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Can gratitude change your nursing practice?

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Have you heard of a gratitude journal? Writing down the things you are thankful for may not be high on your list of things to do every day, but what if it could change your nursing practice?

What is it?

A gratitude journal is literally a journal where you write down what you are thankful for that day instead of describing your day or your struggles. It could be about anything, your significant other, your pet, your children, your job, or even something nice a stranger said while shopping. The goal is to focus on the things that make you grateful, which inherently reminds you that you have A LOT to be thankful for.

Some people keep a physical journal, and others use an app on their phone to jot down their thoughts. The gratitude journal may be read at the end of the year as you reflect on how the year went or may just serve as a reminder at the moment to savor the things that mean something. According to HuffPost, gratitude journals can help lower your stress levels, help you gain a new perspective, and make you more self-aware about what is working (and what isn’t!).

It seems weird to think about what you are grateful for during your workday. Still, what if you took gratitude concepts and applied them to a stressful job where more than 15% of nurses are burned out, and over 40% are unengaged at work?

Can you think of four things you were thankful for on your last shift?

Maybe your work bestie came to the rescue during a challenging linen change. Maybe your favorite charge nurse was working. Perhaps all of your patients were relatively stable, and no one needed much during your shift. Maybe you got a sitter for your fall risk patient, so you could focus better on the rest of your team.

We tend to look at the negatives, but if you search for the positives, you will start to see that they were there the whole time, just buried in the stress and negativity of the day. A hospital system in California actually tried it and had great results. They found that the most negative (or least grateful) people were likely to experience the best results.

It doesn’t take long, and it can reframe how you look at your shift (and your life).

Let’s try it.

Gratitude can come from anywhere, so don’t limit yourself to specific questions if you think of other things. Get used to searching through your memories to find something to be grateful for at the end of the day. Answer these questions to get you started. Check out this (free) program if you want something more guided!

  1. I’m grateful to my patient for ______. (ex. thanking me, recognizing my hard work, going easy on the call light)
  2. I’m grateful to my team for _______. (ex. helping me with my crashing patient, helping with my discharge, knowing just what to order for lunch)
  3. I’m grateful that _____ happened. (ex. my patient got to go home, I had a light team, I caught my pump before my fluids ran dry)
  4. What about being a nurse today made you grateful? (ex. I saved a life today; I had the skill I needed to place that IV; I was able to help someone get more comfortable)

Again, don’t limit yourself. It doesn’t have to be big stuff. Your day is a million moments just waiting to be recognized. Today, you can be grateful for making it through or having a work-wife or husband to share the load. Write it down, watch it add up, and don’t be afraid to try it out in other areas of your life. A little gratitude goes a long way!

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN


Amanda is an ER nurse with 10 years of healthcare experience. She currently works as a nurse educator and as an adjunct professor for several schools. She also works as a freelance healthcare writer in her spare time. Amanda thinks the greatest thing about nursing is the endless possibilities and opportunities to learn. What have you learned today?


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