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Practice Tip of Week | Resiliency in Nursing

Tuesday, April 28, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Shanna Howard
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Nurse facing camera
By Dawn Webb, RN

Resilience, according to Merriam-Webster, is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. What does resiliency mean to nurses? Resiliency encompasses self-determination, autonomy, perseverance, adaptation in highly stressful situations and a level of much-needed stubbornness.

Resiliency and nursing practice

One reason nurses are the most trusted profession is because they are resilient. In an instant, a nurse can go from showing a patient compassion with a gentle smile to asserting that an order or course of action is inappropriate for their patient. The ability to adapt is just one of many talents’ nurses bring to the profession.

Registered nurses are often reminded of their autonomy and responsibility to protect their license; resiliency is how nurses accomplish this. Nurses are given great responsibility with limited power; self-determination is how nurses manage a balance. Nurses are adaptable, roll with change and have a significant amount of freedom to make decisions but at the same time take orders; perseverance is how nurses survive.

Provision 3 of the Nursing Code of Ethics states, “The nurse promotes, advocates for and protects the rights, health and safety of the patient.” In order to protect patients, a nurse may need to dig their heals in and become what some may call stubborn: this too is a form of resiliency or self-determination. When a nurse becomes aware of an inappropriate or questionable order, this must be brought to the attention of the person involved regardless of their position of power. Resiliency helps the nurse bounce back when questioning an order is not received well, a feeling most nurses know all too well.

Resiliency in crises

Nurses must not forget that resiliency is developed through adversity. In order to maintain resiliency, it is imperative that nurses create wellness by taking care of themselves. Practicing mindfulness, avoiding negativity, remaining hopeful and asking for help are just a few ways a nurse can empower themselves to remain resilient while avoiding emotional distress.

Unfortunately, in the current climate of COVID-19, emotional distress is high and resiliency only goes so far. Resiliency will help a nurse through this crisis but what about after the dust settles. Texans are preparing to return their lives to some normalcy, and when we reach the point of opening schools and manufacturing vaccines, it’s likely that many will put this crisis behind them easily.

However, for nurses and others in direct care, a return to normalcy may be easier said than done.

Provision 5.2 from the Nursing Code of Ethics, “Promotion of Personal Health, Safety and Well-Being,” emphasizes that nurses will experience some level of compassion fatigue or trauma in the career. The pandemic has brought this front and center, and the effects on the nursing profession are still unknown. 

In this situation resiliency is a necessity but will only go so far. Nurses need to be aware they or their colleagues may experience post-traumatic stress from the events during this crisis.

Post-traumatic stress symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, emotional distress, hopelessness, feeling detached, a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed, irritability, and overwhelming guilt or shame.

This is a time when nurses need to pay close attention to any symptoms they or their colleagues may be experiencing. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of post-traumatic stress do not ignore them. Remember resiliency only goes so far, and can be hard to build until after adversity or the traumatic event passes and healing takes place.

Resiliency Resources:

PTSD Resources

Texas Nurses Association

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