Today in the chart

Aren’t We So Lucky?

As a nurse, I wonder what it would take for us to leave work and say, “How lucky are we that we get to do this job?”

A friend recently told me a story when she went over to her neighbor’s house for a visit. When she walked into the house, it was a complete disaster – toys all over the living room. She tiptoed over the toys and exclaimed, “Wow, look at all these toys.” The two children stopped playing, looked up at her with big sparkling eyes, and replied, “I know. Aren’t we so lucky!”

I love this story because it reminds me of how easy it is to forget how lucky we are. Gratitude has been a hot topic for quite some time, and rightly so – the research continually demonstrates how gratitude positively impacts lives and, in some cases, can save our lives when we feel vulnerable to suicidal ideations.  

At times gratitude can feel like a bandaid to the hard work our healthcare systems need to do to look at root problems to create systemic change. If we are focused on gratitude, are we skimming over critical change that needs to take place? 

As I reflect on my practice of gratitude, I have found three significant benefits that allow me to hold both the gratitude and the opportunity to acknowledge and create personal and systemic change: 

1. Feeling Content

When I am grateful, contentment is easier to find. In a world that is always striving for the next thing, I have found it comforting to be able to define what enough looks like for me. How much money is enough? How many shoes are enough? When we don’t define this for ourselves, others will, and we are left looking for more of something that we think will bring us contentment. I like to ask myself, if this was all I could have – right now – is it enough? If so, great. If not, am I willing to sacrifice my time and energy for something more? Is it worth it? 

This helps me set boundaries with work; it helps me not pick up extra shifts when I am reminded that what I have is already enough. In a world that is constantly telling us to desire more, work more and buy more, it feels important to stay curious and ask ourselves – is what I have already enough?  

2. Feeling Celebrated

Gratitude helps remind me of all that I have accomplished. It offers me time and space to step back and reflect on how I have worked hard and reached so many goals that I thought impossible. It is easy to keep pushing forward and always chase after the next big goal or win without stopping to celebrate along the way. This goes for taking time to recognize our teams at work. To step back for a minute and remember and reflect together on all that was accomplished as a team to get this far. Too many times, I have been the recipient of a new rollout or initiative only to achieve the goal and then go straight to the next thing with no reflection or thank you from nursing leadership. Taking personal moments and communal moments to reflect and recognize our hard work is vital to feeling appreciated for what we do. 

3. Feeling Empowered

When I practice speaking up about things that I am thankful for, I am more comfortable speaking out about things that need to change, including speaking truth to power. When we speak our truth, we remind our brains that telling the truth about how we feel is good and important. This includes speaking out to create important change. The act of acknowledging and speaking my gratitude has enabled me to recognize and speak up about critical issues that need to be addressed in healthcare. I invite you to speak your gratitude and see how it permeates into speaking your truth in all areas of your life. 

As a nurse, I wonder what it would take for us to leave work and say, “How lucky are we that we get to do this job?”  

The thing I love about this question is that it has me look at my work as a nurse multi-dimensionally. It helps me reflect on what I enjoy, what I am missing, and what steps I can take to get closer and closer to what ultimately brings me joy – it fills me up and leaves me feeling lucky to be able to do what I love as a profession.  

We can learn much about what we need when we start recognizing what makes us thankful.  

Let us embrace our gratitude to find contentment in what we have, celebrate all we have accomplished, and empower us to speak our truth so we can walk away from work feeling full and lucky. 

As a starting point, I invite you to journal on the following questions: 

  1. What does enough look like for you? What are you willing to sacrifice right now to have more? What are you not willing to sacrifice? 
  1. Reflect on all the things you have accomplished in your work and personal life. What can you do to celebrate yourself and others? 
  1. What do you love about your work as a nurse? What makes you happy, what brings you joy, what energizes you? 
  1. Reflect on what could be better. What do you need more of to walk away feeling appreciated, encouraged, seen, heard, and cared for? Why do you need to feel lucky right now to be doing this work?  
  1. Assess the gap. What is one action you can take to close this gap between what you love and what you need? Is it a conversation with your leader about pay? Is it an idea that you can implement in your unit? Is it applying for a different job that has better hours? What helps close this gap for you?  

Tara Rynders, The Dancing Nurse Educator, and Nightingale Luminary, is the CEO and Founder of The Clinic

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