I explain to my charges that compassion literally means to suffer together.
Nurses, and others who work with people, can suffer from compassion fatigue, where stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, the pressures of personal and professional responsibilities, and vicarious trauma, are ever present.
Television and other forms of social media are saturated with tragedy, having the added potential of dulling otherwise caring people to the suffering of others.
Leave your troubles at the gate
My first nursing supervisor barked orders at me as if she were a drill sergeant. I realized she never mentally left the Army, yet her voice softened with me over the years.
At the tender age of 22, I learned quickly to leave my troubles at the gate.
My supervisor was all about the patients. She could care less what was going on in your personal world. You were expected to report to work. Lateness was unacceptable. Period.
Despite her hard-edged, autocratic style, I respected my supervisor's focus on excellent patient care. I have kept the patients as my priority throughout my career, no matter what role I have served.
While never having experienced compassion fatigue, my life journey caused a period of overwhelming physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue at times.
In June, 1999, at the age of 37, I faced my fragility and humanity at the hands of a drug-impaired, armed man in a hostage incident that played out over 46-hours.
I experienced the other side of the bed rails, hospitalized for four weeks, as I recovered.
And seventeen years later, I remind my students of the need to be ever mindful of their vulnerability. Self awareness and self care are paramount along life's journey.
"Fragile" sung by Sting and Stevie Wonder reminds me of our universal vulnerability.
Recognizing and addressing your own stress and need for self care is the most compassionate thing you can do, for yourself and those you love and work with.
My self-care plan includes:
In taking care of myself, I am better able to take care of others in a compassionate manner.
My thanks to my sister for sharing this video clip with me from MSN. It’s short but mighty powerful. These kids are the best teachers in showing us how to have compassion, even in victory.
Until next week, wishing you peace and purpose,
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