I’ll never forget my nurse residency program as a brand new graduate nurse. I was terrified. Not only that, I had an attitude. Gosh- to think back on how rudely I acted… it was embarrassing. (Quick side bar: The good news is I got to apologize to a room full of instructors during a future job interview, phew!)
As I’ve shared in my bestselling book, ‘Nursing from Within‘, I never wanted to be a nurse. Blood and guts and all of that ‘nurse-y nurse’ type stuff freaked me out. And when something used to frighten me- the way I dealt with it was to show up with a sour puss face and a nasty-ass attitude. I guess I thought this protective shield would keep people away. Silly me…
Any-whoo, I digress. What does this have to do with emergency situations? Well, we had to practice them during my nurse residency program. You know, the simulation type drills. And yes, some of them were code simulations. As a psychiatric nurse, I (stupidly) thought that this was a waste of time. I never wanted to participate and stood there with that look on my face.
However, now that I am ten years old and wiser, I know understand just how significant those practice drills were. And I am completely grateful to those nurses who DO work in emergency situations. (Oh yeah, as a psych nurse who had to rotate down to the psychiatric ED as part of her role… I found myself in some pretty emergent situations!)
But why did I title the post in the way that I did? How come I wrote ‘an unconventional way’ to help out? Well, because I am not a nurse-y nurse. Nor will I ever be one. But I can give some advice on how to energetically prepare yourself and show up in an emergency.
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- Practice Ahead of Time. So, to actually prepare yourself to be fully present in an emergency situation, you have got to practice mindfulness in quiet. Why is this? There is SO much going on during an emergency. And if you’re distracted by the flurry of activity, you might slip up and make a small mistake. So the way to stay fully focused during an emergency is to have a routine mindfulness practice outside of work. This practice in the quiet stillness of your own home comes in handy during the busyness of any nursing shift!
- Ground Your Feet. This one is VERY important. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what is happening around us that we are lost in thought. I’ve seen this happen before- it’s like we become paralyzed by all of the activity and don’t know what to do next. If that ever happens to you, the best way to come back to the present moment (and the emergency at hand) is to ground yourself into your feet. That’s right literally feel both feet connecting with the floor. Take time to feel the physical body so that you are fully present and can help out in any way that you can.
- Breathe. What does the breath have to do with an emergency? Everything! Besides the fact that the emergency may be happening because a patient in front of you is actually NOT breathing- your breath is super important to keeping the natural flow alive. Breath is our connection to spirit. It’s the life force that sustains us. To me, the very best way to be an active and helpful participant in an emergency situation is to be mindful of your own breath. Keep on breathing, first of all. And secondly, do your best to slow it down and breathe deeply. The more oxygen you can get to your own brain, the more clear you can think and the better you can assist.
I just want to close with this- emergency situations will come and go. I had MANY of them in psych with seclusion rooms, restraints, giving emergency shots, and oh yes, being kicked in the stomach. We had a code button that could be pushed if a patient swung at a nurse or any of the like. Well, my final piece of advice is this: being present and allowing yourself to be fully aware of your surroundings will help you flow through these trying times. Know that they come and go and everything will subside, returning to normal. It’s simply the nature of our work- and of the unknown. We do the best we can and that’s all we can hope for.
A final thank you to all of those nurse-y nurses who DO work those codes. Thank you for doing the work I am terrified (smile) to do!
What would you add to the above list? What are some other unconventional ways to show up and help in an emergency situation? Leave a comment below and thanks for reading.
About the Author: As a speaker, workshop facilitator, and Reiki Master, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Your Next Shift Workshop, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.