today's healthcare crisisDid you hear the one about? According to a recent study, over thirty percent of U.S. nurses surveyed plan to leave their job within the next year. One in five nurses plan to leave the profession within five years because of unsatisfactory working conditions. By 2020, the registered nurse shortage is projected to reach 500,000 positions, coinciding with the increasing needs of healthcare in an aging U.S. population.

It is obvious that the state of health care today is no joke. But it may be a laughing matter! Humor is often generated by painful circumstances. There is nothing funny about unlimited resources, job security or a physician who responds quickly and cheerfully to a nurse’s request. The things that make nurses laugh tend to be the very things that drive nurses crazy.



Whether it’s a picky patient, a cranky co-worker or a demanding doctor, nurses frequently have no control over the stressors they encounter. They do, however, have a choice in how they respond to those pressures. No single tactic will be appropriate for every situation, so a healthy nurse needs to have a variety of strategies. One of the best ways to cope with stress is humor. There are benefits to enjoying spontaneous humor, but it is often more pragmatic for nurses to provide the funny for themselves.



no laughing matter


To do this, some nurses tap into their creative side. One nurse carried a marker to decorate disposable gloves and masks on isolation carts.  A critical care nurse took a couple of adhesive EKG patches, attached them to the bottom of her shoes, and “tap danced” her stress away.At a medical-surgical nurses station, whenever someone would shout “Massage Train!” everyone on hand would line up, put their hands gently on the shoulders of the person in front of them, and soothingly massage.




Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” list of fun things for nurses to do.Because everyone’s sense of humor is unique, humor must be highly individualized.The methods don’t need to be flamboyant to be effective.  Subtle touches, like pins with funny sayings or Looney Tunes socks, can work as well as red sponge noses and rubber chickens! Sharing jokes, cartoons, stories or embarrassing moments can generate laughter.  Humor baskets, carts and humor rooms are means of creating a more humorous environment.




One sign of a profession’s maturity is its ability to laugh at itself.By now, nursing is surely mature enough to be able to laugh at itself. Yet many nurses still refrain from using the skill of humor on the grounds that it is not “professional.”Humor isn’t the equivalent of “goofing off.”Indeed, it’s important for nurses to maintain high standards and high expectnurses encourage each otherations on their units and to take their work seriously.It’s also important for nurses to be able to take themselves lightly.Sad is the nurse who cannot learn to separate the two - and that’s no joke.


Nurses, do you use humor to cope with daily work pressures?  Leave us a comment or share a story, perhaps an embarrassing moment, with fellow nurses in the NurseTogether Nurse Stories and Jokes forums.