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The year 2020 hasn’t exactly been an easy one. If you turn on the news practically any night of the week, you can see people being mean to each other. But one nurse is trying to change all this—at least in the health care field.

Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CSP, CEO and Founder of the Healthy Workforce Institute, wants to encourage health care workers—but everyone when it comes down to it—to be more kind to each other. Doing a simple act of kindness, she believes, can really make a change in your environment and the world around you.

Thompson took time to answer some questions about her Kindness Revolution.

Why did you decide to begin a Kindness Revolution now?

Kindness has always been one of my core values and a primary reason why I decided to tackle workplace bullying and incivility in health care. I just couldn’t sit back and accept cruelty as the norm. I had to do something about it. And we’ve seen a lot of cruelty lately.

But we have also seen a lot of goodness—the nurse who sits with dying patient even after their shift, teams who adapted their schedules to help a colleague find childcare arrangements when they closed the schools, and of course, the thousands of health care professionals who put themselves at risk by coming into work every day, knowing that they were exposing themselves and their families to COVID-19.

From the global pandemic to the polarized political landscape to the most recent death of George Floyd, cruelty can and is happening, and it is exhausting.  But with a commitment group of individuals, we can also spread kindness. 

We have a choice every day in how we show up. None of us have any time or energy to show up nitpicking, complaining, or being cruel to each other. Everyone working in health care now needs to spend their time and energy focused on supporting, helping, and nurturing each other. That’s why I advocate for organizations to start a Kindness Revolution as a way to tip the balance.

How should nurses start a Kindness Revolution at work?

Being kind is something contagious that we want to spread! And it creates a ripple effect. 

Talking about kindness is important—but so is leading by example.

Anyone can start a kindness revolution. Some of our clients have purchased our “Be Kind” Package, which includes buttons the staff can wear. The leader gives two Be Kind buttons to someone on their team who demonstrates kindness—one for them to wear and one to give away.

When others see the buttons, the person wearing it is encouraged to share that being kind to others is a part of their culture and that when anyone demonstrates a kind act, they are presented with a button.

We’ve seen patients get involved by telling the unit manager that their nurse or nursing assistant was so kind and needed a Be Kind button!

When a department or organization starts a Kindness Revolution, they should tell everyone that kindness isn’t optional—it’s part of the job requirement.

Give us some tips on what nurses can do to spread kindness—to their employees (if they’re in management) to coworkers, and to patients. 

Starting a Kindness Revolution in your organization or on your unit is easy. There are four things you can do:

1. Show gratitude

Everyone has a job to do, but it’s so nice when someone thanks you for “doing your job.” Thank the nursing assistant for bathing your patient. Thank the physical therapist for walking your patient or for getting him or her out of bed. Be sincere with your appreciation and be sure to be specific with your gratitude.

2. Offer to help

When you have a couple of extra minutes, offer to help your coworkers do their jobs. Let the physical therapists know if they need an extra hand to get a patient out of bed, to come to you—even if it’s not your patient. Ask your boss if there is anything you can do to support him or her. Tell other nurses that you’ll watch their patients while they take a break. Imagine how a nursing assistant would feel if you offered to help him or her bathe a patient—especially if that patient wasn’t yours! 

3. Celebrate each other’s successes

Everyone likes to be recognized in some way for the good things they do. Find opportunities to celebrate everything good about your coworkers:  birthdays, degrees, awards, promotions—everything. Why not celebrate the fact that you managed to get through a difficult night? Celebrating can be giving a simple card, ordering out for pizza, bringing in a fruit salad, or just publicly recognizing someone’s accomplishments.

4. Build relationships with each other

Every conversation you have with another coworker is either building the relationship or tearing it down. Choose to build them up.

These small acts of kindness, when offered consistently, become habit. People will feel good when they are around you. And that energy proliferates. Just as one person in a bad mood can spoil everything. But a good mood and positive energy is also contagious. It just takes one person and one act to start a Kindness Revolution.

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