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Promoting self-caring and healing in your work environment

By: Cynthia J. Brown, DNS, RN

Is your work environment comfortable? Does it promote peace of mind, body, and spirit? If it does, consider yourself fortunate. These are attributes of a healing environment—one that promotes caring for yourself and for others. Every person in an environment is a part of it. So even if your environment falls far short of soothing, your attention and calm presence can make it more healing. Nursing research has shown the positive potential of self-caring techniques on nurses.

Look, think, and act

As we all know, Florence Nightingale emphasized cleanliness, quiet, good ventilation, and appropriate lighting as crucial elements for healing. What would she think if she visited your work environment today? One way to evaluate your environment is to use the “look, think, and act” model—a problem-solving research process described by Stringer and Genat in their book, Action Research in Health. To get started, ask yourself the questions below.

Look at your environment

Take a close look at your work environment. Is it clean and clutter free? Are the colors pleasing to you? Is the noise level tolerable? Does it contain a space where you can go when you need to be alone or take a break?

Think about your environment

What makes an environment healing for you? Is your work space as healing as you’d like it to be? If not, what changes would enhance it? Do you come to work well rested and ready for the day? Does your presence add to a sense of calm and healing in your environment? How do you think your patients and their families perceive the environment? Is it a place where you’d want to spend time as a patient? Act to improve your environment This week, add one item to your personal space (such as your desk or locker) to make it more peaceful and comfortable. Depending on the setting, this item could be soothing music, a pleasant-smelling room spray, aromatherapy oils, flowers, plants, or something with special meaning to you (a picture, symbol, favorite quote, or special coffee mug).

Take the next step

Within your work environment, try to find an area you could transform into a peaceful oasis for yourself and others. If an entire room isn’t feasible, think smaller. For instance, perhaps each staff member could contribute a calm-inducing item to a basket designated as a healing symbol. Making this a collaborative project will benefit you and your colleagues. Using affirmations and visualization can also promote self-caring and healing at work. For instance, visualize cooling waters flowing through a serene space, dousing the flames of fear, anger, resentment, and negative experiences. Enjoy creating your personal healing environment at work. You—and perhaps every person you interact with—will benefit from the uplifting effects of your workplace oasis.

Selected references

Brown, C. (2005). Caring for self: mind, body and spirit. Unpublished manuscript presented at the International Association for Human Caring Conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Nightingale, F. Notes on nursing: What it is and what it is not. New York: Dover Publications; 1969. Stringer, E., & Genat, W. Action research in health. Columbus, Ohio: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall; 2003.

Cynthia J. Brown, DNS, RN, is Visiting Assistant Professor in Nursing at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla.

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