Who Are You Talking To? A Relational Perspective On Healthy Nurse
Camille Adair, RN and NMNA Chair, Healthy Nurse | Healthy New Mexico Interest Group discusses the importance of the connection between disclosure and well-being in this article from the New Mexico Nurse, originally published on August 2, 2017, and reprinted with permission of the New Mexico Nurses Association. Here is the link to the original online version.We are the most trusted profession. As nurses we listen to people. Listening is fundamental to caring. As we look at issues facing nursing, like burnout and compassion fatigue and the consequential serious need for self care, it’s fair to ask ourselves, who listens to us?
Who can we talk to? And, how safe do we feel in sharing our feelings and experiences?
The need for disclosure is basic to being human. It reflects our need to feel connected. Disclosure can mean sharing secrets, telling the truth, exposure and revelation. Often, when we share our stories and feelings with another, we discover that we are mining our own wisdom. In sharing we gain clarity, insight and lessen our burdens.
Have you ever come to an important understanding of yourself and your situation after talking to someone? Telling our stories is a process of self-reflection. Listening is a powerful exchange of regard and respect.
In his book, Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval, James W. Pennebaker PhD writes, “researchers knew that after emotional upheavals, people are likely to become depressed or ill, experience changes in body weight and sleep habits, and even die of heart disease and cancer at higher rates that the non-traumatized population. We also found something more striking. Having a traumatic experience was certainly bad in many ways. But those people who had a trauma and kept that experience secret were much worse off. We learned that not talking to others about a trauma places people at an even higher risk for major and minor illness compared to those who did talk about their traumas.” (Page 4)
Many nurses and others in health care have experienced a lack of safety. Health care and nursing culture, in general, is well known for bullying and incivility, We may feel that the trust we are known for may not be available to us from our colleagues and within the workplace.
Is it possible that we may counterbalance some of the challenges of the profession and support our health and well-being by sharing being heard? And if so, how? Looking at trust, what we are known for, is a good place to begin.
Brene Brown, PhD social scientist and author says, “if you find yourself in struggle with trust, the thing to examine first is how you treat yourself. Because, we can’t ask people to give to us something we do not believe we are worthy of receiving. And, you will know you are worthy of receiving it when you trust yourself above everyone else. Brown also quotes author Maya Angelou who says, “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves, but say I love you, borrowing from the African Proverb, “be wary of the naked man offering you a shirt” (Super Soul Sessions video).
In looking at trust, like many of the Healthy Nurse domains we navigate, that which we offer others is also likely that which we are developing in ourselves. Nurses are the most trusted profession. Are we trustworthy in care of ourselves and each other?
The following tips are behaviors that support trust and disclosure:
• Ask if the listener is in a good place to listen.
• Practice non-judgement
• Honor confidentiality
• Ask permission before offering feedback
• No cross talk or interruption of the person talking
• Exercise brevity when talking
• Speak and listen from your heart
• Be curious in both speaking and listening
• Engage empathy
• Consider reciprocity. We are more apt to hold space for others in a shared exchange.
• Abstain from gossip (keep it about you)
• Be aware of the victim, perpetrator, rescuer, relationship triangle in your own story
In an ideal world, nurses would hold sacred, caring space for themselves and each other. While we may have a ways to go, this goal is worthy of our careful attention in strengthening the profession from the inside out.
Finding a counselor, therapist or coach can be a positive way to begin a practice of disclosure. Walking, hiking, working out and engaging in other healthy behaviors as a social activity with a friend or colleague can be a great way to share in each other’s company while caring for our bodies, minds and hearts at the same time.
Marie Manthey’s Nurse Salons are a model for bonding, support and disclosure among nurses. Her story, links and guidelines are in the July 2016, Healthy Nurse | Healthy New Mexico article, page 4.
During NMNA’s 2017 conference celebrating Nurses Week in May, 150 nurses, including ANA President Pam Cipriano, engaged in Expressive and Therapeutic Writing. Each nurse wrote from their experience and then shared with another nurse. Disclosure occurs between ourselves and the page through writing, and by sharing with another, if we choose.
The therapeutic writing process is based on the research by social psychologist, James W. Pennebaker, including Open Up! Writing About Trauma Reduces Stress, Aids Immunity. Based on Pennebaker’s research, we know the benefits of disclosure through expressive and therapeutic writing include:
• Increased immune function
• Decreased insomnia
• Increased functioning at work
• Decreased pain related to arthritis
• Increased lung capacity and decreased incidents of asthma
• Increased working memory (the technical term for the ability to think about complex tasks)
• Decreased anger
If you are interested in joining the Healthy Nurse, Healthy New Mexico state-wide interest group Wellness Wednesday Campaign, Nurses Walk New Mexico or would like to join the monthly Healthy Nurse, Healthy New Mexico Interest Group calls, or a Nurses Writing Group, please contact Camille Adair. To learn more about Healthy Nurse | Healthy New Mexico, visit www.nmna.org and join their Facebook group!
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