Half way through my career I took a job as a unit manager on a busy medsurg telemetry unit. I had been out of acute care for several years and this was my first position back in a hospital setting. Although it wasn’t my first management position, I went from having a staff of 5 in a managed care organization to a staff of 75 in a big city hospital. It was the hardest, most stressful job I ever had. After only 18 months, the environment chewed me up, spat me out and I resigned. If I had to name the cause, it was my inability to manage stress.
Every weekday, a Rabbi would stop by and ask if any of the patients needed him to comfort them with a prayer, conversation or just by sitting with them. If my office door were open, he would stop in to say hello and ask me if there were any particular patients in need. On one extra stressful day, he took one look at me and said; “I think you’re the one that needs my help today.” I can remember that it was one of those “you’ve got to be kidding” crazy stressful days and I really didn’t know how I was going to get through the day without my head popping off. I guess my face showed it. He then told me that if I didn’t take care of myself, that I wasn’t going to be able to take care of my staff and my patients. I knew that, but I didn’t have time to take care of me!
He shut my door and sat down next to me. In a quiet voice he asked me if I had ever been to the chapel. My first thought was that I was too busy to even know where it was let alone go to church. He told me that although the chapel was for people to pray, it was also a place for quiet thought and peace. He told me to make a habit of spending 10 minutes in the chapel every day. Just 10 minutes in the middle of my crazy busy days to reset myself. I thought he was nuts at first. If I had 10 extra minutes, there was a list of other more important things I could do. But I promised to try. Can’t lie to a Rabbi!
So, I forced myself to sit quietly alone in the chapel, closed my eyes and just breathed. Then something remarkable happened. After just 3 days I began to feel calmer and think clearer when I returned to my unit. Although the stress of my job didn’t change, taking those 10 minutes for myself changed my response to the stress. Those 10 minutes acted like a defibrillator – resetting my brain and allowing me to focus.
It doesn’t matter what type of job you have as a nurse, the stressors and the “are you kidding me” days happen to all of us. What’s important is that you take care of yourself so that you can get through those days without feeling like your head’s popping off.
Just take 10 minutes during your day to deep breath, relax your shoulders, and clear your mind. Make it a habit and encourage others to do the same. There is no way you can keep up with the demands of nursing unless you take care of yourself. You deserve it!
Take care and stay connected
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