What’s on my mind about nursing? Potlucks.

Crockpots were lined up as far as the eye could see at this week's potluck on our nursing unit.
Crock pots were lined up as far as the eye could see at this week's potluck on our nursing unit.

The thermometer read -8 degrees when I hopped out of my car on Sunday morning to brave the walk from the parking ramp to the hospital entrance.  I ran into two of my nurse colleagues in the stairwell upon arriving.  They were robed in Vikings apparel and each of them had a crock pot in tow.  The home team may not have won this weekend, but our Sunday potluck was a win on many fronts.  The impact of the nursing unit potluck on morale is what's on my mind about nursing, this week.

"I don't even feel like I'm at work," I heard one nurse say as a couple of folded bed-sheets were fluffed open and made to function like fine, white, table linens as we set up the spread in the break room.

"I'm not gonna lie, this turned into a $40 dip," another nurse roared as she stirred her (delicious) buffalo chicken dip.  One of our star clinical support assistants had us hanging on every word and every bite as we savored a sneak preview of his homemade bone broth soup.  American dim sum, we jokingly labeled that moment of taking some quick nibbles on morning break of all the goodness that awaited us on our lunch break.  This, people, is a taste of the palpable energy that is potluck day on a nursing unit.

The unit potluck is an opportunity to dedicate break time and some time on the home-front to prepare a little dose of TLC for the colleagues who affectionately become the work family.  Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and game day in recent weeks on my calendar have been exponentially heightened by the feasts that have come together in the name of camaraderie.  Potluck days are sure to bring an added moment of levity...and whether you're showing up with the chips or the aforementioned $40 dip, your contribution is part of a whole heap of food and fun to be had by all.

I've seen the unit potluck play out in a variety of forms and fashions.  There's the case study of what Mighty Nurse calls, "The Potluck Nurse" - where a unit can count on one brave soul to rally a menu and a mentality for coming together to break, and to break bread.  SignUpGenius can whet your appetite with their rave round-up of 50 Creative Potluck Themes and a modern day version of the break room sign up sheet.  Or, I once worked on a unit where our "potluck nurse" would plan and prepare a sign-up list detailed with everything needed to pull off a feast, divided into equal cost-to-create contributions.

A couple current work-family friends of mine and I have taken our affinity for food-shares to a down-sized potluck concept on our rotation of working every-other weekend.  We created a private group on social media (The Lunch Ladies) to communicate about what's cookin' as we go into our weekend stretch...and then we swap our respective contributions once we get to work.  It's a win-win, because you cook one thing and you end up with three home-cooked dishes to enjoy over the weekend.  Planning to be at the hospital for three consecutive 12-hour shifts (where you are away from home for an average of 14 hours a day) can feel like a business trip where you are prepping your own meals.  And if you enjoy food prep and consumption as much as the three of us do, the variety in the swapping is the cherry on top of this make-ahead-meal method.

Tactics for raising morale on nursing units is well documented in academic journals.  But today's reflection is boiled down to the basics.  There's just nothing quite like a unit potluck (for three or for thirty!) to rally spirits, satiation, and sustainability for a long shift.

What's on your mind about nursing?  Commenting here or on the Facebook post adds to the potluck of thoughts about the work we share.  Or, email me at natalie@thereflectivenurse.com to volunteer a guest blog post to answer this pressing question.




2 thoughts on “What’s on my mind about nursing? Potlucks.

  1. Jeff Hudson

    As a reflective non-nurse, I wonder if there is something in particular about the nursing/health field that makes these kind of gatherings uniquely important. I work at a community college, and we typically have potlucks to celebrate a birthday. I really love those days, but I don't know if it has the same impact to me. What I especially enjoy is the opportunity to get a glimpse into everyone's culture and home life as they talk about how they made what they made. Keep up the great work, Natalie!

  2. TheRN

    Thanks so much for your comment, Jeff. Your pondering gets right to the heart of why I started this blog - to reflect! I am sitting on my hands (yet still typing) and trying not to be the first to respond. I'm learning that more dialogue happens on social media outlets than in this comment section...so I'm taking your comment to the post about this post! Of course I have my theories on what makes these gatherings uniquely important in the nursing/health field - and I very much appreciate the nudge to articulate that response! Stay tuned...

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