Being a nurse has never been easy. Now, though, it’s hard in a way that would have been unimaginable before. Between endless work shifts, separation from loved ones, the ever-present fear of infection, and the need to comfort isolated COVID-19 patients, the pressure on nurses is unbearable. So how do we keep going?
Rich Bluni says the answer is that somewhere under the fear and exhaustion we’re driven by mission. And we owe it to ourselves, our coworkers, and our patients to keep that connection alive. With the American Nurses Association expanding National Nurses Week (traditionally May 6-12) to a month-long celebration, there’s no better time to remember this message.
“Now, more than ever, nurses must reconnect to our sense of purpose and meaning, our calling, our why,” says Bluni, himself an RN with over 25 years of experience in the ER, Trauma, and ICU and author of best-selling books Inspired Nurse (Huron|Studer Group Publishing, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9749986-7-1, $24.95) and Inspired Nurse Too (Huron|Studer Group Publishing, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-6221804-6-2, $28.00).
“That doesn’t ‘just happen’ even in good times; it’s a choice we must make every day,” he adds. “If we don’t, we will quickly get overwhelmed by pain, fear, and negativity.”
Bluni—who is currently sharing stories and tactics from Inspired Nurse in short video segments—says hard times can deeply inspire us if we make a point of staying open to them. Here, he offers a few tips for reconnecting with your inspiration when you’re struggling:
Take 10 minutes to relive a moment when you made a real difference.
“At any moment when you’re feeling crushed and exhausted, close your eyes and be right back there when you did something incredible,” suggests Bluni. “Relive your greatest moment. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between it really happening and the memory.”
Write down your gratitude…
Even in a pandemic, there are things to be grateful for. Maybe a patient you thought was going to die actually recovered. Maybe a coworker paid for your lunch. Maybe the cafeteria had that carrot cake you love. Charting moments of gratitude (however big or small) helps you remember why you chose this deeply meaningful line of work.
“Write down three things about your work that you are thankful for,” says Bluni. “Each day, look it over and add to your list. You almost cannot be in a state of gratitude and negativity at the same time, but you can choose.”
…then, share it with others.
Chances are, some of the “things” you find yourself writing on your gratitude list are actually people. Maybe it’s the coworker who always jumps in to help, the unit secretary who runs your labs for you when you’re swamped, or the food service employee who always remembers your lunch order.
“Extend your gratitude to someone every day,” advises Bluni. “Give them a thank-you note, or tell them face-to-face—even if it has to be from 6 feet away while wearing full PPE. Not only will you feel better, you’ll help others feel better at a time when most likely they really need it.”
Make a self-care plan.
“Get out a journal and write the following labels on five separate pages: Mind, Body, Spirit, Love, and Prosperity,” suggests Bluni. “Under each title, come up with just two things that you can do every day that would impact that part of your being. In the ‘Body’ category, you may write, ‘walk a mile,’ ‘eat more green veggies,’ and ‘drink eight glasses of water.’ It may feel strange to focus on improving your life when the world seems to be falling apart, but now is when we need to be at our best.”
Get intentional about who you spend time with.
Who do you chat with on breaks during your shift? Who do you vent to when times are tough? Often, we don’t make these decisions consciously. The problem is, we might be hanging out with psychic vampires who drain our life force and break us down with their negativity.
“Your two most valuable resources are your love and your time,” Bluni says. “So if you’re spending them on people who spread fear, or hold grudges, or don’t act in ways that are kind and compassionate, I encourage you to become more intentional about your relationships. The company you keep has a big impact on your attitude and well-being.”
Stop blaming yourself for others’ difficult behavior.
All nurses have plenty of experience dealing with the occasional patient or family member who is grouchy, demanding, or even downright mean. Too often we may take their difficult behavior personally.
“Realize that 99 percent of the time, difficult patients aren’t reacting to you but to their circumstances,” Bluni reminds. “The real antagonist is their pain, fear, lack of mobility, etc.—and as a caregiver, you’ve simply been caught in the crossfire. Try not to take their bad mood personally. Most of us are scared right now. Knowing that gives you a different perspective.”
Realize that you don’t rent your life. You own it.
Do you let bad situations and other people’s negativity dictate how you feel about your work life? If you do, then you’re renting, says Bluni.
“You can’t wait around for someone to rescue you or to fix how you feel,” he asserts. “Start by practicing gratitude and improving yourself. Connect with other people every chance you get. Opportunities to do so exist around each corner in healthcare. Look for inspiration today. Look for ways to give. Own your life—especially right now.”
“It’s when times are toughest that we learn the most valuable lessons and experience the biggest leaps in our personal growth,” says Bluni. “If there’s one thing that has been made abundantly clear throughout all of this, it’s that nurses are the most resilient, compassionate, and inspiring people on this earth…. That’s one bright spot we can be grateful for.”
About the Author:
Rich Bluni, RN, is the author of the best-selling books Inspired Nurse, Oh No…Not More of That Fluffy Stuff!, and Inspired Nurse Too. He has an active and popular Facebook page called Inspired Nurse.
Rich has been an RN since 1993. He has worked as a nurse in Adolescent Oncology, Pediatric ICU, and Trauma ICU departments as well as serving as a pediatric flight and transport nurse. He has served as an ED nursing manager as well as a senior director of risk management, quality, and patient safety.
He came to Studer Group in 2007 as a coach working with dozens of healthcare organizations and leaders to drive outstanding results. He is presently a senior director with Huron and a Studer Group national speaker, having traveled across North America to speak in front of hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers and leaders in hundreds of healthcare organizations, large healthcare conferences, as well as virtual webinars.
For more information, please visit www.studergroup.com/people/rich-bluni.