Stress is a familiar companion for most people in the nursing field — especially nursing students. To proactively address and eliminate stress, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing student Matthew Padgett focuses on mindfulness and meaningful interactions.
“I try to have a lot of intention with how I spend my time and the actions I choose to take,” said Matthew. “It’s important to my health that I set aside time for meditation and mindfulness.”
How? Matthew says he takes quiet moments throughout his day to be present.
For example, while brushing his teeth with his electric toothbrush in the morning, Matthew focuses on the feel of the vibrations on his teeth. He thinks about any upcoming challenges and takes a moment to “let them go.” This helps set the tone for his day.
Being Present and Positive
Nursing school is busy and requires constant mental effort. That’s one reason why Matthew tries to always be present with what he’s doing.
“When I’m somewhere, I choose to be there,” said Matthew. “Like when I’m in class, I rarely use my computer. While it is common for students to use their computers to take notes, I choose to be intentional about how I am there and pay attention to what’s going on.”
He’s also intentional about his conversations with other people.
“Before nursing school, I found that negative conversations were detrimental to my mental health,” said Matthew. “Now, I try to stay as positive as possible.
Making Patient Relationships Meaningful with Narrative Medicine
Another way Matthew promotes positivity is to create meaningful relationships — not only in his personal life, but also in his career. Throughout his clinical experience, Matthew has seen firsthand the positive impact that storytelling has on his patient interactions. This discovery brought him to narrative medicine.
Narrative medicine combines clinical practices with the ability to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by a person’s story of illness. It creates empathy in healthcare environments and promotes healing through meaningful interactions.
Evidence suggests this form of provider-patient interaction is beneficial for the patient. The connection may also reduce stress and burden for the healthcare professional — something Matthew strives for daily.
He recently helped organize a storytelling workshop for nursing students. In the workshop, participants shared a story about vulnerability with each other.
“The authenticity of a story is what draws people to each other,” said Matthew. “Imperfections and real-time connecting-the-dots of a story are what bond people.”
There’s a huge mental component to a nursing career, and mental health is just as important as physical health. Matthew urges all nurses and nursing students to:
- Spend time with yourself: When challenging moments happen, you should be able to recognize when something is “different” with yourself. Matt finds that to get to that place of recognition, he spends time alone. He advises when collecting yourself, if possible, go for a hike, listen to music, or make art. Spend quality time with YOU.
- Know yourself and what brings you joy: Whatever this may be, as long as it is not self-destructive, make it a priority in your life. No exceptions.
- Avoid the temptation to conform to other peoples’ ideas of success: It’s easy to compare yourself to others. Remain true to yourself and accept that your journey may look different than those around you.
- Be kind and non-judgmental: This goes a long way in creating healthy spaces for people. It’s also crucial for promoting positive interactions among colleagues and patients.
Matthew Padgett is a Master of Science, Entry into Nursing Candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
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