Every day, we jump in the scrubs, head to the hospital, and complete the tasks that keep people alive. It’s a tough job, and most days it’s really, really rewarding. But let’s be honest: there are some days when being a nurse is a total drag.
Talented doctors who are total jerks. Worried patients who treat you like a servant and say heartless things. That nurse (and everybody knows “that nurse”) who doesn’t carry his/her weight and dumps all her problems on you.
Sometimes, saving the world one patient at a time can be a burden! It’s totally normal—expected, even—for nurses to get burned out. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to re-motivate and stay cheerful.
Here are four fun tips—and one weird one! —to keep you happy and working hard.
1. Take a Vacation Day, But Make It Count.
Everybody knows that the best way to re-energize is to take a vacation day. But here’s what we forget: unless you’ve got a specific vacation activity planned, you’re going to end up kicking around the house and doing errands—and probably head back to work feeling just as worn out.
If you’re going to take a vacation day, make it count!
So find out—what revitalizes you? What gets your head back in the right place? Figure out what it is, and then make sure that’s the activity you do on your day off.
If it’s a day at the spa, make the reservation. If it’s a night at the club dancing with friends, make it happen. Just be sure that the time you take for yourself is time spent doing something that matters to you.
2. Have an End-of-Shift Routine.
Sometimes it’s difficult to “leave work at work.” You may be off duty, but still thinking about the disagreements you had with other staff members or the disappointments you had when dealing with a patient.
Turning off your “work mind” can be a challenge.
That’s why it’s good to have something you can do at the end of every shift to let yourself know that work is done with. It can be a phone call to a friend, a game you play on your iPhone, or even a couple of minutes of prayer or meditation.
And the amazing thing is, after a few weeks of doing your end-of-shift routine, you’ll be amazed at how your mind and body “shift gears,” and you leave your work frame of mind, and settle into your “my time” (or “my family time!”).
3. Avoid the Nag.
No matter where you work, there is going to be someone who drives you up a wall. It may be a member of the nursing team, a physician, or even a member of the custodial staff, but there is bound to be someone who you wish would find another job on the other side of town.
So what you do you with someone like that? How do you interact with that person?
The answer is simple: you don’t! Some people are just hard to deal with, and no matter how nice or how reasonable you are, they’re going to stay hard to deal with. So avoid them. Take your good energy and associate with like-minded people.
4. Embrace Your Inner Optimist.
A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania has found that it’s our “explanatory style” that determines how sunny our outlook is—and that optimists avoid explaining negative events in personal or permanent ways.
So what does that mean? If you make a mistake at work, don’t personalize it by saying “I’m a bad nurse,” but instead say, “I had a bad shift.” If you had an argument with a coworker, don’t make it permanent by saying “We never got along,” but instead say, “We got into a fight, but we’ll figure it out.”
When you explain things that displease you in a way that gives you power over them, you’ll experience a sense of control that makes you feel more capable, confident, and ready to put negative events behind you.
5. And the Last Thing—Brag!
Don’t ever forget: you have one of the most important jobs in the world! You save lives! The work you do is vitally important, and you affect people’s lives in powerful ways.
So brag a little bit! Recite all the incredible things you’ve done, and return to them every time you are feeling down and need a lift.
Keep a list. Think about all the people you’ve helped, and all the people whose lives are better because you showed up to work and did your job.
Because, as Muhammad Ali said, it ain’t bragging if it’s true. So take a minute, and remind yourself how awesome you are!
Matthew Morris is a hospital administrator and freelance health writer in northern New Jersey. He runs www.cnacareeragency.com to help people become certified nurse assistants.