The Two Hands of Mindfulness

The little dish of crystals I keep on my desk. I made the little dish from clay. Photo: jparadisi 2018

Late on a Friday afternoon I sat on the floor of a shared office space in semi-lotus position, dismantling the fax machine to clear a paper jam. I needed to fax a copy of one more cancer survivorship care plan to a primary care physician’s office to meet my weekly quota before going home. If you work for an accredited cancer institute, and particularly if you’re an oncology nurse navigator like me, the phrase “survivorship care plan” is enough to cause heart palpitations, and maybe make your palms sweat. If the phrase doesn’t hold meaning for you, count your blessings.

Sitting before the fax machine in semi-lotus position, trying very hard not to break its plastic drawer while reaching for the piece of paper stuck in its maw, I considered the difficulty of practicing mindfulness in the controlled chaos that is health care. At that moment, I felt more akin to George’s father on Seinfeld, Frank Constanza, screaming “Serenity now!” than to the Dali Llama.

How is it I have the nursing skills to manage a patient’s airway on a ventilator, but am defeated by a piece of office equipment?

The stress is worse for nurses working at the bedside: For instance, how many times does the ED call to admit a patient to a nursing unit only to be told the unit doesn’t have a bed? I don’t mean a room, I mean literally, a physical bed? The admission is delayed while some poor night shift nurse traipse through hallways into the bowels of the hospital in search of a bed.

There are medication shortages to contend with, including the lowly bag of saline, diphenhydramine, and flu shots. These scenarios are not new to nurses. They are common occurrences we problem solve during the course of a shift, while managing the health and safety of our patients, documenting for compliance standards, and meeting accreditation mandates such as survivorship care plans.

Some days I’m more successful maintaining mindfulness at work than other days.  That’s why mindfulness is a practice. Practicing mindfulness requires compassion not only for others, but for ourselves. In fact, it’s my opinion that a lack of self-compassion and self-care contributes to a general lack of compassion towards others, fueling a hostile work environment. I keep a small dish of crystals on my desk at work to remind myself to stay in the moment.

As I sat on the floor in front of the fax machine, late on that Friday afternoon, a coworker returned to our office. She asked what I was doing, and I vented my frustration. She got down on her knees, and took a turn at dismantling the fax machine to get it working. She was successful. I faxed the care plan to the physician’s office, meeting my quota for the week. I got out on time to take my barre class, where we practice breathing and mindfulness.

Gratitude and compassion are the two hands of mindfulness.

 

 

Innovative Nurse (Kevin Ross) Reviews The Adventures of Nurse Niki

Last week, I had the pleasure of being a guest of nurse bloggers Keith Carlson and Kevin Ross (or, as I refer to them, ) on RNFM Radio. We spent a fast hour discussing the lifestyle of nurses, and The Adventures of Nurse Niki. I had a fabulous time, and one of the take-homes I went away with is the idea to hash tag forthcoming episodes of The Adventures of Nurse Niki on Twitter #NurseNiki, so regulars readers can discuss them on Twitter. Great idea, Kevin & Keith, thanks!

The Adventures of Nurse Niki

The Adventures of Nurse Niki

Following the interview, Kevin (who turns out is a huge Nurse Niki fan) wrote this awesome essay The Adventures of Nurse Niki: The Daytime Drama You’re Not Reading. The title doesn’t reflect Kevin’s wonderful review of Nurse Niki, or his thoughtful expose of the life of nurses, which is actually the most important part of the review. Here’s an excerpt from Kevin’s post:

Julianna has embarked on something special for the nursing community. The Adventures Of Nurse Niki is one of the most intelligent perspectives of life as a nurse. These are the experiences of a “real nurse” if you ask me. Nurse Niki is a smart and dynamic character who works night shift in the PICU at a California hospital. A good television show or fiction novel could certainly draw out the sexiness of working in the ICU, but with Niki’s story we quickly discover that this dynamic character is also struggling to cope with life at the bedside, and as a mother and wife. Hidden within each chapter the discovery is that Nurse Niki is in fact you. She’s me. Well that is of course if I was a woman.

Niki’s struggles are really no different than yours. She’s trying to find work-life balance and has the same inner turbulence that never seems to allow for the seat belt sign to be turned off. Niki’s hope was to work for awhile as a nurse and then be able to stay home with her daughter when she was born. She so desperately wants to feel that same connection with her husband that she had with him in college, but how can she possibly put her day in perspective for someone who isn’t exposed to the same emotional trauma that a nurse endures day in and day out? Sound familiar?

Our well laid out plans rarely seem to work out in the way we picture them, and so far it certainly hasn’t for Niki as she deals with the conflict of the same characters we all try to play each day in our own lives. What we believe work-life balance should be is really what I like to call controlled chaos. With a house full of boys around here we often find ourselves having to put up barricades and call in the crowd control teams to herd what seems like a bunch of cats out the door for their next soccer practice or school performance.

Just like many of us either currently or in the past, it’s never just a 12-hour shift and only 3 days a week. Nursing is not a part-time job by any stretch. When you work in high acuity settings like these it seems as if you never leave, even with a couple of days off in between your shifts. It’s really a constant you can depend on. Your co-workers become your family. The frightening difference is that they are the ones who understand you the best, and so the plot thickens.

In case you missed it, The Adventures of Nurse Niki Chapter 16 posted last Thursday. I don’t want to spoil it for new readers, but this is a chapter you’ve waited for.

If you haven’t discovered The Adventures of Nurse Niki, the blog is formatted with the most recent episodes first. However, you can conveniently begin at Chapter One by clicking here. Previous episodes are also archived by month on the main menu.

Don’t forget to Like The Adventures of Nurse Niki on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @NurseNikiAdven #NurseNiki. Let’s do this!