Nursing, while splendid and meaningful, is a physically and emotionally exhausting career. Many of us routinely perform diligent care on critically ill patients and observe tragedies and traumas. Doctors and other health care providers are also exposed to loss and suffering; however, nurses may be more susceptible to the lasting emotional impact. Having a sense of humor will help you cruise through difficult times of your life.

A sense of humor is an important part of coping with physical and mental adversity and challenges. It can also make you healthier. Laughter is said to have great health benefits, such as reducing stress and boosting the immune system.  It is a way for nurses to energize themselves and to unite with one another, and it is an especially powerful tool in letting go of the difficult emotions that accompany every day’s work.

“I would hope to see my nurses relishing their work despite the hardships,” says Lisa, a mother of a chronic kidney disease patient. Humor can help nurses build relationships with their patients.

Humor also strengthens the connections between hospital staff in the workplace. “Research shows that humor is a fabulous tension breaker in the workplace,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of The Humor Advantage.

Nurses who have access to their sense of humor during stressful events are more emotionally flexible, and can bend without breaking amidst the difficult situations. It is important that you improve and strengthen your humor skills. One of the easiest ways to experience greater happiness is to make small positive changes. Try these tips to help awaken your sense of humor:

  • Listen to your favorite comedians. Remember a good joke and practice telling jokes and stories.
  • Learn to laugh at your own flaws, weaknesses, and blunders.
  • Watch a movie or a YouTube video that makes you smile and laugh.
  • Share the humor you observe with someone every day.

As a nurse, you have many opportunities to exercise your sense of humor just by observing things that happen around you. Just remember to avoid ethnic jokes, sarcasm, and joking about any patient or their condition.

“Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”
George Bernard Shaw

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Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is an experienced researcher in health promotion and project director of a non-profit health and wellness program.

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