“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” -Margaret J. Wheatley
The culture of healthcare often feeds on the fear of making mistakes.
When I first began my career as a nurse in 1995, I was petrified of failing, scared I would make mistakes, and fearful that those around me could sense these insecurities. I felt alone and afraid to ask questions. In addition, as a home hospice nurse, I was isolated, having no one with whom to discuss the intense emotions involved in caring for the terminally ill.
A very wise and loving patient once mentioned to me that she wrote down her feelings whenever she felt afraid or overwhelmed. She called her pen, the pen of truth, as it seemed to pull out all of the feelings that were stuck inside her onto the paper. By writing down her thoughts she was able to reflect on why she was feeling the way she was.
Though I began journaling at age 19, I had never focused solely on my feelings around my emotions about patients. When I began to engage in the practice of reflective journaling, a wonderful thing occurred- my fear and sadness began to dissipate and I was able to move through my feelings, as opposed to feeling ‘stuck’ in them. In addition, I was able to reflect on the positive actions I had taken while caring for my patients, while also identifying those things I wanted to change within the confidential confines of a notebook.
So often as nurses we are fearful that we will appear stupid if we admit we do not know how to perform a certain skill or handle a certain situation. Reflective journaling gave me the insight and confidence to ask the questions I did not have answers to. By asking those questions I gain insight into how to provide the best care to my patients, without depleting my own soul in the process.
I doubt that I am alone in this….