Aim: This paper is a report of a literature review to explore the concept of personal resilience as a strategy for responding to workplace adversity and to identify strategies to enhance personal resilience in nurses.
Background: Workplace adversity in nursing is associated with excessive workloads, lack of autonomy, bullying and violence and organizational issues such as restructuring, and has been associated with problems retaining nurses in the workforce. However, despite these difficulties many nurses choose to remain in nursing, and survive and even thrive despite a climate of workplace adversity.
Data sources: The literature CINAHL, EBSCO, Medline and Pubmed databases were searched from 1996 to 2006 using the keywords 'resilience', 'resilience in nursing', and 'workplace adversity' together with 'nursing'. Papers in English were included.
Findings: Resilience is the ability of an individual to positively adjust to adversity, and can be applied to building personal strengths in nurses through strategies such as: building positive and nurturing professional relationships; maintaining positivity; developing emotional insight; achieving life balance and spirituality; and, becoming more reflective.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that nurses can actively participate in the development and strengthening of their own personal resilience to reduce their vulnerability to workplace adversity and thus improve the overall healthcare setting. We recommend that resilience-building be incorporated into nursing education and that professional support should be encouraged through mentorship programmes outside nurses' immediate working environments.