Pipe, Teri PhD, RN; FitzPatrick, Kate DNP, RN; Doucette, Jeffrey N. DNP, RN; Cotton, Amy MSN, RN; Arnow, Debra DNP, RN
Nurses are highly regarded by healthcare colleagues and patients/families for their knowledge and competence. A skilled and efficient clinical nurse can juggle answering call lights, administering medications, documenting care, admitting and discharging patients, and much more. But when a nurse is able to embrace an aware, focused, and present state that transcends the execution of tasks, he or she is practicing mindfulness. In the mindful space, seemingly small moments become profound experiences and intimate human connections exceed tasks.
“In the Moment: Stories of Mindfulness in Nursing” was an action learning team project developed as part of the authors' Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellowship experience. It was designed to increase understanding about the power of mindfulness in nursing practice by providing real-life examples of how nurses employ mindfulness and teaching mindfulness techniques to nurses at all stages of their career (including students) to build resiliency and foster their own health and wellness.
Mindfulness means intentionally paying attention to the present moment with a nonjudgmental attitude of acceptance and awareness. It sounds simple, right? Although easily taught, mindfulness is a challenging practice to maintain and strengthen, particularly when stressed and challenged. Compassion toward self and others is often a byproduct, if not an intentional effect, of mindfulness practice. As the participant becomes more accustomed to accepting the present moment as is, nonjudgmental acceptance begins to extend to the self and others. This type of acceptance isn't meant to negate ambition, goal-achievement, or productivity; rather, it builds a realistic picture of the present that can then be used to propel performance. In this sense, mindfulness, presence, and compassion are often interrelated.
Research has demonstrated the positive effects of mindfulness on sleep, anxiety, depression, pain management, and overall resilience.1 As attention is rooted more firmly in the present and less on the past and/or future, depression, rumination, and anxiety decrease.2 The resulting effect is energy that was once spent clinging to the past or worrying about the future can now be spent in the present. Some refer to this as learning to live by design rather than by default.
Cultivating present moment focus preserves energy for what can be acted upon. Additionally, mindfulness practices help the participant objectively observe automatic or habitual behaviors, coping patterns, thought processes, and stories, leading to a more deeply considered response. For nurses, this may mean being able to fully focus on patients and care requirements when at work and replenish themselves when away from work. The push and pull of work and life becomes less tense as mindfulness allows the participant to manage personal energy, which can lead to a feeling of less urgency or time sensitivity.