Tips for the introverted nurse

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We all know an introvert: that person who can fall silent during a conversation without embarrassment and who needs several hours to recharge after a party. Introversion is one of those misunderstood personality slants that can be as tricky for the person with the slant as for those around her.

If you’re introverted and choose nursing as a career, you’ll probably feel like you’re spending most of your working days onstage. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As a fairly introverted person myself (I like nothing more than to come home to the silence of an empty house), I find that acting the part of Jo, RN, helps me differentiate between work and life. At first it felt artificial, but I’ve come to cherish the separateness that I feel once I walk out of the hospital. It keeps me from getting burned out.

It can be tricky to manage a lot of different demands during a shift. I think of it as encounter multitasking: There are loads of people who each want something unique from you.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming. For me, the trick has been to learn to take one person’s demands at a time and concentrate only on those demands. Yeah, it can take me longer to get things done, but I get them done without forgetting essentials or making mistakes.

A key point is to make time for yourself during your work hours. I eat lunch alone. Everybody knows it, everybody respects it: It’s my time to let my eyes unfocus and my brain calm down. If you work in a place where you might get lunch twice a week (or less!), even five minutes in the bathroom can be your sanctuary.

Make time for yourself outside of work, too. Don’t socialize only with the people you work with (this is a good tip for anybody). Have friends who aren’t nurses. Spend an hour or so here or there doing something relaxing or physically demanding, like reading or working out, that has nothing to do with anybody but you.

Lastly, treat your at-work time as your onstage time by getting into a routine. I have a morning routine that never varies. It makes me feel like I’m armoring myself for the day, getting into costume to play my role. Not following that routine on my days off helps me keep my work life in its proper place.

Don’t panic! Even the nerdiest, most introverted person can make it as a nurse. If all else fails, work in neuroscience. We’re all like that.

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