"Stillness stops" Making stillness truly a nursing value?

For this blog we are back again with stillness.

Recall that stillness is "a state of freedom from disturbance"

The previous blog emphasises that nurses' practice of stillness for at least 5 minutes during personal time every day is essential for the effective practice of Careful Nursing; it also briefly describes stillness and its influence in nursing practice.

Now, to stillness as a nursing value.

According to the phenomenological philosopher Edith Stein, a value is something that motivates us. In Careful Nursing daily practice of stillness is a value that motivates us to practice Careful Nursing effectively.

However, anecdotal evidence indicates that among Careful Nursing nurses, practice of stillness during personal time each day for at least 5 minutes is patchy at best; no time, too busy is a common refrain.

Are we catching ourselves in a trap here? Can it really be that we do not value a practice that frees us from disturbances which can all too easily overwhelm us and weaken our ability to practice Careful Nursing effectively?

Can we afford to let slide a practice that will help us develop a consistently calm way of being, enable us to practice with greater patience and kindness, and strengthen our composure and professional self-possession?

Can we find a way around this conundrum? Yes, we can.

First, by merging the value of stillness with stillness as a virtue.

Second, by reversing the order in which we establish our practice of stillness, from practice time to personal time.

According to Aristotle virtues are excellent ways of being that enable us to flourish. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Books 2 and 7, Aristotle proposes that practicing virtues will "make [us] do [our] own work well" and by practicing virtues repeatedly they will become "[our] nature in the end".

Thus, from Aristotle's virtue perspective, practicing stillness will help us do our work well and practicing stillness repeatedly will enable stillness to become part of our nature.

Interestingly, Aristotle tells us that we cannot develop a virtue by thinking about it, but only by practicing it. The more we practice it the more it becomes second nature to us.

So, here are some ways we can take the plunge in practice.

Prior to each handover we can take a 30-second "stillness stop" (30 seconds of stillness can seem quite long). Before engaging in a challenging practice situation, we can take a 10-second "stillness stop". Prior to beginning a meeting, we can take a 1-minute "stillness stop".

And importantly, as soon as students walk in the door of a school of nursing they can be greeted with "stillness stops". A 1-minute "stillness stop" at the beginning and end of each class over the period of students' programme is likely to help them to be calm, think clearly and flourish despite the many disturbances they will encounter.

"Stillness stops" will become an especially valued part of students' education when they come to their clinical placements. 

During clinical placements students will be ready to share in and learn from practice-based "stillness stops". Students will be able to create their own brief "stillness stops" to pace themselves through their progressive clinical encounters with patients, with ever developing calmness, patience, kindness, clear thinking, composure and self-possession. Students and graduates together will likely be enhanced in their care for themselves and one another.

In the end, stillness as a virtue will also become stillness as a nursing value. As "stillness stops" establish the practice of stillness in practice time, nurses will become more likely to see the true value of practicing stillness in their own personal time for at least 5 minutes every day.

Therese Meehan

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