Years ago I had dynamic nursing professor who used to say that nurses are the only professional group who run around in a circle shooting inward at one another instead of shooting outward to protect and support each other. Her words stuck in my head as I moved along in my career, sometimes working with really wonderful nurses and sometimes not. Sadly, many people regularly share stories with me, which seem to validate that statement made many years ago. Current day research, articles, and blogs suggest that nurses aren’t doing a very good job of supporting one another. Perhaps it is because many feel burdened by the workload, or the lack of resources, or are working in an unhealthy, toxic environment. Whatever the reason, it has never made sense to me that nurses, who are carers–that is who we are and what we do– could be cruel and/or uncaring to one another. Yes, we are human; we all have both good and bad days. However, bad days can be made better by kind acts and compassionate caring. Bad days are made even worse by dispassionate and unkind acts.
I believe that much of our woes in the profession of nursing can be attributed to not being appreciated and supported. I emphasize this in my work as one of the biggest areas where we can bring about change. We often do not appreciate ourselves, nor do we seem to know our own importance and the power we have individually and collectively. We frequently do not appreciate and support one another, and consequently we do not foster a sense of community. This in turn has very negative effects on how we go about our work, and it ultimately affects the quality of care being rendered to people. It is a vicious cycle in that our unhappiness and discontent carries over into our personal lives and ultimately affects every single aspect of our being.
My second book, which explicitly addresses this topic along with other issues related to our professional quality of life and how it dovetails into the way we go about patient care, appears to have struck a chord with many nurses; it is now in over 25 countries and is being translated. Reviewers and readers have heralded it as a must read for every nurse. When I speak and teach on the topics I write about, I see the affirmative nods throughout the room, later validated by the many people who come up to speak with me or contact me by email. I am so glad the work is getting out there and is having such a butterfly effect! It was my goal to inspire nurses to reaffirm their purpose as carers and it is great to see that many are using my work as a guide to help them transform their own practice and their work environments. Unfortunately, I have also been saddened to find that there are several entrepreneurs clearly using my book as a step-by-step template for their own work and advancement who have chosen not to cite me–not even a mention. It is quite hurtful, especially given that I dedicated the book to nurses everywhere, (and whether intentional or not, it is unethical–which is perhaps a topic for another time), and it brings me back to the topic of nurses not caring for and supporting each other.
When those who work in health care, or indeed any human service, which includes academia and the government, choose not to support one another, it is a choice that has deleterious effects for everyone. Of course, it affects those people who aren’t being supported, but it also affects the entire workforce and the people that they are serving. I think that we need to get back to the basics; we need to recall the why of all of these human services (what is their purpose?) and then we need to start not only talking the darn talk, but walking, working and living the talk. I am emphasizing the word choose here, because we always have a choice in the matter, even when we think we do not.
I absolutely heart nursing. No, I have not always been happy in all of my work positions during my over 32 year nursing career. In fact, I have been a victim of incivility, bullying, and even mobbing by other nurse colleagues. Yet I have always tried to do the right thing, to “do it anyway” (see Kent Keith’s work) because it is what and who I am. I am a carer. All of us in nursing are carers. To choose not to support or appreciate ourselves and one another is absolutely wrong; it goes against our authentic nature.
It was always my intention that if I earned any money from the sales of my second book, I would donate a portion to a charity that supports nurses. The royalty check came in April and I sent in my first donation–25 % of all my royalties from the book are going to Nurses House, an organization that is dedicated to helping nurses in need. As an aside, authors whose work is handled through a publishing house typically earn approximately 10 % from hard copy book sales and 5 % from e-books–its not all that much money (and they set the pricing too). My proceeds will likely not ever cover all the associated costs from doing the work I do (which my hubby calls extracurricular activities), but hell, I am “doing it anyway!” People sometimes ask me why I work so hard. Why I don’t really give a hoot if it costs me out of pocket to get the work done. I am asked all the time why I do not charge a set speaking fee when I undoubtedly could command high(er) honorariums. Why I cannot, will not, “go along to get along” when it has without a doubt cost me dearly on occasion. Well, the reason is simple. I care; I am a sensitive old soul who has a passion for caring. And I do it all because, as I have said in other places, “We (nurses) are engaged in the most important work there is—for what could be more important than assisting people to actualize their potentials to live well and die well?” (Todaro-Franceschi, 2013, p. 195).
It really is more than time for nurses to support nurses; for us to appreciate and value each other for our talents, skills and service. Our work is about serving others and in order to do that we have to take good care of ourselves and each other first. It is time for us to ‘fix’ us–no one else is going to do it.
If you’d like to join me to support Nurses House you can go to:
If my words are resonating with you and you want to help fix us, in my work I offer much food for thought along with ways to help address individual and collective compassion fatigue, burnout, moral distress, and death overload, along with a shot in the arm about butterfly power, advocacy, and assertiveness… all so that we–nurses–can keep loving what we do. The book is available at Amazon, B & N and other bookstores. as well as through the publisher. Or you can grab a copy from one of the many libraries that have it (including hospital libraries). If you find my work helpful, please pass it along to enhance the butterfly effect and if you do use my work as a template, could you please cite me? (I would appreciate the mention, and Nurses House will surely get more donations from book sales if people give credit where due).
Wishing you peace, love and light.