Most nurses did not choose this career because of great hours and working conditions. As trite as it may sound, most of us entered the profession of caring to help people in their toughest times. I often say that nursing is a calling. That's why we sign on and stay on.
Yet on the days when the workload is too great, on the occasions that we can not take all the pain away, after the shift when we go home with achy feet and achy hearts, those are the days we need to be reminded of why we do what we do. We need to reignite our passion for nursing.
One of the best ways to do that is by recalling and sharing our stories. I learned the crucial importance of this when I read over 2000 stories to select the top 101 for Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul, then 2000 more for the second edition, the Second Dose. Clearly, when nurses share their stories, they remember why they entered this profession, and why they stay.
What are your stories? To put the fire back in your belly for nursing, take time to recall them.
When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Was it when you banded the neighborhood cats or related little brothers? Was it when you saw someone role modeling what it was like to be a great nurse? Did you watch a compassionate nurse care for someone you love?
What is your best story about being a student? What was your first day of nursing school like? Who was the first patient you ever cared for?
When was the first time you (nearly) fainted? (Or better yet, when your classmate did!)
For us “seasoned” nurses, how did you feel when you received your nursing pin or donned your cap for the first time? (Tell the “young” nurses what a cap was!)
What was the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a nurse? What was the scariest? What was one of the most emotional moments?
What patient left an impression on you? Which one “healed” you or taught you an important life lesson?
What patient family member impressed you the most?
Who was a favorite mentor or the one who “shown you the ropes?” Why was he or she so special?
How do you grow as a person because you are a nurse?
When did a doctor teach you a lesson or two? When did you teach a doctor a lesson or two?
What are other special memories about people or medical circumstances?
Reminisce often about these caring moments. Scribble them down in a spiral notebook or journal. It does not have to be fancy or well written. (Your English teacher will never grade it.) Read your stories often. Share them with others, verbally even.
Many nurses have told me that, to begin their shifts with inspiration and hope, they together read a story from Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul. That is a great idea. (Of course!) Another one equally great or better is to share your own true stories at this time. One hospital I work with calls these “Heart Moments.”
At other hospitals where I do retention events, I learned they created their own book of stories written by staff. What a great way to boost morale and retention.
Still other hospitals have “Best Story” contests. What a wonderful way to engage employees as each department fathers and chooses the top stories from their unit. Sometimes I may be the final judge, then a prize is given to the individual or department with the “Best Story.” Some have different categories (funniest, most compassionate, etc) and multiple winners are awarded.
While some people may say, “We do not have time for this,” I submit that we must take time to make time to enrich our spirits and soothe our souls and reignite our passion for nursing.
We answered the calling to care. Our stories prove the privilege we have to literally touch and save lives.
That is certainly the highest calling of all.