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Express yourself ... it might help


Would you enjoy life more if you were encouraged to talk about your feelings?

Every week I join a circle of men and women, mostly women, to talk about feelings. It’s a course in counselling and counselling skills. I’ve been doing it for a year, and if I want to qualify it’ll be a few more years yet. But the main reason I go back every week is because it feeds my nosey obsession with why people are the way they are.

Counselling has a number of ‘themes’. Openness and empathy are two. So when I was offered the job at Nursing Times I was delighted because in my mind these themes are central to nursing too. But now I think I might have got it wrong.

There’s a woman in my counselling group who works as a hospice nurse. When I asked her what her nurse colleagues thought about the course I was surprised to hear that they didn’t encourage, but rebuked her for attending.  Apparently phrases like “why are you bothering?” and “what’s the point?” were bandied around. I was completely shocked. Especially in a hospice, when patient deaths and interactions with bereaved relatives are the norm, surely talking about your feelings is helpful. No, essential!

Are nurses encouraged to talk about their feelings at work? I asked the Nursing Times’ Facebook page when their superior at work last asked them how they were feeling …

“When? Never happened!

“Sometimes it’s asked, but it’s expected of you to say ‘oo fine peachy,’ even when it’s not okay.”

“Every time I see her :)

“Lol, that’s a good one.”

So most nurses realise that setting aside time to talk about feelings is a rarity. But if it wasn’t, would it help? One theory I have is that patients project a lot of their anger, frustration and feelings of helplessness onto nurses. Nurses absorb these feelings like sponges. And if they don’t do something about them, these feelings will stay inside, swirl around, and won’t ever completely disappear. They’ll just be projected onto other areas of their lives. Perhaps onto their relationship with their partner and family or perhaps onto their nursing colleagues.

So do you think that you, as a nurse, would enjoy life more if you were encouraged to talk about the way you felt? What do you think? Do you want to, but you don’t have the time or encouragement?

Let me know! Feed my nosey obsession.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Absolutely not, I'm a man; and this feminine ideal that sharing and talking is benificial for everyone can actually be detrimental. There are other ways to deal with things. Besides, this is Nursing; saying what you really think can be very detrimental to your career!

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  • I once spent a day on a ward to see if I would like to work there or if they would like to employ me. At the end of the shift we all sat down with the boss and had a touchy feely round (all female) about our workday and any events that happened during the shift that we wished to talk about. I don't think it is such a good idea as you can't take back anything you have said and it may be consciously or subconscously registered by others as a judgement for or against you.

    Maybe it would work better with a group of people you do not work with.

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  • would it be a good idea to have a comments page in NT dedicated to this purpose where people can express their feelings instead of people using the comments area following articles?

    Some of the comments express concerns which have little to do with the subject of the article and it is very time cosuming sifting through them all the read those which are relevent.

    Judging by the nature of many of the comments there seems to be a need for a platform where one can express these feelings.

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  • In my experience most nurses are not backwards in talking about their feelings.

    What would be beneficial is allowing training to stop the nurses feelings or moods impacting on their role and the care given to their patients.

    Having a nurse counsellor to help nurses and patients would be more beneficial in my opinion

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  • Depends what we all mean by expressing ourselves doesn't it. If it means telling a colleague exactly what we think of them and their work for example, this may not be a positive thing for anyone concerned. Same effect in telling management exactly what we think and how we think they could do their job better.
    If we mean talking to someone in a safe and trusted space about how we feel and how to develop a way of taking responsibility for our feelings so that they don't impact on everyone else, then that would be a completely different ball park.
    I agree with above a dedicated counselling service for the nursing staff would be a very good idea. I also think more interpersonal education and role modelling would be effective.

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