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The Road to Recovery

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

In November 2018, former NFL quarterback, Alex Smith suffered a gruesome and life-threatening injury during a game while playing for the Washington Commanders. During the game against the Houston Texans, Smith suffered a compound fracture in his right leg, which resulted in a serious infection. The injury was so severe that it put his career and life at risk. Doctors and nurses fought to save his leg and battled the infection, but the road to recovery was long and uncertain.

Over the next several months, Smith underwent multiple surgeries and grueling rehabilitation sessions. His recovery was marked by setbacks and challenges that seemed insurmountable at times. However, Smith gathered a team to support his recovery process and remained determined and resilient, fueled by his love for his career.

After nearly two years of intense rehabilitation, setbacks, and doubts, he defied expectations and returned to the football field in August 2020. His triumphant comeback was a testament to his unwavering spirit and determination.

You might be thinking, "ok, interesting story, but what does this have to do with nursing?” Let me explain.

We have now entered the post-pandemic recovery period. The healthcare community is faced with healing from the devastation caused by Covid-19 – crippling nursing shortages, decreased sense of nurse well-being, and poor job satisfaction. Much like an athlete who, for the love of the game, exerts themselves beyond their physical limits, nurses need time for intentional recovery from years of overexertion physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The toll of working on the frontlines, witnessing loss, feeling unsupported by their organization, and navigating the uncertainties of the pandemic has left many nurses inflicted with physical injuries, bearing heavy hearts, devastated by compassion fatigue, and battling burnout.

A two-year study on the impact of Covid-19 the American Nurses Foundation released last year, shows that most nurses report feelings of burnout, stress, frustration, and exhaustion. Are you one of them? How do you know?

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary or vicarious trauma, describes the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others in distress. Those experiencing compassion fatigue hold the emotional residue of exposure to traumatic stories and experiences of others through work; witnessing fear, pain, and terror that others have experienced; a preoccupation with horrific stories told to the professional.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress with the sense that this reality cannot be ameliorated. Said quite simply, things are bad, and it does not look like it is going to get any better.

Do either of these experiences resonate with you?

Now nurses aren't playing a sport and rarely have a crowd of adoring fans, but we, too, need to gather a team to help in our recovery process. As nurses, we know assessment is the first step in any healing process. Consider starting your healing journey with our free Triage Your Heart Assessment and signing up for a CODE YOU Retreat today.


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