Caring is something that we also need to extend to our students during this present time of transition to online learning. Jean Watson’s caring theory has three parts: the caring factor, creating the caring relationship and being there in the caring moment (Lachman, 2012). These same factors that we apply in our nursing practice can be applied to pedagogy in the sense of being present for our students. How can we help them to overcome the uncertainty they are facing due to the many changes that have occurred since March 2020? Being genuine by admitting that we have some of the same concerns opens up a brand-new teacher–student perspective. We are all in this together, moving forward one step at a time.
I admit that it can be difficult to stop thinking about certain patients once I get home from a particularly busy shift. I sometimes wonder how they got to where they are in their lives. Why did they make certain choices? What happened to their family to make them no longer supportive or in the lives of the patient? I wonder if the patient will still be there the next time I go to work.
I really try to limit the amount of time I spend thinking about work once I am home. Due to HIPAA, I only talk about my shift in the broadest of terms. When I do share a story or two, I often get blank looks from my family because they are not nurses, and just don’t get it. I suppose it is like being in any industry…there is a certain vernacular to most occupations that is only understood if you work there. So, this is an example of me talking about my day, “We had a patient admitted for psychotic behavior whose urine drug screen was positive for benzos and THC. He was paranoid, had SI and AH to kill himself. He became aggressive and needed a B52.” Of course, this could be followed by talking about the constipated patient that I had to give an enema or the patient who had not showered for a week. The conversations that nurses have, or want to have, often turn the stomachs of people who do not work in health care.
What I have found best is to just give a few highlights of my shift. My family gets that I do something that a lot of people cannot stomach. There is still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding regarding mental health. I know other nurses who would never be caught in this specialty. If there is something really pressing that I need to share or get off my chest I will text a nurse friend to vent because even if they are in another area of nursing, they are good at giving advice as to how they would handle similar events, offering support, and pushing me to let it go.
Expansion of self
Nursing as a career can be as varied as the individual wants it to be. I have worked in mental health (hospital and community-based), home health, geriatrics, a walk-in clinic, diabetes research, and nursing education. My career has been a curvy road of adventure. I love it! Each new role builds on the previous nursing role and strengthens my practice. I am a better nurse because of all the varied experiences I have had since I became a nurse in 2004.
Autonomy is what nurses strive to achieve. According to Weston (2010), autonomy allows the nurse to work within their scope of practice delivering patient care using their education and critical thinking skills. Being trusted to think on their feet and make appropriate decisions is how nurses grow as individuals through the experiences they have in their work environments. Communication with, and support from, the administration should further strengthen the sense of self. Nurses are with the patients 24/7. They are the eyes and ears that often detect subtle changes in patients and must use their critical thinking skills to formulate quick determinations about the need for emergent care.
I have had people say to me that they don’t know how I do what I do. I usually smile and respond that I love what I do. Nursing is like that. You have to really love it to be good at it. Your patients will be able to tell if you are not really invested in your job. That lack of enthusiasm will be apparent in the care that is given. I don’t want to be “one of those nurses”. I want each of my patients (and students) to feel they were treated with respect, received the best care possible, and had someone there to listen when they really needed it. The mental health nurse participants in Ward (2011) all mentioned “looking at the positive, as opposed to the negative, and finding joy in small achievements, and success inpatient recovery” (p. 80). I try to do this every day in my nursing practice. Can you say that about your nursing practice?
Ready for part 7 of chocolates and tissues? Read How to be an effective nurse educator – nurturing students’ well-being in unforeseen times now.
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