Health, Safety, & Wellness: Nurse Resiliency: We've Got This under Control!

By Carpenter, Holly | American Nurse Today, July 2014 | Go to article overview

Health, Safety, & Wellness: Nurse Resiliency: We've Got This under Control!


Carpenter, Holly, American Nurse Today


HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED that after a traumatic event, certain nurses break down completely while others emerge stronger than ever? This can occur after natural disasters, war, mass casualty events, or even an unexpected patient death. What is it that these strong, remarkable survivors possess that allows them to thrive? Resilience plays a large part in this phenomenon.

Many definitions of resilience exist, including the one word "hardiness." In 2012, Sullivan et al defined resilience as "the capacity to keep functioning physically and psychologically in the face of stress, adversity, trauma, or tragedy." McCann et al define it as "the ability to maintain personal and professional well-being in the face of ongoing work stress and adversity." In their textbook Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, authors Dossey and Keegan describe resilience as "self-management and efficient utilization of energy resources across four domains: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual."

Resilience assists the nurse in resisting compassion fatigue and burn-out; it allows the nurse to effectively manage stress and maintain a positive attitude toward work and life in general. Resilience improves nurse perception of control and overall satisfaction.

Invaluable characteristics of a resilient nurse are a sense of humor, flexibility, optimism, hope, self-approval, hardiness, and a firm belief in self, mission, and profession. Resilient nurses engage in helpful behaviors and actions, such as laughing; leisure activities; reflective practices; maintaining supportive relationships; selfcare; practicing faith, spirituality, or both; obtaining effective emotional support; and facing difficult issues. To cultivate resiliency, nurses avoid self-blame, abuse of substances or other destructive addictions, denial of issues, feeling hopeless, and helpless actions.

What does an effective resiliency program look like? J. Eric Gentry, PhD, LMHC, an expert on compassion fatigue, recommends the following activities to develop resiliency: exercise (after consulting a healthcare provider), education of one's support system for effective help, spirituality, a positive work-life balance, exploration of artistic or sports abilities, and kindness to oneself. …

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