Nursing is one of the most stressful professions, and the current global health landscape isn’t helping to minimize it. Between the nationwide nursing shortage, increasing elderly Americans suffering from various chronic illnesses, the global COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing natural disasters, and national, political tensions over the healthcare sector, the nursing industry is under enormous pressure and stress. In addition to the situations mentioned here, personal stressors of caring for self and family put nurses at a higher risk of mental and physical illnesses, including depression, anxiety, chronic and compassion fatigue, moral distress, and of course, burnout.
Nursing is one of the most in-demand professions and is expected to grow even more rapidly over the next decade precisely. This prediction is why schools are increasing enrollment of nursing students while hospitals are trying to retain existing ones. We also need to cultivate a sense of resilience in all of them. Resilience training and healthy coping mechanisms are vital for balancing work and personal life.
Cultivating resilience for both personal and professional senses is crucial. It is essential in all work and personal environments, especially in nursing. The best place to start is by defining resilience and how a new, young, or existing nurse can foster it to the best of their ability and become the best nurse they can be.
What is Resilience?
Health Times, Australia’s leading health industry website, describes resilience as “the ability to recover and recuperate quickly from a difficult or challenging situation.” Resilience differs from stress management in that it emphasizes the inevitability of stress and the need to incorporate it as a normal part of life. Stress management, however, typically involves breaking down a specific situation into manageable bits to manage the ongoing stressor(s).
Resiliency in nursing depends on the ability to bounce back from setbacks quickly. It can improve patient outcomes and overall nurse job satisfaction. Resilience is a process; it is not something that can be developed by a day at the spa. It will take Self- Development, including Self- Assessment, Self- Reflection, and Self- Care. Working towards Self-Development and organizations understanding the need can assist nurses in remaining optimistic about their career while simultaneously infusing new energy into their nursing practice.
Nurses who increase their sense of resilience typically feel far more energized, motivated, and ready to take on responsibilities. By nature, developing your internal sense of resilience denotes a higher level of self-awareness, persistence, and the energy to care for your mind and body. Resilience can be thought of as a pillar of emotional intelligence, as developing it and practicing resiliency requires emotional flexibility, adaptability, positivity, and open communication with those around you.
For nurses to cultivate their sense of resilience, it is vital to stay in control and care for their own heart, mind, and body needs throughout their workday and personal lives. Nurses should love and accept themselves, understand the importance of their job, understand their role and what they need to be, and understand how to work on their resilience skills when necessary.
Habits of Resilient Nurses
In a study on resilience by the American Psychological Association, some suggestions were made regarding increasing strength and supporting their sense of stability within themselves:
- Maintaining positive, beneficial relationships with others
- Accepting that some circumstances are out of one’s control
- Staying as optimistic as possible, hopeful
- Thinking long term, keeping long term goals in mind
Mindfulness is another critical habit of resilient nurses. Mindfulness depends on being present in the moment and paying attention to what is occurring around and within yourself. Crafting and maintaining resilience and mindfulness should also come into play. Nurses should consider practicing the following habits to help build both resilience and mindfulness:
- Practice beginners mind– This assists nurses in staying focused and present at the moment; it helps them assess the current situation and not think about others. It allows nurses to remain open-minded, not act impulsively, and never close their eyes or mind to the potential of other possibilities opening up.
- Be free and let go– This habit does not mean quitting but rather freeing yourself from negative thoughts, feelings, emotions, or habits. Without dwelling on negativity, nurses can stay present. While this one may be hard to do because of the high rates of exposure to pain, suffering, and helplessness, having a free and open heart and mind helps build a strong sense of resilience.
- Be kind– Practicing kindness and compassion reinforces positive behavior and feelings within the individual and those around them. It helps to brighten the mood in even the most high-pressure situations.
- Be grateful– Nurses tend to have a higher sense of appreciation for their health and job security which often equates to positivity when working directly with patients every day. Gratefulness expands the mind and allows more opportunities to open up.
- Stay true to yourself– When nurses are true to themselves about who they are as individuals, they will learn to become even more purposeful in their choices and achieving their goals. Authenticity is often showcased within the workplace and enables honest relationships with colleagues and patients.
- Be committed to the job– Being committed to the work you are doing and staying patient and persistent can help nurses complete their tasks and increase their belief in themselves as nurses and human beings.
- Trust in yourself– Nurses have gone to great lengths and advanced education to have their careers. Your nurse’s intuition is excellent and used to care for your patients. Trust in yourself and your abilities. This intuition helps to build your sense of resilience, resourcefulness, and belief in yourself.
Nursing requires resilience. Staying strong confident within your mind, body, and spirit can reflect on the nurse themself and increase their productivity, relationships with patients and colleagues, and energy levels. By practicing some of the habits above, nurses can craft and strengthen their sense of resilience and succeed in their professional and personal lives.
What Factors Can Affect Resilence in Nurses?
Now that we have gone over the ways to strengthen and cultivate your sense of resilience as a nurse, it might be good to highlight some factors that you should be aware of that could hinder your sense of resilience. Being aware of these detrimental factors can be beneficial in recognizing them, making necessary changes in your life, and deciding how to grow and move forward. No matter which area of nursing you practice in, challenges will arise, and they may impact your sense of resilience. All nurses should recognize at least one, if not more, of these issues hindering resilience. These factors include:
- Complicated patients and clinical situations
- Continuous organizational changes
- Excessive workload
- Bullying behavior
- Insufficient staffing
- Poor infrastructure
- Minimal resources
- Inadequate autonomy
- Conflict of roles
- Workplace confrontations or violence
- Forgoing self-care time
The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging and has highlighted some new factors affecting nurses and their sense of resilience. It has added even more stress to an already stressful work environment.
Characteristics of Low Resilience
Nurses lacking resilience often experience more unhappiness within the profession and emotional exhaustion. Working in the situations mentioned above also contributes to more physical and mental health effects among nurses, which can contribute to the experience of the following characteristics:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Lack of concentration
Nurses who nurture and develop a strong sense of resilience have more advanced coping skills and can often better overcome challenging workplace scenarios. Resilience is a protective factor for nurses that can protect their mental health and ability to function under challenging situations.
The nursing profession is challenging, where stressors are constant, and burnout is an epidemic. By crafting one’s resilience, nurses can better combat the stressors of the profession, reduce burnout, and improve their overall emotional and mental health, while enjoying the job they do every day. The Integrative Nurse Coach® Academy integrates resilience development as a crucial outcome of the program.