According to Michael West *
“The value that’s important across cultures and across communities is wonder and spirituality and this might sound odd in the context of leadership but, you know, part of wonder and spirituality is gratitude and humour”.
This week I attended the standing room only celebration of a life, a brilliant nurse taken too soon. Her young sons stood bravely and proudly to share numerous memories with their mother. Not a dry eye was felt. They said that her message to them was that people take life so seriously, and that they shouldn’t. Instead they should have fun.
Whilst Keane’s music played powerfully in the chapel, my memories of this wonderful nurse ran through my heart. She was great fun. As District Nurses practising in Bolton, we had many opportunities to have fun together. In and out of work. She was a part of my work family, most of whom I saw much more often than my own family. Her passion was older people and as you’d expect in the community of Bolton, these people often gave us material that would make us belly laugh together. Comedy that Peter Kay would love. Humour and fun became the lens of our work adventures over the many years. With our patients, families and communities.
In one instance, as a team we had been worried about an elderly couple. Our instincts told us something wasn’t quite right in their home, but none of us were able to use our extensive experience to pin point it. We continued to deliver high quality planned to the couple. One day, this fantastic nurse suggested that she would call to see them after she had finished all her visits and work. Unplanned. She was greeted and welcomed in by the elderly lady who was actually home alone. During the visit, the lady told the nurse that she had smiled, laughed and had fun with her for the first time in years. She loved it. She developed trust in the nurse. The lady then shared her story of many years of domestic abuse. The most horrific you would ever wish to hear, and it continued. This nurse knew when to be serious and was exemplary in the way she swiftly responded, confidentially and safely managed the safeguarding responsibilities and navigated the best outcomes together with the lady. Professionally competent, compassionate and caring. The 6Cs were alive and well, years ago.
Fun and humour became our golden thread as a team. In all aspects of developing, enabling and maintaining our professionalism as nurses. It kept us connected as a team, productive, competent and accountable to each other. Happy at work. The humour (the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement) and fun (enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure) built our strength in times of intensity and pressure, kept us alive in times of sadness and grieving, gave us perspective which enabled us to be human with our emotions. Kind with each other.
This great nurse was a very capable gymnast. Sometimes she taught us all to cartwheel. Outside in the sunshine (yes it does sunshine in Bolton) or inside along the health centre corridors after closing. She cared about our wellbeing. Often using fun as a mechanism to begin movement. The physical activity and the sunshine, renewed our energy, focus, commitment and delivery. We enjoyed it. It was fun and made us laugh together.
At the England Chief Nursing Officers Summit in March, Professor Jane Cummings reinforced the importance of wellbeing for nurses and midwives. In our journey of learning, honour and humility, we must ensure that we take care of ourselves. #Allourhealth
This bright nurse knew that. We are all richer for her presence and influence in our lives, and those patients, families she cared for and communities in which she nursed. I have a lot to thank her for, my gratitude is enormous. She has always kept me grounded in fun and humour, the inner core of my emotional intelligence. She’s left a big hole in our nursing community, which is filled with love and memories. I miss her.
To fellow nursing leaders, at all levels, think about how you incorporate fun and humour. In and out of work. Remember you SHOULD be having fun!