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

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Biomimetics is the process by which scientists and inventors look to nature for inspiration in designing new products or processes. As George de Mestral, an engineer, walked through the Swiss woods, burs would stick to his clothing and to his dog's coat. Inspired by the strength of the bur connection, he studied the structure of the attachment process and invented the powerfully strong fastener, Velcro, which is now in such wide use.1 The ways of nature can point not only to product development but also to behavioral strategies that help us through difficult situations with difficult people.

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Relational aggression among health care staff in both health care and educational settings is an endemic problem contributing to staff stress and, in some cases, compromised care and teaching.2 Bullying, gossip, manipulation, "ganging up," and isolation are but a few of the negative behaviors that nurses report experiencing in the health care setting. Nature can provide interesting models for building immunity to workplace stress. Consider the mongoose!


The mongoose is a small, 4-legged animal with thick fur and a pointed snout. There are 33 species of mongoose, and, much like people, some are solitary and some are group oriented. The mongoose is immune to the neurotoxic venom of poisonous snakes, particularly the cobra. While the mongoose has no preference for snake meat as food and does not hunt, nor seek encounters with deadly snakes, it nevertheless is able to successfully ward off even the most vicious of attacks and trot away unscathed.


For those who occasionally experience toxic interactions in the work environment, working on thickening our "fur" or skin can be a helpful strategy. Immunity to extreme negativity builds when we do not let emotion drive our responses and when we detach and think before any direct engagement. Habitually de-emotionalizing interactions will build resistance mechanisms much like evolution has provided the mongoose with thickened fur and immunity to venom. The mongoose has been immortalized in Rudyard Kipling's children's story, Rikki Tikki Tavi,3 who valiantly protects a British family in India from a family of cobras living in their garden.


When that occasional cobra rears up in your garden, use mongoose management; stay low, do not confront or look for trouble, and thicken your fur to ward off attacks. If you have to engage, remember your natural immunity, your resistance to the venom. You will most likely weather the attack victoriously and watch the cobra slink away.


-Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, FCPP


Editor in Chief




1. de Mestral G. Accessed December 20, 2014. [Context Link]


2. Dellasega C. When Nurses Hurt Nurses. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International; 2011. [Context Link]


3. Kipling R. Rikki Tikki Tavi (Adapted and Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney). New York, NY: Harper Collins; 2004. [Context Link]