Nursing, like almost every other profession (with the possible exception of professional beachcombers), is threatened by Adultitis. In case you’ve never heard of it, Adultitis is a deadly disease that depletes your childlike spirit, causes loads of stress and robs you of your zest for life. To put it mildly, a person with a full-blown case is not a pretty picture. (You can check your level of Adultitis here: adultitis.org/intake.php.)
Happily, Adultitis is treatable and can be brought into a controllable state of remission. There are eight “secrets” from childhood that are the key to keeping Adultitis at bay. Here are four to get you started:
1. Delight in the little things.
It’s not uncommon for a walk around the block to take about four hours for a four-year-old. That’s because they notice and delight in the little things, like pennies on the sidewalk and ladybugs perched on a blade of grass. As we get older, we often take on a cynical, “been there, done that” attitude, and it takes increasingly more to impress us. In our pursuit of the next big thing, we miss out on the joy hidden right under our noses. The next time you’re working, take that extra effort to slow down and notice the little things—the bright rays of sunshine spilling through a window…the vivid, sweet-smelling flowers sitting on the nightstand…the gentle, warm smile from the appreciative patient.
2. Be curious.
It’s important to keep a childlike curiosity burning within you. The best nurses are the most curious ones. You may have heard the saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Asking your patient thoughtful questions—and not just the ones like “Does it hurt when I do this?”—is a great way to communicate caring. I’m not saying you have to put on a Barbara Walters special, especially when you have a heavy patient load. But sprinkling in a few curiosity-inspired questions (Who’s your hero? When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? What was your favorite toy?) goes a long way toward making the patient feel like she’s not just a number.
3. Live with passion.
Long shifts and endless paperwork—and so much red tape that the world is experiencing a global shortage of red—can suck the passion right out of you. When the passion fades, Adultitis sets in. It’s harder to get up and go to work, the days drag on and on, and Oscar the Grouch thinks you need an attitude adjustment. If this sounds like you, stop. Just for a minute. Close your eyes, and call to mind why you went into this profession on the first place. Who inspired you to become a nurse? How excited were you when you finally graduated? Think about your all-time favorite patient. Do you feel that excitement, that joy, that sense of fulfillment? This, my friend, is why you are a nurse: to help people and to make a difference. The other stuff can gunk up the works and bring you down, but taking the time to remind yourself why you do what you do might just give you the spark you need.
4. Maintain perspective.
Even though their stature and life experience may be short, kids have an otherworldly understanding of what’s really important in life. Adultitis has a way of muddying things up. It’s easy to worry about stuff we can’t control and focus on the stuff that doesn’t really matter. Let’s face it; when it comes to healthcare, doctors get all the credit, accolades and people like George Clooney playing them on TV. Doctors are certainly important, but most people I’ve talked to who have stayed in a hospital said it was the nurse who did the bulk of the caregiving and made the biggest impact on whether the visit was healing or hellish. Let the doctors hog the glory. Never forget that you’re in one of the most important, admirable and heroic professions in the world. You are a nurse.