Developing the humor habit in nursing becomes easier when you have an appreciation of the absurd. It’s not necessarily absurd to hurt yourself in the office or in a nursing unit according to the people who keep track of such things, many thousands of people do so each year. But to reframe “I hurt myself at work” into “I suffered an extreme filing accident” makes it so.
How Can You Appreciate Absurdity
Mary had come in with a small wound on her finger that had become infected. She’d hurt her finger at work, doing what Mary called “Extreme Filing.”
On her way to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription for antibiotics, Mary was involved in a car accident. Her car was sideswiped by a young man fleeing the scene of a crime – he’d just robbed a store that sold magic tricks and theatrical props. “I thought the damage to my car was an illusion,” she quipped, “but it wasn’t.” Equally real were the injuries Mary received in the accident, mainly to her left arm and shoulder. “I’m just glad it wasn’t my pitching arm. The Mets are going to be calling any day now, I just know it.”
With her arm out of commission, Mary had not been able to catch the railing in time to stop from slipping on some icy stairs. She hit the ground hard, and injured her pelvis pretty significantly. During treatment for the pelvis injury, Mary’s physician discovered she had a series of small growths that needed investigation.
“I’m not sure,” Mary said in the exam room. “I haven’t even had a chance to study for this test!”
The attending, who’d never met Mary before, thought that she was dealing with a patient who didn’t understand what was going on. “We need to discover what those growths are,” she began to explain.
“Oh,” Mary said, cutting her off. “They’re probably cream cheese.” The expression on the attending’s face stopped her cold, and Mary became serious for a moment. “I know what you think those growths are, and of course I’ll have the testing. But do you understand? I have to laugh. Life’s been so crazy lately.” She smiled and continued, “I seem to have a season ticket for the Theater of the Absurd.”
Amusement and Absurdity
Based on Mary's story, we can say that using humor in nursing can change an absurd situation. She’d just gone through a string of events that any of us would find challenging. What’s interesting is that she’d used humor at every point – from the small infection that initially brought her into the office, through the car accident and resulting injury, and while facing the potentially life-altering news the test results would bring. She’s developed what is known as habitual humor. There’s always a brighter side in Mary’s worldview, and she’s bound and determined to find it. As a result, Mary experiences both greater resiliency which is great for her expected outcomes, and reports having “a really great life, overall.”
We’ve all had those days in our nursing career that mirrored Mary’s story, perhaps not as medically dramatic but filled with the same string of annoyances, problems, and potential catastrophes. Look for the absurd angle whenever possible. It’s easier if you practice looking on small problems first! The more you look for reasons to laugh, the easier it becomes to find them.
Find your own humor in nursing, laugh, and keep moving – no matter what’s playing on stage at the Theater of the Absurd!
Yours in Laughter,
About the Author: Nurse humorist Karyn Buxman’s mission in life is to improve global health through laughter and to help heal the humor impaired! www.KarynBuxman.com www.JournalOfNursingJocularity.com
Click here to learn more about Karyn Buxman.
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