Nurses, what does it mean to have soul? Does it mean that you've read "Chicken Soup For The Nurse's Soul"? Does it mean that you listen and dance to James Brown? Does it mean that you cook with spicy food? Well, it could mean those things, but it's a whole lot more.
Having soul is allowing your soul to shine through you. It means that your soul---or spirit, if that feels better---isn't crushed by the imperatives, limitations, restrictions and burdens of nursing.
Having soul means that you know who you are, what you want, where you're going, and you don't feel that your job is crushing you into oblivion, squeezing your energy until there's nothing left.
Having soul means that your soul is able to survive your work and thrive beyond it.
Soul means that nursing may be what you do and part of who you are, but knowing simultaneously that you're bigger than that. You're bigger than the bullies. You're bigger than the administration that wouldn't know patient (and nurse) satisfaction if it hit them on the head. It means that you're bigger than it all, and nursing doesn't define you in a way that puts you in a box from which it feels there's no escape.
Your soul---your spirit---should not be crushed by nursing and being a nurse. Your spirit should soar. And if your spirit isn't soaring, there's something wrong. Yes, we all need to earn a living and put food on the table. But if our jobs are deadening, numbing or not feeding us on more than just the physical plane, then there's inner work to be done.
So, how do you cultivate soul, both in your nursing work and when you come home? Well, there are many ways.
Does your work come home with you? Well, when you get home, put those scrubs in the laundry, take a shower, wash that job right out of your hair, and do something you love. Go for a walk, paint a picture, play with the dog, organize your stamp collection. Whatever it is, do what feeds your soul, lightens your spirit, and gladdens your heart.
At work, try to bring lightness. Try not be reactive. Take things in stride. See through your colleagues' stress in order to see the light within them. See the little children inside of your patients and colleagues, the children who want to have their candy, take a nap, and receive a nice pat on the head for being good. Cultivate soul in others by recognizing that their soul---like yours---also needs love and nurturing.
Make sure that, somehow, your job doesn't eat you alive. Make sure that there's juice left for the rest of your life. In whatever way you need to, don't allow nursing and being a nurse to consume you. Many of us have been there, and the Lord knows it ain't pretty.
I love the bumper sticker that says, "Human kind---be both". Nurses can feel like automatons, and we need to remember our humanity as often as we remember and recognize the humanity of others.
Do we give ourselves the human kindness that we give to others? Do we lavish upon ourselves the care that we give to our patients, friends and families?
Be a human, embrace your humanity, treat yourself with kindness, and nurture that soul within you that's crying out for kindness.
Cultivate the grace of gentle kindness and compassion for your own soul, and decide to allow that nurse's soul to shine.