quickly intervened by silently guiding Cheryl to the office, leaving the director ranting indiscriminately. The staff nurses followed the nurse manager and Cheryl into the office to comfort and support her. I was the newest staff member out of school only a few months. I had witnessed scenes such as this in some of my student rotations, but never this close up.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

For the next half hour, we sat with Cheryl, telling her "it was not your fault" and "not to worry." She was embarrassed that she had "lost it and cried." We all agreed that it could happen to any of us. We humorously speculated on what we might have said to the director. We hadn't noticed that the nurse manager had left the room until she walked in with a pot of tea. "This situation calls for tea. Let's enjoy!"


Let's analyze this situation. Cheryl was overcome with embarrassment and suppressed anger at the nursing director's public tirade. The nurse manager quickly moved the immobilized Cheryl to the office, thus removing the target of anger from the nursing director. It was a caring but risky move since the nursing director could later retaliate. However, the nurse manager could preempt this situation by seeking the nursing director out and saying, "I know that you understand why I had to move Cheryl to my office. There were patients and family members in the hallway." It is difficult to speculate on the nursing director's response; however, knowing the danger of disrupting the positive environment for patients and families, she would likely have moved on.


The staff nurses who followed Cheryl into the office were not acting as "bystanders," so common in today's work environments. No one rushed to anonymously call the company "hotline," nor did anyone suggest calling HR. Most importantly, they did not just watch and withdraw. Instead, they focused on supporting Cheryl, on empathizing, trading war stories, using humor to defuse the situation. And then there was "tea."


It is a tradition in many cultures to serve warm beverages when someone is in distress. Tea was first used as a medicine in eighth-century China and later as a beverage. Teaism, a philosophy, developed in Japan in the 15th century, emphasized "...purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order ... a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life."1


The nurse manager acted as tea master. She transformed her office into a place of comfort and simple humanity in the service of her colleagues. She cared to serve tea! So should we all.


-Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN






1. Kakuzo O. (1863-1913). The Book of Tea. Harbowy eBooks. [Context Link]