Why Nurses Should Socialize Outside the Workplace
Start a baseball team, a book club, or just go out for a bite after your shift.
Three hours into a 12-hour shift last week, I ran into a fellow nurse whom I had met on a prior occasion. I was working registry at well known, large, and respected hospital. Rick was a nice guy. We first met at community college where I was graduating with my AA degree in nursing, he was graduating with his AA degree in criminal justice, and he was actually a police officer at the time. Due to the hustle and bustle of life, we lost track of each other. Ten years later, here we were on the night shift. I was surprised to see Rick working as a nurse.
From Cop to Nurse
When I asked him about his apparent career change, he began to tell me that he always wanted to be a nurse, so he went back to school and, three plus years later, low and behold, he traded in his badge for a pair of scrubs and a stethoscope. Rick had been a nurse for just under two years, some would still consider him a new grad, and in many ways he was definitely still wet behind the ears. But, he possessed what I believe are the three C’s in nursing: compassion, caring, and concern.
It was a busy night on the unit, what else is new, yet it was made even more hectic because another unit in the hospital was short three nurses. Our charge nurse had to send down an LVN; therefore, we were reassigned her patients. Being a nurse for ten years, I took it in stride. Rick, on the other hand, was visibly annoyed. I patted him on the back and said half jokingly, “Welcome to the wonderful world of nursing.”
We did not see each other for the next two hours while we were both scrambling to make sure our newly adopted patients were properly assessed, medicated, and snug as bugs in a rug. When Rick and I crossed paths again at the nurses’ station, he had that “deer in the headlights” look to him. I asked him what was wrong. He sighed and said he had a new admission and he was tired. I asked him if he needed any help, and he truly seemed surprised by my offer; he took his time to answer and sighed again saying, “No thanks.” Rick had learned one of nurses golden rules; even if you need help, don’t ask for it, it’s a sign that you don’t have it together. Nurses, after all, are supposed to superhuman, and sad to say teamwork is not one of our fortes. It is no wonder that burnout for nurses is so high.
Why Don't Nurses Socialize Together?
Since Rick refused my offer to help him, I decided to be a nice guy and get us both some coffee in the cafeteria. As I walked back with our coffee in hand, I started to wonder about my fellow nurses and how we interact both in and out the workplace. Rick, being a former cop, was used to the good ole boys mentality, wherein cops were truly team players, covered each others behind, then played softball together, and even hung out at the local bar for a couple of beers and perhaps a game of pool. I can’t remember the last time I hung out with one of my nurse colleagues; and the only social and/or sporting event I partook in with nurses was the dreaded potluck.
In any case, I decided to speak to Rick about this question over a cup of coffee. I cut right to the chase, asking, “So, Rick, how do you like being a nurse?” As he took a swig of his coffee, he seemed to be searching for the correct response to such a direct, albeit common, question. “ I like it," he said, trying to muster up a certain degree of enthusiasm. “Okay, Rick, let me put it another way, what don’t you like about nursing?” I added. Another swig of coffee and one carefully calculated response later he stated, “ I miss the camaraderie.” “What do you mean,” I asked, hoping for a more specific response. “Well,” said Rick, “after work I used to hang out with my coworkers, and we even had a softball team, we used to play other teams on the department.”
Nurses playing softball after work, I just couldn’t picture it.
When I got home from work that night, I got to thinking, of course nurses socialize outside of the workplace; somewhere in the good ole United States of America there had to be a softball team, a knitting group, or at least a book club comprised of nurses. I decided to fire up my computer and do a little research. With much anticipation, I Googled the following search--Nurse Social Groups. The search results were both surprising and horrifying at the same time--Gastric Reflux Disease Support Groups. Surely I must have misspelled something, so I typed my search in again. And, again, it was the same pathetic result. So now comes the obvious question. For the most part, why do nurses not socialize with each other?
What the Nurses Said
I went right to the source for an answer. The next evening at work, when things settled down a bit, I solicited some information from Ann, an RN of 15 years and seemingly a very nice person. I asked her if she had ever been a part of any nurse social groups, either loosely formed or more structured. She did not have to think long; her answer was no. “Why not?” I asked. Again she did not take long to answer, “ Well,” she stated, “This is such a difficult and stressful job. After a twelve hour shift, all I want to do is go home and sleep.” She went on to say that because it is so busy, you can literally go through half a shift and not even know one of your colleagues is working with you on that particular night. I nodded in agreement, as that has happened to me on more than one occasion.
I decided to ask another colleague of mine the next night. I approached Rene, a male nurse, and a new graduate who was young and, through past conversations, seemed to have a lot of interests. I asked him if he ever socialized with any of his nurse counterparts. His response was a little different. He stated that some of the guys, as he put it, in DOU, which is another unit on another floor, get together and play basketball after work. That sounded promising, I thought. So I went on to ask him how often they did this. “Not often,” he said, “12-hour shifts are a killer. After work, I just want to go to bed.” By this time I had seen somewhat of a pattern. However, besides my initial conversation with Rick, I had only spoken with two other nurses, one female and one male. I decided to seek out the opinion of one other nurse.
Susan is a very nice and personable charge nurse. I don’t know that much about her. However, I do know she is recently married, with a couple of dogs, and seems to have a zeal for life. I asked one night at the nurses’ station, the question of the hour: “Do you socialize with nurses outside of the workplace?” She looked at me and said, “Are you kidding, I really don’t even know half these nurses, but if they are anything like me, after work, we have to go home, try to get some sleep, take care of our loved ones, and come back to work again."
She went on to say, “ No offense, but on the days that I’m off, the last people I really want to see are the people I work with.” “No offense taken and point taken,” I exclaimed. That was definitely a strong opinion, which has led me to draw some conclusions.
Bonding at the Batter's Box
Although there has been an influx of males into the nursing profession, especially over the last five years, it is still predominately a female occupation. I believe this fact alone changes the dynamics of how nurses interact and socialize, both in and out of the workplace. You have heard the phrase, “male bonding.” Well, there you have it. Males bond and females for the most part do not. There are, of course, exceptions.
For example, I have played sports all my life, and to this day I still keep in touch with and socialize with my female teammates. We even get together and play on occasion. Although I am finding it hard for this forty-plus-year-old-body to keep up with my twenty-year-old-soul, I still have a great time with the girls playing ball or going out to dinner and drinks on occasion. This type of bonding and socialization, however, just does not go on with my fellow nurses. Bottom line is this: in addition to the whole gender issue, nurses by definition are caretakers, after a twelve hour shift, chances are many of us go home and take care of our families and/or others. Caring for ourselves does not come so easily.
One way to care for our fellow nurses and ourselves would be to begin to socialize outside the workplace. I know it’s hard to find the time, but I believe it would be beneficial. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Keeping this in mind, the next time you end a shift, even if it’s a night shift, ask one or more of your colleagues out for coffee and/or a meal. Who knows, maybe it could turn into a book club, a walking club, anything really, as long as we as nurses are making an attempt to get to know each other on another level. I believe that in the end it can only make us better coworkers and, ultimately, better nurses. Lets take the first step together, shall we?
Lisa Gonzales, RN, is President of Absolute Nurses. She has worked as a nurse in he emergency room, home health, hospice, recovery, and urgent care. Lisa is an officer in the Army Reserve where she is training officer for nurses and medical corpsmen.
10 Things You Could Do With Your Fellow Nurses
1. Start a book club (Oprah did it!). You can get suggestions from Working Nurse's book club column.
2. Wine tasting club.
3. Have breakfast or dinner together after work.
4. Bowling league (compete with other units).
5. Walking group (20-30 minutes after a shift is healthy and a great opportunity to bond).
6. Travel club. Once a year do a weekend cruise, or go to Vegas or The Grand Canyon.
7. Knitting or quilting group.
8. Cooking group (nurses can take turns cooking a meal for one another and swap recipes).
9. Movie club. Go to the movies together and/or swap DVD rentals. Discuss them and critique (nurses are good at that, just kidding).
10. Start a "league of our own." Just remember, there is no crying in baseball!
This article is from workingnurse.com.