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Health, safety, & wellness


While we tend to focus on the day-to-day stressors of our chosen profession, such as shiftwork, bullying, and the responsibility we feel as we care for our patients, it is important to think about how we survive, both professionally and personally.
We survive—or manage stress—through our own resilience, personal empowerment, and respect for self and others. We thrive when we work in an environment supportive of these attributes.

How one responds to and recovers from stress is more important to well-being than the actual amount of stress encountered. Thus, stress isn’t a derivative of the situations people encounter, but of the perceived ability to manage the situation—balancing perceived demands with coping resources. Certainly, resiliency is one of the factors that determine these perceptions.

According to the American Psychological Association, resiliency is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.” Further, resiliency is the ability to quickly recover a sense of well-being and actually learn and grow from stressors, rather than simply coping with, or worse, succumbing to them—whether they are the chronic daily grind or an unexpected, unpleasant acute event.

So what is the key to resilience, personally and in the workplace? The motto “Live, love, laugh” summarizes it well. Learning these responses can lead to increased energy, health, and joy and an overall sense of satisfaction. (See Tips to bolster resilience by clicking the PDF icon above.)

In his 2006 article “Creating a Resilient Workplace,” psychologist Bryan Hiebert, PhD, reminds us that personal resiliency is related to such constructs as self-directedness, self-confidence, self-efficacy, internal locus of control, hopefulness, and optimism. Some people seem to be born with these traits, but actually they are developed. Additionally, information from the Institute of Mental Health indicates that resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned by anyone; learning can be considered a personal journey.

According to Hiebert, management is responsible for fostering a work environment that facilitates resilience by ensuring workplace demands are reasonable, employees have the appropriate skills, expectations are clear, and goals are achievable and valued. As well, Hiebert notes that employees have a responsibility to make a difference in achieving their own work-life balance, personally and in relationship to their supervisor, their fellow employees, and their patients.

From a nursing perspective, in a May 2011 Nursing editorial, Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, states, “Resilience starts with taking good care of yourself. That means positive self-talk about the value you bring to the workplace as a nurse. Resilience also comes from healthy lifestyle choices, including adequate rest, time away from the routine, nutritious food, exercise, and play. It comes from openness to new knowledge, a love of learning, and a sense of humor. As members of the nursing profession, we can support one another by committing to excellent teamwork and camaraderie, never to denigration or horizontal violence.” ANA, with its commitment to HealthyNurse™, absolutely agrees.

Suzy Harrington is the director of ANA’s Department for Health, Safety, and Wellness.


American Psychological Association. The road to resilience. Accessed July 23, 2013.

Hiebert B. Creating a resilient workplace. National Consultation on Career Development and Workforce Learning. 2006. Accessed July 24, 2013.

Laskowski-Jones L. Resilience. Nursing. 2011;41(5):6. doi:0.1097/01.nurse.0000396455.91284.c0

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