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December Dreaming

December Dreaming

“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray” – words from the famous 1966 musical recording “California Dreamin” by The Mamas and The Papas (Universal Music Group, 2018). Brown leaves and gray sky evoke images of barren landscape, not the dream of most people, right? Of course, the song does not end there but goes on to describe a dream of another location with a brighter view “on a winter’s day” (Universal Music Group, 2018). Ahhh, the beauty and power of a dream…of another location, another view, of a more pleasant, more soul nurturing environment.

Do you ever have a “nurse dream” – one that is NOT a nurse nightmare? That may sound like an off-the-wall question, but trust me…many nurses have nurse nightmares and not nurse dreams. A common nurse nightmare is being trapped in the never-ending “shift from hell”, the kind of shift we regale each other with in our social media posts, texts, and group conversations. The “one-up” kind that we outdo each other with, the kind that brings oohs and ahhs – and ends with everyone somehow feeling comforted in mutual hardship and suffering. Well, I am not thinking of a nurse kind of “Groundhog Day” (Ramis, 1993) but of another kind of nurse dream, a real dream. Do you have real nurse dreams, the kind which create a sense of wellbeing, hope, optimism? I do hope so, and the reason I do, is that dreaming has many health benefits. According to Walker (2017), dreaming is a type of “overnight therapy.”

It’s said that time heals all wounds, but my research suggests that time spent in dream sleep is what heals. REM-sleep dreaming appears to take the painful sting out of difficult, even traumatic, emotional episodes experienced during the day, offering emotional resolution when you awake the next morning (Walker, 2017, para 6).

Research shows distinct physiological differences between non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Interestingly, noradrenaline is not present in the brain during REM sleep. That is significant because noradrenaline is present in the brain at all other times except REM sleep – and REM sleep triggers emotionally laden memory locations in the brain. The result is that emotional memories can be processed safely, without the presence of the usually present anxiety provoking neurochemical, noradrenaline. Research also shows that REM sleep can unlock creativity (Walker, 2017).

Wow – my vote is in for more REM sleep for nurses – a lot more! But, while “Christmas REM Sleep Dreamin’” is definitely needed, I am thinking of a different type of Christmas Dreamin’, a Christmas Nurse Dreamin’ which stirs up hope in the innermost being of a nurse’s soul. Are you ready to do some soul-stirring Christmas Nurse Dreamin’, the kind tied to a psychological process, that of inspiration and resilience? Access to hopes and dreams is a sign that we are still “in the game” and moving forward, not psychologically immobilized with hopelessness and powerlessness, barely struggling to stay afloat.  If you no longer have hopes and dreams, something needs to change. The hopes and dreams are still there, just not where you can readily access them. A reactivation is in order. Doing so will build resilience, something desperately needed among nurses at this time. The good news is that hoping, dreaming, and inspiration are catching! Can you imagine if someone starts a fire of Christmas Nurse Dreamin’ leading to a step-up on resilience building? This would be an absolutely fantastic holiday gift to nurses and nursing. How could that happen? What would it take?

Henshall, Davey, and Jackson (2020) point out that the majority of those who become nurses possess characteristics compatible with resilience, these being empathy, caring about the welfare of others, and altruism. The nature of nursing education and the nursing role refine and reinforce these characteristics and build resiliency. Nurses speak of “finding purpose and meaning” in their nursing role, and that one factor driving the motivation to stay in nursing. The essence of resiliency is adaptability in the midst of adversity, the ability to cope with change and adversity. Among nurses, finding purpose and meaning in the nurse role is an important aspect of resiliency. Lighting that fire of hope, inspiration and dreaming among nurses begins with the reactivation of individual purpose and meaning in the nurse role – nurse by nurse by nurse.

Are you needing a reactivation of hope, inspiration, and dreaming – the Christmas Nurse Dreamin’ this blog has addressed? Are you ready to get inspired and start dreaming of how it could be in the nurse role for you, a new dream, a new start? Check out the online nursing programs offered by Ottawa University. 


Duff, S. (2019). All I want for Christmas is resilience.

Henshall, C., Davey, Z., and Jackson, D. (2020). Nursing resilience interventions – a way forward in challenging healthcare territories. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 29(19-20), 3597-3599.

Ramis, H. (1993). Groundhog Day [Film]. Columbia Pictures.

Universal Music Group (31 July 2018). California Dreamin’ [Video]. YouTube.

Walker, M. (2017). Why your brain needs to dream.

Posted: 12/12/2022
Updated: 02/10/2023 by Dr. Ruth L.M. Burkhart, DNP, MA, RN-BC, LPCC
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