By Aaron Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert
I am not usually a word-of-the-day type of person, but I recently discovered “equanimity” and have since loved to use it. To me, this word can really apply to the life of a nurse.
Equanimity comes from the Latin word aequanimitas, meaning even-minded. The definition I like best is “a habit of mind that is only rarely disturbed under great strain.” Does that describe the nurses you know?
As nurses, we have to deal with stress on a daily basis. Caring for the sick, injured and dying can be tough and it requires compassion, which can lead to caregiver strain and stress. If you’re not careful, even the little things can start to add up, like what I call “call-light stress” and the fatigue brought on by working nights with little sleep and skipped meal breaks. And when the coffee pot stops working, everyone had better watch out!
Choosing to stay calm during these situations can really keep you going—even if you are traveling to a new job every 13 weeks or so. In fact, if you are lucky enough to work as a travel nurse, you may have a greater ability to keep stress under control. Travel nurses don’t have to endure all the meetings and bureaucracy that staff nurses do, they can often spend more time with patients, and they can spend their time off exploring a new city and experiencing new things. It can be like a working vacation.
So, I say, “Bring on the equanimity.” If we can find peace in all situations, we can really start to enjoy things in this life. Spend your work time working and your off time doing what you like. And when you fully enjoy your time off, you will be less stressed and more effective when you do go back work.
Keep calm and carry on!
With true equanimity, you don’t have to worry about the stresses of work following you home. You deal with things as they come up and take things in stride.
That doesn’t mean you won’t encounter stressful situations or you won’t feel stressed out at times: it just means finding peace at these times is possible. Two keys to success: (1) taking care of yourself, and, (2) coming together as a team to support each other.
I have rarely found a group of nurses and doctors that won’t rise up to great stress and overcome. Even if you’re the new guy or gal on that team, you’ll usually experience that attitude of, “We all went through this together.” We may not always keep our cool, but if we work together we will survive with our psyches intact.
This attitude of equanimity can be contagious; soon your co-workers and family will be asking what your secret is to staying calm. All nurses deal with stress, but with the right “habit of mind,” it won’t get you down!