Some of the nurses were talking about how nice it was that many restaurants had Nurse’s Week specials. It is wonderful to have people acknowledge the special work we do as nurses and to celebrate this with us each year.
This year, I want to offer all nurses a different gift. Each of us became a nurse for different reasons, and our practices differ dramatically. One commonality I see among nurses is the gift of compassion, not just the “I want to take care of you” style of compassion. It is the “by the book” definition of compassion I see over and over again. According to Merriam-Webster, compassion is defined as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. This depth of compassion is seen in nurses around the world every day. This compassion is what gives nurses that sense of accomplishment at the end of a hard day, knowing that they made a difference in someone’s life. To be able to truly alleviate someone else’s pain and distress is an incredible gift. If I had to guess, compassion is the basis that makes nurses the most trusted of professions.
While it is normal to see nurses show compassion to their patients every day, it is rare to see these same nurses be compassionate with themselves. Too frequently, we think that taking time for ourselves or doing something just for ourselves is selfish or unnecessary and should not be valued. Nurses in general, myself included, are not steeped in the tradition that it is necessary to care for yourself.
Rick and Forrest Hanson (authors of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness) tell us that compassion for yourself is fundamental. By being more compassionate with ourselves, we learn to recognize our own distress and work to alleviate it. This self-compassion feeds our souls; it helps us to find and keep the joy that life has in store for us. In the end, self-compassion gives us the strength to be compassionate to others. Being compassionate with ourselves not only helps us to be more compassionate towards other, it can help reduce compassion fatigue.
We are starting to see more encouragement for nurses to care for themselves. The ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation encourages nurses to take better care of themselves and be good role models for society. The first step in caring for ourselves is to develop self-compassion.
This Nurse’s Week, I ask you to be compassionate with yourself. If you can’t see a way to do this for yourself, do it for your patients, family, and friends. As we experience self-compassion, we will be better prepared to encourage one another; the ripples of compassion will grow to include not only ourselves and our patients, but also our families, friends, and co-workers.
Happy Nurse’s Week to an amazing group of people, I am honored to be a nurse with you.