It’s a widely-accepted expectation that nurses should be resilient.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen the word “resilience” used more and more often across healthcare and the nursing profession.
The phrase is used so often you can find it in job adverts, on social media, in appraisals, and even in our own professional code. The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) Standards of Proficiency for Registered Nurses states that registrants should “develop” and “demonstrate resilience”.
But, what does being resilient mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines being resilient as being “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.”
It’s become a widely-accepted expectation that nurses should be resilient and should be able to quickly bounce back – no matter what the profession or life throws at them.
Except what happens when you are not resilient? What happens when things are so bad you can’t quickly recover from “difficult conditions”? Does this mean you are a failure? Does this mean you are not a good nurse? Does this mean you are in breach of your own professional code?
No – it means you are human.
A recent survey by the NMC revealed that one in four nurses are leaving the profession due to stress and poor mental health. The pandemic has only made things worse, with nurses to say they are more stressed and exhausted than ever before.
Insisting that nurses need to be more resilient rather than dealing with systemic failures of the system like staffing, pay, and working conditions only seeks to put the responsibility back onto nurses.
Over the past decade, I have suffered, at times, with my own mental health – mainly from the pressures of the job – the difficult and distressing situations we see on an almost daily basis. Would I call myself resilient? No. I’d say that I manage – with a massive amount of support from my wife, my colleagues, and by sharing my experiences with others. I’d say it’s made me a better more empathetic nurse.
Nursing managers and leaders need to acknowledge that we have a difficult, emotive career path and that while it’s important we are professional, we are not failures if we struggle to be resilient.