It is inevitable that many of us will face a bad day at work. Whatever the situation may be, feelings of frustration, anxiety, and even depression can accumulate over time and put us at risk for experiencing nurse burnout. Burnout can motivate nurses to either quit their jobs or leave the nursing profession completely. We have worked too hard to just give up on everything we set out to accomplish. We can’t allow negative people, such as difficult coworkers, challenging patients, and family members, or having bad days stress us to the point to where we begin contemplating walking away from everything we have worked so hard for.
I’m going to share with you a method that I use when I experience a bad day. What I do is focus on three primary whys that keep me in this profession. What I mean by this, is that I think about where I came from, where I am now, and where I am going. I write them down on a small note card and carry with me throughout the day. Sometimes I wear a special bracelet or nursing pin, something tangible, to remind me of my whys. This simple method has worked for me on some of my toughest days. I hope it can do the same for you.
WHY #1. Think About What Brought You Here
Nursing was not my first career choice, in fact I wanted to go into broadcast journalism. It was my mother that originally planted the idea of nursing into my head. She always said I had the heart, personality, and passion for it. I was her oldest child, who assisted her with small things to help care for my siblings. She knew early on that I had the compassion to care for others. Now, a little something about my mother: My mother was a divorced mother of four children who worked as a nursing assistant for many years. She dreamed of going to school to become a nurse, but her circumstances did not allow it. Naturally, she wanted to see one of her children accomplish what she always wanted to do. It wasn’t until many years later, that a life turning event motivated my decision to become a nurse. The compassionate hospice nurses that helped me care for my dying mother in her last days solidified this calling as the one for me. I had challenges of my own but pushed through them to reach my goals. Being the first in my family to obtain a college degree is one of my greatest accomplishments. When I have a bad day, I think about how far I’ve come and the sacrifices I made in the past to be here. I worked hard for this profession; therefore, I must protect it. This perspective keeps me going on some of my most challenging days. Hopefully, this is enough to keep you going, too.
WHY #2. Think About Why You’re Still Here
Why do I continue to stay in nursing? Simply, I love what I do! I feel that my work is meaningful and has purpose. I enjoy taking care of people and making a positive impact on someone else’s life. Furthermore, a career in nursing has been good to me and my family. Nursing allows me to make enough income to pay bills and keep food on the table. Work is stable and provides good benefits to provide a sense of peace. When I have a bad day, I think of my motto—Nursing has been good to me; therefore, I will be good to it.
WHY #3. Think About Where You’re Going from Here
When I entered a nursing program in 2008, I made a personal commitment to give it all or nothing. This is the profession that I chose; therefore, I will learn as much as I can to develop into the best nurse I can be. Being at my best is a personal commitment I have made to the patients and families I serve. I will remain proactive and engaged, regardless of how difficult things can get. I advise you to focus on becoming the best version of yourself. For some it may be furthering your education to become a nurse practitioner, educator, or leader. As for me, I aspire to become a nurse executive one day. This is what keeps me going. The challenges you may face are not meant to break you, but rather to strengthen you and prepare you for the next level of your career.
The next time you have a bad day, just focus on your whys to get you through.
Have you discovered that you have leadership potential, and are now interested in developing your leadership skills? A significant part of becoming a great leader is to motivate yourself to strengthen the skills that are needed to become an effective leader. An abundance of opportunities exists all around you, and it is up to you to reach out and explore what your options are. Listed below are a few recommendations on how you can begin to build your leadership skills and tap into your capabilities while you are in nursing school. These options are some of my personal favorites, because they were beneficial to me as I progressed during my undergraduate nursing program. The skills that I acquired from those experiences helped to shape my goals and overall career aspirations that I have set for my nursing career.
The National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
One of the earliest commitments you can make to the nursing profession is during your undergraduate experience by joining the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA). This association is committed to the development of nursing students as they work towards their undergraduate nursing degree. A great way to develop as a leader using this platform is to become an active member. One way to do this is to become an engaged member in your school’s chapter of the NSNA. Develop the leader within you by serving in a specific role or becoming involved on a special projects committee. There is a range of leadership opportunities, such as serving as chapter president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary, or projects chairperson. There is also an opportunity to serve as a delegate or spokesperson at the annual NSNA convention.
Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Sigma is committed to scholarship, leadership, and service efforts. High achieving nursing students are invited to become members based on their academic performance while in an undergraduate or graduate nursing program. Licensed nurses can join the society based on their demonstrated leadership efforts as a professional nurse.
It is imperative for nurse leaders to speak effectively. Nursing students and professional nurses oftentimes find themselves in a position where they need to present information. At some point during your education experience or while on the job, you will be expected to stand in front of a group of people to give a presentation. Just the thought of presenting in a classroom in front of peers, a boardroom in front of a group of nurse leaders, or to a large audience at a conference, is sometimes enough to spark a feeling of anxiety or even fear for some. It is during nursing school that you should begin to practice the art of speaking. Improving your communication skills will help to alleviate the anxiety and fear as you advance in your education and career. Toastmasters International is a reliable source that many successful people have deemed to be very effective. First, I recommend that you explore the national website to read about the features and benefits of the program. Next, find a local group close to you and make a guest visit. Third, commit to the program and take advantage of the special leadership development activities that they offer.
Omicron Delta Kappa
Do not be afraid to venture outside of nursing as you seek leadership opportunities. To give you an example, the National Leadership Honor Society (ODK) is an organization that is designed to support the leadership development of students. A national convention is held annually to expose members to further leadership and development opportunities. Check to see if your university is affiliated with this national leadership platform.
Campus-Wide Leadership Opportunities
Do not limit yourself. Another way to tap into your leadership potential is to explore campus-wide opportunities. Many universities have a campus life center that offers leadership and volunteer programs that will get you engaged on campus and within your surrounding community. Some creative examples include taking part in the student government association, or even committing to the Greek life by joining a sorority or fraternity. Participating in volunteer activities is a strategic way to build leadership skills. The great news is, if you cannot find anything that suits your talents and interests, many schools and universities will allow students to create a special interest group of their own.
So, there you have it. I have shared with you some of my best ideas that I believe will help you develop into the nurse leader that you aspire to be.