No days off

Have you ever encountered this particular situation,

Them: “Hey, when are you off again?

You: “Well I am off tomorrow but I…”

Them: “Oh good because I need you to…”

Or my other personal favorite,

Them:How are you doing?”

You: “Whew, I am worn out! It’s been a long week!”

Them: “How are you always tired, you only work three days a week!!!” 

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!

Let’s start with the fact that nurses work with people every day we are at work. PEOPLE. Like, human beings… HAVE YOU SEEN OUR SPECIES??? We deal with emotional outbursts, insults, violence, unrealistic expectations, death, etc. ON A DAILY BASIS! It’s not just 3 days, or 4 days, or 5 days, or whatever schedule that we work. It’s the emotional baggage we deal with on days off. It’s wondering if you could have saved that patient if you had done one thing differently. It’s trying to figure out why this one nurse hates you. It’s sitting at home thinking about the child abuse victim that you know will be given back to their parents. It’s thinking about the insults the doctor hurled at you because you weren’t moving fast enough. It’s class assignments due at midnight. It’s the kids having soccer, baseball, and basketball practice the couple of days you have off. It’s 3 weeks of laundry that still needs to be done. It’s a house that desperately needs cleaning because you haven’t had time. It’s never having an inkling of downtime.

It’s constantly feeling like you are walking on a razor-thin edge between success and insanity.

It’s stressful.

The last thing we need is to be made to feel guilty because we are too tired to hang out or because we don’t have time to be someone’s personal errand-runner.

Your days off belong to you. Every single one of them. You deserve to power down. You deserve to do NOTHING if that is what you want to do. You aren’t being “lazy”. You are trying to maintain your sanity. You are not wrong for turning down a night out on the town. You are not wrong for telling someone “no” when they start to come up with your schedule for your day(s) off for you. You are not wrong for shutting out the world temporarily if you need to. You take care of so many people, you deserve to take care of yourself. Nurse yourself back to health. Take your days off and do whatever the hell you want with them.

A nurse that doesn’t take care of themselves can’t effectively take care of others.

 

 

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Keep calm

So that one coworker has managed to get under your skin.

Again.

The non-constructive criticism. The passive aggressive behaviors. The gossiping. The outright rudeness.

You have had it. You’re ready to blow a fuse.

Don’t.

As hard as it may seem, take a deep breath and keep calm. Easier said than done, I know. This one individual has made it their mission to drag you, and probably others, down to their level of misery. That’s exactly what it is. Misery. Perhaps their home life is falling apart. Perhaps they are struggling in school. Maybe someone they know is extremely sick.

Or maybe they are just an asshole.

Either way, they bring their misery to work and try to project it on others. It’s not your job to deal with their poor coping mechanisms.

I am not saying you need to ignore their behavior. I am saying don’t let them get you so worked up that you snap. When you snap you look like the aggressor and they get to play the victim. That’s why I want you to stop and take that deep breath. Walk away if you need to. Go take a break in the bathroom. Once you feel you are ready you need to pull them aside, if you’re comfortable, and speak your mind. Let them know you do not appreciate their behavior. Stand up for yourself. Calmly. Respectfully.

Then continue on about your day.

Two things will come from your conversation:

  1. They realize they need to change their behavior.
  2. They take no accountability and try to play the victim.

At this point, you have done what you need to do to handle the situation. If the behavior continues, take it to management. It is their turn to address this person. If you have a good manager they will step in and handle it. Conflict resolution is a part of their job. If your manager sucks, they’ll try to place it back in your hands and make you feel like you need to handle it. If your manager is the latter, take it higher. Make sure you communicate with management (through email so you have proof of escalation) that you are not comfortable with the way the situation was handled. Most places of employment have an HR department. Report the toxic behavior. You aren’t being a “snitch”. You are standing up against a toxic individual creating a toxic atmosphere. You are bringing attention to the fact that the behavior has been allowed to continue. You are taking a stand against lateral violence. You are taking the opportunity to fix a situation that has probably gone on for FAR too long. You are doing what is appropriate to create a positive work environment. You are doing what needs to be done. Take pride in that.

If you need to distance yourself from the individual(s) do so. If you can schedule yourself on the days or shifts they don’t work, do so. If you need to find a better place to work, DO SO. You became a nurse to help people, not deal with coworkers crappy attitudes for 8-12 hours. Self-care can mean removing yourself completely from a bad situation if need be. If you are treating those you work with respectfully, you deserve respect in return.

Keep calm and make moves.

Disconnect

Have you ever had one of those shifts that you take home with you?

You know the one… Maybe a patient died despite you giving your everything yet you still feel like you could have done more. Maybe you stood up for what was right and got belittled by the doctor anyway. It’s one of those shifts that just doesn’t go away when you clock out and leave. How do you disconnect from those shifts?

What do you do to not let shifts like that drag you under? How do you keep it together and stay sane?

Being in the department I am in now, I haven’t had one of those shifts in a while. I can still remember having those shifts while I worked in the ICU though. In fact, I still can’t listen to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. I can still see the mother of the patient holding the phone to her 16 year old daughter’s ear. I can hear the song playing from the room. I can remember how heavy my heart felt knowing how hard her mother wanted her to fight. I remember how much it hurt to know her child’s injury was so severe that she would not survive.

Things like that stick with you.

Over the years there have been many shifts that I have taken home. There were shifts that almost broke me. It wasn’t until years into my nursing career that I learned how to disconnect… And not feel guilty about it. That was the other thing, I felt guilty about turning “it” off. I felt like when I tried to leave work at work I was not being a “caring” nurse. I felt like I was being cold and heartless. I had to learn that in order to continue to be a caring nurse, I had to mentally and emotionally take care of myself first. I couldn’t give from an empty vessel. I had to really practice some self care.

So now, I read. I write. I go jogging. I cook. And for the love of all things good, I use my PTO! I’m taking time off dammit! I may not go on vacation but I am a full believer in the “staycation”.

What do you do to keep yourself sane?

Nursing and mental health

Nursing and mental health go hand and hand. Nursing is hard. Nursing is hard not just physically but emotionally. We hold everything in because we are the ones that are supposed to help. We heal. We often forget that we can sometimes be the ones that need healing.

I was diagnosed with depression years ago, years before I became a nurse. I was placed on meds that I no longer take, I’ll explain why later on. Nursing school didn’t help, it just kept me so busy that I couldn’t take a moment to acknowledge the depression. Nursing, especially in a hospital that I hated, added anxiety attacks to the picture. I would wake up at night in a panic without being able to pinpoint why. That made me feel worse. I felt like an idiot for panicking over nothing, which made me hate myself even more. It was a downward spiral.

Before nursing school, when I first voiced suicidal ideation, my parents sent me to therapy. That is when I first received the diagnosis of depression (my mother died when I was 16, I watched her take her last breaths, I shut down big time). I was placed on trazodone and Zoloft. I hated it. I went from feeling depressed to feeling nothing at all. So I stopped taking both of them (don’t be like me) and instead stuck to therapy. It worked for me. She helped me come up with other ways to manage my mental illness. It worked for quite a while. Then enter nursing school and full-time nursing. I ended up back in therapy but due to my schedule I just couldn’t keep up with it. Hey, I’m a nurse, I can figure this out on my own. I’m tough. I’m a fixer. I’m a healer. I help everyone else so why can’t I help myself?

I am my own worst enemy.

I wear a smile for my patients and my coworkers. I am happy Fred the nurse. I’ve got a smile and a joke. My patients love me. My coworkers love me. Everyone believes I am ok. I look like I’m ok. I also spend most of my off days sleeping, I’m talking 12-13 hours. I don’t want to leave the house unless it’s to get food. I isolate myself from my friends, my brother is my roommate and he may not see me the whole day. I have dark thoughts that I know I should not be having. I wake up with my heart pounding feeling like some unknown thing is wrong and if I don’t fix it the world will implode. I am Fred the nurse and I have depression. I am Fred the nurse and I am not strong enough to battle this alone. I am Fred the nurse and I am strong enough to know that I need therapy again. I am Fred the nurse and I will get out of my own way. I am Fred the nurse and I will be ok.

 

Forever alone

Sometimes I feel “forever alone” when I am around non-nursing people. As a nurse I get to be a part of something amazing. I’ll always be proud I am a nurse. I don’t feel like my profession makes me better than anyone else. I do feel like my profession changed me.

I have seen death first hand.

I have had to hold back tears while a family kisses their 16 year old goodbye. I have watched a person suffer in the ICU because the family guilted them into remainding a full code, and endure multiple surgeries that ultimately wouldn’t fix anything, until they finally passed away in that bed. I have watched families lose hope as the transplanted organ fails. I have had to comfort patients after a devastating diagnosis.

I have had my ass handed to me at work.

I have worked 12 straight hours without being able to eat or even stop to pee. I have dealt with physical and emotional abuse at the hands of patients and their loved ones. I have been talked down to by medical professionals that feel they are above me thanks to a difference in degrees.

I hold it all in when I’m with family and non nursing friends. When people say my job is “easy” since I work nights and everyone is asleep, I just laugh. When people are certain I’m “paid” because nurses make “so much money”, I just stare blankly. I listen to people complain about their jobs intently while they dismiss my complaints because I knew nursing was hard.

It can make you feel alone.

It’s not all family members and not all non-nursing friends but enough to make me not talk about my job unless I am talking to a select few. It’s why the nursing community is so INVALUABLE to me. We can swap stories about the worst of the worst. We can laugh about some seriously dark sh*t with no judgment! We understand each other. The nursing community keeps me from feeling “forever alone”. Sometimes we are all we’ve got 😁!

Web MD is the thorn in nursing’s side

Web MD is the devil. It is the bane of nursing’s existence. There is almost nothing worse than a patient that has researched their symptoms on Web MD and knows what they have. Thank you for that. Really…

It’s cancer. It’s always cancer.

Somehow the cough that you have isn’t a cold. It isn’t even an upper respiratory infection. It’s lung cancer… with mets… to all the organs ever… because Web MD said so. Even better, we nurses just love when you argue with us on the fact that Web MD can’t actually give you a definitive diagnosis.

Look, people, I know being sick is scary. I know you want to know what’s wrong as quickly as possible. Web MD is not a doctor. Yes, “MD” is in the name but the website is NOT a doctor. The symptoms you are having are generic and could probably apply to anything. You really haven’t figured out what you have, you have just freaked yourself out. Now you are paranoid and plotting out your funeral.

Stop.

Step away from your computer. Pick up the phone. Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Get a real diagnosis. Please.

Self-care and nursing

You are a nurse. Your job is to take care of everyone else. When do you take care of you? As nurses, we are so conditioned to take care of others that we may feel guilty focusing on ourselves. That’s not fair to you.

At some point, you run out of steam. If you keep giving and giving but receiving nothing in return, you will become empty. An empty nurse is a dangerous nurse. An empty nurse can barely take care of themselves much less anyone else.

An empty nurse lacks empathy. An empty nurse stops caring. An empty nurse has nothing left of themselves to give.

THIS IS WHY SELF-CARE IS SO IMPORTANT! You cannot take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You have to practice self-care. You need to take moments to do things that you like to do. Like to shop? There is a lovely flea market on Saturday, go check it out. Like to cook? Well, whip it up chef! Like to sleep? You enjoy that nap like you’re still in kindergarten. Do whatever it is that makes you happy. You have to. You are just as important as anyone else. Your sanity matters. Imagine how much better you will feel. Imagine how much happier you will be. Imagine how much energy you will have to be the best nurse you can be. You are worth the time.

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