I met Julie about 8 years ago. We were both working in oncology. I can’t remember how our friendship started but I do remember coming to work with a sense of relief thinking Julie’s on today, no matter what happens, we’ll get through it. Nurses who have friends who are nurses know this feeling and the dynamics — a knowing glance or look, a kind or funny word, a sympathetic gesture and a shared bizarre and quirky sense of humour! We instantly get what the other is thinking or feeling. Sharing our thoughts and feelings is immensely comforting and one of the rewards of nursing and helps us not to feel alone.
As a friend and a nurse, I find Julie’s passion for nursing and professional reflections interesting and motivating. She’s reflective, thoughtful, highly knowledgeable and funny. I have learnt a lot from her. We have a huge amount of trust in each other and are not afraid to share painful vulnerable moments and uncertainties about our work, knowing we won’t be judged harshly and knowing the other has been there — or, at least, somewhere similar.
That mutual trust and understanding has been a pivotal part of my coping with the demands of my profession.
We strive to do our best, but we are human. We both work hard to support each other and get that balance right. We both witness grief, death, people at their best and at their worst, and have learned the importance of connecting with someone who gets what we do as nurses and can share and acknowledge those thoughts and feelings. I believe that seeking out and finding nurse or midwife friends who feel the same and understand we need to talk openly and share things makes us better healthier people and clinicians.
Like many nurses, Julie and I share the same ironic sense of humour about life and its challenges. I know after a chat with my friend I leave feeling lighter, uplifted and more balanced. Left to my own devices, I can get caught in traps like toxic perfection, not getting my work/life balance right, isolating myself when I’m stressed about work, and taking myself too seriously … and you cannot laugh alone!
One of the best parts of the friendship is the informal debrief we do at work over a difficult interaction or clinical dilemma. We can be quick to doubt ourselves and even more quick to blame and shame ourselves. Reflecting and being open to understanding ourselves and the people we care for is more beneficials and allow us to learn from a situation rather than feel ‘less than’. I know Julie has been that person for me.
We have a friendship outside of nursing too. We both have the same love of trees, podcasts, reading and TV shows. Julie often greets me with, “I’ve got a book I want you to read…” Getting a good recommendation from Julie about anyone of these things is one of life’s treats. We are good motivator for each other too. We often meet up for coffee and walk together — neither of us are thrilled by exercising alone.
We also like talking over professional learning opportunities that we’ve been to or watched. I will often make mental note to discuss something I’ve seen or read with her. We both have post grad qualifications in counselling and grief. We talk about those subjects a lot, usually interspersed with general chit chat about other parts of our lives. The easy flow of conversation makes learning from our friendship feel very natural.
Having a friend who gets you as a person and as a nurse is a fantastic feeling. Sharing a good laugh or a helpful insight on a bad day with Julie definitely helps put everything in perspective. I know some nurses have had difficult or challenging experiences with colleagues in the workplace and may not have the same experience. I encourage them to keep trying to find someone they can connect with. Just finding one nurse friend who truly sees you as a person, points out the positive impact you can, will and do make, and helps support you with laughter, kindness and understanding is healing, confidence-building and can keep you grounded.
Nursing and midwifery are challenging, demanding and rewarding jobs with unique stresses that are often not fully understood by even our partners, families or close friends. A nurse or midwife who finds friendship with other clinicians can benefit deeply — allowing us to feel better, feel heard and understood. Those friendships are an important part of managing stress in our professional lives and feeling good about ourselves and what we do.