How and Why To Develop Resilience in Nursing

a registered nurse helping her patient

Registered nurses (RNs) provide a shoulder for grieving family members to lean on. They hold their patients’ hands and offer emotional support during some of the most difficult times in life.

RNs can find solace in their faith communities, but it’s also essential for them to develop their own emotional resilience. What exactly is resilience in nursing? Why is resilience important in nursing? Let’s take a closer look at these questions and explore some resilience in nursing examples to learn how to cultivate this quality in your own life.

In This Article:

What Does It Mean To Be Resilient?

Resilient people are often thought of as being able to continue on with the tasks of life, regardless of their past experiences. Some might view resilience as an ingrained personality trait, while others may perceive it as a strategy that one can work at using more effectively. Consider how strongly any of the following applies to you:

  • People describe me as optimistic. Challenges are temporary and I’m confident I’ll overcome them.
  • I don’t dwell on anger or discouragement.
  • I can easily cope with situations with high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity.
  • I’m a curious person who asks lots of questions. I adjust well to change.
  • I laugh at myself easily and can find humor in even difficult situations.
  • I learn from my own experiences and the experiences of others.
  • I’m a problem-solver. I can make less-than-ideal situations work for me.
  • I’m durable. I’ve gotten through many tough situations just fine.
  • I can find the silver lining in any misfortune. I look for opportunities in the midst of adversity.

Understanding Resilience in Nursing

It’s probably safe to say everyone will experience adversity at some point in their life. Children might face tests of their resilience when dealing with a playground bully, while adults might face job loss, relationship problems and similar challenges. While nurses may themselves encounter these types of challenges, they also face added obstacles at work.

It can be difficult to see patients struggle and inform family members about their loved ones. Nurses often face emotional difficulties, spend long hours on their feet, and make frequent judgment calls regarding their patients. Nursing has its challenges, but with resiliency, can also be a rewarding profession.

Resilience in nursing means that a nurse is able to accept these challenges, avoid experiencing an overly emotional response to them and calmly work toward solutions. A resilient nurse is one who can go home at the end of a difficult day and focus on their personal life, rather than letting workplace events continue to occupy their headspace.

Why Is Resilience Important in Nursing?

The challenges nurses face every day can take an emotional toll. Although emotional resilience cannot guarantee that a nurse will never suffer burnout, it can reduce the likelihood that burnout will occur. Furthermore, emotional resilience in nurses may reduce the risk of anxiety and depression in these professionals.1

Resilience in nursing is important not only for nurses themselves, but also patients and healthcare organizations. When nurses experience mental health difficulties, the quality of patient care and nursing professionalism may also decline. In addition, healthcare organizations experience higher turnover rates.2

7 Ways To Cultivate Resilience in Nursing Practice

With consistent practice, you can improve your emotional resilience. Try working on the following:

  1. Monitor yourself for negative thought patterns and turn them into positive thought patterns.
  2. Use every problem as a learning opportunity.
  3. Be open to offering and receiving acts of kindness.
  4. Practice gratitude in everyday life.
  5. Take care of your physical and mental health.
  6. Embrace comic relief.
  7. Establish personal boundaries. Even if you’re asked to work overtime because your nursing unit is short-staffed, learn how to say “No” when you’re too tired or overworked to do so.

One study found that nurses who try to maintain an optimistic view of life demonstrated greater resilience in the workplace. Specifically, maintaining an optimistic view involved recalling good memories and deriving enjoyment from them, as well as taking pride in the hard work of nursing.2

Grounded firmly in faith and rooted in a tradition of academic excellence, Grand Canyon University is your opportunity to advance your nursing qualifications. With multiple nursing pathways available, GCU’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is designed for individuals who have either a non-nursing degree or for those with transfer credits or no prior coursework. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about our ABSN program.

1 American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (n.d.). Resilience. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved September 14, 2023. 

2 Kim, E. Y., Chang, S. O. (2022, January 19). Exploring nurse perceptions and experiences of resilience: a meta-synthesis study. BMC Nursing. Retrieved September 14, 2023. 

Approved by the associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on Nov. 6, 2023. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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