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Joy in Your Daily Shift, 5 Tips to Change Your Personal Work Culture.

“What we focus on expands. Focusing on the good doesn’t change the bad, but it changes our perception of it, and perception is everything”-Me

As we kick off Nurse’s Week, I’d like to explore a concept that is dear to my heart.  I have developed it as my practice has matured. It’s a concept I think everyone could utilize to change their practice, and ultimately, the culture in which we work. That is to consciously seek out, find and acknowledge the joy in our daily practice.  The happy moments, things that happen every day and go unnoticed are the true difference between joy and disdain.

We all have the things that make us happy at work.  It could be the crew we are working with, the docs who are on, or having a patient do something on their own. Being conscious of these moments is what transforms us. That transformation within ourselves is how we begin to change the culture we are working in. Over the course of my career, I’ve had times where changing my course was imperative to my survival as a nurse. I’d like to share 5 tips that have helped me to transform my practice and infuse joy in to even the most stressful of days.

  1. Be Grateful – 2011 was a tough year in nursing for me. The previous year had been a ‘baptism by fire’.  I had learned an enormous amount, but had a lot of wounds to work through. I also lacked the tools required to process what I’d seen or done in to anything useful. Needless to say, I was in a bad place. It was during this time that I was in a process of self discovery. I was reading personal development books as fast as I could, and came across the concept of conscious gratitude. One book in particular offered the idea of writing thank you notes to people, even if their help had seemed ordinary. So I did. I wrote thank you notes to my clerks, nursing assistants, fellow RNs, patients and even one to my manager.  I had set a goal of writing 5 per week, and it was much harder than I expected it to be. Hard part aside, shifting my focus to all of the good things happening around me really helped my outlook with each shift.  We usually thank the people we work with for their help. My suggestion is to continue that, but be specific with each person. Thank them for what they specifically did to make you day easier. It may seem ordinary to the both of you, but once you focus on elevating the ordinary to extraordinary the world seems much happier.
  2. Manage Your Time – This may seem like an odd suggestion to bring joy to your practice, but hear me out. When your time is managed well, you give yourself cushion. Cushion against the unexpected, which happens daily in every facet of nursing. It requires discipline to keep your head down and get started and power through the first part of the shift, but it is WORTH IT!  Stat CT?  No problem, meds are passed and charting is done. Lose your airway? No sweat, you’ve got yourself covered(that being said, if you do sweat a little about losing an airway, I totally get it, it’s supposed to be scary!).  It’s a very liberating feeling to know that you’re ahead of where you need to be.  I understand it’s not always possible, as walking in to a coding patient always means you’re starting on the back foot. Do your best to create a routine, and I promise you shift will become less stressful and more enjoyable.
  3. Be Intentional About Your Practice – What I mean by this, is to be the nurse you’d want to take care of you. Do the extra, make it your habit. We don’t do what we have time for, but what we make a priority. When we make the absolute best care our number one priority, it isn’t just our patients who benefit. We get to leave knowing that we did our very best, and that knowledge brings calmness and joy.  We often won’t be able to solve any one of our patient’s problems. However,  if we take our time and listen to what they’re asking us, they aren’t often asking us to solve their problem, but merely HEAR it. They are asking to feel valuable when they feel their most vulnerable.  They are asking us to care. Often we rush in and out when patients or families are demanding or unkind. It’s important however to remember that they are scared and tired, which never leaves any of us at our best. When you become intentional about your practice, and give those few extra minutes, patients and families become much easier. So keep the tray and counters wiped clean, offer the back rub, take your time a little bit.  You won’t notice the little extra time it takes, but your patients will, and that lasting value can enhance your joy.
  4. Be a Builder – I don’t mean go out and try to become a carpenter, I mean make it a habit to build up those around youEveryone you come in contact with, build them up (or at a minimum DO NOT tear them down). Whether it’ a colleague, patient, family member or someone you see walking down the hallway. Offer a smile, a compliment or assist where you can. Take it upon yourself to build people up, and be the example that raises other people. If you raise the bar, and people will rise to it, and your whole unit will be better for it. When you look for the good in others, you begin to see the best in yourself as well. It makes you kinder all around. I don’t know about you, but kindness given or received always makes me feel joy.
  5. Remember that the Shift Always Ends, and that You get to Leave – When worse comes to worse, no matter how chaotic or challenging the day, the shift always ends and you get to leave. That knowledge has helped keep my head up through many a difficult shift, and it can help you.  If we had an awful day, it’s a solid bet our patient had a worse one. They have to stay. That is heir reality. We on the other hand, get to manage the chaos, offer ourselves and go home.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I will revisit this topic again and again.  I will do that be cause it’s important, because when we love what we do, it shows.

Please share some things you do to keep or restore your joy in your day to day work, I’d love to hear your tips!

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