(This post offers the newly rewritten introduction to my Art & Fun link bank.)
First off, please allow me to repeat this post’s title, as I consider it important:
NURSES NEED AND DESERVE FAR MORE FUN AND INSPIRATION!!!
We nurses suffer rather more than we deserve.
Our American profit system, er, “health care system” is designed to increase money spent and profits reaped. It’s extremely effective: by far the most outlandishly expensive enterprise in human history. When it comes to spending, we’re number one! At nearly a fifth of the largest economy on earth, it’s larger than the entire economy of almost every other nation. We spend more on bureaucracy alone than any other nation spends on health care, total, producing staggering levels of complexity and inefficiency.
It falls to nurses and others to somehow extract quality care from such an awkward system, and to absorb all the frustration and hostility such a system inevitably elicits from its customers. It’s tough! Unsurprisingly, we often feel bitter, beat up, beaten down, burnt out, cynical. It’s not our fault, but it’s still our problem to solve, for ourselves and each other. How to cope? No one else will do it for us. Unaddressed, such woes end careers and ruin lives. It’s a crucially important project!
At work, occasionally I find myself discouraged, thwarted, or AGGRAVATED.
Such experiences come and go, and I deal with them as best I can. They aren’t my usual experience of nursing: I’ve learned a lot about coping and problem-solving over the years. Success is no accident: like all reality it’s a matter of cause and effect. If you make prudent choices – the causes – then you enjoy a better future – the effects. Twenty years in, I have no interest in retiring. I have a lot of fun doing things that get my bills paid. I call that success.
Nursing is a tough and often dangerous gig: physically, mentally, spiritually. It’s an adventure, and not some pretend entertainment adventure either. Nursing is no roller coaster “adventure experience” ride. Nursing’s the real deal: that’s why nursing matters in a way no roller coaster ever will.
Most people avoid real adventures, and reasonably so. Real adventures offer great rewards, but also daunting risks and pain. Some adventurers earn immortal fame, get the girl, or save the universe; others get broken. Are you familiar with the Trojan War? As Homer’s epic story goes, gods’ & goddesses’ antics in a beauty contest (Stranger than fiction, except…) led the Ancient Greeks to fight a ten-year war with Troy over a lady named Helen. It was an adventure: many people died. Most failed. All suffered, and all remain famous today, thousands of years later. Adventures offer high stakes and unknown outcomes. They’re scary and risky: that’s why most people avoid them. That’s also why doing so is reasonable. Thankfully, some people take them on anyway. We call such people heroes. Pick your adventures wisely: I suggest something better than fighting over Less-Loyal-Than-Pretty Helen of Troy…
What about nurses?
No one encouraged Florence Nightingale to become a nurse: exactly the opposite, actually. After years of discouragement and failure, at long last she became a nurse. She eventually did far more than that, of course: she forced the greatest empire on earth to let her create modern nursing and hospitals. Oh, how the British Empire fought to defeat her! She was a woman and a nurse at a time when nurses were known more for drunkenness than professionalism. Her near-totally male-dominated culture hated few things more than change. Given such dismal prospects, she demanded that generals, doctors, and British officials submit to her authority and accept massive change they didn’t want. In the end, THEY DID JUST THAT!
That’s adventure at it’s best! Nightingale had an outrageous, impossible vision. Given every reason to give up, she refused. By doing so, she created the modern nursing profession we take for granted. Nursing was born in her adventures. That and modern hospitals, epidemiology…
We’re not all Nightingales, of course, and that’s OK. How could we be? There are many sorts of heroes.
We nurses dare to protect and serve our patients against all odds. When most people shun others’ troubles, we wade in. We risk violence, injury, abuse and other suffering: we pay the price to save the day. Heck, we do it so often, we often forget that it’s a remarkable and heroic way to live: an adventure! Surprisingly often, some of us even risk getting scapegoated, fired, even banned from the profession to protect our patients and peers against corruption and abuse. Saving lives, making hopelessly unworkable systems work: it all feels routine. It is not.
Try and convince me that nursing isn’t an adventure! I dare you…
Except in fairy tales, such adventures can destroy us. We’ve all seen the casualties in our ranks, the walking wounded. Some fall to injuries, some to violence and PTSD. Some give up and become burnt out zombies of a sort: doing the minimum, spirits broken. Some retire far earlier than planned, and not to any life of ease. Adventuring is a tough gig!
We can considerably improve the odds, though. We can do better, feel better, and become better, with training, practice, innovation and mutual support. I’ve seen it happen, felt it happen, many times. The right tools make any job easier, and most nurses don’t have all the best tools, not yet. That’s actually good news, not bad. When you lack tools that are readily available, the smart choice is obvious. Get those tools!
One such tool is humor.
I often browse for nursing humor, and store much of it on Pinterest: Big Red Carpet Nursing Fun. When it comes to nursing humor, I’ve found that ours needs vastly exceed our supply. On Pinterest, for example, it takes very little effort to run out of material you haven’t already seen. Trust me, I’ve done it! It’s near-impossible to run out of tips on shoes or food or wedding planning, but nursing humor? Very limited. We desperately need humor to survive, yet our humor supply is amazingly small, especially compared to many other groups. Look at that Pinterest board, if you would. Compare how much humor I found within nursing culture, versus elsewhere. I often don’t even bother to pin an item because it’s already up on hundreds of other boards. It suggests to me a desperately short supply when that happens. It’s like looking to buy a used car and finding the same few cars, over and over, wherever you look.
Still don’t buy it? Let’s look at engineering for comparison. I started out as an engineering major, long ago, when I was still living on autopilot. Like nurses, engineers have stresses and gripes. They need humor to help them get through a workday intact. Unlike nurses, engineers have Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert: hugely popular inside and outside of engineering. Why so popular? It’s simple: Dilbert is unusually funny. Scott Adams knows how to take a boring complaint and add the magic that makes it funny! Oh, how I wish we had a Nurse Scott, a nursing Dilbert!
Sadly, we don’t, not yet. Here’s an example of what we do have:
This item offers truth: short-staffing is a huge stressor for many nurses. What does it lack? It lacks the magic that makes a complaint funny. I can appreciate its truth, and it’s always nice to see your concerns publically acknowledged, but such work can’t rival Dilbert.
Of course, plenty of nurses already appreciate humor:
This one hits the nail on the head. Nursing humor isn’t optional: it’s a matter of SURVIVAL. Survival! If you find any good stuff out there, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE send it my way. Please!
I use a lot of humor at work. I often find that otherwise intractable problems promptly dissolve with a little humor. Take a visiting family, for example, apparently impossible to please without time travel and superpowers (It’s truly amazing just how often such folks visit!). Imagine them **poof!** turning into smiling allies. Sometimes humor can solve otherwise impossible problems, and it can often solve workable problems far quicker and easier than any other approach. Sometimes. It’s one tool among many, but it’s fun and remarkably powerful and versatile.
At the very least, humor makes our problems far less of a burden and hindrance. Humor is a way of life, an attitude, faith that “I can make this situation better,” even if only a little. In that sense, humor offers power and confidence. Here’s the thing, though: it takes practice to put it to best use, lots and lots of practice. It takes skill to put such a fine tool to best use. We need more nurses to practice more humor and build up our supply!
Humor isn’t just a tool. It’s also oxygen, in a sense.
We nurses badly need to better enjoy life and work. We also badly need to take better care of ourselves and each other, not just our patients.
It’s like what they tell you in an airplane (if, unlike me, you still listen to the where-are-the-plane’s-doors-and-floatation-devices spiel. Ack!). When an oxygen mask drops in front of you, they tell you, use your best judgement. Take the oxygen for yourself first, then offer it to others. Not the other way around!
It’s so tempting to put others’ needs first, isn’t it, especially if you’re a typical nurse? Aren’t you such a trooper, maybe even a saint! So selfless! It feels so heroic and professional, doesn’t it? It’s a grand gesture, ignoring your own needs to bravely offer up that mask to others…
Right until the moment when you pass out for lack of oxygen. Oops! Good job, ace! You’re dead. Not so grand now, is it?
Now the mask dangles uselessly over your limp body, and over all your fellow passengers’ limp bodies, unless they made a better choice than you did.
Some help you were! Heroic? Hardly. That’s not adventure or heroism: it’s tragedy.
Your heart was in the right place and that’s wonderful, it really is, but real heroes succeed when possible. They save the day, right? They choose wisely. They don’t try to feel like heroes, look like heroes, or act like heroes. They get it done instead.
Let’s try out a more relevant example. It takes far longer for this sort of mistake to play out in a nursing career than it does in an airplane. Still, the result is the same: unused masks and limp bodies, in a sense. Tragic failure.
What happens to nurses who ignore their own needs to focus entirely on others’ needs instead? What happens to a lawn mower left out in the rain and snow year after year? Poor maintenance equals impaired performance and early failure. Such nurses rust and fail prematurely. The decline takes years to get unmanageable but they gradually get slower, weaker, tireder (“tireder” just became a word. Trust me…), and less useful to their patients. Like a smoker’s breathing, the impairments build very slowly: slowly enough to overlook in fact, or to ignore or rationalize away: “I’m just getting older! I can keep up just fine, as good as ever!” No, and no, Nurse Rationalizing More Than Caring For Herself. As it turns out, I did my Master’s work on this stuff. Aging plus slow deconditioning equals accelerated aging. It offers about as much fun and joy as the name “accelerated aging” suggests: it’s the fast track to a nursing home and it’s entirely preventable. Maintenance, people, maintenance!
(There are many things you can do in life, but you just can’t beat cause and effect. If you can beat it, don’t get too cocky just yet: you’re dreaming. You’ll wake up soon enough!)
Trust me on this one: you don’t deserve to fail. You don’t! You deserve success.
How about all those people who depend on you, now and in the future? That’s right, they deserve for you to succeed too. They need you!
So choose success. It’s a no-brainer, right?
Yet how many nurses act otherwise? How many pass out, skipping the mask? How many opt for accelerated rust?
How about you?
Take care of yourself, OK? Humor is part of that project. Remember SURVIVAL?
Survival is worth a little more humor practice, isn’t it? It’s not like I’m asking you to eat brussel sprouts (**shiver** Sorry, it was just plain mean to expose you to such… horror)
I must say, I’m impressed and gratified with your patience with me, in that you lasted this long! Kudos and thanks!
We’re done with today’s sermon on humor.
Why do I offer Fun/Art in a nursing blog? Because it’s too important NOT to offer. It’s not optional. That’s why. Humor and fun are not optional, unless you consider success optional. Do you?
(Oops, I slipped back in sermonizing again… and I may have just created another new word. Isn’t English awesome that way? You can make up a new word. No one can stop you! And who knows – give it a year or two and it might just appear, **poof!** in the dictionary. Now you’re a contributor to the richest language in human history. Cool!)
Anyway, thanks for visiting. All suggestions and comments are welcome, of course.
Appropriate links are welcome too:
What makes you smile, relax, feel good, feel alive?
What makes you embarrass yourself laughing out loud? (No, “LOL” doesn’t count, this isn’t Twitter, but I guess an LOL is better than nothing. Send the trigger my way just in case…)
What keeps you going when you’re wading through some of life’s crap?
If you have anything you’d like to add, offer it up, please! I’ll happily post and credit it.
We need all the help we can get, right?