Several research articles seen recently in Medscape and in OJIN - Online Journal of Issues in Nursing - have shown a reduction in the empathy and compassion nurses are giving to those they care for. The Medscape article reported a drop in empathy in nursing students, especially students who were entering nursing as a second or third career. I hope that this surprises and concerns you just as it has me.
So, what can we do to help renew the feeling of empathy and compassion we and other nurses have towards those we care for, those we care about, and for our nursing profession? Following are some ideas which may help to renew the caring in nurses and perhaps prevent the loss of empathy and compassion in those just entering the profession.
* Take time out each day to consider what your patient or patients are going through. What is it like to live with a chronic condition? What has this patient had to give up due to chronic pain, chronic pulmonary issues, diabetes, or arthritis? What strengths do they have and show in living with the condition each and every day? How would your own life change if it was you suffering from these conditions?
* One thing I do whenever I get to feeling depressed or low, or feeling like I am trapped or confined - I write out a thankful list. I take a paper, or sometimes type it on my computer, and start listing everything I am thankful for - from a roof over my head to food on the table, from my job to being able to be back in school. I write my thanks for my children and all they bring to my life. I write how grateful I am that I have loving pets who know when to just cuddle up and make me feel better. What things are you thankful and grateful for?
* Take a small vacation. Even if this is a stay at home vacation, take it easy, spend the day in your pajamas watching all your favorite movies or old tv shows. Cuddle up in bed with a good book or two; take a long bubble bath. Be creative in what you would do for a day or two to pamper yourself, rejuvenate yourself and feel renewed. If on a budget, find a local beauty school and get the "works" done - nails, facial, pedicure, even have your hair trimmed. The pampering won't cost much and will help someone advance their education. If there are tourist spots near you which you have never gone to or have not seen in awhile, go there and enjoy. Get your mind off of work and life's other worries for a day or two.
* To truly reconnect with the compassion and empathy needed to deliver quality nursing care, we must search our own hearts and minds and see if something is feeling "off". Perhaps you no longer enjoy the unit you are on. Do you want to explore another aspect of nursing? Perhaps take time to explore what options are out there for you and even if you don't find a different job, sometimes just knowing there are options helps to put things in perspective.
* Think back to when you first started nursing school and remember the excitement and thrill of doing every new skill. Remember why you became a nurse.
* Read an inspirational nursing book. I love the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but there are many books out there to lift you up. Read about Florence Nightingale or Clara Barton; read an inspiring article in your nursing journal; find a book at the library on how nursing has helped someone to live. There are also many good video clips on YouTube about how nurses change people's lives each and every day, and they are free!
* The next time you are going to orient or precept a nursing student or a new nurse to your unit, start by asking them why they want to be a nurse, what made them choose nursing. Watch as their face lights up and the smile crosses their face - you will remember why you became a nurse.
* As you care for each and every patient, no matter who or what they are, remember that they are someone's child, someone's sister or brother, someone's mother or father, someone's grandparent. As you care for them, remind yourself that your hands are comforting and caring for someone's loved one just as you would want your loved one to be comforted and cared for.
We became nurses to care for and care about others. We need to remember to care for ourselves and not let the stress and strain of being a nurse drag us down. Take some time each day to remember how lucky we all are to be in the best profession in the world - the nursing profession!
As I was told when I became a nurse, the phrase which always reminds me to deliver my best as a nurse is "Nurses' hands do God's work here on Earth".
Smile, you do care, you are a nurse!