Return To ME

For eight months, I have been silent. It’s not that I don’t want to write… When I am just about to pull out my laptop, something gets in my way. It’s my To Do List, the telephone, the need to tidy my surroundings before I do something that requires sitting. More accurately, I get in my way. The excuses are really my tendency to procrastinate. I know that this will be good for me – to write and get everything off my chest.

I am so much better than before. Truly. Seriously. I promise I am.

What has helped me over the last several months, is that I finally put myself first. I leveled up my meditating game and have been making breakthroughs thanks to Dan Harris and crew at Ten Percent Happier. I have been doing MORE – more yoga, more listening to music, more cooking, more sitting down and doing NOTHING. It was a struggle not to feel like I should be doing more and being more “productive.” Thankfully, I came to the realization that, even if I was doing “nothing,” that that was actually SOMETHING for me and my mental health.

Meanwhile, things at work are interesting. COVID brought on different challenges, but then we all got used to the way we had to live our lives (N95 masks, all the PPE, negative pressure rooms, etc.). In the last six months, came another change – the loss of staff to lucrative agency contracts. My former co-workers have not been traveling out of state, just staying local. In fact, it feels like all the big hospitals in the city have just exchanged staff. We have been lucky to get some talented nurses who are very nice and fun to work with. Agency work isn’t for everyone, so we have added new staff as well. As a result, I have been teaching – A LOT. I actually enjoy it, but it doesn’t hurt that we get extra pay for precepting.

Watching my friends leave to pursue agency contracts has been hard. I completely understand why they are doing it, but still… It feels a little like breaking up.

Inevitably, I think that I will be going the agency route too. My boyfriend and I have been talking about moving to another state, so for now, I am putting agency opportunities on hold. Thoughts about leaving my current job make me sad, but things have changed so much that one way or another, it will never been what it once was.

Yes, change is inevitable. I have to accept this and be willing to let go of my comfort zone. The way I choose to look at the state of nursing and the uptick in agency staff is that I am increasing my network of nurse friends. Operating Room Nursing is such a small world. There aren’t many of us out there, so it stands to reason that I will eventually work with my friends again! And I’m good with that.

With all the changes in my personal life, professional life, and the world in general, it feels like I found my center and ready to ride whatever wave comes next.

Healing

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.”

Bon appétit!!!

Timeout

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.

But anyway…

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!