Resilience in Nursing


Published: 18 August 2016

Nurses go into their profession expecting to love it. They feel they are called; that nursing is a vocation and not merely a profession. What could be better than making a difference in the life of another person? What other profession could be as rewarding as being a nurse?

It’s not until a nurse starts on their first ward, that reality sets in. Charting takes more to complete than a nice, friendly chat with a patient, and doctors and other co-workers can be intimidating.

Many nurses have found themselves saying they hate their job. Some bounce from specialty to specialty, looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow that is their dream career. Many decide to further their education and get away from the ward entirely. Management, advanced practice or teaching, seem far more attractive than the rigours of ward work.

Can hatred of the job be overcome before it gets to the point of severe burnout? How do you fall back in love with something that you feel betrayed by? Here are a few ways to remind yourself why you went into nursing in the first place.

Make a Point to Connect with People

Connection is our primary driver. Yes, you also care for a client’s medical needs, but no other medical professional connects with people the way nurses do. Unfortunately, you can get so caught up in the other aspects of nursing, such as charting, paperwork, and KPI’s, that it is easy to forget this essential foundation of nursing.

Many nurses go into the profession thinking their primary day-to-day task will be forming this connection with clients and patients. Dissatisfaction with the job can set in when a nurse’s priorities change. Take time out from the monotonous tasks each day to see your patients as people. Even as little as two minutes can lead to a connection that allows you to remember why you became a nurse. Ask about a patient’s family or try making them smile. When a patient laughs, it is one of the most rewarding parts of nursing. You have to keep up with your work, but take the time to connect before the dissatisfaction sets in.

Exhausted nurse | image


Nothing can crush a nurse’s enthusiasm more than a toxic work environment. This is a place where everyone is miserable, from the management down. There may be rostering or supply issues, sects forming within the team, or the management may not be open to new ideas. This type of work environment is a dread to come in to, and so many people find themselves stuck, after years of getting worn down.

Getting out of a toxic situation may be more difficult than it sounds. You may not have much choice in alternate work places to go. Perhaps moving to another specialty may help. It is important to realise that all areas will have their downside. Even the advanced practice nurses have issues that a ward nurse may not be aware of. However, a change can make a world of difference. Make moves carefully, but don’t stay somewhere that leads you to hate your job. Change is as good as a holiday.

It’s Just a Job!

Not all of our work is glamorous, fun, or emotionally satisfying. In the end, nursing is a job, just like other jobs. It is not always a dream career. It is work, and damned hard work at that. If you hold onto an idealism, you may become bitter. Yes, keep that idea of wanting to help people, but realise that what you are doing will sometimes be mundane.

Nursing is a unique and fulfilling job for sure, but it isn’t perfect. Release the idealism, and you may find yourself better able to accept the realities of the job and stay resilient.