Change

Change can be hard; we become comfortable with habit and familiarity. The longer you stay in one place, the harder it is to leave. I feel strongly that in order to grow, one must be open to, and adapt to, the challenges of change. I (especially) advocate for trying new things in one’s career, such as earning professional certifications, or going back to school to pursue a higher degree. I have written many letters of recommendation endorsing fellow nurse friends and colleagues whom I truly believed had the potential for great things in the field of nursing for other positions, promotions, or awards… even if that meant that they would be leaving my own unit/organization for bigger and better opportunities. I encourage and applaud them for being brave to try something new, and would never hold someone back from fulfilling their highest potential. As a nurse leader, it is my responsibility to raise others “up”, and I am proud to do so, just as it was done for me by my mentor, Nicole; she taught me many things about leadership and change, and led by example. Nicole also re-introduced me to the rare genius and leadership lessons from Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln on Leadership (Phillips, 1992).

“I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day, as each day came.” –Lincoln

Some of Lincoln’s greatest quotes have held the test of time and have proven to be especially true and powerful in our current political climate.

A house divided cannot stand“- Lincoln

Yes, change can be difficult, but believe in yourself and your ability to overcome obstacles and take control of your future. Confidence comes from stepping out of your comfort zone and expanding one’s experience, expertise, and perspective in other areas. In my 30-year nursing career I have worked in many sub-specialty areas in the world of Pediatrics. I was never afraid of change; it actually sustained my love of nursing. I was challenged with each and every opportunity. These different experiences have proven to be invaluable to a nursing career well-lived and loved; I wish the same for you!

I honestly don’t know what my future looks like now that I am faced with my own physical limitations, but I know that I will do my best to adapt to whatever changes need to be made in order to continue my work, in one way or another, in this amazing profession of nursing.


Reference:

Phillips, D.T. (1992). Lincoln on leadership: executive strategies for tough times. New York: Warner Books

Smiling through the Pain

Nurses are caretakers; it is our job and natural instinct to be the provider of care, and not be at the receiving end. I’ve been on the other side of the bed (as a patient) a few times… each experience was pure torture for me; I cringe when I think about the compromising positions that I have had to endure. I am a terrible patient. I have severe trust issues; when one has worked very hard to be fiercly independent, it is an uncomfortable feeling to be vulnerable. It takes a great deal of courage to allow others (even fellow health care professionals) to take care of you, especially when you are at their mercy and cannot care for yourself.

It is difficult to admit to feeling physicially vulnerable. I have been living with chronic back pain for years. After two spinal fusions, I have (almost) gotten used to it. I megadose on Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen two- three times a day, and I try to smile through it and not complain. I carry on with my day and know that others have it far worse than I do. I joke that it’s “tough to get old”, and I am fully aware that I am at the age where it is natural to feel aches and pains; but the reality is, pain can be exhausting. It affects everything that you do, or want to do; a simple trip to the Mall to go Christmas shopping becomes less fun and festive by the minute, and you eventually rationalize that gift cards will be a win-win this year, and head for the comfort of your car… and if you are being honest with yourself, you know that this is not normal.

The MRI showed arachnoiditis. The goal is to focus on pain management. I do not know what the future will bring, but I got through today, and tomorrow I will do the same.

Broken branches

Pain and disappointment is a heavy burden and can come from a very deep place in one’s heart, even if you have built strong walls to protect it. It is the feeling that (no matter what you do, even if you tried your best) it is not enough…it can even make you feel that “you” are not enough. (Don’t believe it for a second!) Ironically, some of the people whom are supposed to be the closest to us, and most trusted, can be the ones who can cause the deepest heartache; they can be one’s harshest, most unforgiving critic; they carry expectations that can become twisted in reality or perception… and sometimes, anger can make one deaf to reason, and blind to the truth. Family disagreements, if not kept in check, are toxic and can grow to become permanent “holes” in one’s life. If you care at all, you must try to repair the damage; but if you have tried, and tried again and again, then you must accept what cannot be changed.

Anger is like a strong wind; it calms down after a while, but some of the branches are already broken”– Rumi

Our Unforgettable Patients

If you want to find out what motivates nurses to do what they do every single day, ask them about some of the patients who made a difference in their lives…the stories that they tell will move you; they will make you laugh and cry, and they just may help you to understand the power of purposeful service to others. Every now and then, completely out of the blue, I am given a gentle reminder of the unexpected gifts that this amazing profession has given to me. Yesterday, while I was cleaning out my glass cabinet looking for my red Christmas wine glass that reads “He sees you when you’re drinking”, I came across my rather impressive collection of shot glasses, and I found myself thinking about a patient whom I had the privilege of caring for several years ago. Let me explain…

This young man was diagnosed with Acute Myelocytic Leukemia (AML) in his late teens; he had spent several years in and out of the hospital for chemotherapy treatments and subsequent admissions for fever/neutropenia, blood products, etc. He had been doing well; he was working hard and attending college on a full scholarship when he found out that his cancer had relapsed and he was going to need a bone marrow transplant (BMT). He stayed strong and optimistic; he had big goals and cancer wasn’t going to get in his way. He was turning 21 just before his scheduled BMT and he had plans to take a trip to Las Vegas with his friends because that was how he wanted to spend his birthday “sipping Patrón tequila and partying”. He knew that each birthday was a gift, but “21” was a milestone that he wanted to experience the most; he wanted to be like every other 21-year-old who got drunk on his birthday as a “right of passage”. This was amusing to all who knew him because this young man was the very last person you could imagine drinking tequila in Vegas! Unfortunately, due to an infection, he ended up having to spend his 21st  birthday in the hospital (in the very un-exciting state of NJ). Yes, he was disappointed, but he rolled with the punches that kept coming his way (as always).

I was working nights at the time, and at the stroke of midnight, on his 21st birthday, all available staff on duty that we could muster up for a few minutes, entered his room singing “Happy Birthday to you…”; we all had shot glasses (aka 30 ml clear plastic medicine cups) of apple juice in hand to toast the now “legal” birthday boy. I had a “real” shot glass from my one and only trip to Las Vegas and presented it to him for his “shot” of AJ, which he happily kept as a souvenir. As corny as this little make-shift party was, he loved it, and he talked about his plans for next year to (really) celebrate…I am certain that he never doubted for a minute that he would get to Vegas one day.

I would try to visit with him regularly to check-in and see how he was doing, and each time that I was there, he talked about his “Vegas” birthday party and smile. I didn’t fully comprehend until then how much this small gesture meant to him and that he would always carry that memory with him. Sadly, that would be his last birthday; he had fought so hard, and he never gave up. He taught me about courage and resilience, and accepting defeat gracefully. At his wake, his sister thanked me for taking the time to help him celebrate his last birthday. It meant the world to me that I could make a difference… showing someone just one small act of kindness could be that one thing that they need to get through a difficult time.

I cleaned out one of my glasses and drank a shot of apple juice in your memory today. Cheers my friend!

When you are a nurse, you know that everyday you will touch a life, or a life will touch yours.” – anonymous

enjoy the little things

A Time of Reflection

reflection experience

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but of reflection.“- Winston Churchill

As we enter the holiday season, please remember to take a few moments to reflect on the people and things in your life for which you are grateful. While things haven’t always gone the way that I wanted, or hoped, I have been very fortunate, and I am thankful. I have a close relationship with my daughter, which I value above all else; I have two golden retrievers that are always happy to see me, and shake with pure joy every time I walk through the door; I have family that loves me (for the most part), and have always been there when I truly needed them; and I have an amazing army of friends who support and love me, even when I feel unlovable. I have had an extraordinary career in a profession that has given me far more than I could ever give in return; and I have been able to pour my heart out into words on this very personal blog, which has gotten me through an extremely difficult year, with the loss of my father.  So thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my posts; I am also grateful for you!

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”– Kierkegaard

Reflection is the ability to “think things through” in order to gain insight into something that has occurred in the past; it allows us the opportunity to consider our actions and choices, and learn from them. It is in the quiet moments when I press the “pause” button and use thoughtful reflection to help process the good, the bad, and the ugly, and (hopefully) calm the mind and spirit.  I may not enter a church as often as I used to, but I pray every day and feel close to God whether I am in my house, or His. I appreciate each day and know firsthand that time passes quickly, and no one is promised tomorrow. I have “enough”, and I wish for you the same.

I wish you enough

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

(The copyright for this poem belongs to the author: Bob Perks)

Building a Better Boat

I am a work in progress. I want to be strong(er). I am trying to “build a better boat”… one that doesn’t sink in rough waters, or crack under pressure; one that can withstand the dark and scary storms that life brings, sometimes without warning. I am not perfect and I have made mistakes that I wish I could change… but here’s what I know… I can’t change the past, and tomorrow is never promised. God willing, I wake up each day with a fresh start and another chance to get it “right”.

We (all) have absolutely no control over how others feel, or what they say, or do. We are only responsible for our own actions. Being accountable to what we “put out” into this world is very important. A flower cannot grow in darkness. Owning our thoughts, feelings, successes, and failures are things that can never be taken away from us; they are a part of who we are, like it or not…and no one can truly know how it feels, unless they are “us”. No one has the right to judge or take away that which makes us who we are, and what we believe; “do not judge, or you too, will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-6).

We each have a path that we must take in life; sometimes we are surrounded by family and friends, and sometimes we must take that path alone. I am not afraid.

Better Boat (lyrics)

I ain’t lonely, but I spend a lot of time alone

More than I’d like to, but I’m ok with stayin’ home

My how the last few months have changed

I’m smilin’ more despite the pain

(Chorus)

I breathe in, I breathe out

Got friends to call who let me talk about

What ain’t workin’, what’s still hurtin’

All the things I feel like cussin’ out

Now and then I let it go, I ride the waves I can’t control

I’m learning how to build a better boat

Written by: Travis Meadows, Liz Rose

Performed by Kenny Chesney (2018)


			

Working on Holidays

I was at the receiving end of a comment recently, which was clearly intended to belittle, from an unlikely source… a parent of a sick child in the hospital… the remark was this “Who are you… you’re not important, you’re here working on a holiday”. In my nearly 30-year career, I can honestly say, that was a first. The world of healthcare is not a 9a-5p, Monday-Friday job… hospitals do not close down for summer vacation, snow storms, weekends, or holidays… they are always “open for business”. Nursing is a 24/7/365 job. In fact, during any type of disaster, emergency, or significant weather condition, nurses are considered “essential personnel” and are (strongly) advised to report for duty. While most others are warned to “stay off the roads” during a State of Emergency, we pack overnight bags in anticipation… and when the time comes, we search for an open stretcher in a quiet corner and (try to) sleep so we can work the next day in case others cannot make it in for their shift.

Nursing is a profession of dedicated service to the community in which it serves, just like police officers, EMTs, and firemen/women; and it’s not just nurses that keep a hospital running smoothly… it’s also the Doctors and Advanced Practice Nurses, Patient Care Techs, Respiratory Therapists, Security, Housekeeping, Food & Nutrition, etc. We all know the expectations going into our roles. I have worked many, many holidays in my long career…and yes, I still do. I worked on Christmas Day last year, and I will most likely need to do it again this year. I accept it, and I am grateful that I have a job that I love, with people that I have grown to love. We all have families that we would like to celebrate the holidays with… but if we can’t, we make the best of it; we post a sign in the staff lounge for a pot luck feast, and we all contribute to the festivities… we find ways to laugh through it, and we reschedule the time that we can spend with our own family so that we can take care of yours. Working on a holiday is not a measure of importance or title… it is just something that we know we must do to care for those who need us.

I wish that I was able to say what I was thinking to this parent, but I bit my tongue; I am in a position that requires me to de-escalate situations, rather than speak my mind. But I do wish that I would have pointed out that those he attempted to minimize (it was not just me), were there (on a holiday) taking care of his child… and that is not unimportant to us, and it shouldn’t be to him either.

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