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Being Grateful in Chaos

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Did you realize just how difficult nursing would be when you were a student wearing rose colored glasses? Nursing in today’s healthcare environment is challenging, stressful and often chaotic. It is easy to become bogged down in the day-to-day challenges and feel an overwhelming sense of self-defeat. However, there is good news. Research shows gratitude can improve your physical and emotional well-being and make things better in the here and now.

Being Grateful in Chaos

A common nurse scenario: A nurse clocks in to begin her shift and learns they will be working with 2 nurses less in staffing. A vendor has arrived for a "brief in-service" immediately following shift report and attendance is "mandatory" according to your charge nurse. While making your initial rounds, you are informed the first admission will be yours and a nurse is on hold to give you report. The patient arrives during am medication pass and is reporting severe pain. However, there are no orders for pain medication provided by the admitting physician. You think "why does this always seem to happen to me?".

In this scenario, there are personnel, process and system work problems that can not be resolved during your shift. However, taking a few moments to acknowledge what you are grateful for in the moment will have positive effects.. In fact, there are scientifically proven physical and emotional benefits of gratitude.

Physical Benefits

Recent research studies have concluded that practicing gratitude is linked to improved health. Physical benefits include stronger immune systems, fewer aches and pains and lowered blood pressure. Grateful people have been shown to actually practice better safe care. They are more likely to exercise and attend regular check-ups. As a result, practicing gratitude leads to higher energy levels and improved quality and duration of sleep.

Psychological Benefits

Gratitude increases our ability to manage stress and reduce anxiety. Higher levels of self-worth, positivity and life satisfaction have also been linked to gratitude. A 2012 study by the University of Kentucky found that participants who ranked higher on a gratitude scale experienced more empathy and sensitivity towards other people.

A Starting Place for the Common Nurse Scenario

Start by asking yourself a question- "What is one thing about my job I appreciate and are grateful for today?". The answer may be simple:

  • I am grateful for my coffee break with a friend
  • I am grateful for my co-workers

The goal is to turn your attention away from what we have, rather than what we don't. This is a good prompt to notice what is positive about your job, even amid the chaos.

Cultivating Gratitude on a Daily Basis

There are many ways to practice gratitude for both personal and work benefits. The important part... Finding the way that works best for you. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Wake up, take a deep breath and be grateful for a new day.

2. Set your smartphone alarm for a time during the workday. When the alarm goes off, think of something you are grateful for.

3. Place a gratitude note on your computer, desk or clipboard. When work becomes

stressful, the note will help you return to an attitude of gratitude.

4. Express appreciation by telling someone else what you appreciate about them. Make it a goal to tell at least one person every day (spouse, partner, child, co-worker, friend).

5. Take time to acknowledge something about yourself that you are thankful for each day. For the stressed nurse- pat yourself on the back for something well done or for for situation you went above and beyond.

6. Take time before sleep to reflect on what about the day are you are thankful for.

7. Keep a gratitude journal and learn more about yourself and improve self-awareness. On tough days, read back through your journal to help reset your attitude.

Keep in mind, simple is good and do not spin your wheels on "perfecting" your gratitude list or journal making sure it is "deep". There are days when I am grateful for low humidity, little traffic or a compliment from a co-worker.

What are ways you have used gratitude, especially at work, to diffuse a difficult or stressful situation? How do you use gratitude to improve your work satisfaction?


Additional Resources:

5 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Giving thanks can make you happier - Harvard Health




Nurse with over 20 years nursing experience in a variety of healthcare settings, management and education.

5 Likes, 4 Followers, 19 Articles, 23,106 Visitors, and 162 Posts.

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