Is Resilience A “Mask”?

In an online article called Tackle reasons forcing nurses to be ‘resilient’, warn RCN members by  Junior Reporter and Online Assistant for Nursing Times, she writes, “Resilience is the “mask” that nurses are forced to wear because of workplace pressures and demands, members of the profession have warned during a discussion at the Royal College of Nursing congress this week.”

The attendees at the conference posed the question as to whether or not resilience is “a positive attribute and one to be aspired to in the modern healthcare workforce.”

Resilience is not a label it’s a set of Skills & Attitudes called upon to deal with adversity. It’s a behavioral response that is used to manage crises. It is inappropriate to presume that because of one’s occupational training, one is resilient. Nurse = resilient is not always true. It is also untrue of police officers, firefighters, E.M.T.’s and veterans.  Individuals that enter these professions may start with better than average resilience SKills & Attitudes, but that does not mean that they cannot be beaten down by the trauma they witness on a daily basis.

Resilience has to do with equilibrium, balance.  Life changes daily and therefore balance fluctuates.  Maintaining balance is an ongoing process of evaluating options and making choices. Adversity and crisis lead to imbalance and we must call upon our Skills & Attitudes to deal with each as it comes. Resilience is a process, not an end result, an achievement, a label nor a mask to hide thoughts and emotions that impede resilience.

Support needs to be provided by the systems to help boost resilience, form peer coaching networks to maintain resilience within the healthcare community, all while working towards reasonable and necessary change.  Ignoring the helplessness expressed by nurses in this article is equivalent to ignoring a patient’s symptoms; malpractice as I see it.

Photo of Charlene Fernald Moynihan
Charlene Fernald Moynihan