Not too long ago, I was at a baseball game chatting with my friend Heather. We baseball Moms stick together, taking turns in the concessions stand, planning team dinners and sharing the latest and greatest tips on how to get those grass stains out of our kids white baseball pants.
We consider ourselves quite the cool tribe.
Honestly, it’s probably no different from any group of sports parents, business professionals or even nurses. At least that’s the way it should be.
Heather (RN, BSN), is a Homecare Coordinator, spends a lot of time alone in her car. She covers a rural area in the valley where we live. She drives to and from her patients’ homes checking in, taking care of their needs, occasionally takes a break to catch up on charting or other paperwork and eat her lunch.
By herself. In her car. Again.
Don’t read me wrong. She loves her patients and the service she provides. She loves her visits with patients. She is always sending me picturesque photos of the beautiful countryside and scenic lake where she has stopped to catch up on that charting. However, I can’t help but feeling that, at times, she seems lonely.
Where is her nursing tribe? Does she feel supported while out on the road? If she has a question, who does she talk to?
Building Your Social Support Circle
Creating a support system is a vital step towards tackling our well rounded mental health, something that is often forgotten about when taking care of ourselves. Research shows that healthy and supportive relationships can help to reduce your stress levels and improve your overall sense of well-being. So surrounding ourselves with friends and/or colleagues that can be a pillar of strength or guide us during our journey is key.
There are multiple benefits to a strong support circle.
Do you have questions? Potentially, others in your circle may have had the same question and knows the answers. Furthermore, they might even have a better bank of resources.
Everyone should have their own personal champion. Everyone deserves to enjoy a little recognition now and then. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be our own cheerleaders, but it certainly helps when we can get a pat on the back or a word of encouragement from our colleagues.
Last time I checked, laughter is still the best medicine. Who better to share a laugh with than your fellow nurses? “Remember that time when I asked my patient to show me her teeth and she took out her dentures and handed them to me.”
Having that reciprocal understanding and others who can relate to what you are experiencing and also to support you will also potentially assist you with your physical health. Nurses put their body through enough physical stress, when you are emotionally supported you can also benefit your physical health by lowering blood pressure and lowering any increased secretion of damaging stress related hormones.
Using Social Media Tools
The next question, especially for those isolated nurses like my friend Heather, is “How do I build that support circle?” I’m confident we have all seen articles on how to leverage social media to advance our careers or read up on the Do’s and Don’t for LinkedIn. Sure, even I have seen multiple boards on Pinterest with the title “Things Only Nurses Will Find Funny,” but have we thought outside the proverbial box?
It’s essential that we utilize social media properly. Minority Nurse released a comprehensive article on the Do’s and Don’ts for Nurses when using social media with a host of excellent reminders.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for a way to build your support circle, look into these options.
- Facebook provides us the option to have a group page, you can even set it as a closed or private group, so that only members who are invited can participate. This is a great way to discuss and collaborate with your fellow nurses. You can potentially share articles, best practices or just tell amusing stories.
- LinkedIn has the same type of feature where you can follow certain groups or keep up on industry news. The American Nurses Association has a group on LinkedIn that is 55,543 members strong. This is a place where you can meet, connect and discuss your questions and concerns with your counterparts. Again, helping you feel connected to others that are in the same place as you….while not really being in the same place. After spending just five minutes on their page I learned about Nursegrid (a great scheduling tool), checked out a fantastic discussion on being truly present for your patients and read a beautiful story about an inspiring example of nurse leadership. These are just the kind of topics that could help someone get through their day.
- Twitter provides a fantastic option to create your own lists. Twitter feeds can easily become polluted with posts from all of the favorite pages you are following. So links to recipes from your favorite foodie site and mixed in with celebrities you might be stalking along with the local news. But with the list option you can put several people or sites that you are following on just one list and review just those posts without the other clutter. While doing research I ran across a great list that was put together, tailored to nurses. You might want to check it out!
By the way, do you want to know the secret to keeping white baseball pants white? It might even work on your favorite set of scrubs. Scotchguard!