I’ve spent a lot of time feeling (very) comfortable in my role as a clinical Nurse/Supervisor for more than 30 years. I got to the point in my career where it felt like “home”, walking through the hospital, with cardiac monitors alarming and call bells ringing, and the hustle and bustle of nurses and clinical staff running into patient rooms responding to help. It’s a well-earned level of expertise that gives one a feeling of confidence that strengthens your spirit, and puts you in a state of catlike readiness to handle the unexpected crisis’ that occur when you least expect it. It’s what I know, and what I love; it’s my life… well, it was my life.
But now everything has changed, and I can’t remember when I’ve ever felt this stressed-out. Between a recent surgery, selling my house in the state where I was born and raised, building a new house in a different state, and changing jobs, sometimes I don’t know where to start on my colossal list of “things-to-do”. It’s overwhelming, and I just want to press “pause” on this big, blue marble called Earth, and basically just take a long nap. My confidence level at work is at an all-time low. My new job is so different from what I have known, it challenges me in ways that I never anticipated. Being challenged is not a bad thing, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable being so inexperienced, and dare I say, “stupid”? It’s a feeling of complete vulnerability, which is the absolute worst, at least it is for me.
We all make life and career choices every day; for better or worse, and sometimes, with just a leap of faith that it’s the right thing to do. What we don’t see when we are making these difficult choices, is the future outcome. I guess that’s what is so exciting. It’s a new beginning, and sometimes the hardest things in life turn out to be the most rewarding.
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 applaud them for being brave to try something new. 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!
Phillips, D.T. (1992). Lincoln on leadership: executive strategies for tough times. New York: Warner Books