Guilt

I’m on school break and restart October 1st.

I didn’t have to take a break because of life events or anything like that. I am on term break until classes restart. I finished my 4 classes for the first term and had 5 weeks left until next term starts. If I had finished my last class a little earlier I would have had 6 weeks left which would have been enough time to add in another class. Since there, technically wasn’t enough time left, my advisor told me to take a break until the next term starts.

OK, cool, I earned a break…

Yet I feel guilty… Anxious. I feel like I should be doing something school related right now. I feel like I should be logging in to see if I can get the requirements for the next class. Not doing something school related makes me feel guilty.

I shouldn’t feel like this. I know that. However, I’ve been a full-time nurse and full-time student for so long that I don’t know what to do with free time. I’ve been playing Final Fantasy, enjoying friends, I even picked back up on learning how to knit. Yet I still feel this anxiety about school. My mind keeps telling me I am wasting my time and should be doing something, anything related to school… EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NOTHING I CAN ACTUALLY DO!

I hate that I have used school and work to occupy my time for so long that I feel guilt about free time. That’s not fair to me… And now you see why I’m in therapy…

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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.

 

 

A new thing

So I’m trying something new for health reasons.

Actually, I’m closing out my fifth week of it.

I removed meat from my diet.

My blood pressure the last few times has been borderline hypertensive. My weight is higher than it really needs to be. I always felt sluggish after eating a meal with a lot of meat. I also felt like it took so long for me to digest.

I know I wasn’t eating the right proportions of meat to vegetables. My meals were always meat-heavy. So I made a conscious decision to just cut it out all together and leafn how to eat the veggies I so often avoided.

My pressure is down closer to normal the last time it was checked. I lost about 3 pounds. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how often I’m in the bathroom! Fiber, man, fiber! But I can honestly say I do feel better. I have no idea how long I’m going to keep this up. So far I’m not missing meat. I do wish veggie bacon tasted better though. Either way, let’s see how long this lasts…

Decision made…

So…

If you remember some blogs ago, I posted about applying for NP school.

I didn’t get in.

sad failure

I felt like sh*t. I felt small. I felt insignificant. I felt like a failure. I was super bummed about it.

Was…

You know how you make a plan and then allow the opinions of others to make you veer from your plan? Yeah, that happened. Let’s go back a little, shall we?

If you have been with me for a while then you know I have been wanting to go back for a Master’s degree for quite some time. I have bounced between where in the nursing field I wanted to specialize. I have had people tell me I would make a great teacher. I love teaching people about things I know. Teaching is something I have grown to really, dare I say, love. Months ago I was talking to one of my coworkers that has been a nurse forever. I told him about wanting to get my DNP ultimately. His response? “Great! Get your MSN in education and then come back here (the academic hospital where we work) and get your DNP! You’ll make a good teacher”. Prior to even talking to him, the “education” path had been floating around in my mind. I kept pushing it away because according to everyone else, that’s not the “money making” field. As far as most people are concerned, there’s no reason to go back to school unless it’s to get a degree that is going to make you way more money. Forget doing what I like to do. Forget wanting to make a difference in the medical field. Forget wanting to help others. Will it make me more money?

I got sucked into that mindset.  A DNP will make me more money and I need to get it now. Forget getting an MSN and then a DNP, that’ll take too long. Nope, I’m going BSN-DNP STAT!

I was introduced to a program that had the BSN-DNP option. Great! I expressed interest and quickly found out I did not have the GPA currently to do the DNP program.

denied

I could do one of the NP tracks though. Oh… Okay, I guess. I mean, I wasn’t really looking to be an NP but according to everyone else, it was the way to go. So I applied for the NP option. I filled out the application (3 times because the system kept losing it which was probably my first red flag), updated and sent in my resume, completed the essay, and got glowing references (which I ended up having to scan to my email to send to the advisor because the reference link wouldn’t link back to my application because of a glitch, second red flag), and I waited…

And waited…

And waited…

For four weeks.

And then the rejection email and the pity party.

So after all of that, I had to really sit down and think all of this through.

What do I enjoy doing? Where do see my career going? How do feel I can be the best benefit to others? What do really want to do?

I. Like. Educating.

DAMMIT SHAUNELLE, YOU’RE AN EDUCATOR!!!!

I am planning to start school in April. I got accepted into an MSN in education program at the same university that I obtained my BSN from. I should have my degree in about 1.5-2 years if I can buckle down and do this full time. I am not doing what everyone else wants me to do. I am not going for the big bucks (if I wanted big bucks nursing is probably not where I should have headed anyway). I am going to do what I feel is going to make me happy in the long run. It may take an extra step or two but I am going to do things my way.

 

 

 

Burn out

I had a nurse shadowing me that was applying for a position in radiology. She seemed very nice and very knowledgeable. She is currently working at the bedside and decided it was time for a change. We began conversing about the job I currently do and how different it was from bedside nursing. Let’s be honest, my job can have chaotic moments but for the most part it is chill. I wanted to hear more about what made her want to transfer into our department.

Surprise, surprise… She was burned out. She started sharing why she was burned out. She felt unappreciated. She felt mentally exhausted. She was frustrated. I knew exactly how she felt. We swapped stories of our nights of hell. She was curious as to what made me leave the ICU and transfer to radiology. I was honest… I was burned the hell out at the bedside! I worked bedside for eight years. Eight years of endlessly cleaning poop, call bells ringing simultaneously, angry family members, unsafe staffing ratios, little to no lunch break, and management asking “did you update you white boards?”. I realized I was just over it. Now I will say this: I loved working in the STICU. It was hell on wheels some nights but I learned so much.

And that’s the thing, I feel like walking through the nursing “flames” made me a better and more rounded nurse. At this point I can handle just about anything you can throw at me. Being a beside nurse is what really made me a good nurse. While it was stressful, I don’t think I would change anything if I could go back in time and do so. However, I realized I was done and exited bedside nursing stage left.

I recognized I was burned out. I felt it. I could see the change in my patient and family interactions. I literally drove to work with anxiety because I just KNEW the night was going to be a sh*t show. I had to take benadryl just to sleep. Things were not okay. So I made a change. It looks like she is ready to make a change. I commend her for recognizing that. In fact, I commend any nurse that recognizes they have reached the burn out stage. More than that I deeply respect nurses that not only recognize they are burned out, they start making the necessary changes to beat burn out. Know when you feel burned out, it is okay. It is just fine to leave the situation you’re in. You are not running. You are not “abandoning” anyone. You are doing what is best for you.

Have any of you (nurse or not) ever had to leave your job because you knew it was making you miserable?

The future

What do you think we will see in the future with medicine? We seem to be making advances everyday. To me, that is a great thing. The further we advance, the better we can treat.

I have been a nurse now for eight years and just in this amount of time I have seen medications be introduced and then recalled for some side effect they weren’t anticipating. We now have a cure, a cure for hepatitis C! How wonderful is that? I have seen advances in procedures. I have been trained on new medical equipment because what we were using was considered obsolete. I can only imagine the changes nurses that have been working for decades have witnessed. I would love to just sit and listen to some of those stories!

Of all the advances there is one that I am waiting for most of all: a cure for cancer. I lost my mother and my grand-mother to cancer. I talk to patients all day that are here to get scans to check if their cancer has come back or spread. It is personal to me. I want cancer gone. I don’t want to see another child with a brain tumor. I don’t want to see another woman with breast cancer. I don’t want to see another man with prostate cancer. I wish cancer could get cancer and die.

I have this naïve little hope that in the next ten years or so someone, somewhere, is going to be the one to achieve that break through. I have this hope that I will turn on the news and hear the broadcaster say “scientists have finally found a cure for cancer!”. I keep hoping that the cure will happen in my lifetime.  I am only 35, I hopefully have plenty of years left in me. Come on scientist, do this favor for me ok?!

Preceptor behavior (how not to be an asshole)

I have been the orientee and I have even done a little precepting. I lucked out so far and had wonderful preceptors (except for one but anyway…) but I have seen some TERRIBLE preceptors.

One thing that I noticed from a few of the preceptors that I would definitely label as “assholes”, is that they take pride in being intimidating to their orientee. I have witnessed this behavior and have had other nurse confide in me about their preceptors after they were out of orientation. Some of the things I heard were appalling.

It is NEVER okay to make your orientee feel “dumb” or “stupid”. You were a new nurse at one time and you didn’t know everything when you started, you had to be taught as well. You know what else is not okay? It’s not okay to just leave your orientee to fend for themselves. You are not on vacation, you are responsible for teaching this new employee the ways of your unit. Get up and check on them, make sure that they are actually alright. STOP USING THE AMBUSH TECHNIQUE!!! For those of you that don’t know what the ambush technique is, let me fill you in on this bs. Basically what happens is the preceptor ambushes the orientee when they aren’t prepared for it and starts hammering them with questions of “things they should already know” in the eyes of the preceptor. Do I know the normal range for a CVP? Yes, I do. Do I know the normal range for a CVP when you show up out of nowhere, while I am catching up on charting on a patient that I just had to start on norepinephrine and give two units of blood? No, absolutely f*****g not! This does not mean I am less intelligent than you, it means I was focused on my charting and not expecting a nursing ambush! The ambush technique neither proves nor disproves someone knowledge, it just makes you look like a douche. While we are at it, stop making your orientee feel like they are bothering you when they ask you questions. They don’t know. You do. Spread the wealth of knowledge. Learn how to give constructive criticism and praise. A lot of preceptors seem to miss that last part. Your orientee is already paranoid and trying to be a close to perfect as possible. Let them know you notice the good things they do along with the things they may need to work on. Your orientee will be much more receptive of your criticism, trust me.

Look, i’m not asking for a lot. I am simply asking you to remember what it was like when you were orienting. Remember how stressed you felt. Remember how confused you were. Remember how intimidating it was. Remember that you aren’t perfect.

n00b

So you’re the newest person on the unit. You may not be new to nursing but you are new to this place. Don’t let that freak you out.

As the newbie I was always really quiet and reserved. What I didn’t realize was how off-putting that was to others. It never failed, once I got to know my coworkers they would all say the same thing “I thought you were so mean when I first met you!” For the longest time I didn’t understand why that seemed to be the case. You know me though, if I don’t know then I’m going to ask. That is when I found out that I sort of appeared unapproachable because of how I tended to distance myself from my new coworkers. I changed that once I started the new position I am currently in. This time I made a conscious effort to get to know my coworkers.

Here are a few steps to transition into your new work environment:

  • Introduce yourself to your new coworkers. If you know of a good ice breaker then use it (having the name Shaunelle but being called Fred is one hell of an ice breaker, everyone loves the story of how I got my nickname.)
  • If you are an experienced nurse understand this: your experience is much appreciated but you are the new nurse on the unit. Don’t walk around like you already know everything there is to know. You may know cardiac ICU but you don’t know how they run their cardiac ICU. Have a little humility (ran into this with a new coworker, she didn’t last long).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is safer to ask than to assume you know what you are doing and then do it wrong. Your new coworkers will remember that screw up, trust me.
  • If you are a super proactive person, join one of the committees. You are bound to meet your coworkers that way.
  • Become familiar with your physicians and introduce yourself to them. Let them know you are new to the unit, I mean you will be working with them too.
  • Know that not everyone is going to warm up to you immediately and that’s okay. They may still be “feeling you out” so to speak. That is not your problem, that is theirs. They’ll either come around or they won’t. It’s not the end of your world. However, DO NOT allow bullying behavior towards you. You may be the newbie but you deserve respect and if they want it from you then they should earn it. Forget that “nurses eat their young crap”!

Those first few weeks, hell even first few months, are a weird time. You’re trying to adjust to a whole new setting. Things may feel off and that is normal. You may feel a little out of place at first, and that’s normal too. Give yourself time to get acclimated to your new surroundings, you are going to do great!

Constantly learning

A little while back, while I was still a STICU nurse, I decided to start a little notebook where I would right down new diseases/diagnoses/medications I came across during my shifts so I could look them up and learn about them. I was afraid when I transitioned into an imaging nurse I was not going to really be “learning” anything new. I’m just going to start IV’s and monitor for contrast reactions.

I was wrong.

People get MRI’s for all kinds of reasons. I have probably come across more diseases that I have never heard of in this position than I had the whole time I was in the ICU.

It’s been a constant learning experience. I start looking up the disease the patient is diagnosed with (which is the reason they are coming to MRI in the first place), and that leads me to another related disease, which leads to a new study, which leads to a med I have never heard of, and so on.

I’d never heard of MGUS, plastic bronchitis, or a syrinx. Came across all of those in MRI. I assumed that I need to be bedside to learn anything new in nursing. That’s not the case at all. As long as you are providing patient care you never really stop learning…

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.