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5 Secrets to Building Nursing Resilience 

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Do you find yourself overwhelmed with stress and finding it difficult to endure?

Working as a nurse can be stressful. Each day comes with a new challenge that must be faced head-on. Additionally, nursing takes a specific set of traits and skills. Learning to be resilient will make for a stronger and more balanced nurse.

5 Secrets to Building Nursing Resilience 

Learning to be resilient will make for a stronger and more balanced nurse. Resiliency is not only about facing adversity and stress, but having the strength to endure tough situations and grow from them.

With some practice and patience, here are five ways to build resilience in any nursing career.

1. Facing Fears

Fear is a powerful emotion that can often paralyze our thoughts and dictate our decisions. Some fears are learned, while others are instinctive. Nurses are required to react quickly where one mistake could cost everything. Letting fears take control can hinder success or even create disastrous consequences for patients.

Facing specific fears is a liberating experience. It takes consistent courage, the ability to handle stressful situations, and proactive coping mechanisms to overcome them. Make a plan, stay calm, and take small steps toward moving past them. After all, the best way to overcome fears is to face them head-on rather than burying them in denial.

2. Finding Purpose

A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 70 percent of U.S workers are not engaged at work, with only 30 percent feeling like their work was meaningful. Meaningful work is linked to higher levels of satisfaction and less likelihood of developing depression. Finding and honing in on the purpose of a career leads to gratification that spreads and permeates throughout.

Finding the purpose behind a nursing career isn’t always a simple process. Some nurses gained inspiration from personal experiences throughout their life. Others may have landed on this path for reasons such as job stability and salary. It’s important to look at the big picture. Nurses go above and beyond for their patients, improving lives every day. Despite the challenges and stressors, nurses receive the ultimate reward of making a positive impact during many people’s moments of weakness.

3. Learning to be Flexible

In many nursing specialties, a day at work is often unpredictable. A slow morning can quickly change due to a surge in patients, or a sudden decline in a previously stable patient’s health. As a nurse, it’s critical to handle these situations with ease. Being flexible means maintaining the ability to adapt and shift the mindset to prioritize overcoming new obstacles. When we adapt quickly and calmly, we can successfully transition our thought process and tackle challenges as they emerge.

Flexibility is a skill that can be learned over time. Keep an open mind and aim to understand the views of others. There are multiple perspectives of looking at any situation, and one way is often better than another. When feeling overwhelmed, learn to make a shift in perspective. Approach each situation in an optimistic way, and continuously try new problem-solving methods. 

4. Don’t Dwell on Things that Can’t Change

Sometimes, maintaining control of a situation is out of our hands. At some point in a nurse’s career, it is inevitable to come across difficult patients and unpleasant co-workers. There will be times where mistakes are made. It is a natural reaction to hold on to the “what-ifs” and hindsight scenarios. When we dwell on things we can’t change, we allow them to have a negative impact on our thoughts and emotions.

It’s essential to move forward from negative situations that we have no control over. If we don’t, the anxiety will take over and prevent us from being happy and moving forward. If something is bothersome, take the time to think it through and face the problem. Don’t ignore the feelings. Acknowledge that the situation isn’t ideal, and learn to accept it. In our lives, there will always be circumstances we can’t control. While we may not be able to change the outcome, we can change the way we respond. Learn to let go of the negatives and grow from these moments.

5. Leaning on Support Systems

Support systems play a significant role in both our personal and professional lives. A strong support system is linked to better psychological health and overall wellbeing. These networks consist of colleagues, friends, and family members that offer comfort during difficult situations. A strong support system doesn’t have to be a large one. One of the many great things about working in healthcare is the relationships that often develop. Co-workers quickly become our friends and people we can lean on through tough times. 

Developing meaningful relationships isn’t easy for everyone. For those who do not have a support system in place, there are ways to build one. Recognize what is needed in a support system, and build connections with people who have those qualities. This may require stepping outside of the comfort zone. Reach out to old friends and strengthen former bonds. Find others with similar passions and interact with them. Put effort into building relationships. Over time, a support system will grow stronger and these connections will serve as an outlet during times of need.

If the recent pandemic has taught us anything, it is that resiliency is a key factor for the ability of nurses to maintain a high level of care for their patients as well as protect their own well-being. A healthy and happy nurse is good news for patients everywhere.

Dr. Linda Plank, PhD, RN, is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing at Baylor University offering top online nursing programs. 

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2 Comment(s)

mmc51264, ADN, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in orthopedic; Informatics, diabetes. Has 8 years experience.

all of these are great ideas!  What I see is nurses that have their eye on a goal 3-4 years down the road, not realizing that if they did the things you list, it will be a better ride to get there. 

I am an older new-ish nurse (can't hardly say that anymore, it's been 8 years!)

Straight No Chaser, ASN, LPN

Specializes in Sub-Acute & Long-Term Care Nursing. Has 4 years experience.

I SO needed this.  Thank you.