Summer Edition 2019–2020

Happy summer and welcome to the Nurse & Midwife Support Newsletter — sunny edition!

Our summer topic is kindness. We are excited to bring you a bumper newsletter that explores this wonderful human quality.

Kindness is important all year round, but we often devote special attention to it as we prepare to celebrate festive holidays like Hannukah, Christmas and New Year. Even if you don’t celebrate, the end of the year can be a time of reflection and even sadness. It’s a time when many people feel the absence of loved ones more keenly than usual; we miss those who live in far off places and grieve for others who have passed away. At this time of year many people need connection to acts of kindness that bring joy and comfort.

This edition explores how we can offer and receive kindness in various aspects of our life and work. Be kind to yourself and others. It matters!
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snowman sandcastle on the beach

 

In this issue
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A season of kindness

Nurse & Midwife Support Stakeholder Engagement Manager Mark Aitken has recently experienced kindness en masse. Read more.

Kindness matters

Ausmed Education’s Zoe Youl explains what kindness in nursing and midwifery means to her. Read more.

The kind of nurse I want to be

Student Nurse C returns to share how an experience with a kind colleague changed her career. Read more.

Cool to be kind: Using social media ‘kindfully’

Cassandra and Dianne from NM Support join forces to discuss their tips to improve your experience with social media. Read more.

Fill your cup with self-kindness

Registered midwife Emma shares her thoughts on the role of self-kindness in caring professions. Read more.

Podcast: The Importance of Kindness

In our Summer podcast, we discuss all things kindness and why this very important human quality matters to nurses and midwives. Listen now.

A season of kindness
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By Mark Aitken, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Nurse & Midwife Support

sunset

 

Happy summer and welcome to the Nurse & Midwife Support newsletter — sunny edition!

Our summer topic is kindness. We are excited to bring you a bumper newsletter that explores this wonderful human quality.

Kindness is important all year round, but we often devote special attention to it as we prepare to celebrate festive holidays like Hannukah, Christmas and New Year. Even if you don’t celebrate, the end of the year can be a time of reflection and even sadness. It’s a time when many people feel the absence of loved ones more keenly than usual; we miss those who live in far off places and grieve for others who have passed away. At this time of year many people need connection to acts of kindness that bring joy and comfort.

Recently kindness came into my world en masse.

My 85-year-old mother has always lived an active and independent life in her own home. Recently she fell and fractured her leg and pelvis requiring hospitalisation and home care. Around the same time, a dear friend had a premature baby and spent a prolonged time in hospital.

There is nothing like intense exposure to our profession in your personal life to remind you how KIND nurses and midwives are.

Health care professionals went above and beyond to meet care needs. They sat and listened to fears and concerns, offered kind smiles and words to express welcome and compassion. Nothing was too much, difficult or conditional. Cups of tea appeared. Neighbours and friends left food and flowers on the doorstep along with kind messages and offers to do anything needed. 

At the risk of being a ‘Pollyanna’, of course people aren’t always kind. At times the world can seem like we have lost our way. Sometimes if we turn on the news it can feel like kindness has evaporated. When I am faced with unkindness, I attempt to look beyond it and bear witness to my reaction and remain curious about what is going on for the person that they can’t be their best self. I try to live with compassion rather than judgement and avoid returning negativity that will serve neither of us. After all, I can’t control what others do, I can only control myself. Sometimes I ask the question: are you OK? Sometimes words and body language tell me to remain silent and walk away.

Do I always get this right? No, I don’t. I’m human. When I have an uncomfortable emotional response to an experience of rudeness or dismissiveness, I turn to mindful self-kindness: I return to awareness. I acknowledge the emotion and notice my body’s physical reaction. I refocus using breathing. I remind myself that being kind to myself is the most powerful thing I can do.

While thinking about this edition of the Nurse & Midwife Support newsletter, I read Everyday Kindness by Stephanie Dowrick, an Australian writer, Interfaith Minister and social activist.

This quote from the book resonates with me:

“At home, work and in the wider world, there are countless opportunities when a moment of consideration or kindness — given or received — will transform your day. Whether it is a hard time to be endured, or a wonderful time to be shared and celebrated, it’s our willingness to think well of ourselves and act kindly towards others that makes all the difference.” 

This year, in our third year, I have continued to travel the country promoting Nurse & Midwife Support. I have met countless nurses and midwives along the way who have kindly offered to take information back to their work place, write blogs or be my podcast guest. This has reinforced to me that the professions Nurse & Midwife Support serve are the reason for our success and have been a huge part of the evolution of the service. Kind words, kind deeds and values that include kindness motivate and promote a tide of kindness.

Be kind to yourself and others. It matters.

Mark Aitken RN
Stakeholder Engagement Manager
Nurse & Midwife Support

Kindness matters
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By Zoe Youl, Nurse Planner/Online Education Manager, Ausmed

good vibes only

 

Most nurses and midwives would agree that kindness is critical. Kindness makes a considerable difference to the emotional wellbeing of people at times when they are often most vulnerable.

What is kindness?

Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. We’re all likely to have different perspectives on what kindness means to us. In nursing and midwifery, though, many examples of kindness resonate broadly.

In the Nurse and Midwife Support KINDNESS podcast, Mark Aitken, Stakeholder Engagement Manager with Nurse & Midwife Support, invited Elle Brown, Senior Clinician with NM Support (and a great friend, former colleague and mentor of mine) to consider this very topic. You can listen to the podcast here.

On reflection, kindness to me is very much connected to enablement, opportunities and culture. I’ve been blessed to work with kind, generous, flexible and supportive colleagues and leaders. This helps me to thrive. For many years I combined both clinical and non-clinical roles. I worked clinically in an Intensive Care Unit and as a Nurse Planner at Ausmed Education. It was only through kindness, support and generosity that I could do both. Both workplaces promote kindness as a core value that ensures kindness is at the heart of our actions.

Let’s dig a little deeper. 

What does kindness mean to you? 

I asked two colleagues (both nurses). They said:

  • “Kindness in nursing requires taking the time to have a conversation with your patient and avoid assuming their answers to your questions.” 
  • “Kindness is displayed through our actions, body language and tone.”
  • “It should be given regardless of if your kindness receives recognition or makes a difference - as you never know when it might just make the difference for someone.”

What are examples of kindness?

What are some examples of kindness in nursing and midwifery that stand out to you? Again, I asked my colleagues. 

They offered great examples of acts of kindness:

  • Taking the time to learn a favorite song to play for a person with dementia.
  • Taking care to address patients and staff by their name.
  • Asking a colleague — “do you need a hand?” 
  • Arranging platters of food for families and friends when patients are receiving end-of-life care.
  • Facilitating clinical support nurses to hold debriefs as an opportunity to resolve stress and let nurses talk about their feelings and emotions, to prevent bottling them up!

In our podcast, I relished the opportunity to recall some of the numerous examples of kindness I have witnessed among my colleagues. Kindness helps patients receive exceptional holistic care. For example, my colleagues: 

  • advocate for people not to be rushed out of ICU before they were ready, 
  • ensure staff are allocated the time to wash patients’ hair,
  • encourage staff to take patients outside for fresh air, no matter how long it takes to arrange, and 
  • take the time to listen to staff, patient and family concerns. 

Do we have to have time to be kind? 

In short: yes. It might not be easy, but it’s important to make time for kindness. 

Isn’t it interesting that time and kindness seem to go hand in hand? Is time necessary for us to be kind? 

In the podcast, I reflected on the changing nature of nursing and midwifery. We are practicing at very different times. Sadly, our focus often shifts to completing tasks, ticking off checklists, filling out pathways, meeting KPIs and achieving objective outcomes. Time spent with a patient, our biggest asset as nurses and midwives, seems to now be a scarce commodity. 

We all agreed that self-care and being kind to ourselves first is vital. Mindfully caring for others starts with replenishing our buckets first. 

Be sure to take the time to listen to the podcast as we explore Kindness in much more detail. 

If you want to discuss strategies to prioritise kindness, give Nurse & Midwife Support a call on 1800 667 877
 

The kind of nurse I want to be 
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By Student (now Graduate!) Nurse C

surgical nurse

 

It was 20 degrees in the surgical suite but I was sweating in the cheap blue cotton scrubs I changed into an hour earlier.  I had read all the textbooks and passed all the exams.  I was filled with knowledge but I had no idea what I was doing.  I didn’t know what to do with my hands and why all the surgical instruments looked exactly like scissors (I still think they all look like scissors).

I was in way over my head. I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying and I kept frustrating the nurses by opening the door.  

As a student, my most anxiety-provoking clinical practicum was my theatre placement. Coming into my fourth semester, I still found nurses in general intimidating, but theatre nurses invoked a new kind of fear in me — possibly it was the way their eyes stared below their scrub caps and masks, or their slightly fearsome reputation. Whatever it was, it made them especially scary for me. 

My introduction to the theatre did not help matters. Before anything else, I had to pass a test.  That test decided whether or not I was allowed to do anything at all.  

Fortunately, I passed and was allowed to scrub in, but it left me with a lingering anxiety. Over the days that followed, I felt like I was the baby elephant in the room.  Everyone knew I was there, but it felt like nobody looked at me or spoke to me, except to point out when I was doing something wrong. 

I was trying my hardest to be useful and show that I was an enthusiastic student. Of course, nobody said anything, but I couldn’t help but feel like everybody really just wished they didn’t have to babysit me. I tried not to complain or be a nuisance. I learned a little in that first week. I got to assist in a few procedures. However, I didn’t feel comfortable. 

I met Nurse N on day 5. She looked at me, actually looked at me. She asked my name, she asked me why I wanted to be a nurse. She asked me if I was ok. I told a half-truth and said that I was finding my time in theatres to be challenging. She read between the lines. Nurse N was warm and engaging. When we spoke, she listened. She told me about her time as a student and graduate nurse, sharing stories of all the mistakes she had made along the way. I felt calmer and more relaxed by the minute. Here was someone who I could relate to, and who wanted to relate to me.

Nurse N joked with me. She knew the reputation that theatre nurses had and she was constantly working to change that reputation. She explained that whenever students were working, she asked management to be paired with them.  

Nurse N took me under her wing, showed me kindness and helped me learn in a nurturing environment. She introduced me to the other staff, the orderlies, doctors and anaesthetic technicians.  She knew everyone and everyone responded to her in the same positive caring way. It wasn’t that Nurse N was any less busy than any of the other nurses, nor did she have a specific position of power that demanded extra attention. It was simply that she treated everyone equally, with a kind compassionate tone, actively listening to what others had to say and making those around her feel validated. 

I began to look forward to my shifts in the theatre, I feel excited to learn and to be a part of the team. Every time I saw her face, Nurse N would check in on me, asking me what I had learned and how I was doing. She gently mentored me in such a way that I didn’t even realise it. And the beauty of it all was that she didn’t need to go out of her way or spend much additional time to make me feel as though I belonged alongside these amazingly competent theatre nurses — she just practiced intentional kindness alongside our normal interactions. She was a truly inspiring nurse leader and I feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity to learn from her.  

My theatre clinical placement ended up being a fantastic learning opportunity. Because of Nurse N and the kindness she showed me, I was able to feel validated and learn in a supportive environment.  

As I prepare to start my new career as a registered nurse next year, I find myself thinking a lot about the kind of nurse I want to be.  I want to be able to inspire others.  I have been fortunate to have been given a leg up along my student journey, and I can’t wait to be able to offer the same helping hand to new students coming after me.  I hope I always remember what it felt like to be a student, seeing everything for the very first time, and how it felt to find a smiling face below the scrub cap and mask. 

If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness or frustration, give Nurse & Midwife Support a call on 1800 667 877 — they can offer the kindness you need to decide what’s next.

Cool to be kind: Using social media ‘kindfully’
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By Cassandra Jovic and Dianne Lee

smart phone

 

Technology is opening our world up like never before. Our ability to connect and access information is almost limitless. While there are many great benefits, we also need to approach this new connectedness mindfully and keep some tools and strategies in our pockets to help us look after ourselves.
Social media is a great example of technology changing the way we live and interact with each other. The opportunity to link up with people and information is infinite but can feel overwhelming at times. Many of us may have had an experience that has left us feeling fatigued or upset.

A good rule of thumb when using social media is that you should be kind to yourself and other people. If more people lived that way our world would probably be a more pleasant place to be. But how do you do that?

Being kind to yourself

Left unchecked, social media can have a range of negative effects on your mental health, including addiction, sadness, jealousy, delusional thinking and feeling isolated.

Choose to be mindful on social media: prioritise your wellbeing and be kind to yourself. Self-kindness will help you moderate the way you use social media and how it makes you feel.

Next time you are scrolling through a news feed, remind yourself to actively engage with your feelings. Do you feel negative, jealous, unhappy or overwhelmed? We don’t need to be happy all the time, but you should be aiming for a balance that leaves you in a comfortable place. Consider ‘Konmari-ing’ your feed or even your devices — if people, accounts or even whole platforms don’t ‘spark joy’ you can mute, unfollow, block, or even uninstall altogether. You do not owe anybody your constant attention.

Perhaps you just need a few more positive accounts to add balance, having some accounts that give you a boost can help. A few that we like include:

Feeling Jealous?

If you feel jealous of other people’s lives, you are not alone. Social media can make it look like other people have all the luck. It’s important to remember that social media is not a complete picture of somebody’s life. It’s generally a carefully staged snapshot in time. Just like everyone else, social media ‘influencers’ have a messy corner in their house, they probably eat junk food and they face adversity like the rest of us.

Cassandra was recently at a café and witnessed the other side of ‘influencer life’. “I was at a place renowned for their croissants. You usually have to line up. I took a few photos along the way, but I really did try and enjoy the experience for what it was — a special treat with my partner. Meanwhile, another diner and her partner spent over an hour taking an incredible number of photos with her croissant.

She would pose in a very fake looking way. He would take loads of photos and then she would look through them and critique, bark some orders at him and then they would start all over again. I’m sure that in the end that they got an amazing photo, but what struck me is that the experience didn’t seem very enjoyable. In fact, it looked really quite stressful from the outside, and in the end, I’m not sure they even took a bite of their delicious-looking croissants at all!”

It should go without saying — no matter how glamorous it can look when people ‘do it for the ‘gram’, that life isn’t for everybody.

Being kind to others

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” — it’s an old saying, but it’s still a very good place to start.  

Another way to think about it is, if you don’t want to see it on the front page of a newspaper, you wouldn’t want your work to see it or you wouldn’t say it to your grandma, don’t say it online! Don’t even do it under an anonymous account. Very few things are truly anonymous on the internet and if you feel you have to go to that level to cover up what you are saying, it’s probably worth examining if you want to be doing it at all.

You should also know that digital defamation cases are not uncommon in Australia — 51% of defamation cases in Australian courts are digital, and only 20% of all defamation cases relate to public figures.

Now, we understand that in the face of a particularly vicious comment or passionate discussion of an important topic, restraint can be difficult to find. Try to ground yourself before you even start writing. Take a moment to bring yourself fully into the moment and examine why you want to respond. If it still feels like the right thing to do, really think about how helpful your response can be, try to channel “Dan from Optus” who became very popular a few years ago for his well informed and polite responses to difficult conversations online.

If in doubt

If you have any doubts about what you are going to publish just wait, keep it in draft and go for a walk, then re-read it later when you have had time to cool off. This can be a particularly good idea if you are intoxicated or exhausted — what seems like a good idea now might feel very different in the morning.

It can also be helpful to consider how it might come across to someone else. Nuance can be tough to convey in writing, especially online. While you can attempt to delete things that you say online, posts are cached or screenshot all the time and may never disappear.

Remember: you often don’t know the story of the other person at the end of a venomous post or comment. You can’t assume that they will ever see your side and unfortunately some people just like trolling others on the internet.

It’s possible the vicious stranger in the comments of a news article isn’t even a real person, just a fake profile carefully calculated to upset as many people as possible. The only way to deal with them is to ignore them.

‘Fake news’

We’ve all heard that fake news is now rampant on the internet, but we can still find it hard to spot. Studies have found that up to a quarter of us have shared a fake news story at some point. These stories are often inflammatory and can spark hostility with others. Before sharing a story, it can be a good idea to do a quick evaluation of its legitimacy — is it posted by a reputable news provider, such as ABC, The Australian, or The Guardian? If you Google the headline, can you find more articles by other reputable news organisations? Has a fact-checking site such as Snopes.com assessed its veracity? For more ideas on how to identify a fake news story, check out these tips provided by Harvard.

Your professional obligations

As a registered health professional, you are required to follow AHPRA’s guidelines for social media use. The policy has recently been updated and launched on the AHPRA website — we recommend that you have a read and make sure you understand your professional obligations.

It’s likely your workplace also has a social media usage policy. This may form part of your contract or code of conduct. Your manager or HR department will be able to point you in the right direction. It’s a good idea to check these out to avoid putting your employment at risk.

Problematic social media use

A number of recent studies have found that for some individuals social media can be significantly detrimental to their lives, including real-life relationships and academic outcomes. It has been observed that some users experience signs of addiction. If you: 

  • Spend a lot of time thinking about, or planning to use social media?
  • Feel urges to use social media?
  • Experience a ‘rush’ when hearing notification alerts on your phone?
  • Use social media to forget about personal problems?
  • Try to reduce your use of social media but are unable to?
  • Become restless or anxious if you are unable to use social media?
  • Use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your work, personal life or studies? 

If you answered ‘yes’ to all questions, you may have or be developing an addiction. If you answered “yes” to only a few questions, it’s more likely you are a habitual social media user. Either way, you could try some digital detox strategies that allow you to reduce the amount of time spent on social media.

Cutting down

If you are concerned you use social media too much there are a few ‘digital detox’ strategies you could try.

  • Download an app that helps you limit your amount of time on socials.
  • Use the greyscale mode on your devices as it is less stimulating. You can usually find this mode in your accessibility settings. 
  • Mute your notifications and only check them at specific times throughout the day. 
  • Leave your device in another room while you sleep or work. 
  • Buy a basic device that can’t access social media.
  • Uninstall, unfollow or mute things that make you unhappy.

Enjoy, and be kind

cat dressed as a nurse memeRemember that social media can be a wonderful and powerful place. Just try to navigate it mindfully and in moderation — don’t forget, there can never be too many cat memes.

Most importantly, if something isn’t fun for you anymore, you don’t need to do it! If you need to talk, we are here to support you. Just call 1800 667 877 anytime.

Author Bios

Dianne Lee is a registered general and psychiatric nurse (also a registered psychologist and marriage celebrant). Dianne has worked for almost 48 years in public and private hospitals and clinics, community health, universities, criminal justice and forensic mental health settings.

Cassandra Jovic is a Social Media and Online Communications Officer at Nurse & Midwife Support. She helps look after our website, newsletter, Facebook and Twitter pages. She is passionate about helping nurses, midwives and students look after their health.

Fill your cup with self-kindness
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By Registered Midwife Emma

pouring a cup of tea

Are there only benefits to kindness?

We seem to value kindness highly in the caring professions, and yet we don’t teach it in undergraduate programs and it has not been widely researched. When we do research kindness, we usually examine the ripple effects of kindness that is directed outwards. We have not yet fully investigated the benefits of kindness to self and how it can influence our resilience and ability to show kindness to others. It’s time for us as a community to change that. Self-kindness can be a transformative act, both for our daily wellbeing and our professional practice. 

So, what does kindness to self look like? 

To me, it looks like a brimming cup bringing sustenance, warmth and generosity. Filling that cup takes time. If you lead a busy life, it can be incredibly difficult to parcel off time between working shifts, caring for family, and running logistics for the people in your life. Here are some ideas to make some time for yourself: 

  • Use your leave: Sometimes, we try to hoard our leave for a luxuriously long holiday that never comes, or set it aside to devote to other people’s needs. It can be really beneficial to take even a short break, so consider getting in the habit of taking a few short breaks a year. 
  • Task share: Connect with others with whom you can share responsibilities — arrange a carpool with other parents at your school, negotiate equitable care arrangements for elderly parents with siblings or family friends, or hire a cleaner to help out at home occasionally. It’s not shameful to ask others to share the load.
  • Plan ahead: Reclaim some of your time by getting into the routine of meal-prepping and storing meals ahead of time. 
  • Prioritise the things that make you feel good: Insist on taking the time for a morning session at the gym, or to see a movie with your friends. It’s easy to give up on time for yourself if you don’t resolve to defend it. 

Be present when you do the things you enjoy: It can be easy to waste a moment to relax by letting our heads fill with thoughts of the future. When you are taking time to yourself, try to stay in the moment — savour the sip of hot coffee, the warm sun on your skin, or the gentle breeze. Other things can wait. 

Getting creative can help you create regular time to experience the things that bring you joy. 

Time spent in kindness to self stretches hours. Taking a little time to yourself will give you back the energy to ask your colleague ‘are you ok?’, ‘can I make you a cup of tea?’ or and ‘yes, I have the time to hear what is upsetting you’. Kindness helps you both give and receive feedback, it prompts you to be curious enough to research and be educated, helps you to choose your words wisely and with compassion. It will help you be a better carer, professional, and friend.  Fill your cup first and then pass it on to others: mentor young colleagues, pass on your invaluable knowledge to colleagues, or offer support in difficult moments.

Kindness comes back towards you and flows from you. Caring for others is a demanding, stressful job but it also comes with rewards. To feel and give your best you need to have that cup full. If you feel depleted or lacking energy to be kind, give us a call at Nurse and Midwife Support on 1800 667 877. We’ll help you figure out how to fill your own cup. 

Podcast: The Importance of Kindness
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kindness podcast cover

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the Nurse & Midwife Support podcast. In this episode we discuss Kindness. I speak to two of the kindest nurses I know:

  • Zoe Youl, Nurse Planner and Event Education Manager at Ausmed
  • My very kind old friend Elle Brown, Nurse & Midwife Support Senior Telephone & Online Services Clinician.

We discuss all things kindness — why this very important human quality matters to nurses and midwives.

My ‘poddies-in-kindness’ discuss what it means to them, the importance of being kind to yourself, the joy in working for an organisation that prioritises care and consideration and how that impacts our well-being. We share tips on bringing more acts of generosity into your life and how to infuse kindness into your workplace. We also discuss how offering kindness to students and graduates is integral to their success and happiness.

As the Dalai Lama says:

Be Kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Oh! And if you would be so kind rate us on your podcast platform, it will help this podcast to reach other nurses and midwives!

Yours in kindness and happy listening,

Mark Aitken RN
Stakeholder Engagement Manager
Nurse & Midwife Support

 

Guest: Zoe Youl and Elle Brown

Zoe Youl

Zoe Youl is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, Nurse Planner and Online Education Manager at Ausmed Education. In this role, she manages zoe youlAusmed's Online Education Team which develops Ausmed's online courses, lectures and articles. Before commencing at Ausmed Education, Zoe worked as a Critical Care Registered Nurse in Intensive Care at a large private hospital in Melbourne. She values the ability of education to enable personal and professional growth, is a passionate teacher and has experience as a Sessional Academic teaching undergraduate nursing students.

Zoe is a member of the Australian College of Nursing (ACN), the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses (ACCCN), the Australian Nurse Teachers Society (ANTS) and the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD). She holds a postgraduate qualification in Clinical Nursing (Intensive Care) and is currently undertaking a Master of Nursing (Leadership and Management). Zoe was recently appointed the Victorian Branch Representative of the ANTS National Committee. Zoe is committed to improving the health and lives of all people through the development of effective and meaningful education whilst also promoting the impact of unique non-clinical nursing roles.

elle brownElle Brown

Elle is part of our nursing and midwifery team that answers calls and emails. She is a registered nurse with 36 years’ experience.

Listen to the podcast and read the transcript

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