Tuesday October 22nd 2019

How to be present, despite a never-ending to-do list

Jordana Kozupsky Jordana Kozupsky

Despite my plan to “lay low” when I first got to the unit, I quickly developed a reputation that I hadn’t intended, as I rushed around everywhere, no matter what I was doing. I sprinted to the supply cabinets, narrowly dodged the floor cleaner, and earned the nicknames “Kramer” (the “Seinfeld” TV show character) for the way I swung open doors and “hummingbird” for how I fluttered around. There just wasn’t enough time to do everything on my list.

“Slow down!” others would tell me, but I just couldn’t. Sure, I got things done in record time, but it actually made my patients uncomfortable. One of the worst manifestations of my rushing was how I gave medications; although I went through all of the “rights,” my mind was always stuck on what else I needed to do.

The blood exposures were my lowest points, and all three happened within a few months of each other. Thankfully, the blood in the two needle-sticks and one splash to my eyes tested to be free of disease, but I couldn’t quite just continue on like nothing had happened.

Meditation was an activity that I had only associated with sleeping at the end of yoga; yet, after heeding the advice of professionals, I gave it a shot. I challenged myself to sit still for 10 minutes every day. Sometimes, all I was able to do was focus on my breathing, but I tried to use that time to pay attention to my body and how I was feeling in that moment. The most difficult part for me was getting all the other thoughts out of my mind, but consistent practice taught me the ability to first acknowledge the presence of those thoughts, and then gently guide myself back to what I was doing.

The usefulness of my meditation practice manifested itself immediately at work. I spent the same amount of time with my patients, but I was more mentally present. Instead of thinking of the millions of other things I had to do, I acknowledged the to-do list, then temporarily shifted it away from the moment and instead focused on what was in front of me.

There’s a study published in the February 2012 Patient Education and Counseling Journal that demonstrated when two physicians spent the same amount of time with a patient but one sat, the patients almost always thought the sitting physician stayed with them longer. It’s the same idea. If you can be more mentally present and slow down with your patients, you’ll not only be doing yourself a favor, but your patients will appreciate it too.

I still walk quickly; I don’t think I’ll ever lose that trait. But I can say that I walk with more authority and more intention. I’m more in control of my actions, and when I’m doing something especially important, I’m able to stop and focus. I’m proud to say that since practicing meditation and mindfulness, I’ve not only been needle-stick-free, but I was recently voted “Nurse of the Year” at my hospital. If the nurse who had three trips to the emergency room within her first six months can do it, anyone can.

— Jordana Kozupsky is an RN at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY. She is a candidate for an adult-gerontological MSN-DNP at Hunter College in New York, NY.

ANA resources

“Cultivating Mindfulness for Nursing Practice and Self-Care,” a new ANA online course at the Nursing Knowledge Center

“Mindfulness and YOU: Being Present in Nursing Practice”
ANA NursesBooks.org

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