Mindfulness and Nursing
Published on the 08 December 2015
Published on the 08 December 2015
Nursing is a job that requires you to stay particularly focussed for certain tasks. However, it is so easy to become distracted and begin to multitask. When your attention starts to fracture, you are more likely to make an error. Although errors are the worst that can happen, constantly running from one fire to the next can be hard on the nurse emotionally. Burnout, compassion fatigue, and depression are epidemic in the profession, and this is why. Nurses can all-to-easily lose touch with their body or their minds. They care so much for others that they forget to care for themselves.
The best way to overcome this common pitfall is through the use of mindfulness. Some will scoff that this is time wasting navel gazing, but the truth is that it can help to make you a better nurse. If you can concentrate better because of your practice outside the hospital, it will make you a more effective nurse and increase your ability to provide excellent patient care. Mindfulness doesn’t need to take long, either. In fact, it can be performed in less than ten seconds, if you know the techniques. Most nurses don’t realize that they need mindfulness training until they are too overstressed to care.
Meditation is practice for when your mind and your situation are out of control. The best time to practice concentrating is not when the crisis has set in; it is when the situation is calm. This is why meditation is so important. You sit and focus on your breathing and coming back to it, focusing on the in and out, letting your mind jump from one idea to another, but always gently bringing it back to the breath. You don’t have to do anything special to meditate, either. Sit somewhere quiet. Set your phone to alert you in ten minutes, and allow yourself the serenity of following your breath and nothing else.
Yoga is meditation in motion. For those who are unable to sit still, it may be a better choice than meditation. It is also easier to understand, in some ways, than simply sitting and meditating. You should definitely go to someone who knows about yoga and focuses on the mind/body effects of it. The purpose of yoga is not necessarily to get in shape, though it does help with that. It helps calm your mind by focusing on the minutiae of your body instead of worrying about your life.
In addition to meditation or yoga, self-care is a primary part of your mental wellbeing. It also sets the stage for mindfulness when you are actually on the floor. Self-care means seeing to your own needs. You take care of your medical problems. You ensure that you are eating properly and exercising. You should even go so far as to remove yourself from toxic relationships, but it isn’t a good idea to make major life decisions while you are in crisis mode. Self-care means that you take time for yourself to make sure you are healthy.
Many nurses skip this step, and the standard excuse is that they don’t have time. In fact, most of this entire conversation is skipped due to lack of time. This is when it becomes important to set boundaries – with yourself and others. Boundaries are a statement that says you will do this act and there are no excuses. When your children are clamoring for you, take the time to tell them you will be with them when you are done relaxing/meditating/exercising. Setting boundaries is hard, especially for nurses. If you don’t stand up for yourself and set these rules, you will end up struggling with work and finding yourself miserable.
Finally, grounding is a practice that you can take to the floor and use at any time. The steps before this are recommended for better grounding, but you can certainly use these techniques whenever you are feeling stressed. There are three types of grounding: physical, mental, and soothing. An example of mental grounding would be to look around your environment and describe to yourself everything you see in minute detail. For instance, the painting on the wall is a water colour of blue tones, the walls behind them are painted beige, the computer screen is white with red highlights, the mouse in my hand feels like a lump of hard bread, and so on.
Physical grounding takes the practice a step further. One way to physically ground yourself is to notice where your body is in space. Feel where your feet touch the floor. Examine how your arms are posed. Scan your body for any tension and release it. By contrast, soothing grounding is a little more subtle. A soothing practice could entail thinking of your favorite things, seeing them clearly in your mind, and remembering why they mean so much to you. Of course, many grounding exercises are available in each category, so experiment with them until you find one that works for you when the stress gets too high.
Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions.