Monthly Archives: November 2012

dealing with nurse-burnout, a simple trick

Back to normal

The election is over, and we can all take a bit of time to decompress. I was of course, happy with the outcome, but I also note that a few people dropped their subscription to this blog. Oh well, it’s a voluntary system, people come and people go. The readers are not my prisoners, though of course, it can be torturous to read my writing.

Though I’d share something I have found to be useful when dealing with stressful situations. When I wrote my book about volunteering rural Nepal, I included a reference to this little Jedi mind-trick. People told me that they started using it and it made things better. I did not invent it and I suppose we could discuss what the meaning of “better” might be.

Inner child

The thinking technique is one that derives from the work of Eric Berne, the founder of a movement in pop psychology known as Transactional Analysis. “T.A.,” as it was called, was a way to express complicated theories of personality and motivation in terms that were accessible to the general public, and I think it is the place where references to the “Inner Child” started to become popularized.

I won’t rehash the entire theory, I leave that up to you. we live in the age of the internets, go use them!

But, the short version is, when you anticipate a stressful or upsetting situation about to take place, you take a minute or two to perform this exercise, and it will lead to better execution of whatever things you need to do.  I suppose that some lay persons will respond by saying “hey, when the s^&t is about to go down, take your self away from that place, wherever it is!” – yeah, well, that’s true but it’s not an option if you want to be on the trauma team or if you wish to deal with people in any kind of crisis.

the long term issue is “secondary stress’ which I have written about before. a health professional takes on the stress of helping. entirely understandable.

so here it is:

You visualize your self as a five-year-old, presumably a happy innocent version of yourself, but vulnerable to upsetting things like ghosts stories or anger or abuse. picture that five-year-old version of yourself, the part that would cry if a bee stung you, or that would be amazed to see a butterfly; or that likes milk and cookies.

Then put on the voice of yourself as the all-knowing mom or dad. The all-knowing mom or dad says

“grownup things are about to happen now but you will not need to be part of this. I am going to tell you (the five year old) a story, give you a glass of milk, and put you to bed now, where you will be safe while the grownups do some work. when you wake up, we will laugh and sing. I love you”

You know it is working when your mind is cleared while you run through the ACLS or ATLS protocols.

Mister Spok

A similar technique has been called “going into Spok mode” based on the Star Trek character. Spok was the humanoid from planet Vulcan who had no emotion or nonscientific judgement, and was only able to deal in facts and logic. to go into Spok mode, you just make a decision to do two things: 1) only open your mouth to share something factual; and 2) not respond to anything that is not factual (or at least, evaluate everything that happens as to whether it is fact-based or not).

Christian coping?

and finally, a technique many Christians use. prayer.

the shortest prayer in the Bible. Matthew 14:30  which is of course, a direct plea from the Inner Child…. but also has its place :-)


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