Improving Your Practice, New Nurse Resources

Want Some Allies? Be an Ally.

“Practice being selfless. You always end up getting more than you anticipate when your soul is giving”

When you feel alone or left out in your unit, what do you do?  Do you put yourself out there? Or do you keep to yourself and get angrier and angrier, until you loathe your job along with your colleagues? I know for a long time, I did the latter.  It never served me.  What’s worse, I knew it was futile as I was doing it, yet I didn’t know how to stop. Looking back, most of the time it was me alienating everyone from my world, not the other way around. It made me unhappy going to work. I felt apart from my colleagues. I couldn’t ask for help, because in my mind I had built up a me vs. them mentality. Looking back, I’m doubtful many people looked forward to working with me either.

“If you let it, truth will slap you right square in the face.”

Luckily there were a few people who would still help me if I was drowning, and I still helped anyone who asked, because it’s who I am. One night, while bathing a patient we got to talking. At one point, she looked me square in the face and said ‘I”m not sure what your problem is, but you’d probably like it better here if you were more pleasant’. It wasn’t an attack, just an observation, and I think that’s why I was able to hear it.

Now you can hear a thing, or you can really HEAR it, and I really HEARD it. While I had been so busy blaming everyone else for leaving me out, I had stopped looking at myself and my contribution to the problem.  As it turns out, I had plenty to be accountable for. Having turned rather surly, I was in need of a serious attitude adjustment. So I proceeded to look for a solution.  I tore through a stack of personal development books, and I started to notice a common theme.  Personal accountability, and the power of choice.

These two things found me right at the perfect time. All along I had been wanting people to give of themselves and include me, when I had stopped doing that very thing. I realized that I needed to open myself up and offer of myself first. When I began to do this, the reception I got was unbelievable.  People began to feel so much more welcoming toward me.  The unit felt warmer and more inclusive. This decision had made me accountable for showing them my true self, and that authenticity paid off.

I had also begun to deliberately choose to highlight the little intricacies that made my colleagues special in my mind. Choosing to be genuine, I expressed my appreciation for who they were. We got to know each other and learned about our lives. Nothing changed overnight, but over the course of months my relationships improved with those in my unit.

As those relationships improved, so did the quality of my care. It brought me back to teamwork, that when done well is part of the beauty of nursing. If I got stuck in a room, someone would come check on me, and I knew my other patients would be well looked after.  I no longer felt avoided and marginally tolerated. People were more receptive to my talents, and asked me for help when they felt out of their depth (I was and still consider myself the ostomy queen of non skin nurses). Things became good, and it was all within my power.

I had chosen to be an ally, and in turn I found I had my own all along. We so often wait for someone else to demonstrate how they feel, that we forget our own power to show them how we feel. We withhold affection, or kindness or respect waiting for people to ‘earn’ it. This is an unsound strategy, and is based in fear.

Why are we so afraid to let people see how we feel? For me, it’s simply the fear that it won’t be reciprocated. I’m learning though, that reciprocity really doesn’t matter. Being authentic does. Being generous of your spirit, and flush with kindness and encouragement is what matters. Sometimes we have to be the ones to step out of our comfort zone, and show people that we are a safe place. That is how you become an ally, and in turn get one. The return on this investment isn’t quantifiable, and it’s one you’ll never regret.

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