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Nurses Use Innovative Performance Approach to Enhance Resiliency

• In light of patients’ needs and the complexity of cancer care, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center leaders are helping nurses learn to be more resilient.
• Nurses are participating in a program employing improvisation and theatrical techniques to enhance communication and relieve stress.
• Nursing leadership will assess self-reported levels of “resiliency” over a twelve-month period.  Baseline measures indicated a relatively high level of resiliency among oncology nurses.

There are numerous ways to describe nurses. Nurses are compassionate, dedicated, smart and meticulous caregivers. They need to be strong yet nurturing, empathetic yet professional. For nurses in the field of oncology, taking care of cancer patients requires special reserves of all those qualities. Then, how do these exceptional caregivers take care of themselves? How do they learn to be resilient, given the demands of their patients’ needs and the complexity of cancer care? How do they consistently serve as the best of the best?

It was this challenge that the nursing leadership of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center tackled with an innovative program called “The Performance of Resiliency,” in collaboration with Performance of a Lifetime (POAL), who had successfully piloted their approach with other Johns Hopkins nursing departments, including Emergency Medicine. In large and small groups, the POAL coaches guided the nurses through a variety of experiences that combined improvisation, drama and coaching to enhance communication, relieve stress and manage conflict. The results themselves were dramatic, with staff reporting real changes in the quality of their relationships with co-workers, and improvement in their abilities to handle difficult patient-family situations and manage stressors from home.

“Our goal is to help oncology nurses be more resilient and offer creative strategies for coping with the daily stresses inherent in their jobs,” says Sharon Krumm, Ph.D., R.N., Director of Nursing at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.  “It’s a rewarding profession, and initiatives like this provide one more outlet for nurses to realize the full impact of their important role in cancer care.”

Approximately 75% of the nurses who participated answered questionnaires on the impact of the program.  Nearly all (96%) reported that the program was useful for both their personal and professional lives.

A short documentary film following the nurses’ progress through the “Performance of Resiliency” program was presented at the 2010 national Oncology Nursing Society Congress. In October 2010, Johns Hopkins oncology nurses were featured in a presentation at the international Performing the World conference in New York City.


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