I love the start of anything new, don’t you? That’s why a new year and a brand new calendar can really brighten my spirits. Although I am not one to make resolutions, I am a big goal-setter. Do you have goals for your correctional nursing practice for 2015?
The Little Story that Changed My Life
Here is a short story I heard years ago that changed my life for the better. I try to remember it several times a year to help center my mental perspective. Have you heard a version of this before?
Two workman were approached by a bystander on a major construction site. They were both performing the same job and were asked what they were doing. The first one said, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m laying brink.” The second one looked up from where he was crouched and off toward the sky. His response? “I’m building a cathedral.”
Two men doing the same job yet from a very different mental perspective. Which one do you think went home that night feeling like he was doing something that mattered? Which one left the worksite feeling satisfied with his lot in life?
What might you tell a visitor to your work place if they asked you what you do as a correctional nurse? Would you respond like the first workman and say “I pass pills and take sick call”? Or, would you say, “I optimize health, prevent illness and injury, and alleviate suffering.” That last answer comes from the definition of correctional nursing, by the way.
It is All About Perspective
Yes, both those workman were doing the same thing and both had an honest response. And, both the options for describing your work as a correctional nurse would be true…..but what a difference in perspective. The first perspective is of activity while the second perspective is about purpose. Thinking about purpose in our day-to-day work provides the meaning and satisfaction that makes it worth the extra effort.
I have often said that most of us become nurses to help those in need and that there is not a needier patient population than inmates. So, the real effort in the correctional specialty is often to mentally balance the patient-focused purpose of our work with the ever-present struggles of a needy patient population in a challenging environment. It can really get you down.
Mind Your Mind
So, that comes to my first suggested goal for 2015 – Mind Your Mind. What I mean by that is to keep tabs on your attitude toward your work. This is an important goal no matter where you work but it can be a real battle in the correctional environment. In case you haven’t noticed, jails and prisons are not happy places. Most people, including some of our officer colleagues (!), don’t want to be there. Hanging around with criminals all day can be a real downer. Plus, it is always necessary to be on guard for possible physical, emotional, or mental harm. No wonder you are exhausted as you walk out the sally port to the parking lot.
Take Action Right Now on This Goal
I hope you are convinced that keeping a positive mental perspective is a worthy goal for your correctional nursing practice this year. However, this quote says it all:
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
So, here are some action steps to start your “Mind Your Mind” plan:
- Establish a way to regularly remind yourself of your professional purpose. Maybe you can have it on a post-it note on your car dashboard so you can recite it on the way to work in the morning.
- On your walk from the medical unit to the facility exit, see if you can list all the ways that you improved health, prevented illness and injury, and alleviated suffering during your shift.
- On your way home, mentally close the door on all that is going on at the facility so you can truly engage with family and friend and rest during your time away from work.
- Get some form of regular mild exercise like walking or biking to help your mental perspective.
- Develop a plan to get the rest you need to be both alert and in a good mental perspective when you are at work.
This one change can make all the difference – changing your perspective. Will you be building a cathedral or merely laying bricks in your correctional nursing practice in 2015? I hope you will join me in cathedral building!
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