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How Mindfulness Saved My Career

Stress 101 Article   (980 Views 4 Replies 1,125 Words)
by tinyRN72 tinyRN72, BSN (Member) Member Nurse

tinyRN72 has 6 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Cardiovascular Stepdown.

5 Articles; 3,133 Profile Views; 89 Posts

How Do You Define Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice and way of living. It is helpful for stress management, time management, and I feel that it helps to improve happiness by supporting life balance. This story tells about my first experience with Mindfulness and how it has helped me survive the ever-increasing demands of being a nurse.

How Mindfulness Saved My Career

In a way, I really hate to tell this story, but I also feel that if it helps just one other person, then it is worth it. So, here I go!

First, allow me to provide a bit of background. I have several years of nursing under my belt. I have always wanted to work for myself, and I have, just not as a nurse. My husband and I started a holistic wellness center about a year ago. For my part, I offer health education classes, meditation, and weight loss. My husband offers coaching, mindfulness living, and stress management.

When we started this adventure, I really didn’t know what mindfulness was and had no experience with it, but I go to his classes every week, because it is my company and I should know what we sell.

Now for the part I hate to admit to: starting about 18 months ago, I felt like my career was ending. I hated it, but I still loved it, so I didn’t give up. The day-to-day job was becoming so stressful! I felt anxious on my days off, constantly dreaded going to work, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. However, I still loved caring for patients. That part never gets old to me, I find peace in it, and it is in my heart to do this work.

It was the other stuff: short staffing, near impossible patient ratios, being constantly nagged about whiteboards, being forced to attend interdisciplinary rounds that occur in the middle of med-pass on a step-down unit where we once had 4 patients, but now have 6, and so many other things.

I was overwhelmed and unhappy, and I’m ashamed to say that I became very angry. I’m even more ashamed to admit that my behavior was becoming unacceptable. If I’d been my boss, I would have fired me. I was always negative; that “you’re getting a new patient” call set me off and I spoke quite disrespectfully to my charge nurse more than once; and I used the excuse of “venting” to justify it all.

It was not OK and at some point, I knew that I had to get a grip on it before I got fired, or I had to find a new way to earn money. No other job seemed acceptable: I am a nurse.

This is where my husband’s Mindfulness classes came in (just in time).

Defining Mindfulness

There are many ways to define Mindfulness, but my husband likes this definition:

Quote

Paying attention on purpose with openness, acceptance, and curiosity.

How Does this Apply to Life? To Nursing?

I started paying attention to the thoughts that ran through my mind every day. The chatter sounded something like this:

  • How am I supposed to have time for all of this?
  • What do they expect me to do?
  • I am only one person who can only do one thing at a time!
  • When is enough enough?
  • How can I work with my phone ringing all the time?
  • I just want to walk out of here right now!
  • This is ridiculous!
  • I can’t! I just can’t!
  • This place doesn’t care about nurses or patients – they only care about money!
  • Why do so many nurses put up with this!

(This is family-friendly website, so I left out the worse stuff and edited a lot for the sake of keeping things clean.)

What Can Mindfulness Teach Us?

Mindfulness taught me to look at these thoughts with acceptance, and without judgment. Just looking at them made me more aware of what my self-talk was doing to my head. The negativity, the complete self-centeredness of it was appalling to me. I didn’t want to be this angry person, stomping around like I was the only one who is busy, or getting admits before my discharges were done. What I found is that I really didn’t like me anymore, I was sort of toxic.  

More than that, Mindfulness taught me to be curious about these thoughts.

I Began to Ask ...

  • Is this helpful?
  • Does it make anything better?
  • Did I ask for these thoughts?
  • What triggers these thoughts?
  • How do I react to these thoughts?
  • How do I want to react to these thoughts?

Asking these questions gave me power over the mean voice in my head that was spewing vulgarities about every little inconvenience.

Taming the Beast

It didn’t happen overnight, but I tamed the beast that had taken up residence in my head.

Mindfulness allowed me to examine my thoughts, dissect them, and cut out what was not serving me. It started by helping to see the thought and pause before reacting. This allows for time to decide how you want to react.

Mindfulness is an ongoing practice, and this is just a tiny slice of it. But this little bit was life-changing for me. I feel like the scales are balanced again. Yes, I still feel frustration, I still get busy and need to juggle things, but my brain doesn’t interfere anymore.

It’s been about 6 months and those nasty little thoughts that made my day hell rarely pop up these days, but when they do, I pause and I decide how I will react. No more knee-jerk fits of frustration!

I feel so much less stressed. It’s nice to just take things in stride. Of course, there is a bit more to it than this.

Mindfulness gave me a new mindset of being open and accepting of what comes without judgment and without wanting it to be different (ex: getting a new patient when you are already really busy.) When I mastered this, the unwanted self-talk was hushed.

This also works when being stuck in traffic, with rude encounters at the grocery store, and many other situations. What I found is that my reaction of being angry about these little things that I have no control over, just kept feeding the angry beast. Over time, not getting wrapped up in these thoughts left it to starve.

I’m so thankful my husband teaches this class and my only regret is that I didn’t listen to him sooner!

tinyRN72 has been an BSN RN for over 6 years. She has worked in cardiovascular step-down for the majority of her career. As a travel nurse, she also has experience with med/surg, tele, ortho, float pool, and med oncology.

5 Articles; 3,133 Profile Views; 89 Posts

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MSO4foru has 14 years experience as a ADN and specializes in Hospice Home Care and Inpatient.

99 Posts; 493 Profile Views

I appreciate the spirit that this article is written in, however as soon as I read the words " started a wellness center 18 months ago" my eyebrows arched.  You are fortunate that you found a way to continue a career in healthcare that allowed you to get away from the truly ever increasing needs being placed on bedside nurses.     Perhaps I am getting use to being a " toxic" personality,  as every week at my workplace :staffing is reduced, we are left with barely any linen ( and no way to get more thanks to biweekly delivery), and this week we had no water pitchers or urinals ( amongst other things ) for 4 days.  It does feel like management cares about nothing but money. Because they don't- otherwise something would get done about it. And before I am told I should look for another job- I have and continue to- but I can't take a more than $15 paycut , and my employer has best pay in my area, and there is only one competitor system who again has substantially less pay.  

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tinyRN72 has 6 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Cardiovascular Stepdown.

5 Articles; 89 Posts; 3,133 Profile Views

Hi, MSOforu,

I'm sorry to hear about what sounds like a deplorable working environment for you. 

I actually do still work in a hospital, on a cardiac / Neuro floor. I have worked in some bad places, but I've never experienced the things you describe. 

My wellness center is far from replacing my income.... And so at the bedside I do remain. 

Mindfulness really has helped me not get so involved in all the things we hate about hospitals and decide how I will react. It gives me a sense of power over my own emotions and stress in certain situations. 

Thanks for your response. I hope you find a better situation soon. 

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MSO4foru has 14 years experience as a ADN and specializes in Hospice Home Care and Inpatient.

99 Posts; 493 Profile Views

TinyRN72,    I really do appreciate the spirit of the article. Sincerely.  I work Inpatient hospice . As part of a hospital system. One of the biggest things that working hospice for now almost 11 yrs is learning that patients and families are who they are, and accepting that my job ( hospice) is not about changing pt personalities/ attitudes or family dynamics.  My job is to meet folks ' where they are'.  I really love my essential job. Over the last 7 yrs, I have watched ' ancillary staff ' being let go for " budgeting " while the number of patients I am expected to care for steadily climb.  I am tired of being told reimbursement is declining,  so we're all going to tighten our belts.   The most recent thing at work that made me actually laugh out loud is new policy of no overtime.  We already work short ( 12 hr shifts) - this week a CNA picked up 2 extra shifts. She was told to leave at 11p on one of her usual workdays( 40 hours for the week) so that she would not incur overtime. An internal staffing CNA came at 11p. The next night an additional CNA came in for a 12 hr shift and was paid " surge pay" for the whole shift. We had the same number of patients.      At some point the rubber meets the road and Somebody is going  to have to realize that if you want ' excellent care delivered Every day :)"  you are going to have to give us a component and stable workforce.   Otherwise nurses are going to continue leaving bedside or reducing hours. I don't understand why this is rocket science.  And glad that I have next 11 days off. 

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tinyRN72 has 6 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Cardiovascular Stepdown.

5 Articles; 89 Posts; 3,133 Profile Views

Enjoy your 11 days off. I've been hospitals like that. I left them all without a feeling of regret. However, after so many bad experiences, I was walking around with a giant chip on my shoulder. 

I was getting exactly what I expected to get. 

Where I am now is actually really good. The pay is not what I was used to back then, but it really is good to the employees.

In this situation it really was me that needed to change. That may not apply to your situation. 

It does sound like you could use some stress reduction and self pampering. Try to do a little of that on your days off. 🙂

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