I think this is a deeper problem. What other profession do you hear people say you need to go do solely on the basis of helping others? We all have friends who go to work for a paycheck. There is a reason they have to pay people to work. This does not make the person doing work for pay a bad person, or some how worse at their profession/job. Some argue service industry jobs should only be filled with people who are “in it to help their customers”. When was the last time you thought your server at the restaurant was there to help you instead of the money? You can be great at your job and be doing it like everyone else – to get paid, pay your bills, go to school, raise your family. Please don’t anyone feel bad about not making your life all about your job.
I know we come from an amazing tradition in nursing. I respect it – but it is not the same as it was. We don’t have to wear skirts anymore, be provider’s handmaidens, be homely looking, or lack a voice. I’m proud of what nursing has become. We go to work like everyone else – but this job is not like every other job. We see people in very vulnerable situations. We canhave a huge impact. So can teachers, officers, and the lady in the cubicle at an office downtown. We have an amazing history with these awesome people who loved others through their profession so well – that it became expected. We are consistently one of the most trusted professions.
However, just like anyone who has had family or been in the medical field as a patient can tell you, it depends on who you get. This is no different than any other field besides our shining reputation. We are asked to cut budgets, increase productivity, avoid legal liabilities, provider excellent customer service, and heaven knows still make a profit.
I’ve been a nurse for over 5 years. I’ve worked in adults, peds, schools and agency work. When you stop thinking you are failing because your work seems like a job – take a deep breath and realize it is. Sit down and take your mandatory lunch break because you are not required to be saint! You can care about people, heal their pain, touch their hearts – but only when we take care of ourselves and only because we choose to. When we stop comparing ourselves to legends who’s caring moments were broadcasted widely when our moments are only remembered by one.
The question of what do you do after nursing? is hard only because we do not view it as any other profession. We burn out because we have a culture who states the bar is the height of a sacrificial lamb. We used to eat our young – and maybe some places still do – to prepare them for the road ahead.
How do you put out a fire(burn out)? Splash it with water. Let the ice cold feeling toward a patient throwing something at your head be acceptable. Tell yourself it is fine that you do not want to become emotionally attached to the dying patient in room 3. We are nurses and we are not required to love others above ourselves.
This is the true reason our profession has its reputation. We go to a difficult job and many times we go beyond our job description. We don’t have to hold the hand of the dying. We don’t have to blow bubbles for the scared child getting a breathing treatment. We don’t have to stop and let people know we recognize their humanity outside of their role as a patient or family member. It is a job in which we are tempted at every turn to drop our professional distance/attitude/mask/etc. But it is a
, not a responsibility. And this is what makes it special.
We lose all of that when we change and add it to our list of responsibilities. We can’t find the time, or the strength, or the tears, or the physical strength to touch every human heart without losing our own. So guard your hearts well friends – you will find the same trouble in any other profession if you apply the same standards. My advice? Take the bar down, splash some cold water, and choose what you will, when you will. You may find the old enthusiasm when you allow yourself to be human. And thanks for reading my rant.