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Do you have any advice on how I can help my unit’s staff cope with their jobs spiritually and with team building?

Monday September 17, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I am an oncology nurse in an acute care setting. I wanted to know if you have any advice about how I can help my unit’s staff cope with their jobs spiritually and with team building. It can be difficult on the staff when we have several patients pass away within a few weeks, and I want to know what I can do to help them feel supported.

Oncology Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Oncology Nurse,

There are many things you can do. Speak to your facility chaplain, a psychologist or psychiatric nurse practitioner about having monthly or weekly group sessions over lunch or dinner. Nurses need a place to vent, to share, to talk, to grieve and to be together. Some facilities offer monthly meetings and private counseling sessions with a grief counselor or other related professional that are paid for by the facility. This can be negotiated with your manager or employer if it’s not already being offered.

Have periodic inservice or discussion sessions on meditation, yoga, physical fitness and spiritual topics. Create a walk and talk club for off-duty hours. This helps to build team spirit and provides a physical and emotional outlet, while fostering good health.

Initiate a book discussion group (focus on spiritual and self-help books) for in-person discussions during off-duty time or even online via a closed social media group or listserv. With an online group, everyone can participate on his or her own time. These groups create a sense of camaraderie and connection and can help people spiritually and with self-care.

Consider organizing a unit walk for a cause (maybe something non-cancer related or whatever the team decides). Wear matching t-shirts and have the event covered in the facility newsletter and local media through your facility’s marketing director.

Softball teams or bowling leagues help coworkers feel connected and less stressed. Yes, everyone is busy, but this provides fun and physical activity, as well as team building and stress reduction.

Seek funding for an annual specialized spirituality retreat for staff members.

You might find this New York Times blog post by Theresa Brown, an oncology nurse, interesting: well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/helping-nurses-cope-with-grief

Be sure to consult with your local chapters and national office of the Oncology Nurses Society (www.ons.org) for additional ideas and best practices. Hopefully you are an active member.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.