The Warm-Fuzzy File
I think every nurse should keep a warm-fuzzy file. I do. I don’t care what form it takes: a fancy decorated box (for the scrapbooking, artistic types out there), an actual scrapbook, a file folder, an electronic folder, or a pile. Whatever type of organizer you are, that’s how you should keep your warm-fuzzy file.
What is a warm-fuzzy file? It’s whatever floats across your horizon that makes you remember why you wanted to be a nurse, why you love your job (you do), and how good you are at it. It can include snippets from your ivory-tower nursing school days (“I want to help people”), copies of your yearly review, cards or notes from patients, accolades from your boss, specialty certifications you’ve gotten, notes you’ve written about particularly satisfying saves, and so on. There’s no formula because no one else can tell you what will give you the warm fuzzies.
Why should anyone spend the time to do this? It doesn’t take that much time, first of all, and I think it is worth the little time it takes because the warm fuzzies add up surprisingly quickly and can save you when you’re at the end of your rope. I think all nurses have shifts after which we come home and announce to anyone present (including the dog, if we live alone) that the choice of nursing as a career was a horrifying error, we are terrible at our jobs, and we are simply lucky we’ve had the good fortune not to kill someone. After such shifts, we need a way to remind ourselves that our career choice was a good one, we are good at our jobs, and people like us.
Even if you’re not having a particularly bad day, after a few years it’s fun to pull stuff out of the file and remember the incident (“holy cow! I forgot about this funny lady!”). We think we can’t possibly forget patients or incidents, but we do. We think we will never, ever forget the time the feared physician made a special trip over to our computer to say, “That was a really good catch you made.” But we do.
So when stuff like that happens, write it down! Toss it in the file.
Use of the file. I keep my file in Evernote (unsurprising because I keep nearly everything in Evernote). I’ve had it since nursing school, and I actually use it. I’ve learned through the years that when I truly get to the point of opening the classifieds to look for something else to do, a quick browse through the warm-fuzzy file cures the urge. “Oh, I remember the lady’s family who sent me candied almonds because I sat with her while she died on account of they were stuck in a hurricane and couldn’t get here.” Or “I found the abscess causing this patient’s sepsis and the hospitalist said it may have saved his life.” And so on. It’s also impressive to leaf through the sheer amount of STUFF I have accomplished in a few years. I’m certified in a lot of things!
Bonus. My HR department has a clause in a policy that says you can ask to have positive things added to your personnel file, and I’m guessing that’s standard. So I recently copied my patient compliments and those from my bosses and asked to have them put in my file. Everyone gets written up eventually for something; isn’t it nice to know you’ve got something positive in there too?
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