During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses too often are the last and only person in the room when a patient dies.
“To be that person who is able to be there when their loved ones cannot, you are an important witness and force in their life,” said Danielle Eden, BSN, RNC-NIC, a neonatal intensive care clinical nurse at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital. “Yet it can be hard at the end of a shift to leave it all on the floor and then go home. Nurses don’t often have much time to reflect on what they’re going through, on the grief and the stress.”
Eden developed a useful coping skill for this historic and challenging time at a storytelling workshop created by the American Nurses Foundation for the 2019 ANCC National Magnet Conference®. “Telling my story was something I would never have seen the value in, never would have had the confidence to share,” said Eden, whose mentor, Nancy DeWalt, MSN, RN, NE-BC, advocated for her to be selected for the workshop. “I learned that sharing a story can be a form of self-care that only takes a few minutes [and] that can help a nurse process intense experiences, decrease stress, and feel less alone. It’s a way to support each other.”
Storytelling is an efficient way to support mindfulness and wellness, noted Eden. “As nurses, we do emotionally hard things, and may compartmentalize our grief in ways we may not realize. Sharing stories can take a disengaged nurse back to the root of why they’re doing what they’re doing. This can help nurses reconnect with the emotional rewards of bedside care; and it can also help patients realize how important they are to nurses, that they aren’t just a number.”
Because Eden has found storytelling to be as useful for routine nursing as it is for pandemic care, she believes this skill should be taught at nursing schools and in workplace professional development seminars. She also recommends the American Nurses Association’s free webinar, which was supported by a grant from the Foundation. “Stories influence generations of nurses,” she added. “What I remember most vividly from my preceptor, Gayle Fuhrman, RN, are the stories she told me that I still tell today to the nurses I precept. This is how you impact a large number of people, how you increase engagement, better your culture, and increase kindness.”
— Jessica Stein Diamond is a professional journalist who
specializes in healthcare, engineering, behavioral
health, education, and equity topics.