I promised to write about holding the sacred space for and with colleagues. Similar to what I said about holding this space for our patients and families, we are also called to consider how we hold the space with our colleagues.
I quoted Father Gregory Boyle on compassion as "a covenant between equals"1. So I will ask again, in a different way, as nurses and healers do we perceive our relationships with our nurse (and other professional) colleagues as a covenant between equals?
There are many reasons in health care that seem to place nurses in an unequal covenant with each other. Hierarchies of leadership, explicit or implicit power, education, training, and those infamous letters after our names may set us apart from each other in ways that were unintended.
It is often true that nurses eat their young -- we each have experienced this to some extent in our careers, on the receiving end or on the delivery end. What causes this in-fighting, and how we tend to each other?
Years ago I had the privilege of leading an oncology nursing staff support group with a dear social work colleague. One of the tools the staff found really helpful, and which we put on laminated wallet-sized cards was this list of 11 proven ways to get along better with everyone:
- Before you say anything to anyone, ask yourself three things: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
- Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully.
- Never miss the opportunity to compliment or to say something encouraging to someone.
- Refuse to talk negatively about others. Don't gossip and don't listen to gossip.
- Have a forgiving view of people. Believe that most people are doing the best they can.
- Keep an open mind. Discuss, but don't argue. (It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable).
- Forget about counting to 10. Count to 1,000 before doing or saying anything that could make matters worse.
- Let your virtues speak for themselves.
- If someone criticizes you, see if there is any truth to what he or she is saying. If so make changes.
- Cultivate your sense of humor. Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
- Do not seek so much to be consoled, as to console. Do not seek so much to be understood, as to understand. Do not seek so much to be loved, as to love. -- Prayer of Saint Francis.
I am thinking that the next time I drive to work, instead of thinking about patients I will think intentionally about holding certain colleagues in prayerful, heartfelt thought, and that I will be present for them in a supportive way.
As I said before, we are all human beings as vulnerable as the next persons we see. Perhaps we should be the first ones to offer this healing presence to a colleague. What do you think? What has enhanced your working relationships?
- Boyle, G. (2011). Tattoos on the heart: The power of boundless compassion [sound recording]. Minneapolis: Highbridge.