Elaine Walsh and nurse resiliency
- How did you get started into nursing?
I wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember. I went to Mount St. Mary’s College (now University) in Southern California and went right into psychiatric nursing after I graduated. I worked at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital and got my MN from UCLA while working there. I came to the UW to get my PhD in nursing science and worked with the Reconnecting Youth Prevention Research Program during and after the PhD program.
- What is the work you do at Seattle Children’s?
The role of Nurse Scientist in Resiliency was created to honor Susan Health, who was the Chief Nursing Officer at Seattle Children’s, when she retired. This is a 5-year half time position, and I am nearing the end of my second year. I am developing and implementing a program of study that focuses on approaches that support nurse resilience. By Year 5, study findings will be translated into interventions and tool kits that are implemented across the organization. Currently, I am conducting several studies involving staff nurses and nurse leaders. Seattle Children’s has a number of programs to support staff, and some of the work I am doing is examining nurses’ responses to and satisfaction with these existing programs. I work collaboratively with leaders in nursing and other departments. I also have a chance to consult with and mentor nurses who are working on evidence based practice and research projects. The role also allows me to provide some presentations and workshops for nurses and other professionals.
- Why is this work important?
Nursing is a stressful profession, and there is evidence that stress can cause nurses to leave their jobs or leave nursing entirely. Resilience can reduce stress and mitigate burnout, and is associated with increased job satisfaction. A healthy work environment and job satisfaction are associated with high-quality patient care. Seattle Children’s has invested in providing resources for nurses and wants to determine what is helpful to maintain or increase resilience among nurses. This position was conceptualized as a research position so that interventions and programs chosen are evidence based. I have the opportunity to work with clinical nurses and nurse leaders to determine what they find useful and supportive, and to collaborate to implement interventions. Seattle Children’s is unique in that they have a dedicated position to address the issue of nurse resilience.
- What do you hope to accomplish with this work?
I want to test and implement programs that help increase resilience and work collaboratively with clinical nurses and nurse leaders to solidify programs that support nurses to do the important work they do every day. At Seattle Children’s, nurses work with patients and families during the incredibly stressful times in the family’s life, and they need to take good care of themselves in order to do this work. Nurses are often much better at taking care of others than they are at taking care of themselves. Healthy, resilient nurses provide better care to patients and report more job satisfaction. This is good for nurses and good for patients and families.
- What should people know about what it’s like to be a nurse?
Nursing is hard work, both physically and emotionally. Nurses need to understand physiology, behavior, and mental health of patients and families. They are problem-solvers, teachers, coordinators and leaders of patient care. In my role at Seattle Children’s, I work with nurses providing care in inpatient and ambulatory care settings, but nurses also work in communities, develop policy and legislation, conduct research, and educate nurses and professionals from other disciplines. Advanced practice nurses can function independently and as part of a team to direct the care of individuals and communities.
- What is the most inspirational thing that has happened in your career as a nurse?
I can think of several examples from earlier in my career when patients who were suffering from mental illness were able to return to school or work when they thought they would never be able to do so. More recently, in my role as Vice Chair of Education in the PCH department, I have been able to recruit former students to teach our current undergraduate and graduate students. Seeing former students develop into strong clinicians, educators, and researchers is very fulfilling. I have also had opportunities to be involved in developing, testing and implementing suicide prevention programs and trainings. Hearing about ways that professionals and non-professionals applied what they learned to help themselves or others is truly inspirational.