The Joint Commission has been advocating for assertiveness training for nurses since the turn of the century when speaking up about concerns and psychological safety became spotlight issues for patient safety. What ‘we’ didn’t do, IMHO is ensure that training, role-modeling, and organizational support include being assertive for one’s self as well as one’s patients! After all, self-care requires self-awareness, self-respect, asking for help, setting limits AND Click To Tweetit is not a huge leap to see how these same elements are important for patient safety.
This one statement; “Can you get Mrs. Jones pain medication, I’m having problems with Mr. Smith’s blood transfusion and haven’t had lunch” demonstrates all of them. Or this; “I need a few minutes to collect myself after that patient’s boyfriend threatened me” or this probably controversial one; “I’m too tired to work overtime safely.”
Maybe there are leaders who worry that nurses saying “No” to overtime or taking on additional patients when already overwhelmed will create an avalanche of nurse limit-setting that will lead to staffing troubles or raise issues about workplace violence and the need for addressing security. And yes, some nurse colleagues will complain that nurses who set limits don’t have the kind of work ethic necessary to be a ‘good nurse’ or think that because they worked overtime or took on more patients despite feeling overwhelmed so should others.
These are problems or concerns that should be addressed and effective communication and leadership are will help provide clear expectations, address patterns of behavior, and validate nurses who have perhaps sacrificed their own health chronically and suffer from burnout. (If you a nurse leader who is reluctant to address any of these issues because of communication or culture issues email me firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll give you a really good deal on some quick, short-term coaching to help!)
For healthcare organizations that have a vision/mission statement something like this:
Safe, compassionate care is our primary goal.
The following language might be helpful in promoting self-care for staff:
ABC hospital expects each staff member to speak up about ideas, barriers, and concerns you have in meeting this goal. This includes taking care of yourself so that you are rested, alert, and in good physical, emotional, and spiritual health when you come to work and letting your manager know how we can help!
Along with ideas and action steps like these (and all sorts of co-creative ones that you will come up with):
– Quarterly workshops on self-care techniques like mindfulness, Reiki, resilience, or yoga. There are plenty of nurse leaders who will come and share expertise on these topics e.g. Elizabeth Scala, Cynthia Howard, and Annette Tersigni. (If you offer self-care services for healthcare professionals please feel free to post a link in the comment section!)
– Leadership training that focuses on helping managers coach staff to set limits, ask for help, delegate, and respect each others’ limits. This online course I teach for Pedagogy Online Learning Systems can help leaders and staff with these skills, includes 2 CEUs and is only $20!
– Find out what ideas your Employee Assistant Program (EAP) or Risk Management resources have on preventing and treating burnout!
– Maybe some of your staff are learning and/or practicing a new physical activity they’d be willing to lead! Walking as a group could become a once-a-month activity that the organization could promote in a newsletter and some healthy beverages. Maybe the local health food store would like to help with a basket of goodies that could be part of a raffle involving regular participants. Robert Woods Johnson Foundation is promoting a “Culture of Health” and there are endless possibilities for bridging staff with community efforts as we begin to focus on the value self-care!
– Encourage staff to plan a fun and affordable vacation by passing along this post by Nurse Entrepreneur Marsha Ann Battee! (a Greek Island on $30/day anyone?) Or maybe even contact her and see if she’ll come and speak to your staff about the topic!
– Print out and post or email any of the articles on this months blog carnival to share with your staff because they are ALL about Self-care!
Nurses have long been associated with and focused on preventative health measures and now we have many role models to focus on our own health too. Organizations can be part of the new wave! Please feel free to share your current efforts and new ideas here!