1. Section Editor(s): Raso, Rosanne DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, FAONL

Article Content

You can't pick up a nursing journal without reading at least one paper about the psychological effects of the pandemic on nurses; none of it good nor surprising. The implications for leaders are numerous, as we figure out how to add strategies for psychosocial support and staff well-being to our toolboxes. It turns out that these added abilities couldn't be more important, probably even more so than financial management or quality improvement skills (don't tell your CFO or CQO; that's our secret). When I saw an article calling out "psychological PPE," it seemed that two aspects of pandemic impact were conjoining in a way that made sense-we all need personal protection for our psyches.

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

In the spirit of this month's Valentine's Day holiday, leadership that acknowledges the psychological trauma we've all been through could be considered leading with love. Caring, after all, is an attribute of authentic nurse leadership, and foundational to the discipline of nursing. But how do we pivot to our staff's needs today? Perhaps trauma-informed leadership, which recognizes and honors a person's trauma-influenced emotional state, gives some insight. Everyone is different, and our emotions can be set off by distinctive triggers. Hearing about a new variant, a newly sickened colleague, yet another virtual meeting, or a zillion other things could be enough to elicit an emotional response. Leaders who understand the effects of trauma, which we've all experienced significantly in one way or another, can help provide psychological PPE for their employees.


Maybe you've read about toxic positivity? That's the mindset of the eternal optimist who fails to recognize anything but positive emotions and portrays a cheery approach no matter what's happening. I'm a believer in reframing, hope, and upbeat attitudes and was a bit taken aback by associating positivity with toxicity, but it turns out there's a fine line between positivity and avoidance. As leaders, we don't want to avoid problems or feelings; we want to be realistic and concerned. We shouldn't shut down negative feelings or stifle emotions by imploring only a look at the bright side; alternatively, we should be listening to understand. This approach seems related to trauma-informed leadership when we acknowledge the emotional effects of trauma. This is another lesson for our psychological PPE toolboxes.


An additional tactic is providing staff with resources to respond to stress and promote well-being. There's emerging nursing pandemic literature on this topic, including the leadership imperative to rebuild trust and relationships. We've been very good at identifying the psychological issues impacting nurses, and it's critical now to focus on successful mitigation. Our organizations share in this responsibility with interventions that traverse the entire Maslow's hierarchy-from the basics of physical safety, all the way to self-actualization through respect, being valued, and having purpose.


All of this applies to us, too. We must recognize our own triggers, be realistic, accept support, and process emotional responses. It's okay not to feel good every minute, although we do have the added burden of being watched and emulated by our direct reports. What better psychological PPE than being authentic? We're in a period of high sensitivity. Leading with love and understanding, for ourselves and our staff, is needed.



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