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Amanda Cheesley: Help yourself but ask your employer to look after you too

A series of crises and losses in her personal life put RCN professional lead Amanda Cheesley under enormous stress. She got through it with the support of her employer and by relying on the people and strategies that boost her resilience

A series of crises and losses in her personal life put RCN professional lead Amanda Cheesley under enormous stress. She got through it with the support of her employer and by relying on the people and strategies that boost her resilience


Picture: iStock

Over the past four years I have looked after my younger sister while she was dying from breast cancer, then cared for my oldest friend before her death from the same disease. I also had two sudden bereavements – an old friend who died from sepsis and my cousin from a catastrophic brain stem bleed.

This while working full-time and having an elderly mother living at home. The love and support of my husband, friends and family, as well as my work colleagues and manager, made it easier to cope with the stress.

Many people I know are juggling family life and work. Nurses have particular challenges as they are often the main caregivers at home, and many have households with three and sometimes four generations needing varying amounts of care.

Building strategies

Added to this, nurses often work long hours supporting other vulnerable people.

Being professional, compassionate, patient and competent and trying to maintain a line of separation between the potential conflicts takes a great deal of inner strength.

Building strategies and harnessing the things and people that can help to keep me strong has taken years. It doesn’t always work, particularly when something unexpected is thrown at me. But most of the time, being able to discuss my feelings, anxiety and frustrations with others makes me resilient.

Asking for help is harder, but I am getting better at it.

Mindful moment

Other things that make a difference include having time to spend alone to take a breath or have a mindful moment, walking the dog, eating properly, avoiding drinking too much, sleeping, spending time with the people I love and leaving work and problems behind for an hour or two, having things to look forward to, and having little treats. I am fortunate also to find support in my spiritual and religious beliefs, which not everyone has.

But it isn’t all down to me. Having a compassionate employer who understands how vital it is to care for the health and well-being of their staff, as well as provide work support, has made a huge difference to my resilience at home and at work.

In environments where staff are treated as if they matter there is a noticeable difference in attitudes and behaviours.

Resilience to cope

As a nurse, visiting someone you love in hospital is an illuminating experience. I have encountered indifferent and scruffy staff on dirty wards in a large teaching hospital. When I raised a formal complaint, the reason was obvious – a lack of leadership and interest.

Recently, I have sat beside my mum in a large hospital that was under huge pressure due to severe weather and staffing problems, but the care and attention of every person from cleaner to consultant never faltered. They were brilliant. The staff in that hospital knew how much they mattered.

Look after yourselves, ask your employer to look after you, and you might find that your resilience to cope with what life and work throws at you increases.


Amanda Cheesley is RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end of life care

 

 

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