Since my last post, I have been on a search to find healing in this crazy messed up world. I knew I needed help when I found it difficult to talk about the trauma without my eyes welling up with tears. It was then that I decided to open myself up to different ways to recover from all the terrible things that I see on the job.
I started meditating and practicing yoga. I also started planning more gatherings with family and friends. Improvements in diet and sleep have helped, although this is more challenging to do. If I focus on why I am doing this, it becomes an easier task. Baby steps…
Months later I am not completely “fixed”, but it’s not like I will ever be. Life is messy. I have acknowledged this fact for a long time, but yet it is still a difficult pill to swallow. Our experiences make a lifelong impact. The only thing I can control is how I choose to handle it.
So here I am. Still trying to balance work life and personal life. The messiness continues. At work the traumas keep coming in and so do the really sick people. At home, I am supporting my significant other as he tries to find his way in a new industry at a startup company. In the last week, my dad just had open heart surgery. He is doing great, but it’s a long road to recovery. On top of this, my aunt is in kidney failure and is receiving hospice care. And now, one of my childhood friends is facing the fact that her mom might not survive after a bad fall.
It’s a lot. But I know things could be worse.
I could drown in negative thoughts, but what always brings me back to the surface is gratitude. The first thing that comes to mind is how lucky I am to have so much love in my life. I truly mean this. When shit is hitting the fan, the reinforcements appear – my family and friends! Even though I am so independent, they allow me….no, they remind me….to lean on them. I don’t have to hold back tears, force a cheerful hello, or hide my feelings. How lucky can one person be?
My experiences over the last year have reminded me that healing is an ongoing job. I am reminded by something an old boss said to me when I was feeling overwhelmed:
“How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.”
In surgery we do something known as a “timeout.” We verify identity of the patient, the procedure that will be performed (and later, has been performed), and all pertinent information. This occurs three times while a patient is under our care in the operating room. It happens when the patient enters the room (a “sign in”), before incision (“pre-incision”), and at the end of the procedure (“debrief”). It allows the surgical team to ensure a patient’s safety as well as review any issues that might have been encountered.
At the end of my work day and my work week, I do my own timeout. It helps me answer these questions:
- What challenged me today/this week?
- How did I handle it?
- What did I learn about myself?
- What did I learn about others?
- How can I improve?
Maybe this sounds too touchy feely or too deep, but I honestly love my job. When I stop taking it seriously, it’s time for me to find something new. Taking care of my patients is a big deal to me and I just want to be the best that I can be.
Asking myself these questions also allows me to take better care of me. It prevents the onset of nurse burnout. One of my fears is that I go back to the person I was in my last job as an assistant nurse manager in surgery at a busy Level I Trauma Center. The stress from that role made me a different person. The job wasn’t fun and neither was I. My family and friends can attest to that! When a friend bluntly told me that she “will pull [my] hair out if [I took] another management job,” I knew it was bad. I didn’t realize the extent until I left to go back to being a staff nurse. What a difference! I show up, work hard, and then at the end of the day I go home and can leave the work at work.
In my Personal Timeout, items tend to fall in these categories:
- Moments That Made Me Laugh
- Times When I Wanted To Quit
- Reminders of Why I Do This Crazy Job
Today is the end of my work week. I worked four ten-hour shifts and it’s time to call it DONE. So here is my Debrief…
Moments That Made Me Laugh
- My ornery nurse friend who would not take crap from a resident when he tried to do things his way versus the way the attending surgeon usually does it. Sometimes you have to remind them that they are not the attending!
- The CRNA who sang along to a Spotify Throwback Thursday playlist and didn’t realize she was doing it until the surgeon mentioned it. He was entertained and she was embarrassed!
- A coworker who announced that she is trying to be more positive by forcing an unconvincing smile. It looked painful… We told her to “just do you.” No point in looking constipated!
- The 80 year-old woman who was trying to get up on the operating room table while waking up from anesthesia. She told a resident to “shut up” several times as he was trying to calm her down. Feisty little lady!
Times When I Wanted To Quit
- The combination of having a new employee to teach, a surgeon who was in a hurry, and an annoying sales rep made my head pound.
Reminder of Why I do This Crazy Job
- My patients and their families and their appreciation of my care
- Being able to share knowledge AND learn from my colleagues
- Working with people who know the meaning of TEAM
I really do love being an Operating Room Nurse. It is hard to think about finding satisfaction in doing something else. At this point, I am not actively searching for a new position. Surgical nursing is a very physical job and I know that I need to figure out where I want to be in the future. Hopefully, I can figure that out before my body starts protesting!