It’s the time of year again. Nursing faculty are putting away their flip flops, washing the beach sand out of their hair, and heading back to campus. That is if you are a nursing faculty member who was lucky enough to not have to teach summer school, or work another nursing job to make ends meet!
All joking aside, most seasoned faculty know that nursing academia is a year round position, even if one is only technically on contract from September – May. Summer months are often spent revising classes, preparing for the new academic year, (perhaps) addressing accreditation issues, and reading-writing-researching.
For many of us summer is also an opportunity to find some time for relaxation and rejuvenation of the body, mind, spirit, and soul. Nursing faculty tend to work “harder” (ie they put in more working hours, perhaps as much as 25% more!) versus other academic specialty areas. Part of this may be due to clinical requirements, and part of this may be due to the rigor of our programs. For myself, though I did teach summer school, I also spent a lot of time with my two daughters: swimming, hiking, traveling, blueberry picking, sightseeing, and camping. I meditated daily, exercised, and continued to work on my daily yoga practice. I read more memoirs than I care to state here. I put some of my research on the back burner until Fall, and I am actually okay with that.
One of the challenges nursing faculty face during the academic year is the ability to do self-care; this is a huge issue when it comes to role-modeling for our students, and also being able to treat them with kindness, caring, and compassion. If we are not taking good care of ourselves, we can’t possibly care for our students, or act as good role models of self-care, healing, and compassion for self and others. And when we don’t care for our students (because we are not caring for ourselves), we all can become vulnerable to bullying, oppression, and horizontal or lateral violence. From administrators to faculty to students, we all owe it to ourselves to be practicing self-care and learning to treat one another with respect, kindness, caring, and compassion.
I hear time and time again from students who state that they have PTSD from their pre-licensure nursing school experiences. When I ask them about this, they usually mention specific experiences with instructors or other students in the classroom or clinical setting. I have yet to have one mention a specific difficult clinical- or patient- based situation or experience: it usually is related to the academic process and how they were treated while in our care. They mention maltreatment from faculty, nursing students, and nursing staff in the clinical settings.
So this year I am making a call that all nursing faculty begin to examine their own self-care and put in place practices that will benefit our psychoneuroimmunological systems and keep us out of stress response and/or enhance our stress resilience (meditation, yoga, exercise, prayer, getting 7-8 hours sleep each night, etc). Let’s begin to think about how we interact with students, and begin to realize that when we became nurses, we were called to deeply care for and serve those around us as they undertake their healing journeys: it’s not just patients who need healing, it is our students and our colleagues who also need healing. In many ways we are ethically obligated to care for ourselves in order that we can care for those we serve, those we nurture, and those we work alongside.
The Nurse as Wounded Healer is a great theory that nursing faculty can use to support their understanding of the need for healing within our profession. This healing journey ideally begins in nursing school and continues across the professional life of the nurse.
I would love to hear from other faculty about your challenges with self-care, healing, and caring for nursing students. What are your goals for maintaining self-care this academic year? How do you address civility in academic settings? How do you recognize and “call out” or address bullying, oppression, incivility, and horizontal or lateral violence in academia from the classroom to the clinical setting? How do you connect the students’ nursing school experience with the tremendous issues we have in our profession related to new grad retention and horizontal violence? Let’s chat!