How to avoid becoming your Profession

As Nurses and Health professionals, we are a special and unique population where we need to be available to work around the clock, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. The usual routines of going to bed at a reasonable hour, coming home before the sun goes down, weekends off and quality time spent with family and friends are an appreciated rarity in our roster.  If we are not careful, our personal and professional identities can become merged. Where we continue to “care” when we are not at work, and even stay “switched on” or think about our patients, in our own time as the days and hours roll by. It is difficult, as sometimes even if you are at a BBQ and out of your uniform, when your professional identity is revealed… People can still start telling you all their health problems. You are reminded once again of your work, and have to once again, “switch on” and reassure others.

How merging your identify is unhealthy.

Because we are not robots but authentic human beings working under sometimes stressful circumstances, with additional constraints around time, money, resources and staffing. Included are the increasing complexities and barriers to providing optimal patient care. We may not be able to achieve everything we set out to for our patients… and need to handover tasks. It is only human nature for us, as passionate professionals to find it difficult to accept this, or perhaps feel pressured from ourselves, others or perhaps our organisation, that our best work is just not good enough. Failing to separate your person from your profession, and taking your work home with you in your mind, can become unhealthy and impact our health and well-being.


Why you can become personally drained.

Never switching off, going over situations in your mind, over analyzing conversations or events, feeling overly anxious about going back to work and feeling generally low, or not good enough can sometimes be experienced. If this behavior progresses and repeats itself it can become a habit for the individual, which can potentially lead to compassion fatigue. And, if the individual is not equipped with enough supports, coping strategies and resilience, it can have potential negative implications on their personal life as well, which is why, dissolving adverse events, situations and stress within oneself on a regular basis is so paramount to be incorporated into our daily lives. It can be difficult to unwind, though applying a conscious effort and including regular strategies is important.


Strategy 1. Throw yourself in situations where you are not a Nurse.

Creative outlets, communities and groups where you can be you as a person and not your caring profession is paramount. Perhaps not actively telling people in the group your profession, and avoiding talking about work, constantly bringing the conversation back to the hobby you are practicing, to family, friends, social outings, and other meaningful things to you. Often Nurses quit their hobbies and sports when they start their graduate nursing career, as they feel they cannot fully commit, and that they must be available to work 24/7. This can isolate the individual from those precious connections, communities, outlets and groups which are so paramount to well-being. Which in turn can potentially lead to isolation (Runge & Spencer, 2015).


Strategy 2. Do something on the side.

Have a creative outlet, a side hustle, a hobby or even be part of a group where you focus on things that make you feel happy and creative. So you can dedicate some time to just be yourself. Yes, it is difficult with shift work to be able to commit to regular times and places. But a conversation with your manager, and even attending you hobby 50% of the time is better than nothing and so beneficial to your social interaction and well-being. And most importantly, PUT IT IN YOUR DIARY! It is more difficult to avoid doing something that you have committed in writing to doing. It might just be that one group exercise class in a week you enjoy, if it is in your diary, you are less likely to say yes to that extra shift!

By Stephane Bouchoucha and Amy Benn

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