Career advice

Telling the story of work: be kind to yourself to gain resilience

Recounting our own stories, and listening to those of others, is vital in reshaping the narrative and building resilience in healthcare workers, say Lucy Gillespie and Gemma Boyd

Recounting our own stories, and listening to those of others, is vital in reshaping the narrative and building resilience in healthcare workers, say Lucy Gillespie and Gemma Boyd

A workshop at the RCNi Nursing and Career Jobs Fair in Manchester.
Picture: John Houlihan

Anxiety and depression are at their highest ever levels among health and social care workers, with data from the Health and Safety Executive showing that 3,090 in every 100,000 nursing and midwifery professionals experienced work-related stress, depression or anxiety last year.

With the demands of modern healthcare, we recognise the need to support staff to become more resilient. But how do we build this resilience in those working on the front line? One way is to use storytelling – recounting how things happen so we can learn, adapt and improve.

In the health service, where we constantly strive to deliver better care and be better at our jobs, it is vital that we tell our stories and learn from them.

How many times do we finish a shift and say: ‘I wasn’t good enough today.’ We usually interpret our environment according to our own understanding of a situation, seeing the world through our own eyes and assembling our stories from this.

Hearing how others feel

But what about other people’s stories? If we could hear how others felt, and listen to their critical voice, we could challenge our personal interpretations and those of our colleagues.

What if we had the power to rewrite our own stories, reshaping the reality inside our heads by exploring the negative from an unfamiliar, more positive perspective?

Related: ‘It feels like my trust is investing in me and planning for the future’

This question was the focus of workshops we carried out at the RCNi Nursing and Careers Jobs Fair in Manchester on 7 February, where we considered our own and others’ stories and seized the opportunity to help rewrite negative perceptions.

The workshops, which we will also be running at the Birmingham Jobs Fair in March, were an opportunity to go back to the fundamentals of effective communication – the importance of active listening, considerate empathetic thinking, and an underlying kindness and integrity that makes us want to ‘make it better’.

Sharing the narrative

Most of us live with the mistaken belief that our experiences are concrete. The workshop sought to shift this viewpoint to reshape individual narratives, and re-experience events from a more compassionate stance.

We shared tools with delegates on how this can be done, and how you can support colleagues to develop their own resilience by sharing and shaping the narrative.

The overarching theme was that even on your worst days, when you are exhausted and demoralised, you can still be a magnificent nurse and have a positive effect on your patients.

You are probably doing it already but just haven’t noticed – as nurses and midwives, we tend to remember the things we don’t do or what we did wrong, rather than the hundreds of small kindnesses we deliver every day.

Our patients remember our kindnesses, and so should we.

Lucy Gillespie is practice development lead for recruitment and retention, Nottingham University Hospitals



Gemma Boyd is Health Education England transformation and leadership fellow, Nottingham University Hospitals



Jobs Fairs timetable for 2018

For more information about the RCNi Nursing and Careers Jobs Fairs, including the seminar programme and a full list of exhibitors, visit the jobs fair website here 

  • 13 March – NEC, Birmingham 
  • 20 April – Novotel, Hammersmith, London
  • 13 June – Double Tree by Hilton Glasgow Central, Glasgow


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