“It’s okay to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.”
A few years ago, in a small town not too far away, a young woman stood at the precipice of something. She had no idea where it would take her, how it would both hurt and heal her heart, and how much it would teach her about life. She thought she had some ideas, but her imagination was not that strong.
Fast forward eight years, 4 hospitals, and more experiences than can possibly be believed by anyone other than her fellow nurses in arms, here we are. It’s through integrating all of my experiences I find myself here, yearning to make a difference in not only my practice, but to that of all those around me.
I never dreamed of being a nurse even though I have a legacy. Truth be told, I had the dream of being an attorney (ugh what a disaster that would have been). My dear Grandmother graduated with her nursing diploma in 1931 and nursed through 7 children, the Great Depression, war and widowhood with a strength I’m told was legendary. She was precise, well trained and exceedingly competent, but most importantly she was excellent. When the prospect of being a nurse became a reality, I knew that I too, must be excellent. I would be caring for people who are vulnerable in one way or another, and those people are entitled to excellence.
So I was. I worked and learned and worked and learned and I became excellent. I learned to relate to patients and converse over bed baths and dressing changes. I made sure families were kept up to speed, that the hospitality carts were exactly as needed while loved ones were leaving, and became very adept at bridging the gap between families and physicians that often plagues critical care. I knew my medications, interactions and what worked best for each patient, and NEVER gave anything without knowing explicitly what it was for and how it worked. My docs trusted me and my judgement. If I had a feeling I couldn’t explain they would give my patient an extra night in the ICU, because as if it were a superpower, I could sense a patient decompensating long before they were (still can actually).
I had become what I wanted, but I wasn’t happy in my work. I was proud of my work, and proud of how I did it, but I wasn’t happy. Just a mere 18 months in to the career that I had been so excited to start, I was mentally and emotionally depleted. Less than empty, I had become a shell. I had dealt with a huge amount of trauma and death in my short time (I had worked in one of the biggest trauma centers in the country after all, but we’ll get to that later). It had flamed me out to the point I didn’t know if I could keep being a nurse. I was weeping before and after all of my shifts, distraught that I had to go back and do it all over again. I performed my duties competently and efficiently, but without any of the passion or vigor I had started with. I had also begun to allow myself to join in to the dross of negative banter we nurses are so familiar with, which was infecting my mindset and pushing me lower and lower. I didn’t recognize who I had become. I didn’t like her one bit. I knew for my own sanity and for my patient’s well-being I needed to change. I was moving, so I took the opportunity to take a month off between jobs to work on myself and reinvigorate my practice. I read self improvement books, I did the work they suggested and remembered that I was in charge of me. I couldn’t control the shifts, I couldn’t control the patient’s or their families, but I could control how I felt about all of it. Turns out, it worked and I’ve never looked back!!
Now I know taking a month off is therapeutic, but not terribly feasible for a majority of us (I had been working 6 days a week for a year, I’d saved and had no babies at the time). Please keep reading. The advice I have to offer requires nothing more than a few minutes, and open mind and the willingness to look past where you are to get to where you want to be. Thank you for being here!