November 10, 2018

Processing Emotions | Nursing Hacks # 9


So, you have an instructor, manager or preceptor you dislike, huh? Well, I've been there and I wanted to give some advice to those new nurses experiencing this currently or have in the past. Understand that nursing is based on relationship dynamics. Whether it's a patient's wife or your charge nurse, relationships are crucial in the nursing profession. The problem some new nurses face is their inability to see the forest for the trees. You want to mouth off, you want to act unprofessionally, that's fine. But trust me, nurses NEVER leave the profession. We grow, we progress and move upward. That manager you disrespected many times might have left your unit months ago. But now, he or she is the chief nursing officer at the hospital you're working at. And currently, you're at an interview, seeking a management position and guess who walks in? That manager from the past. They have been resurrected like a zombie, BAM! That's what I'm talking about. People come and people go, but they never go-go in nursing. Understanding how to remain professional even if you have strong emotions is essential. So when opportunities come up, your past transgressions or emotional episodes don't interfere. Nurses are humans, with histories and issues (like everyone else). And sadly, some nurses hold grudges. We might not have office politics like some professions, but we are humans with memories and what you have done in the past could impact what you want to do in the future. Some opportunities can be missed based on your past interactions.

Emotions run high when you being pulled in five different ways. I understand, I get where you're coming from but understand remaining professional doesn't require any additional actions. It just involves always understanding you are on. When I worked at Disney (everyone who lives in Orlando works at Disney for at least one summer, haha), they explained front-stage and back-stage attitude expectations. When you were in front-stage, meaning in the view of visitors, your attitude had to be per policy and on-point. When you were back-stage, the employee area, you didn't have these same rules. As you were on break and changing into costumes. The point of this example is to illustrate that each job has communication expectations. In nursing, you are always on, there is no backstage in relation to your emotions. You are expected to be professional to staff, patients and families. There is no discrimination or separation. You have to maintain your chill and emotional wellbeing up until you get into your car. Please don't explode on staff members and act unprofessionally in front to family members. Your job is stressful, yep we get it. You signed up for this, you wanted this. Here you go. Embrace and enjoy getting your dream job and stop giving reasons why you're allowed to act childish and unprofessionally. Nursing is a team effort. When you act unprofessionally and disrespect your teammates, you are less likely to get a team to work with you or support you. It's a lose-lose situation. Whether I like or dislike someone (on a personal level) isn't a factor at work. Helping each other and taking care of patients are the priorities. Stop with the high school shenanigans.

I have a rule. If I'm angry. I stop talking, wait an hour or call my husband (if I have time). My initial reaction is usually one of anger or hurt. I know this about myself, so I don't allow myself to reply immediately. Give yourself a time to process things BEFORE I act on them. I then sit down and write my feelings out on my laptop (or on a notepad), this act will dissipate some anger and allow me to get my thoughts together. By the final stage of actually discussing my feelings with the other party, I'm relatively calm. The two previous steps really slow things down and stop me from making big mistakes. Anger is like a hot stove, the processing turns the burner off. Being busy doesn't mean you get to be verbally abusive. Being stressed doesn't mean you get to be verbally abusive. Process and examine why you're really mad. Most of the time, there is more there. Take a deep breathe and don't allow your emotions to get the best of you or your career goals. You can apologize all day but you will never know why you didn't get that job. Was it based on past dynamics or emotional episodes? Who knows. It's hard controlling your emotions initially. But processing them in a healthy manner works. I've been doing this for years now. Just yesterday someone was screaming at me and I processed in the moment and remained calm. You will get to a point where you're the calm, professional one watching all these folks lose it over nonsense. You will see the power that being in control of your emotional well-being will give you. It brings the ability to see past the emotions and gets you to the real issue or problem. Now that's gold and works in professional and personal relationships.

When I process emotions, I ask myself...
1. Why am I feeling this way? Angry? Disappointed?
2. Am I mad about this current issue or past issues?
3. Is this hindering me from doing something?
4. Do I think this person deserves this? Why?
5. What will the anger accomplish? The value?
6. Is my ego hurt? Does this bother me? Why?
7. Do I think this is healthy? Professional?
8. Will I look back and regret my actions?
9. What points do I want to get across?
10. Is this really about this one thing?

... sounds long, huh? It isn't. I do this in about 2-3 minutes.

Listen, I'm not perfect. I have random freak-outs (serenity now, haha). It's a rarity but happens. I feel terrible when it occurs and I apologize a million times. Attempting to control your emotions and understanding your process is the first step. Working towards these goals is what matters. But you have to try, you have to want to work on yourself.