Daily, our challenge as hospice professionals is to balance quality patient care with the many patient and family demands– generally with limited resources. Nurses rely on their knowledge base, assessment and critical thinking, and time management skills greatly. Our patients and their families also rely on our knowledge and assessment skills but more than anything, they rely on our ability to be caring and compassionate caregivers.
Recently, I had the opportunity to think about compassion. Great philosophers have deemed compassion as the greatest of virtues. Compassion is the ability to understand the suffering of others and to have great empathy for them. How then do we demonstrate compassion toward ourselves? In order to be compassionate toward others, we must be compassionate to ourselves. We must respect and listen to our own needs and at times, our own suffering.
Suffering can manifest itself in many ways – depression, exhaustion, frustration, and stress (mental, emotional, physical). When we are overwhelmed by our own suffering, it can be challenging to have compassion toward others in the way that they expect, need, and deserve and needless to say, it can be difficult to have compassion toward ourselves. We must find ways in our day-to-day work and home lives to find ways to prevent compassion fatigue and decrease stress. We must find ways, even in our own despair to Count It All Joy!
Here are several examples of how to bring joy into our busy and stressful lives:
First: imagine happiness in the business of the day, stop for a few moments and imagine being happy. Imagine that place where you are with people you love and doing something that you truly enjoy (walking on the beach, taking a run or bike ride, reading a good book); whatever it is that brings you joy.
Second: indeed, count it all joy…even when we have an especially difficult and stressful day. Focus on the small successes. Did you bring a smile to someone? Did a patient or family member say something that made you smile? Did you learn something new? At the end of the day, keep a journal of gratefulness and write down three things every day of good things that have happened.
Third: let go of the feeling of being busy and overwhelmed. Learn to find peace even in the midst of business. Often we find ourselves rushing from one patient to the next without out much time to even catch our breaths in between. Try giving yourself mini-mental breaks throughout the day. Stop. Breathe deeply. Be aware of the beauty around you and for a few minutes take it all in. View each breath as a miracle.
And finally: one of the greatest things we can do is look for the goodness in others. Enter challenging situations with a mindset of “I get to” instead of “I have to”; “I get to see Mrs. Jones today…what can I share with her to make her feel better today? What can I learn from her today? How can my interaction with her today be positive and beneficial for both of us? When we truly enjoy our interactions with others, we feel better about ourselves. Spend time at each interaction identifying the positive qualities – a sense of humor, a warm hand shake, intelligence, and no matter how displaced, most often their genuine love and caring for their friends/family. Focus on the goodness and the traits that we can admire and appreciate and somehow feeling better about them, we feel a little better about ourselves and we inevitably find ourselves having more joy.
As we celebrate Nurse’s Week, I not only celebrate my fellow nurse’s but I celebrate each and every one of my Gilchrist colleagues for your tireless commitment and dedication. May you not only have compassion for your patients/family members but compassion to one another, and have compassion for yourselves.
Here’s to more joy!