May is Nurses Month. It is also the traditional season of renewal and rejuvenation. These two events are fitting: We celebrate Nurses' profound contributions as a profession while Mother Nature offers the opportunity to stop and smell the roses. It is a time to pause after a difficult winter, enjoy the beauty of spring, de-stress, and breathe. Or is it? Nurses have shared with me that they keep hoping for some semblance of normalcy to return after the multiple waves of COVID-19 and express continued stress, uncertainty, and exhaustion. There are good reasons why.
Many nurses bear scars of feeling morally wounded by untenable frontline conditions when caring for patients. Some are contending with grief from losing friends and loved ones to COVID-19. Even after two years, COVID-19 is still with us. While cases ebb in some parts of the world, they escalate in others, creating a frustrating cycle that gives little reassurance that the pandemic will eventually end. The shadow of new, more contagious, or deadly variants emerging remains ever-present. That mix of stressors is a heavy lift, but layers onto those stemming from practicing amid today's historic staffing shortages and healthcare dysfunction...the legacies of the pandemic. Amid these multiple insults, world peace is also on a precipice given the horrors of war in Ukraine and the danger it poses to all of us.
Genuine rest and rejuvenation might seem unattainable until workplace dysfunction is corrected, staffing improves, and peace reigns in the world. However, as much as we might want change to occur for the better on these fronts, there is no quick fix to any of them. In the meantime, engage in the solutions where possible, yet commit to creating the personal space necessary to care for yourself. Nurses are legendary for neglecting their own needs, though no one is immune to the risks of ongoing stress and less than healthy habits. Caring for oneself is healing and enables caring for others. We know how...it is simply a matter of carving out time and doing it.
Showing kindness to others is also healing and carries a positive emotional boost. Though not always reciprocated, kindness is a step in the right direction that builds a positive culture in the workplace, community, and even the world at large. We need that kindness now more than ever. Make it contagious. This month, celebrate who you are as a nurse and do take the time to smell those roses!
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAWM, FAAN