The song Dear Younger Me came on the radio as I was taxiing my kids to different events the other day. The artists of Mercy Me sing of the life lessons they now know and suppose writing a letter to their younger selves. Ultimately, one realizes this knowledge is only gained from living it. Nevertheless, it did get me thinking about what I might have to offer, from a nursing perspective of 25 years, to those less veteran than me. Here’s my:
Top 7 Things I Wish I’d Known About Nursing Sooner Rather than Later
You’ve Got to Embrace the Process
There are important things in knowing your role as a nurse – state practice acts, institution-specific nursing policies and procedures and specialty organization practice standards but, starting with the Nursing Process is the key to success. I know, I’m taking you back in time to Nursing 101 but the process of Assessing your patient, creating a Plan, Implementing that plan then Evaluating your patient’s response to it, is the golden standard. This cyclical process places the patient in the center of your care, promotes interdisciplinary teamwork and allows for greater autonomy. This is a solid foundation from which to build so embrace the process!!!
It’s your Nurse-Patient Relationship! Don’t Let Others Define It!
Well-meaning colleagues to the ones crispier than day old KFC can lead you astray in signing off patients to your care. Comments like “She’s a troll”, “He’s a drug seeker”, “That patient’s daughter is a control freak” or the good old “Good luck with this one” can lead you down a dangerous path of bad decisions with equally bad outcomes. Sometimes you’ll get exactly what the prior shift advertised. Often, though, your fresh face is an opportunity for a fresh start. Use the given information obtained prior to walking into the room as a guide and not a determinant of how you’ll deliver care. I’ve come to “specialize” in these “problem” patients and find my experience in recovering relationships highly rewarding. These interactions move me toward more open and better thinking; these moments provide me meaning to nursing as being more than just a job. Own your relationships — they are yours!
Don’t be Afraid to Share Some of Yourself
It’s been said, “Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” This is very true in my practice. To this end, I am open about my 40 year history of Type I IDDM and time served on the other side as a patient. I’ve learned more in this experience than I did in nursing school. Sharing evens out the playing field and allows for an empathetic approach to care. My “weakness” becomes a strength in establishing effective nurse-patient relations. Go ahead – throw fear out the window and share!
Go to Patient Funerals
Patients come to us at their most fragile, vulnerable and helpless moments. We often know things no one else (including spouses) knows. The hours we spend at patients’ bedsides can make you feel like nurse-banker-priest-friend. Many patients move toward recovery. Inherently though, we lose our battle against illness and patients die. I’ve cried many tears at the death beds of patients I’ve grown to love. Several years ago, I started going to their funerals and it is here that I’ve learned something beyond illness. Funerals provide insight to the WHO of my patients. They provide me a means to conclude our patient-nurse relationship. They allow me to move forward in establishing new ones. This is not easy but nursing never has been — go to funerals!
Become a Physician’s Nurse
I know, nursing heresy right? But answer me this, Don’t you want to be the nurse the medical team turns to when hell is in the hand basket? Better yet, don’t you want to be the nurse a physician chooses for their family member or themselves when in need of care? My four “C” attributes of a physician’s nurse are Candor, Compassion, Commitment and Collaboration. In other words, nurses that:
- Assert themselves in patient care
- Care about what they do
- Apply themselves to their work
- Recognize teamwork makes the dreamwork
These nurses gain respect and appreciation. This gives nursing a voice in all aspects, moments and environments of care. If you love autonomy being a physician’s nurse is the pathway to freeing yourself.
Give Your “Gifts” Beyond Hospital Walls
Volunteering your nursing care to homeless clinics, disaster organizations or on medical mission trips can renew your nursing soul. Burnout quickly comes when we lose insight into why we do what we do. You most likely didn’t become a nurse to make millions of dollars. Instead, the need of someone else led you to choose our profession. Volunteering reconnects you to this. You’ll likely work harder in this endeavor than in your daily grind but reconnecting to purpose and mission is invaluable and sustaining. Give your gifts!
Know Yourself Nurse
More to my previous point but I’d be remiss to not bring up burnout, compassion fatigue and secondary trauma. Current nursing literature identifies these as primary reasons nurses are leaving the profession. Recognizing early warning signs within ourselves and seeking care can take us from surviving to thriving in our work environs. Post-traumatic growth is possible but it takes action. The keys to success in knowing myself involve:
- staying engaged in my work by seeking new knowledge, participating in shared governance and writing A Patient Nurse.
- professional relationships – I seek mentors for myself and seek those I can mentor
- seeking meaning in my work by asking what difference did I make/can I make today
- learning from my mistakes and celebrating accomplishment
Now it’s your turn!
Where are you in your nursing career?
Newbies – What challenges are you finding most difficulty in overcoming?
Veterans – What lessons would you “send back” to yourself if you could?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. Do you disagree with me on any of my point. Did I miss anything you’d like to add. Let’s get a dialogue going!!!
As always, thank you for reading A Patient Nurse! Please Share with a Nursing Friend!