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Posted about 1 year ago
What’s So Funny About Cardiac Nursing?
Laughter is the best medicine. Humor in nursing environment is a great way to establish a smooth rapport, however cardiac nursing might have some precautions. Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to let my fellow nurses know how valuable humor can be in making us happier, healthier people. Some people get it right away. Other people don’t.
One nurse in particular who sticks out in my memory was Brenda. You’ve met people like Brenda. They wouldn’t crack a smile if you handed them a hundred dollar bill! They’re made entirely of serious, and they come with a side order of solemnity. They are totally focused on what they’re doing, like every single move they make could have life-or-death consequences.
Admittedly, these are not bad traits to have when you spend a lot of time doing heart surgery.
But back to Brenda. We were working the same bypass procedure together one day, and while we were scrubbing up, she let me know in her no-bones-about-it style that she just didn’t believe that humor had a place in healthcare. “There’s nothing funny about heart surgery!”
I’ll admit it, I was a little cowed by her firm attitude. Feeling kind of meek and quiet, I followed her into the OR. The atmosphere was a little off; there was tension in the air. I don’t like to work like that. Chances are you don’t either. Humor’s a pretty powerful tool for dispelling tension.
“Did you ever notice,” I asked Brenda, “how it’s not until after we’re completely gowned and gloved up that our foreheads start to itch? My forehead never itches at any other time. Ever.”
Brenda stopped in her tracks. Her whole body stiffened up. And then all of a sudden, she starts rubbing at her forehead! “Damn it, Buxman!” she said, and headed out the door.
Of course I followed her. Already we’d had tension, and now this? It was going to take a Trauma Surgery Team to get my foot out of my mouth! But when I caught up with Brenda, she was laughing. Laughing as hard as she could. There were actually tears in her eyes. “You got me! That was funny!”
After she recovered her composure, we got ready and went back into the OR. “Don’t do that again,” she cautioned me. “Not while we’re working.” I made sure to respect her boundary, and was surprised to find that every now and then she’d say “Boy, my forehead itches!” and laugh. Humor in cardiac nursing can be a great way to ease your stress, just make sure you know when to use it.
As Serious As A Heart Attack: The Need For Humor
Cardiac care teams tend to be composed of healthcare professionals who value precision, are extremely detail oriented, and possess the ability to focus intensely. It’s stressful work. The way an individual cardiac nurse processes that stress has a direct impact on their health and abilities. That person’s stress management choices impacts everyone they work with, in ways good and bad.
Humor can play a positive role in individual stress management and teamwork for nurses. To make this happen, you need to be sensitive to each team member’s humor style. Brenda was not a person who was always receptive to humor: she felt that there was a definite time and place that was and wasn’t appropriate.
For our working relationship to flourish, I needed to be able to recognize and honor her preferences. In return, Brenda’s recognition of my openness to humor at most times encouraged her to share own when she felt it was appropriate.
In your own practice, you’re going to work with many different types of people. Some of these folks are going to be extremely receptive to humor in the workplace. Others will be less comfortable with the idea. Paying attention to where people are on the spectrum makes it easier to use humor in a healthy way, strengthening the bonds you have with your colleagues. That’s particularly important in high stress settings, such as cardiac care.
If you’re not sure how well your humor will be received, go slowly and start small – but do start! The only joke guaranteed to get no laughs is the joke you never tell. Cardiac nursing is one of the most delicate and complicated nursing jobs, so be careful when you crack jokes and use your humorous side.