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Word Therapy for Those Tough Nursing Days

Some days at work can be downright terrible. You might cry, you might cringe, you might feel like you’re boiling over with anger. You wonder how you’ll ever walk through those doors again. But just when it seems hopeless, an inspirational quote can bring you right back to center.

When a patient passes away

“Letting go has never been easy, but holding on can be as difficult. Yet strength is measured not by holding on, but by letting go.” — Len Santos

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path…one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it. White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” — J.R.R. Tolkein

When your boss catches you the one time you’ve ever checked Facebook at work

“I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being — forgive me — rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.” — J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

“Apologizing doesn’t always mean you are wrong … Sometimes it means you value your relationships more than your ego.” — Unknown

When you’ve made a med error

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.” — Maya Angelou

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” — Elbert Hubbard

“People can be more forgiving than you can imagine. But you have to forgive yourself. Let go of what’s bitter and move on.” — Bill Cosby

When you experience lateral violence

“It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.” — Elizabeth Kenney

“Some people won’t be happy until they’ve pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.” — Donna Schoenrock

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” — Harvey Fierstein

When you get resistance while trying to foster change

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” — Warren Buffett

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him.” — Sidney Greenberg

When you question why you are a nurse

“Nursing is a damn tough job. And the people who do it are tougher. And somehow still remain saints.” — Doctor Grumpy

“Working with a good nurse is one of the great joys of being a doctor.” — Oscar Leonard, MD

“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” — Whoopi Goldberg

When you’re doubting whether you should go back to school

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot

“Be smart enough to hold on, be brave enough to let go. Sometimes, we need to hold onto faith while letting go of the outcome. Open your hand and hold your dreams gently, don’t try to grab them.” — Unknown

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reply to Meaghan note regarding my use of music interventions in healthcare. I’ve been doing this for 30 yrs. and would gladly share with other nurses my experiences and some music I’ve used.

    February 7, 2013
  2. Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

    I’m so glad you all found solace in some of these quotes. Nurses need spirit lifting, possibly more than any other profession! Keep the comments coming!

    February 7, 2013
  3. Jennifer Baker, RN-BSN ADON #

    Meaghan O’keeffe
    Jennifer G. Baker, RN-BSN ADON
    Thank you for the uplifting words… I will never forget 20 years ago one of my Nursing Professors told me ” nurse is the greatest job you’ll ever love”. She couldn’t have been more right! I try to pass this on to new nurses that come in. I still cry when patients I am close to die.. Once you stop being human, you should find another career.
    Thanks for the words of encouragement! I appreciate them more than I can say!!!

    February 3, 2013
  4. Clark McCray #

    This is great!

    February 3, 2013
  5. Queenie's Momma #

    As a hospice nurse, sometimes the best gift you can give your patient is to let go!

    February 2, 2013
  6. Jackie #

    I am sharing this postings, keep the inspiration coming!
    Thank you!

    February 2, 2013
  7. Kathy Dillard, RN School Nurse #

    Mistakes are what keeps us humble (and ALERT)! Have a great ‘rest of the day’!

    February 1, 2013
  8. Kathy Dillard, RN School Nurse #

    Life and death (truly) is in the power of the tongue!

    We can encourage ourselves, and others in just a few seconds… :)

    February 1, 2013
  9. Joanne Hyde #

    As we grow older it is so nice to see Younger Nurses want to keep the Profession going, Comments are the same through the years with a different slant.

    February 1, 2013
  10. Enjoyed the Word Therapy article and blog. Thanks, Meaghan. I’ve worked in a variety of nursing work situations but in recent years I’ve mainly have focused on use of music as an intervention to meet healthcare goals for patients and healthcare professionals. I’ve composed many songs inspired many times by patients and nurses I’ve know for years (graduating from U of Mich. Nursing in ’59) One particular song is shared every week with someone –”Sharing the Journey” composed when I worked at UM Mott Children’s Hosp. here in Ann Arbor. I’d be happy to share lyrics and MP3 of the recorded song if any of you would like it.

    Dianne Baker RN, BSN Composer
    “Sharing the Journey with Music and Photography” ( new web site under construction) and also Facebook pages with photography.

    February 1, 2013
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Wow Dianne, I love when nurses help patients in creative ways. Then again, I think all nurses do that every day! Thanks for sharing your music with us.

      February 7, 2013
  11. I will use this with my students! Thank you!

    February 1, 2013
  12. Cheryl S. #

    Just the things I “needed” to read… Thank you

    February 1, 2013
  13. Freida Fontenot RN MSN #


    February 1, 2013
  14. Deb Richards #

    Today was a bad day. I needed this thanks

    February 1, 2013
  15. Amanda Powers #

    A daily dose of this is needed. Thanks for this one dose.

    February 1, 2013
  16. Lisa Zelinski,RN #

    Meaghan,Thanks for ALL these great quotes! Sometimes,it helps reading words like these:it lets you know that someone else has been in a similar situation,and come through it. Thanks so much for sharing! Keep up the good work!

    February 1, 2013
  17. r-nel #

    I love these quotes. Keep them coming.

    February 1, 2013
  18. Maria #

    Just what I needed today after making a protocol med error. No matter how many years I’ ve been in nursing, I just can’ t be perfect.

    February 1, 2013
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Maria, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. You’re right, you can’t be perfect, you can just recognize your mistake and move forward. Be kind to yourself and forgive yourself.

      February 7, 2013
  19. Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

    Kathy, thanks for reading.

    January 29, 2013
  20. Kathy church #

    loved this post. thank you

    January 27, 2013

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