I categorize myself as an introvert. I love my alone time. Now mix that up with my profession of a nurse, and you got the recipe of an ultimate mismatch. Part of nursing life is having an exquisite talent for PR – a talent that I could not quite grasp for a very long time. But I guess there is consolation in the idea that I am not alone in this ordeal. I know a lot of nurses in the field who cringed at the thought of talking to someone when what they would want to do was read a book, or be invisible, yet somehow, they managed to do an incredible job at being a nurse.
Nursing seems like it would come more natural for extroverts. But the more I interact, the more I revealed a window into my world, that I can be a pseudo-extrovert. This is how I deceived people into thinking that I am an extrovert when in fact, I am not.
There is power in being an introvert, and below are some of the things that I did to turn my introverted personality into a vessel for delivering my best nursing care.
1. Listen more and talk deep: These are the core strengths of an introvert. Use it to your advantage!
Introverts prefer one-on-one interactions rather than entertaining a party of guests. This is one personality trait that I turned into my advantage, as instead doing the talking, for the most part, I tend to listen more – which I realized is perfect for the nursing career! Extroverts have a way to steal the spotlight by talking too much about anything. I bless them for trying to comfort people by doing such, but I learned that sometimes, words are not enough. The approach of the introvert is to give the patient the chance to be the most important person in the conversation. Introverts have a knack to hold more in-depth conversations, and as much as possible, they shy away from small talks. This is how we gain connection, and for the most part, this matters for the ill.
2. Give yourself time-outs to recharge your energy.
I give myself time to decompress now and then during the shift. I usually stay in the most secluded corner that I can find for five minutes or two to relax and replenish the energy that was drained out of me. Other times, I “hide” in the bathroom (true story) for a minute or two, as I usually feel choked up from too much social interaction, and a few minutes of silence can help my brain calm down.
3. You need to be alone is not a hindrance for you to shine.
I always look up at introverted icons that made it big like Julia Roberts, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, JK Rowling, and even Albert Einstein himself, as beacons that have banished the line that separated the introverts from the extroverts. Introverts can contribute in a field surrounded by a considerable amount of people. While extroverts can come inside the room and behave like party animals, introverts also have their way of showing the same level of energy, although for a limited amount of time. The energy of an introvert is drained at hyper speed, so they have to take it slow – but that is okay. All you have to do is go back to step number 2, get inside a quiet room, regain peace and energy from the silence, and come out again and partey. As what the self-proclaimed introvert Mahatma Gandhi said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
4. Take those risks and profit from it.
There is a saying that goes, “The best things in life are outside your comfort zone.” As much as possible, I FORCE myself to stick my head out of my shell and take the risk to interact. At first, when I was still a student, I really struggled to stay in a group conversation for hours but in the long run, having to talk to a lot of people became easy breezy. Not to brag, but I gained something for myself by doing that, such as confidence, humility, open-mindedness, gaining another interest from the people that I have talked to, a wide connection of friends, and a great archive of jokes and humorous stories (which I acquired from all of them).
5. Initiate! Dare to make the first move.
For the introvert, this is a chore and a death sentence. But really, it is all in your head. One of the general questions that I initially ask is, “What are your concerns right now,” Chances are the patient is just waiting for you to break the ice. An introvert can also sense if the patient does not want to talk, which is, in a way, therapeutic as some of the patients also need space. It takes one to know one.
6. You are an introvert. Not Wednesday Addams.
Smile, and I mean, smile widely like you mean it. Being an introvert does not equate to being gloomy or distant. Introverts are cheerful by nature, as they know how to cheer themselves up without the need to look for another person to do the job for them like most extroverts do. A stranger, especially the sickly kind one of that always gravitates towards a cheerful face and disposition.
7. It is only difficult at the beginning.
Constant exposure, as what they say, will cure your allergies. The same thing goes to socialization (yes, we are allergic to people). It also helps to have a handful of topics for discussion, like global warming, or pop culture, and general interests like movies, music, or traveling outdoors. The most beautiful thing about being a nurse is its subtle way of training an introvert into becoming a sociable person. I mean, you are required to speak, so are left with no choice but to swallow your fear, and survive one shift at a time. Trust me, the benefits of gaining the skill of an extrovert is something that you can use at crucial times (like if a new acquaintance gave you a lift in their car, and filling in the awkward silence is deadly if you are not prepared with a few topics to talk about. Again, true story).
In a way, introverts nurses have the best of both worlds. We can be therapeutic by being silent, but we can also fill the silence with our own deep thoughts if we want to. We can adapt to any kind of personality. Being an introvert does not hinder you from being the best nurse that you can be. You just have to believe in your ability to care through reaching out, and you can do nothing wrong.