An Exceptional Mantra for Nurses
I'm not sure when exactly it starts, but I DO know that across the board nurses are very similar in one personality trait. We're universally hard on ourselves
while being, inversely, very forgiving of others. We set our own bar unbelievably high.
This unfortunate habit may kick in shortly after we articulate the Florence Nightingale pledge—when we vow to spend our lives in "purity" and to do all in our power "to elevate and maintain the standards of our profession." It may be, then, that we realize what we've taken on even though we've chosen this path willingly.
These days, we come home from work, our minds spinning, our bodies weary. Instead of turning "off," we run through the day's activities like a CD, over and over, hitting pause and reset, pause and reset. I could have been quicker here or there, we believe. I could have had those labs ready a bit sooner for the physician; maybe avoided that nasty scowl for once. And why didn't I stop and ask my peer for help when I saw her sitting, taking a break, while my head was spinning? On and on and on.... Occasionally, we even awaken from a deep sleep, panicking, trying to remember if a medication was given or a task completed. Panic consumes us until we remember the event, then we realize we're just tired and overwrought.
It's a rat race and there's no let up. We're not even good enough at home. We start to criticize how we function as moms or neighbors or daughters or community members. In an election year, we're not out in the community doing enough for the issues that are near and dear to our hearts. Let's face it: if we did let up on ourselves, someone in leadership or administration would be happy to pick up the slack by pointing out how we could volunteer for more committee participation or sign up for more responsibility at work.
It was in the midst of a bit of this insanity, one day, when I was thinking I should do more reading, dig through piles of CE quizzes, or worry about why I couldn't seem to comprehend medical Spanish, that I came across a beautiful antique plaque. It stated:
Let whatever you do today be enough.
What a simple, beautiful thought. Unfortunately, this thought has eluded nurses for most of their careers. We are well-trained, compassionate, thoughtful human beings who place the care of others well before self-care. Maybe it's time to re-think that pledge we took and realize we need time to maintain our own health and happiness. Whatever we do today needs to be enough. Knowing nurses the way I do, I believe that whatever nurses do today will be great.