Full disclosure: I’ve never taken an anthropology class. But I’m lured to museum exhibits showcasing various civilizations, cultures and artifacts. These riveting exhibits provide historical insights by depicting how people have overcome challenges, celebrated successes and shared knowledge.
Amazing, right? What fascinates me is how many of these people were vastly different yet joined to form loyal groups. They became communities, families linked by a common culture, beliefs, rules and social structures, often blending and adopting strangers from outside thier own group. It reminds me of something nurses experience every day.
One weekend recently, several newly hired nurses joined the unit. They had just transitioned to the night shift. I introduced myself and watched them closely throughout the shift, attentive to how they were integrating into the team.
One of these nurses worked with a challenging family, and another was caring for a postoperative patient who bled unexpectedly. Senior staff stepped in to provide guidance and support — the success of the team includes every nurse and each patient. Even our established “adopted” family members — respiratory therapists, EKG techs and phlebotomists — were understanding and sympathetic about the needs of our new colleagues.
In particular, I noticed the little comforts we offered to acclimate the new hires to our culture. Simple things, like the respiratory therapist who asked a new hire if pain medications were due on a patient before chest physiotherapy. Someone else announced, “Fresh coffee’s ready!” Then a shift veteran reminisced, “Remember that time when … ?” This snowballed into an avalanche of storytelling, funny scenarios or lessons learned. It reminds me of how members of an ancient culture would sit around a fire to bond and share knowledge.
This mix of nurses was brought together by human resources and a staffing schedule, but something else inclined them to connect: professional community. Just nine nurses strong on that night, we were a community linked together.
Our nursing communities come in all sizes by specialties, roles and shifts — from one unit to a national organization. In the last decade we’ve also begun to see online circles connect, drawn together by our work and our collective voice. Most of the time these groups are accepting and positive — the very backbone of a healthy work environment.
The importance of nurse-to-nurse friendship is backed by research. It shows that social support helps nurses manage stress, reduce feelings of uncertainty and gain control over tense situations. Nurses understand nurses, so these essential connections are some of the primary positive factors in controlling job-related stress.
A nurse in my unit says, “There are friends and then there are nursing friends.” Each member of this fellowship adds something and strengthens it. The fellowhip supports our journey and improves our well-being. Tell me about your nursing family at Unstoppable@aacn.org.
Warm holiday wishes to you and yours.