The clock has struck 9 pm; you realize you haven't taken a single bathroom break in the past 4 hours. The last thing you remember eating is the leftover crumbled muffin from two days ago while on your way to work; that was ten hours ago. As you soon as you think you have a break in sight, two patient call lights go on followed by a doctor calling with roughly five new orders on a patient. The bathroom break will have to wait.
This is an all too familiar scenario in the nursing profession. There is a saying in the nursing field; Nursing, the hardest job you will ever love. Skills, knowledge and excellent time management are critical components in being a strong nurse. However, one of the most difficult tasks new nurses are required to have is being mentally prepared for such a challenge.
The psychological toll can weigh heavy. So how do you prepare yourself? How can you psychologically prepare for such a seemingly difficult task? The first step is digging deep within you and finding that confidence. It is in there, it is what got you through endless hours in nursing school. It is what you had you when you sat down to take your nursing boards. It is within you. You will have to dig deep and conjure it up, but it is there; I promise you. One important thing to know is that not a single nurse, no matter long she/he has been in this field knows everything. It is just impossible. Be confident in what you DO KNOW! If you feel it isn't much at all, that is okay. Hold strong to what you are confident in and build from that. Patients rely on us; they sometimes think we have all the answers. Be okay with knowing we don't. But do your best to find the answers out!
Another beneficial psychological component would be humility. A confident nurse is assertive in her knowledge, but has enough humility to know when to ask for help. I honestly cannot stress enough that no one will know everything. Whether you aced every test in school or not it is the application in the field that is an entirely different process. People are different, their bodies, their minds, everything is different. No one can know it all. Having humility can only help you as a nurse grow and learn. Step back and look at a situation and tell yourself, maybe I need some help with this. This will only save you the mental anxiety later as you question yourself over and over on the drive home, did I assess that patient correctly? If you were able to ask other nurses their input, or even the aides their observations, it can only benefit you and the patient.
A sense of humor will also save you long hours of beating yourself up over a silly mistake that was maybe just a mere oversight. "There is support in the literature for the role of humor and laughter in other areas, including patient-physician communication, psychological aspects of patient care, medical education, and as a means of reducing stress in medical professionals." (Medscape, Humor in Medicine, 2003) If you can't laugh or enjoy the moment you are in, the passion and fire you have for being a nurse will eventually die out. You will drive yourself down to the point of burn out. Everything will seem like a daunting task. Laugh, smile and remember that a smile can go far. Our patients are already stressed and nervous from whatever ailment they have, a smile will go a long way. Sometimes our patients have nothing medically left we can do for them, but a smile, or holding a hand is the best medicine we have.
Remember that old saying, Patience is a Virtue. Notice the difference of patience and patients. As a nurse, you have to have patience in yourself, and your patient. Be prepared for your patient to not always understand their directions or care plans. If it takes five times to explain it, then explain it once more just to make sure they are fully aware of their directions. High patient outcomes are the goals of nurses, so it is critical we are patient with them. It will also only benefit you psychologically if you are mentally prepared to accept not everyone will learn or understand at the same rate. If you are going over and over your mind about what is due or what is next you may let this moment slip by. You need to be able to give your patient your best undivided attention. Be patient with yourself in learning. Be patient with your supervisors, your doctors and your aides. Everyone is going to work at different paces, or have a different way of doing something. Don't stress yourself out trying to change them or modify their approaches. When you grasp patience, you will have a peace within in yourself.
To be psychologically prepared for the nursing profession I cannot emphasize one critical component: compassion. Compassion is what drives us in our endeavors. It is the vow you took at graduation. Remember the nursing pledge, ".....With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care." (Lystra Gretter, 1893) Your compassion will take you to a level of care that only a nurse can provide. Compassion will guide you in achieving humility, patience, and even a sense of humor. Holding that compassion will guide you in your bedside care with patients, it will give you the drive to do the best possible care for those you are responsible for. If will keep you focused on the patient and their needs and not your personal desires and beliefs which can often blind many nurses.
As a nurse your skills and knowledge will you get you far. But if you are not psychologically prepared, no matter how well you have intellectually prepared yourself there is a little chance of success without a healthy mind, a compassionate heart and desire to make a difference. Keep your mind straight, your confidence strong, your smile bright and your heart open. Go forward and remember; People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel. (Maya Angelou, 1989)
With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.” (Lystra Gretter, 1893)