Are you happy in your job?
Not “satisfied.” Not “engaged.” Not “fulfilled.” But happy?
It’s a legitimate question – in this evidence-based nursing world – because the evidence shows that nurses deliver better care when they’re happy in their jobs. Of course, happiness leads to better overall morale and possibly improved retention, too. After all, who wouldn’t prefer to work for a nurse manager who is truly happy on the job?
That’s not to say it’s your role, as a nurse manager, to foster everyone’s happiness. Indeed, no person can control another’s feelings. But you can take steps to enhance your own happiness on the job, and you may notice a pleasant ripple effect in your department when you lead by example in this way. Try these five habits of happy nurse managers to fall in love with your job (again?).
1. Offer written praise to someone every day
Happiness researcher (yes, there is such a thing!) Shawn Achor has said that practicing “conscious acts of kindness” can improve your optimism and lead to greater feelings of happiness. One way you can do this is by taking a moment every day to send an email to one of your staff people praising or complimenting them on some aspect of how they do their job. You might focus on a specific incident (“You did a great job calming that combative patient today”) or something more general (“I admire the positive attitude you always bring to work with you”). The important thing is just to make this a daily habit – and reap the happy rewards that flow from it.
2. Keep a work gratitude list
You may have heard of keeping a gratitude journal for everyday life. The practice has been said to improve happiness and even lead to better sleep. But what busy nurse manager has time to keep a gratitude journal on the job?
It turns out that the quantity of gratitude journaling may not be as important and the quality of time you spend doing it. Try to take just two minutes (literally, set a timer) twice a week to focus fully on the present moment and think of three work-related things you’re grateful for. These might be a particular person (“I couldn’t do a good job without the support of Rebecca”), things (“I’m so grateful today for text messaging because without it I wouldn’t have received my sister’s hilarious meme to start the day”) or even concepts (“I’m grateful for that seminar I took last summer on dealing with interpersonal conflict because it saved my bacon today”).
Focusing on things you’re grateful for will increase your overall feelings of positivity and happiness.
3. Tackle problems immediately
When issues arise in your department, tackle them as soon as you become aware of them. How many upsets have you witnessed over the years that arose from hearsay or misinformation? The moment you hear any rumbling of discontent or conflict from your staff, address it as quickly as possible. Allowing problems to fester never pays dividends. “Grasping the nettle” to deal with the issue instead of procrastinating allows you to show excellent leadership and solve problems when everyone involved is the most cool-headed. Seeking out potential issues and dealing with them can help maintain the departmental equilibrium – and your own happiness on the job.
4. Relive a positive work experience each day
Last thing before you leave every day, jot down four details about one positive thing you experienced during your shift. According to Achor, this exercise can increase happiness very quickly.
Here’s how it works: Think about one positive thing that happened to you while working. Now, write down four details about the event. Example:
“I had a wonderful interaction with a patient who was being discharged after a long stay. [The positive experience.] He said how grateful he was for the care he received from our nurses [one detail], and handed me one of the ‘Get Well’ balloons he had been given by a family member to say ‘thank you’[second detail]. I’ll never forget the huge smile he had on his face [third detail]. His wife was crying a little because she was so happy to be able to finally take him home [fourth detail].” Recording these types of observations allows the brain to relive the positive experience, which can make you feel very happy and optimistic indeed.
5. Embrace technology to increase your happiness
Technology may not always feel like a blessing, but you can harness software tools to make your job easier and enhance your productivity, which can make you feel much happier at work. Software like ShiftWizard can relieve you of the drudge work of staffing and allow you to send inspiring messages to your staff with the click of a button. What a way to boost morale – sending thank-you notes and positive reinforcement messages to your nurses! You can’t help but feel happy when publicly congratulating someone for completing her BSN degree, for example, or for setting up an impromptu after-work get-together or just to say “you all are fantastic co-workers.”
Nurse managers may experience considerable on-the-job stress, but by putting these five habits into practice you can increase your own happiness and show other nurses it’s possible to feel satisfied, engaged, fulfilled – and genuinely happy – at work.