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  • Writer's pictureMegan Filoramo

Forget the oxygen mask and grab a boat

“We are stronger together. Raise the water and all the boats rise.”

I heard this last year at a healthcare burnout symposium. I’m not sure of the direct source or even who was giving the lecture, but it stuck with me. So often, when we talk about burnout, the conversation involves a lot of references to self-care and putting your own oxygen mask on first (I’m not a fan of that analogy).

Sometimes it is hard to “put yourself first” especially when working day in and day out in a service-based role. We are trained to look out for all of our patients, doing assessments and coordinating care. Because of this, putting yourself first may feel like it is at direct odds with the expectations of your job (or even your own expectations of yourself.)

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be either/or. It doesn’t have to be your role as a nurse OR you. It doesn’t have to be your patients’ wellbeing or your soul. There is a way around this.

If “put yourself first” feels impossible, what about “put yourself also”.

What if helping others IS also helping yourself? That would be super convenient.

If we raise the water, all boats rise.

What does this look like? If you struggle with trying to “help yourself” at work, focusing on helping your team members. Lean into raising up the people around you.

It’s important that this doesn’t get misinterpreted as people-pleasing. People pleasing is accommodating someone else’s desires at the expense of your own in an effort to avoid conflict or some type of discomfort. People-pleasing does NOT raise the water. It leads to resentment and puts an anchor around our necks. People-pleasing ultimately undermines relationships. Raising up the people around you is truly offering them care and concern.

We need our relationships at work to be strong. THIS is what we can focus on. Building up the people around us builds us all up AND it is something we can control.

Of course, it sounds easier than it is, after all, many of us work with people who are also on the verge of burnout. No one is really at their best. Can we offer nursing care to our coworkers? Can we treat them with the dignity and respect that we use for our patients? Can we go above and beyond for the team? Can we think outside the box for ways to be supportive, to let them know that they aren’t alone?

Here’s the beauty of this approach. It utilizes our proclivity toward helping others to also build up our own resilience. It’s a two for one.

A strong sense of team is protective against burnout. Autonomy is protective against burnout. Building meaning into your work is protective against burnout.

What is one small thing you can do today to build up a member of your team? You don’t have to conquer the whole mountain at once, start with one colleague. Consider one thing that may be quick and easy. Raise the water, one ladle at a time if needed, and the water will raise your boat too.


 P.S. It’s March, HOORAY! Next Thursday, March 7th at 7pm EST, is our monthly Community Coaching for Nursing. It’s a great opportunity to raise the water, to get some support and share some support. You can register here. I truly hope you will come check it out. It doesn’t take a lot of energy or time and it can make such a profound difference in how you experience your days. If it makes it easier, bring a friend 🙂

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