The Three-Minute Waiting Game

The hospital is a busy place with multitasking happening 24/7. Time is money especially when surgeons are involved. Questions like “Are we going on time? Do you know how many patients are waiting for me in my office?”

When we prep the abdomen with chloraprep (antiseptic), it requires a three-minute drying time. Without fail, every surgeon stands there with the drape, inpatient. I would be the same way. They can’t do anything (such as check a cell phone) except wait because they are sterile. 

We have to wait many times throughout the day.  Patient care needs to be coordinated with a multidisciplinary team, so we wait. Your coworker is slow at the pyxis removing the morning medications, so we wait. We pick the wrong line at the supermarket as the person writes a check, so we wait. The red light is taking forever to change, so we wait.

It’s become second nature for so many of us to pull out the phone, check email, surf the web or play a game. Are we so afraid of idle time? Do we not like feeling alone? Is it a way of us trying to be back in control of our environment? As a Nurse, my patients continually show me the benefits of working with uncertainty. When we learn to accept and adapt to life’s uncertainties, we refine our coping skills. When we fight against every limitations the day brings, in order to get more control and get our way, we reinforce that conditioning. There is nothing wrong with choosing an easier path but when we consistently fight against reality, we have very few resources to cope when we can’t alter reality.

5 Steps To Becoming A Happy Nurse

This week, I had the opportunity to meet a number of nurses in various specialties, including ICU, med-surg, perioperative, obstetric, and oncology (Bone Marrow Transplant, in particular).  In my career as a nurse, I have worked in fifteen different work environments (many as a traveling nurse).  Each has provided me with different levels of work or life satisfaction. On some occasions, I was significantly challenged and stressed out at work; other times, I accepted boredom because my personal life demanded more from me.  I’ve gone through phases where my work has been the center of my life, and I didn’t want it any other way.  There were other chapters when the priority was income or the flexibility to pursue other interests, such as a Masters degree or Ironman triathlon.  Each nurse needs to find the right balance for him or herself.



Meeting so many nurses this week, I can’t help but reflect on the wide array of workplace satisfaction. The nursing pool is filled with happy nurses with gratitude and genuine joy for the job, and co-workers to disgruntled nurses on the verge of collapse. Many of these dissatisfied nurses have experienced significant mental and emotional impact from their work environment.

So how does the disillusioned nurse find his/her way to happiness?

1.  Reflection

You need to actually identify that there is a problem.  Sometimes this surfaces as depression, anxiety, or physical health changes such as hypertension or recognizing a potential drinking issue.  You can’t create change unless you identify the problem in the first place.

2.  Get an objective opinion

Consider working with a coach or therapist.

Is it you or is it the job? Sometimes an outside perspective can support nurses through stressful times and transitions. If the problem lies within the job, then break down the source of the problem: management, co-workers, or the patient population. As a coach working with nurses, I help nurses identify what role they personally play in contributing to their own unhappiness.

3. Look with new eyes

A beginners mind or a fresh perspective can open us up to new possibilities and leave our jaded judgments behind.  Can you imagine what pressures or difficulties your co-workers or managers are going through? That alone, may change the way you chose to communicate and relate with them.

4. Get some chutzpah

Have the courage to be uncomfortable with change.  Rather than stay in a job that doesn’t suit you– for whatever reason, take a leap!  There is nothing wrong with planting yourself in one unit, one career for forty years if it satisfies you.  However, when nurses stay because they are paralyzed by fear – they have no idea of the positive changes that await them. I met two nurses this week that remained in their specialty but transferred to a different hospital.  It has rocked their world, and they are reaping the benefits of positive work environment for the first time in their career.

5. Love the one you’re with

photo by

photo by

Oh, if only we worked with George!

If a job change isn’t within your capacity, how can you create a new level of acceptance with your employer?  Sometimes the grass isn’t greener, and the grass is on fire elsewhere.  I discovered that this week.

Is there a way that you can find 3 things you are grateful for each workday and write them down? Committing to that practice for one month can have a positive impact on your mental status.  If you are still miserable, refer back to #4. If you can’t find your chutzpah, give me a call for a free nurse coaching session