On October 30, 2017, I published a blog post titled, Doing Your Inner Work as a Nurse. This is something dear to my heart — I’m constantly striving to grow as a person and as a nursing professional, and I’ve found that our professional growth can be hindered when we don’t do the work on ourselves that promotes personal growth (and this can be referred to as our “inner work”).
That post begins:
Nurse clinicians spend a great deal of time providing care for others. Nurses give physical care (including that which is immediately life-saving), psychoemotional support, and spiritual succor, often in the form of motivational conversation and nurse-to-patient teaching.
What is a powerful way for us nurses to empower and elevate our understanding of human behavior, the human condition, and the nature of suffering? By assiduously doing our own inner work throughout a long lifetime of giving, loving, and feeling.
The post goes on to discuss the concept of understanding the self in order to understand others:
Being in touch with our own inner journey can empower us to reach more deeply within ourselves for that which can build bridges to the inner journey of the suffering patient. We all walk through this life with psychological shadows, buried pain, and subterranean memories — bringing some of this to the surface for healing can lighten our load and allow us to be more present for both ourselves and others.
It then discusses my support for psychotherapy and counseling as a means to self-discovery:
I’m admittedly a very biased fan of psychotherapy and counseling. I have no reservations about sharing publicly that I’ve been in some form of counseling off and on since I was 22 years old, and I wouldn’t trade that time in therapy for the world.
Having an unbiased third party who can walk with you through the challenging passages of life is an invaluable experience.
Whether it’s the deaths of loved ones, uncertainty about the direction of one’s life, parenting and relationships, issues around career and professional direction, or clinical depression and other manifestations of spiritual and psychological distress, psychotherapy can be a significantly useful tool in unpacking the excess baggage and moving forward somewhat less encumbered, especially in the overwhelming complexity of the 21st century.
In terms of “scrubbing the floor of the psyche, the aforementioned blog post and this episode reference my friend and colleague, Caroline Cardenas, an oncology nurse “who teaches nurses and others how hoop-dancing and body play can promote the unleashing of joy and inner freedom; in fact, she wrote her master’s thesis on the use of hula hooping in combating and preventing burnout in nurses. So many inner demons can be vanquished at the hands of creativity and play.”
Another important reference in this podcast episode is episode 76, “Are You a Nurse Polymath?” This is worth a listen!
Finally, this quote:
Nurses are fierce caregivers and defenders of the wellness of others. We’re renown for burning ourselves out in service to our patients, and I’m no exception. Back in the day, I deeply wounded myself psychically while caring for underserved inner city communities. At that time, my exasperated wife had to literally force me to quit that job and radically change my life in order to save myself from myself (and from my ever needy patients).
Wellness can be an uphill climb when we’re wired to be selfless caregivers. There are certain types of personalities drawn to nursing and medicine, and the assembly line nature of many healthcare environments do nothing to promote staff wellness. Chronic understaffing, mandatory overtime, high nurse-patient ratios, and workplaces lacking even the most basic civility and kindness all take their individual and collective toll.
Whether you dance with Mexican shamans, walk dogs at the shelter, take ayuhuasca, or go to psychotherapy, the goal is essentially the same. We all seek personal peace of mind in a troubled — and troubling — world.
We need to push back against the rigors of nursing and the ways in which a career in healthcare erodes our ability to be healthy and balanced. We must climb upwards and reach the places where the emotional air is clear, the clouds of burnout have dissipated, and the sunshine of self-awareness glows brightly and cheerfully under the dome of a protective yet expansive sky.
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Be well, dig deep, find joy, and keep in touch!