About a year and a half ago I wrote a string of blogs about the inherent difficulty found in the field of nursing. In all honesty I laid out my feelings and strife through my words, but I received a response back from a fellow nurse that caused me grief.
“You sound miserable,” she said. “I think you should consider a career change!”
She said a few others things that hurt me, but I think what hurt me most was the fact that she was kinda right. She used the words “burn out,” and as I analyzed myself openly I realized with sadness that I was experiencing symptoms of burn out!
I hated to admit it because I really did love Nursing. It was a calling, something I felt like God had led me to do, but despite my desire to enjoy every single minute of it, I just wasn’t. It wasn’t affecting my patient care (yet), thankfully, but it was crashing my morale.
It’s true that nursing is demanding. It reminded me of motherhood in the fact that you could love your kids tremendously, but some days you either wanted to kill them, collapse in a pile of your own tears of failure, or both. Nursing was a little bit like that. You gave so much of yourself emotionally, and many times you didn’t get any return on your investment. And it wasn’t like you expected a pat on the back, but it helped. The level of responsibility was ginormous, especially in critical care, and the stress could get to you despite your best efforts to prevent it.
But that stuff had always been there. For me I think it was the changes in healthcare across the board that were taking the biggest toll. The documentation requirements for reimbursement coupled with a growing patient population, alongside a dwindling workforce were all too real. I was tired. I had little kids at home, and I was having a tough time allocating my energy resources. I hated to admit it to myself, but she was right. I was bordering on burn out.
Looking back I think I entered a valley in my career where I almost forgot why I was doing what I was doing. No nurse will argue with you the fact that nursing is really hard, but the truth is that if you lose your reason for being a nurse in the first place, you risk hating the profession. This is a detriment to no one more than the professional nurse who actually loves their vocation.
I had to take a step back to remember why I had the calling to begin with. I was so focused on the hard and frustrating things about the field that I couldn’t change that I lost sight of all the many wonderful things I got to be a part of every shift. I can still recall being in a class and hearing a personal story of a patient who terribly needed the emotional support we provided. Tears came to my eyes and my heart cried, “yes, Brie. This is why you do what you do!”
It’s easy when something is especially challenging and difficult to control to become frustrated to a point where you don’t think you can handle it anymore. For some nurses leaving the bedside may be the most appropriate action. But for others of us, it’s simply stepping back long enough to realize why you love it so much. I never stopped caring deeply for each and every patient who came before me. I just needed reminding how rewarding it was to care for people in the most trying and stressful times of their life. There really is no greater feeling or calling than to be that light for someone as they pass through the darkness of illness. That was what I had forgotten, and what I am blessed to have remembered.