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Archive ORX Session Previews 2020

Find 'Thin Places' to Re-energize Your Career

Nurses are constantly faced with the challenge of doing more with less, says William Duffy, RN, MJ, CNOR, FAAN, director of the health systems management program at the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University in Chicago. They largely succeed, but at a great cost. Many nurses are suffering from burnout and feeling unfulfilled in the profession they once loved. On the opening day of Virtual OR Excellence, Mr. Duffy will offer ways to make sure your career feels less like a job and more like the calling that ignited your passion for patient care.

What’s “the thin place” you’ll reference during your presentation?
In Irish folklore it’s said that the distance between heaven and earth is three feet, just beyond our grasp, and hidden by a veil. There are places on earth, though, that are so peaceful and holy that humans get to experience the peace, hope and love that exists in the next world. These “thin places” are the spots where the space between heaven and earth get narrowed and the veil is lifted. They are ports in the storm where you find comfort, as well as the strength and spirituality to go on during difficult times.

William Duffy
William Duffy, RN, MJ, CNOR, FAAN
  • Serves on AORN's Board of Directors
  • Recipient of the Nursing Spectrum's National Award for Excellence in Leading the Profession
  • Inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2011

How do nurses create thin places for patients?
It’s nothing magical or special. It’s the simple everyday acts — a touch on the hand, looking directly into their eyes, listening intently — that make the difference. Patients desperately need safe harbors when they arrive. They’re thinking about what they’re about to go through and what might go wrong. They take a huge leap of faith to give up control of their body to complete strangers. We have to respect and honor that privilege.

Can nurses also create thin places for themselves?
Absolutely. And they must. The coronavirus outbreak also reminded nurses about the importance of their work. Many surgical nurses helped care for COVID-19 patients in incredibly difficult and trying circumstances. First responders lined up outside hospitals to cheer them on and local restaurants sent them food as a small token of appreciation for their hard work and service. Working along the frontlines of the pandemic response was grueling work, but even the daily grind of working in fast-paced surgical facilities can lead to burnout and frustration. I hope my talk will teach nurses to create their own thin spaces where they can visit during times of high stress or frustration.

What would you like nurses to take from your talk?
When they walk out of their facilities after work, I hope they don’t think only about the types of cases they helped perform. I hope they also think about the incredible difference they made in patients’ lives — that Ms. Smith is going to be able to walk again with her new hip, and they played a part in that. Nurses need to celebrate the power of what they do and realize their power doesn’t come solely from their technical skills, but also from their compassion. They should never forget that they’re helping human beings at the most dehumanizing times of their lives. Remembering their calling will help them regain balance in their professional and personal lives. OSM

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