Being a nurse is a rewarding but tough job. The excitement that comes during the first year of your career can fade away as long hours and a bursting schedule take their toll. “Adultitis” can creep into the lives of even the best nurses, and it is NOT something you want to live with. Besides causing loads of stress, it diminishes your passion and depletes your childlike spirit. (You can check your level of Adultitis here: adultitis.org/intake.php.)
In a previous article, I shared four secrets from childhood that can help you keep “Adultitis” at bay. Here are four more.
You routinely see some pretty heavy, unpleasant stuff. It can get downright depressing at times. The best way to navigate these choppy waters is by adopting a playful spirit. Now I’m not suggesting you write out your charts in crayon or do cartwheels down the hall while doing rounds (which would actually be kind of cool). You’ve got an important job that should be taken seriously and handled professionally.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to take YOURSELF seriously. Assuming competency is equal, who’s the better nurse: the one who addresses the patient with a smile on her face and a funny anecdote to share, or the one with the scowl and the grumpy complaints about how understaffed the clinic is? Wearing fun scrubs, bringing cupcakes in for your coworkers or simply just smiling more (even if you don’t feel like it) will add some much-needed sunshine to the lives of your patients and colleagues, as well as your own life. Plus, what’s more fun than having fun?
2. Dream Big.
If you’ve been a nurse for a while, odds are there’s something you’d like to see changed in your clinic, hospital or profession. It might be something small, such as a simple tweak to the nurse’s station to improve efficiency, or something more ambitious, like a system-wide initiative that upgrades the care patients receive. Many nurses see the job of initiating change as rocking the boat. They figure it’s not worth the extra hassle and rationalize that they got into the profession to help patients, not to fight bureaucracy.
To be sure, you have to pick your battles, but you don’t have to accept the status quo. If your question “Why do we do things this way?” is met with the typical (and lame) “Because we’ve always done them this way,” you’ve just encountered proof that people have stopped asking questions. If you believe a proposed change could dramatically help 50, 100 or even 1,000 patients, isn’t that worth the effort? Throughout the course of history, impossible things have been accomplished by people who refused to accept the the idea that something couldn’t be done. Kids dream big—so should you.
3. Be Honest.
Children have a knack for telling it like it is (especially when they are behind a morbidly obese man in a supermarket checkout aisle, right?). It is said that the truth will set you free, and sometimes the best medicine we can receive is being honest with ourselves. I’m going to assume that you actually care about your patients and want to be the best nurse you can be. I’m also going to assume you have a family. Maybe just a spouse, maybe a houseful of kids, maybe a gaggle of grandkids. And then there’s the house, for which there’s a to-do list a mile long. Finding balance is a battle. When you’re concentrating on one thing, you feel like everything else is going to pot.
Give yourself permission to let go. You can’t do it all. No one can. Quit trying to live up to the impossible standard cobbled together from the expectations of your mom, Grandma, the media and Martha Stewart. All you can do is figure out what’s most important to you. (Hint: Not everything is equally important.) Focus your time and energy on those things, and let the rest go. If that means a layer of dust builds up on the dining room chairs or laundry gets put off for another few days, oh well. You’re not a superhero. You don’t have to save the world. You just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
4. Have Faith.
Kids have the faith to believe that after they skin their knee on the sidewalk, a kiss from Mom can heal all wounds. When Dad tells them that babies come from storks, who are they to question his all-knowing well of knowledge? Children are eager to believe, but as we grow older, that belief commonly turns into cynicism.
Sometimes you have one of those days where everything seems to go wrong and nothing makes sense. Questions bubble up to the surface and doubts cloud your mind. Maybe you want to throw in the towel. On days like this, take a deep breath. Make a commitment to give it one more day. Just one. When I have the Worst Day Ever—when things look bleak and all hope is lost—and I decide that I will keep going for one more day, it’s amazing how things always seem a little bit better the next day. Dust off that childlike faith, and have the courage to believe that everything always works out for the best. It’s not so far-fetched, after all. Because you know what? It does.