Recently I went to the beach with my husband and two nephews (ages 8 and 10). It was perfect beach weather and even more perfect surf for boogie boarding (I had to look up the spelling, LOL). Anyway, they were in the water non-stop… all three of them. And it looked like so much fun!
However, I hadn’t ridden a boogie board in… oh let’s see… maybe, it’s gotta be at least 10 years now. And even though they were smiling, laughing, and having a blast- I was hesitant. I mean I wanted to go in- but I was afraid.
What if my bathing suit got ripped off and I wound up standing there topless? What if I fell of off the board and skinned my stomach along the sand? What if I got hit so hard with water that I could not breathe? What if I looked silly?
Adults are very different from children. Especially my younger nephew- the one at the age of 8. He shows no fear. Sure, he told my husband he was ‘a little nervous’ about going in’ but that kid was in the water until his lips were blue and his body shaking to the core! I mean we had to DRAG him out of there for a break.
What does this have to do with nursing and our professional careers? Well, think about the following situation: you’re at work on a busy hospital unit. It’s another hectic day and the staffing is running on the skeleton crew. It’s been five hours into the shift and you hear your belly growling. You’ve GOT to eat something or you might pass out. But how? No one else has taken a lunch break and if you ask for one you’re afraid of the repercussions that may ensue.
I know it’s tough. I’ve been there and heard that. When we are in a group like that we don’t want to rock the boat. We want to come across as team player. We want to support our staff. And we’ve got to be there for our patients.
But guess what? You’re doing everyone (your patients, their families, your colleagues, and yourself) a disservice by staying quiet- and hungry. Brain fog will set in and there’s an increased chance you could make a mistake. Emotions run high and irritability can ripple out, causing you to snap at your co-workers. Very worst case scenario? Your blood sugar drops so low that you faint on the unit! (Yes, this did happen to me once.)
So even when the going gets tough, we’ve got to feel strong enough on the inside to ask for support, do what we know is right, and take care of ourselves. Because the one person who can do the best job of looking out for you is… guess who? Yourself!
- Release and Re-Focus. This is easier said than done but when we are able to release our inner dialogue about what others ‘might’ be thinking about us, our lives become so much easier and more enjoyable. You can only be accountable for your own perceptions. In fact- you don’t even know if the other nurses on your team will look down on you if you leave for a quick bite to eat. Others may be wanting to do the same thing, but are afraid of what will happen if they do (just like you). It’s like being in a classroom and not wanting to ask a question for fear of sounding ‘dumb’. Guess what? Chances are someone else (if not multiple people) has that very same question. By releasing your perception of what others think of you and being yourself, you allow others to do the same.
- Speak with Clarity. This can be tricky. If we just say ‘I need to get off the unit’ we may not receive much support. Someone may wrongfully judge that we want to use our cell phones or goof off. If we speak clearly and say ‘I need to get something to eat because I feel weak, shaky, and tired’ then they will listen up. Because guess what? They are nurses too, right! They know the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar and what will happen if you don’t get that food. I bet they’d be more than happy to help you take care of yourself. The more that you can communicate with exactly what it is that you need- the better your chances are for getting what you want.
- Find Like-Minded Support. This simply means get creative. Find a buddy who also knows it is right to get off the unit for a lunch break. See if you can pair up and watch their patients while they go and swap. When I say like-minded support, you want to go for the ‘low hanging fruit’. Those people who also see it as a GOOD thing to get off of the unit, take a break, and eat some food. It’s much easier to try something new when you have the camaraderie of a colleague who gets it too.
Oh yes… and I did wind up going into the water and riding some waves. And guess what? It was a BLAST! I had so much fun and look forward to doing it again. Trying the above steps a few times will take practice. But as they get easier, you will start to enjoy them (and your work) so much more.
I’d love to hear what I missed. What would you add to the list above? How do you think you might go increasing your inner confidence so that you can enjoy your nursing career with ease? Share 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.