Advice for nurses about anger and patience – from the Buddha

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Imagine Health care with no nurses???

A few years back I was attending a national meeting of the American Nurses Association, which is the most successful advocacy group for health care in the history of the Republic. And the president of ANA started her talk with “Imagine if there were no nurses when you got health care.” It was a moving speech, serving to remind everyone there of the value of what they do.  It was a call to action.

Wherever you are, your main job as a nurse is to humanize the medical process for those persons involved in it.  People are not simply biological organisms undergoing a scientific process as if they were laboratory rats. A person dealing with a health crisis can have fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, despair and other emotions.  Nurses offer hope, teaching, reassurance, and compassion.

Patience

One of the hardest things for a nurse to address is anger. Anger, patience and forgiveness are three concepts that are intertwined in Buddhist practice.  This makes me contemplate the idea that I could make this into an ongoing thread – maybe I will.

For now, though, I want to share a parable about anger, that I read  on the internet – behold:

Once upon a time there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. But gradually, the number of daily nails dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the first day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He proudly told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. 


“You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, it won’t matter how many times you say ‘I’m sorry’, the wound is still there.”

If you as a nurse are around angry people all the time, there is a point where you need to do some self-care, just as the fence in the parable needed repair. Anger can fester, and longterm exposure is injurious to the human spirit just as surely as if it were a deadly  carcinogen.

Toxicity

What is your exposure to this toxic poison? We can all contemplate this phenomenon, and meditate on the hope that wisdom may come, even after a while, to those who can not control their anger.

That same website has a section on rational choices to deal with anger, giving a list of eleven antidotes.

Peace Out

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