Lately I have been thinking more about resilience in Health Care Professionals and especially in Nurses. I was speaking to two younger members of our profession who have been nursing for about five years and they both told me about how close they have come to leaving nursing behind. One thought about going back to University to study accounting, and all I could think about was the great loss to our profession of such a talented young person. The other decided to take a break and go travelling. She described the feeling of utter disillusion with shiftwork, the impact this has on relationships and the cruelty of some of her colleagues. This really makes me think that we are not doing enough to support nurses in the workplace and help them to navigate these tough times. Do we prepare them for what Nursing actually involves? Do they know the impact that shiftwork has on our overall health, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and our families? What can we do to ensure they get this knowledge before entering into the workforce? And when they do enabling them the opportunities to talk about the experiences they may be having.
I have looked into the research on resilience of which there is plenty and found two articles that resonated well with me. The definition that stuck with me is the following “Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt successfully in the face of trauma, adversity, tragedy or significant threat. Whilst some will say it is innate in our nature, others argue that it can be learned, and has shown to lessen the severity of stress responses. Building resilience is critical in helping us to combat burnout in the health profession”. How best can we build this in our nursing workforce? Well back to the research which states we need, coping strategies, seeking social support, problem solving and positive reappraisal. I’m sure these all make complete sense to you all.
However of course there are the less resourceful activities that we partake in when we are under stress which include Drinking, Smoking, Using drugs; or not taking things too seriously; Self-control, Keeping feelings to yourself.
So how do we avoid falling into these traps? The solutions are all very simple and include leisure activities, having disposable income, laughing with friends, spending time with family and friends, taking time out, short breaks at work, rest and relaxing, seeking emotional support from family and colleagues. These all build your resilience.
Therefore the best way to build your resilience is by doing the following, working with someone to gather the skills to enhance your work life balance, to give you hope back, to help you learn to control some of the negative thinking patterns that emerge, to provide you with external support that doesn’t come from your family or friends, to help you regain your professional identity and of course allow you to discuss clinical situations either about patients or your work environment.
I have been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years and have an innate understanding of the complex lives that nurses live. I encourage all nurses to seek out supervision to help guide them through issues and to enable them to continue in our valuable profession.