The Mindful Nurse: Calm Amid the Fire
The other day I saw a meme on Facebook. “Being a charge nurse is like riding a bike, only the bike’s on fire, and you’re on fire, and everything’s on fire, and you are in hell”.
I don’t see too much information on mindfulness for nurses. Of all the professions out there, I think we as nurses would benefit the most from mindfulness and meditation. Articles on mindfulness at work say “Leave your desk for a few minutes”. I’d like to sit at a desk for a few minutes. Then they say, “On your lunch break….” HAH, does that happen at your job? It sure doesn’t in mine. And this one: “Set your phone app to chimes”! Well, running around a busy unit with call bells going off, I am pretty sure that even if I was allowed to have my phone on me, I would never hear the chime, and I really don’t need to have another mechanical ringtone asking me for one more thing. I read one about “Leaving your desk to go interact with people instead of emailing each other all day”. I think our goal at the beginning of the shift is to get to the desk at some point so we can sit down and chart, and very often it’s only at the very end of our shift that we make it back. I suppose we do catch up together in the med room, in the midst of all the madness. It’s the place to vent, swear, and share quick stories of how our shift is going with the other nurses who are just as crazed as you are.
I understand that the norm is people working nine to five at a desk job. And I am glad that these articles on mindfulness are available to help them. But I don’t think people truly understand what nursing jobs entail. As an evening shift nurse, I get blank stares when I tell people I am awake until 2am and sleep until 10am. People can’t grasp that we work weekends, holidays, days, nights, evenings. And so, I am going to share what works for me, as a nurse, to keep it together in the trenches.
I won’t attempt to describe the madness at my workplace. If you are a nurse, you understand what it is. If not, just read the introduction to this blog again, and that’s a usual shift. Believe me, if you do not understand what we do, don’t go by what you see on television. I have yet to see nurses accurately portrayed in the media.
I started meditating regularly before work about two years ago. I can’t stress enough how it has changed my life, and I am by no means a pro. In fact, I don’t even know if I am doing it “right” but whatever I am doing is working, so I encourage you to try it. I won’t attempt to teach you how, there are plenty of resources for that available. I think the best advice was what my yoga teacher once said, to meditate before transitions. And so, try to sit before going to work, empty your mind, and breathe. It makes all the difference when you are standing in the middle of the fire four hours later, and you say to yourself “so glad I meditated before coming in”. If you can make yourself do this, I promise you will have a better shift.
The other thing you can do, and this is something I am still working on, is to take all those mindfulness tips, and modify them to work for us. I don’t know that we can get a communal Om in the med room, but perhaps we could just remember to breathe for a few seconds, look out a window while you’re waiting for your patient to come out of the bathroom, practice listening instead of reacting, grab a quick stretch where you can. When you are counting a patient’s respirations, be reminded to check in on your own.
Meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness and meditation. Just keep trying.