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Laughter is the best medicine

Last night was fun. I spent the evening at a local pub where the food is good and the company was even better.

Every six weeks or so, I meet up with a group of nurses who are all ex-colleagues. We call ourselves a book club but, in truth, although nearly all of us have a passion for reading, a literary discussion is fairly low on the agenda. It usually gets pretty late in the evening before one of us suddenly remembers “We haven't talked about the book yet!” and we charge into another animated discussion, this time with a vaguely bookish theme.

Our tastes are fairly broad. We range from the classics through to the latest 'Richard and Judy' book club recommendation, taking it in turns to choose 'the book'. On one occasion, one member of the group (the one who is not the avid reader) gave us the 'Next' catalogue as her choice!

I always come away feeling so glad that these nurses and health care assistants are part of my life. Some of them have been my boss at some stage in my career and some have been fellow team members. We have all been through fairly gruelling times in our personal lives, but mainly in the demands placed on us by our professional lives.

They are all great, compassionate caring people, so work-related stress has been a constant theme, but meeting up gives us the chances to share our frustrations and cares.

Our group understands what it is like to be trying to try to care for frail, vulnerable patients with not enough staff, to be working stupid hours to fill the gaps, and to be fighting to protect your team from the same tensions that threaten your own sanity.

However, before you start to think that our 'book club' is some earnest therapy group, I should point out that these conversations tend to only take up a tiny and very discrete part of the evening. Most of the evening is spent laughing about whatever we have been up to since we last met; one member commenting that when another member interviewed her for a job 15 years before, she had no idea that she would end up sharing a very small tent with her half way up Killimanjaro with very limited toilet facilities; another reporting on her ongoing recovery from her serious back injury acquired in a dodgem car (best not to ask...)!

It is the laughter that seems to be the common theme whenever I meet up with my other nursing friendship groups. The girls I trained with came to stay a few weeks ago - I was exhausted from laughing by the time they left. In a few weeks time we have a silver wedding party with another load of ex-colleagues notorious for their noise, energy on the dance floor and general ability to have fun! 

This ability of nurses to rise above the tragedies and dramas of our working lives should be cherished. It is a safety valve, but more importantly, in cherishing the joy and exuberance of good friendships, good relationships with colleagues and patients, and the joy of being alive, we gain the emotional energy to keep caring for our patients with kindness and compassion.