How to reclaim what attracted you to nursing

By Diane Sieg | 03/24/2016

20 tips to help you get back on track.

Nursing student

As we approach Nurses Week (6-12 May) and the celebration of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, I ask you, as nurses, what do you want? I mean, what do you really want in order to renew and recharge yourself?
Why do you do what you do every day? Remembering why you do it makes it easier to keep on doing it. We know we didn’t get into this profession for the pay or the perks, so it’s unlikely that more money or more chocolate will renew, recharge, and reclaim our spirits.
Diane SiegI have polled more than 2,000 nurses who work in a variety of roles—from the bedside to the boardroom—and what they say they want may or may not surprise you. I divided their wish list into four categories:
To connect
Nurses are natural connectors. We want to be part of something bigger, to be active participants and valued team players. We want to be included in discussions and decisions about issues—even the difficult ones—that affect our day-to-day operations and impact the lives of our patients and peers. We want to live the mission of our organization, not just memorize it.
To further my education
Nurses are lifelong learners, and we want financial and moral support to further our education, both in traditional and nontraditional disciplines. This includes mandatory certifications and advanced degrees as well as acquiring proficiency in holistic practices, such as healing touch and mindfulness.
To make a difference
Nurses did not choose their profession for its easy hours or cushy workloads. We were called to serve humanity and to make a difference—a real difference—in how people live and die every day. We need to be reminded of and acknowledged for the differences we make, even on days when we don’t get it all done.
To be appreciated and recognized
As nurses, we want to feel appreciated and valued for all we know and do. We want to feel seen, heard, and understood—to feel supported in using our expertise and experience to keep patients safe and standards of care high. We need to have a voice and trust the higher powers so we can speak our minds, not to complain and criticize but to create and problem-solve.

How do we fulfill these wishes and regain what attracted us to nursing in the first place? Below, I’ve compiled 20 tips—five tips per category—that will help put you on track to reclaiming your spirit of nursing!
To connect
  • Offer help to your peers, supervisors, staff members, and other departments at every opportunity.
  • Validate other team members.
  • When an issue needs to be addressed, speak to the appropriate person or persons, and avoid gossiping.
  • Practice compassion for everyone you come in contact with.
  • While working to avoid repeating mistakes, don’t judge the motives of the next shift, that new nurse, or the other department that made an error.
To further education
  • Encourage your colleagues to pursue higher education.
  • Seek out learning opportunities for yourself.
  • Become active in your local and national nursing organizations.
  • Explore new ways of doing things.
  • Embrace the learning opportunities of change instead of being change-resistant.
To make a difference
  • Remind yourself of how much you know, and offer to mentor or precept a new nurse.
  • Compliment at every opportunity colleagues who make a difference.
  • Tell or write your most memorable patient care stories and share them on your units or submit them for publication.
  • Save cards, notes of appreciation, and recommendations in a “feel good” file.
  • Accept all compliments with a thank-you.
To be appreciated and recognized
  • Express gratitude to colleagues with a note, a cup of coffee, or by telling their supervisors how much you appreciate them.
  • Smile and say, “I’m really glad you are here today.”
  • Tell a positive-energy person that you enjoy just being around them.
  • Ask for a break when you need it, and offer the same when others do.
  • Make appreciation part of your culture.
Remembering why you do what you do every day makes it easier to keep on doing it. Remembering why we are nurses helps us reclaim our spirits.
Diane Sieg, RN, CYT, CSP, is a former emergency room nurse turned speaker, author, yoga teacher, and mindfulness coach. For more information about her program, “Chaos to CALM: Reclaiming the Spirit of Nursing,” visit
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