“Never let them see you sweat.”
“Never let them see you cry.”
“If this is hard for you, maybe you just aren’t tough enough to do this job.”
These quotes are all pieces of the unspoken contract I agreed to when I became an ER nurse.
I still remember the first time I cried at work–I had been a nurse for 4 years and was 22 years old on orientation in my new job at a level one trauma center. When the tears came, my preceptor quickly took me into the med room and showed me her hack of bending forward, plugging my nose and exhaling like I was trying to pop my ears, and quickly bouncing back upright.* She swore this was a way to clear your face of that red, “You’ve been crying look.” I wish she had also taught me a way to clear my soul of the implied shame.
*All of you who made a mental note of this technique just revealed you need to read this email the most ;)
why nurses cry at work
Darling, you are a human having a human experience. You care deeply about your work, your patients, and their families. You are a lead player in the saddest and most difficult parts of patients' and families' stories. Of course, you are going to cry, darling.
Here’s what to do the next time you cry at work:
You are a human, having a human experience–do not apologize to others for your tears/response and stay with yourself and in your power
Simply state, “I am feeling really sad . . . deeply passionate. . . etc. because this person, this thing, or finding out I am mandated for Christmas Day is something I care about greatly
Practice fierce self compassion and ask for a minute to step away and catch your breath and support yourself–even 5 minutes can be great for a reset
Use that time to talk to someone at work that you trust--if you don’t trust anyone you work with, text or call someone you trust
Go somewhere quiet where you can breathe and reconnect with your body and the present moment--taking three long breaths in a quiet space is a way to do this
If you require a bigger reset, time away, and support, practice more fierce self-compassion and ask for what you need, even if that means going home–you are your biggest professional asset and need to take care of you first
If you read through these tips and thought that they sound nice but impossible, I’ve done them all . That’s right, hiding-in-the-med-room-blowing-out- my-ears-me has graduated to acknowledging my own humanity and you can too darling.
I made you a quick guide so you can remember these steps. If nothing else, print this off and post it in your personal space to give yourself all the permission you deserve to be the beautiful, vulnerable, courageous, human that you are.