Tears, Tissues and Gratitude
The Nursing Scholarship Awards Ceremony
Seventy-one scholarships were awarded at the Nursing Scholarship Awards Ceremony. The ceremony was touching. Many of the stories shared moved eyes to tears and hands to tissues. Despite tears and tissues it was by no means a somber event. Many smiles and laughter was shared as well. And then there were the children. Donors' and recipients' children, some in the aisle, some cradled and held, some calling out to mommies on stage, others carrying flowers to give, all reminding nurses and guests of the mission that Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics is here to serve.
Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics as an institution and our nurses as individuals have a remarkable commitment to education. Sixty-nine percent of our RNs are prepared at a Bachelors level degree or higher. Our percentage of direct care nurses with a Bachelors degree or higher is double the average for Magnet pediatric hospitals. The many scholarships awarded certainly have been significant in our nurses pursuing and achieving higher levels of education.
The dollar amount of the scholarships awarded this year totaled $58,000. Money for scholarships was not the only thing shared during yesterday's ceremony. A great abundance of gratitude was shared. The look of thankfulness was on the face of every award winner. But it is not the gratitude of the winners that I want to talk about. What is different about the Nursing Scholarships Awards Ceremony is the spotlight is really on the donors. It is their generosity that makes these gifts possible.
More than one donor spoke about family members who are or had been nurses. Some of the scholarships are given to honor the memory of nurses who walked our hospital's halls and others honor those who were never employees of Children's Mercy but reside here now in spirit.
The memory of a loved one lost, the thankfulness of a child saved and the gratitude of the presence of a nurse in the most intimate and difficult of moments moved these donors to offer gifts of thanks. The meaning of presence truly mattered to these donors. Not just a physical presence, but a committed, professional and invested presence. The kind of presence that provides comfort, reassurance and the knowledge that at that moment, no one and nothing is more important to that nurse than the patient. That kind of presence is a special gift to anyone, at any time, in any context, but even more so to those patients and families in need.
So what is a person to do with such a gift? Accept it, treasure it and take comfort in it of course. But the best of gifts are shared and that is what these generous donors have chosen to do through word and action. They are paying it forward knowing that their gift will strengthen nurses and perpetuate what we all are thankful for; the presence of someone to care.
Let your light shine! We all have gifts to give and moments to share as well as gifts to share and moments to give. Thank you to all the donors and nurses everywhere, especially those at Children's Mercy Hospital for so readily giving and sharing their knowledge, time, resources and presence.
A Day for Professional Reflection
In a mere week Halloween will be upon us and we will see nurse costumes galore. This is a perfect time to evaluate how our profession is presented to the public. No, those trick or treaters will not be dressed in scrubs or the nurse uniform of yesterday. Instead, you will see young women wearing the traditional nurse cap and perhaps a stethoscope or Red Cross insignia on the costume and looking as if they had just emerged from a Russ Meyer film. Mr. Meyer influenced such directors as John Landis and Quentin Tarantino with films such as “Motor Psycho” and “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens”. You get the picture. Not exactly the stellar role models that the ANA would endorse.
And while nursing may fact the most stereotyping, objectification and sexualisation of all professions year round, it is not alone on Halloween. You will see the Sexy Nurse, the Sexy Policewoman, even the Sexy Nun costume. But come November 1st, the nurse will stand alone until next Halloween. True, the costumes will be gone but the attitudes and perceptions that downgrade nurses will remain. If you doubt me, pay attention to the majority of nurse portrayals in movies, sitcoms, medical dramas and the soap-operas.
To counteract these stereotypes, nurses need to be very aware of the way they present themselves to peers, patients, families and visitors. If you want to be successful and taken seriously, then cultivate that image starting with your attitude and dress. It is possible to be fashionable, attractive and even sexy and remain professional. And to be clear, sloppy, wrinkled and torn clothing is no more professional than dressing like a female cast member from Two and a Half Men. It could be argued that it is even worse since it indicates apathy instead of poor judgment. Bottom line, think before you speak and make your clothing is speaking for, not against, you.
Bullying Part Three:
Recourse and Resolution
So what can be done to prevent bullying or avoid becoming a bully's target?
Educate yourself. A good place to start is with your hospital’s policies. As a general rule, most people, regardless of their profession, do not regularly read their organization's policies and procedures unless they have a specific question.
Policies regarding workplace violence and bullying tend to be broad in order to cover a wide variety of bullying behaviors. Our own policy clearly states that the given list of “unacceptable” behaviors is not inclusive. Your organization’s policy should guide your conduct and response in any bullying situation.
I believe it is fair to say that not everyone who has been subject to or who has witnessed an act of bullying will be compelled to report it. Many people have told me that unless there is a threat of physical violence or a display of aggression, they do not feel inclined to take action or intervene. I believe this is significant since the vast majority of bullying in the workplace tends to be passive-aggressive. Truthfully, how many people are going to report sarcasm or eye rolling?
One way to avoid becoming the target of a bully is to develop strong relationships within your work place. Bullies who might like to spread rumors about you or bring your competence into question will have a hard time doing so if you have a group of people that know, trust and believe in you.
Another way to deter a bully is to know your typical response or reactions to these behaviors. Are you easily frustrated, flattered, influenced, irritated or angered? I imagine that nothing makes a bully happier than when their target displays negative traits. Here is some good advice that I have ignored many times in the past much to my detriment: Best to think before you act or speak. When you lose your temper or make poor choices in response to a bully’s action, you risk losing any positive perception that others may have of you.
So the question remains: What should you do when bullying occurs? Well, that depends. What was the bullying action? What are the circumstances? Was the bullying an isolated event or unintentional? What do you want to do?
If the action is an isolated incident and out of character and you do not feel physically or professionally threatened, perhaps the offender is having a bad day. This is not to excuse the behavior, but rather to put it in perspective. Consider asking that person, at an appropriate time, if he or she is having a bad day. As tempted as you might be, do not allow yourself to respond in an angry, sarcastic or snarky way. You are trying to extinguish the bad behavior, not feed it. Chances are you will get an apology if you address the issue in a sincere, but direct manner.
Unintentional bullying happens more out of someone’s poor judgment rather than malicious intent. Teasing and sarcasm are prime examples. For many people this is their way of saying, "You are part of my group. I like you enough to treat you like a friend." Now do I feel bullied every time someone rolls their eyes at me? No, because I frequently say stupid things and I expect the eye rolling to occur among my family and select group of friends. I am not alone; look no further than to your prime time sitcoms. They are filled with people who love each other saying things to each other they would never say to strangers. I would suggest that if no harm is meant, that no offense should be taken. Rather take the opportunity to let the person know that while the intent may not be hurtful, the actions make you uncomfortable. If this is someone who did not mean you harm in the first place, it is doubtful they will continue these behaviors.
Okay, so let’s say the bullying action is not an isolated or unintentional event. There is no cure-all for every situation or person, but there are some basic strategies to consider. First off, share what is happening with your manager or one or two peers who are discreet and trustworthy and get their opinion. The last thing you want is word to get out to the bully that your cage has been rattled.
You are not alone if suddenly you freeze up verbally during such encounters. If that happens, a very simple solution is to turn your back and gracefully walk away from the bully. Do not show anger, tears or frustration. Your goal is to stop the action in its tracks and readdress the problem at a time when you are composed and in a better position to resolve the situation.
The most effective way to resolve the situation is to speak to the bully. If you do decide that you are going to talk with the bully about his or her behavior think about exactly what you want to say ahead of time and rehearse it. Rehearse it more than once. Repetition will at least guide your brain in the general direction you want to go.
This discussion should be done in a private area away from patients, visitors and other staff. Be respectful, professional, concise and put it in a way that gives the person the benefit of the doubt. Consider saying something like, “Perhaps you are not aware of it, but I am not comfortable with your comments or actions.” By phrasing it this way, the bully is less likely to feel cornered. You have given the person a way out. It does not matter if you believe that the person is aware or not aware. Your goal is to resolve the issue and stop the bullying. Your actions should be directed by that goal.
By simply addressing the situation you have put the bully on notice that you are not willing to tolerate the bad behavior. The fear that you might take the situation up the chain of command may deter further bullying on his or her part. Even if you resolve the situation you may want to let your manager or director know what transpired in case future incidents occur between this bully and yourself or someone else.
Unfortunately, there are many people that are not motivated to change their behavior unless that behavior results in negative consequences to themselves. If the bully’s response indicates that nothing is going to change or you are not comfortable speaking to the bully yourself you need to consider documenting your encounters and speaking with your manager, director or an Employee Relations Representative in your Human Resources Department. Organizations have trained professionals and a set of processes in place to address conflicts in a safe and fair manner. They are a valuable resource to be utilized.
If you are a witness to bullying, a very effective and supportive action is to stand beside the target and just give the bully a look that says, “Really?” Discuss the situation with the target and encourage them to take action.
If the bullying is of a physical nature or you feel physically threatened or feel it may escalate to that level, distance yourself from the bully immediately and speak with security or your supervisor as soon as possible. It is not in your best interest to try to resolve these types of situations on your own.
The nursing profession needs to send the message that you can be a nurse or you can be a bully, but you can’t be both. By doing so we strengthen our profession by creating a healthy environment where nurses thrive in the care they provide and are retained in a system that desperately needs them.
As always, your thoughtful and constructive comments are welcome. You are welcome to comment, just be thoughtful and constructive. You may want to review the previous posting before commenting.
If this is a topic that interests you there are plenty of journal articles to choose from as well as a vast amount of information on the internet. Below are links to several excellent articles on bullying and civility:
Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS, A Matter of Respect and Dignity: Bullying in the Nursing Profession, via Medscape Nurses can be found at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/729474
Cynthia M. Clark, PhD, RN; Sara M. Ahten, MSN, RN, Nurses: Resetting the Civility Conversation, via Medscape Nurses can be found at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/748104