Meet Elizabeth Scala: Helping Nurses Find Balance
Keynote speaker and bestselling author, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week program, The Art of nursing, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way.
Receiving her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, she is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.
1. What were your early years as a nurse like?
Hmmm… can I say “all over the place!?” Gosh, at times I was super proud to be a nurse; my family would hear about my job and where I was working and sing my praises -- the same with the actual work. I could go home feeling really accomplished, as though I had helped a person in need. Other times, not so much.
I would get frustrated with unit politics, angry at coworkers, and feel pure exhaustion from the stress. I do know one thing: as an “early” nurse, I always volunteered; I got myself onto committees and I helped out on projects. I wanted to learn as much as I could and be as involved as possible.
2. You often say you're not a "nursey nurse". Tell us about your focus on psychiatric nursing.
That’s right! Don’t tell anyone, but the first (and only) time I gave blood…I fainted! I am just not good with lines, tubes, guts, and gore. Honestly, I did not even know that I was going to become a nurse; I sort of “fell” into it. My first degree was in psychology; I have always had a passion for and interest in the mind. So, when I graduated nursing school -- knowing full well that med-surg or some type of similar “nursey” experience was NOT for me -- I landed in psych; and I mean landed with love. I did enjoy the time I was able to spend with patients; running groups, just watching TV, or eating meals with the patient population all provided opportunities to engage and teach a patient something new. The full hands-on of psych nursing was right up my alley.
3. What inspired you to become a nurse speaker, author, and presenter? What’s your mission in that regard?
My own burnout. I responded to the first question that my early years were all over the place; couple that with my “jump in to help” nature, and it was a recipe for overload. After less than four years, I was done; I had burned myself out with my own work style and needed to take a break. I literally left that full time job to work part time in a gym – still as a nurse – running an exercise program for physician-referred exercisers who needed a nurse’s monitoring. After I was able to get my own life back together, I realized, “We cannot have nurses jumping ship like I did! Who would be left to care for the patients!?” So I opened my business and decided to focus on nurse burnout so that other people didn’t have to experience the hardships that I went through.
4. You’ve published a number of books for nurses; do you have more books in the works?
Not right now. Stop Nurse Burnout just launched this past summer, and we are doing everything we can to get it in the hands of nurses around the world.
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5. You’re a nurse podcaster on both RNFM Radio and your own show, “Your Next Shift”. What is it like to be a podcaster?
Fun; really fun – that is the number one thing I experience as a podcaster. I love it. I am a natural born speaker and love an audience, so being on a podcast is a way to do this more often – and from the comfort of my own home! It is totally cool. The neat thing about my “Your Next Shift” show is that I get to talk to hundreds of nurses around the country. They are all doing such unique and wonderful things, and then I get to showcase these and share with other nurses. What a way to celebrate our profession!
6. When you speak on stage to a roomful of nurses, what type of experience do you want your audience to have?
Life-changing; I know it sounds large, but I really do. I was just thinking about this the other day, actually. My talks do not have a TON of content in them. Why? I want each person to take away at least one thing – just ONE thing that they can then implement in their lives going forward. I mean we cannot retain every bit of information during a talk, right? But if they can take away one thing, digest it, and really act upon it, their lives will never be the same (and all for the better).
7. If you could talk to every new nurse just entering the profession, what are the most crucial pieces of advice that you would give?
Great question. 1) Find a support system, and use it! 2) Be yourself; you can get lost in the “crowd” that is nursing. You may find it lonely at times if you have to stand up for what you believe and know is right – and you may be doing that all by yourself. But be yourself, as this is the very best way I have found to enjoy my career. And 3) Have fun; don’t just work in a job because you were told that you need the experience. Figure out what you love and find a job that does that; or, create one for yourself! Staying stuck will land you in burnout; not a fun place to be! Trust me, I know.
8. If you were to name several habits that assist you in being effective and productive, what would they be?
You’ll have to limit me here; I can go on and on because I LOVE being organized. So, my top three would be:
a. Use a tracking system . This might mean for appointments. to keep up with and respond to emails, to network or find jobs. Use a professional and organized tracking system that will keep you accountable, not the back of a napkin or a scrap of paper.
b. Do one thing at a time. Really, multi-tasking does NOT work; you will find yourself distracted, scattered, and being unable to finish your work. I know it sounds counterproductive, but you really do need to do one thing at a time. I set a timer, and when the timer goes off, I switch to the next piece of work. I do not keep all of my browsers open and I stay off of social media during project work hours.
c. Ask questions. Read, listen, and learn, and then do what you received or took in. To be productive, you need to find ways to do things faster. If you are not an expert in something, ask for help; listen to what they are telling you and learn how to do it. Then you can actually implement what was recommended and enjoy a faster, more efficient way!
9. Why are self-care and wellness so important for nurses?
If you do not take care of yourself, who is going to do it for you? No one. And an even better question for you: if you are running on empty, what can you give? Nothing. You need to be filled up, full of joy, and ready to go; that is the very best way you will show up to take care of another person.
10. Readers, who already know you understand that you like to have fun; how do fun and leisure make you more effective as a nurse and business owner?
Being able to take a break opens up your creative side. You may be out in nature and get a great idea for a blog post; you may be dancing at a show with friends and feel inspired to work harder the next day. Your brain and body need a break from work. When you have fun, you invite the joyful feelings; these are what keep you going when the work gets tough.