The “S” Word We Never Talk About In Nursing

No, not the 4-letter word. We talk about that too much; It’s the 5 letter word: SHAME. As a profession predominantly made up of women who care for people professionally and personally, we want people to like us. Sometimes in order to sustain that positive image, we keep our shameful secrets hidden from those that might judge us.

Personal issues such as divorce, children failing school or family suicide can trigger shame when we can’t sustain the image we attempt to create. Narcotic access has created some issues for Nurses. I have worked with at least three Nurses who have lost their nursing license (at least temporarily) for stealing drugs and/or using during work hours. I’ve known other Nurses who have lost their license from driving under the influence of alcohol.

Brene Brown has done a tremendous amount of research studying shame. One of the most important things she has said is that “vulnerability is NOT weakness”. Think back to a time when you had a difficult conversation and were vulnerable, perhaps in a romantic or personal relationship. It takes a lot of courage to drop our guard, be exposed, let go of control and be open to not knowing what comes next. That is not weakness. We have a choice, we can chose silence and go down the self harm route of depression, anxiety, and addiction or we can open up and talk about it so it loses its powerful hold over us.

If you or someone you know is going through a difficult experience, find someone who creates safety to be comfortable to share the experience with. If you are the listener, be just that – a listener. Notice the judgments come up and let them go so that you can bring empathy to help the healing process. For more about  Brene Brown, check out her Ted talk on vulnerability.