Can you overcome the cardinal sin of speaking up for yourself?

“If you aren’t failing every now & again.  It’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”   However, I have been paralyzed in a state of fear this past month.  Fear of making the wrong decision.  Fear of going back to work.  Fear of traveling for my job.  Fear that I made the wrong choice in deciding to pursue my goal of travel nursing.

As a full time staff nurse & as a travel nurse, I very rarely got into trouble.   However the expectations of a travel nurse are different.   Every nurse on the planet has had a confrontation with a patient or family member.  Yet as a travel nurse those are grounds for dismissal.  Staff treating you poorly & actively participating in hazing -you are suppose to smile, accept your shitty assignments, accept the crappy treatment, and be thankful you are working in this hell.   You are expected to put up with obnoxious, rude behavior from patients, family members, or staff.  And the ultimate cardinal sin is speaking up for yourself & protecting your own license.

Fear these past few weeks have consumed me because I committed the ultimate cardinal sin.   My assignment ended early because I am not into being abused by patients & apparently speaking up for yourself is a bad thing.   I don’t regret that decision.  I will always stand up for myself.  Are there lessons I can take away from this situation? Absolutely.  For now, I don’t wanna work nor bang on the drum all day.   Unless it was pressing, I have stayed home in my pajamas, slept, & hid from making a decision.  I also have joked about being a kept woman at home but you need a man for that first.  Clinically I am strong & always believe I have room for improvement.  I am compassionate & firm.  And I actually give a damn about my patients.  I want to know their stories.  Sometimes time and acuity doesn’t allow for that but I try.  I am not perfect, sorry, I am just a human being who like everyone else in the world.  However, why should I continue to give my best when it seems those things don’t matter.  It seems as though keeping your head down, making sure your are popular, & improving profit margins are all that matter.

Honestly, I could have been placed at another facility weeks ago but just have enjoyed being home with my family & friends.  I could have accepted a position an hour away but in my heart it just didn’t feel right.  And apparently close to home, I am overqualified for many full time positions and various nurse managers feel like I would be bored working for their facility.  Sometimes you can’t win.

How do you continue on a journey when you have been kicked multiple times?  How do you continue to believe in doing the right thing when it gets you in trouble?   I am a God fearing woman so I believe in grace, forgiveness, & trying not to live your life in fear.  God doesn’t let you suffer without a purpose.  I am trying to walk in the light of forgiveness & grace.  But sometimes it is hard.  The bumps, bruises, and cuts hurt especially when you know you have been done wrong & those who know you, work beside you, and support you also know you have been done dirty.

A full time position at home doesn’t look like it is going to pan out.  Traveling looks like it will be a necessary evil.  Yet, I am so scared to drive thousands of miles only from home to have to work in unsafe conditions, endure nurse on nurse hazing, not be supported by hospital administration, &/or have my work cancelled early because people want to lie and take pride in getting others to quit or have their contract terminated early.  Life is a journey & perhaps my friend is right.  “The trials you are going through right now aren’t even about you. They are to help someone in life.

They are a testimony to something far greater than you imagined.”   I hope he is right.   Now, if only I could look into a crystal ball & see what the future holds.

Sidenote of topic:  Let me clarify something.  I absolutely love what I do.  Healthcare is one of the few professions that rewards you in so many ways.  It teaches you something new medically & personally everyday.   However, in my opinion patient satisfaction scores has undermined healthcare professionals & is attempting to turn hospitals into hotels with trained people for your illnesses.  Where are the protections for healthcare providers?  I have been physically assaulted (punched, kicked, shoved, slapped), verbally threatened, called racial slurs, sexually harassed, & lied on.  I have endure nurse on nurse hazing. Worked with patient ratios that could have ended badly. And failed to be supported by hospital administrators or managers because patient satisfaction scores matter & everyone wants to make money.  I want to help people.  I want to touch lives & save lives.  But I will not endure working in an environment where I am not protected.  Perhaps wanting basic human rights is too much.

But if the bright lights don’t receive you

Feeling like a failure makes it hard to come out & tell people that you are back home earlier than expected.  Yes, I want to see the people that I love but when you are home early because of reasons that can’t really be explained – you just don’t feel like facing the ones you love.  Sacrificed in the name of patient satisfaction.  And in one moment you feel like the Matchbox Twenty lyrics: “But if the bright lights don’t receive you, you should turn yourself around and come on home.”

*sigh*  One year ago I made a decision to accomplish a goal; I decided to leave my full time job to become a traveling healthcare provider.  Morale was low at my old job so it was the perfect opportunity to see what the world had to offer.  I stepped out on faith & worked my first assignment.  Things were great.  My next assignment was absolutely horrible.  The next assignment was like returning back to an old lover & then I did it again.  I was living in a new city, experiencing new things, and learning about different ways of thinking.

Becoming a traveling professional has had it’s share of peaks and valleys.  I got to live in Texas & California.  I learned how to adapt to living in two vastly different areas.  I got to check off a few bucket list items – drive across the country & see the Pacific Ocean just to name two.  I have seen mountains, desert, & oceans.   I have had the opportunity to see how different life can be from one place to the next.   And the icing on the cake was meeting some amazing people some of which have become great friends & family.  However, this adventure has also had my integrity called into question, lost of money due to cancelled contracts, & made me question my own sanity in pursing this crazy dream of mine.

I learned that I am smarter, stronger, braver, & more resilient than I ever imagined about myself. Living the life of a gypsy has given me the ability to adapt more than I would have given myself credit for being able to do.   I learned maybe the big city isn’t exactly where I want to be.  But I also learned the country isn’t exactly where I want to be either.  Give me city with a suburban feel.    Valley of this adventure includes losing your job before the end of your contract which leaves you with money you didn’t expect to spend.  Losing out on time with family and friends.   Learning a new area only to have to leave in 13 – 26 months then having to leave and relearn an entirely new place.  Crying yourself to sleep because you are stressed & alone.  Starting relationships & losing relationships.  And honestly I wouldn’t have made it through this journey without the support of so many people through modern technology.
So, what is missing in my life?   The answer is stability.  Being a travel healthcare worker is amazing but the uncertainty between jobs is stressful.  I miss the decor and furniture I picked out for my place (it took me years to pick out each and every piece for my home).  I miss having a place of my own.  I miss my friends & family.  The freedom to design your own life is fabulous. There is money to be made if you take the gamble but do realize sometimes you bust.

The stress of having to find a new position every 3 months is exhausting.   I achieved a dream & am able to check off several items on my bucket list.  However I think I am craving stability.  The ability to have continual health insurance.  The ability to earn PTO, retirement benefits, & a stable income.  Having a home to go to that is truly mine.

My dilemma is I am not overly excited about working for any of the hospitals in my hometown. So, what is the solution?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I am trying to be silent and wait for clarity.  I ask God for direction but at the moment there is no answer.  Perhaps I am giving up to early in my traveling career.  I know that nothing is certain however I am tired of the constant uncertainty with my new adventure.  In this moment, the only thing I am certain of is that is amazing to be in my own bed.  It is wonderful to see the things I worked hard to buy.  It is comforting to see the faces of those who love me & I love.   And for right now that is enough for me.

Death is a part of life

Hi

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” 

Television shows are a lot different than the reality faced by millions of healthcare workers across the country everyday. Do we have moments that are so surreal you do a double take and think what the fuck?  Absolutely.  Do we see miracles occur? You bet we do.  Are we honored to stand next to people and assist them during their hours of need?  Yes, we do.   We love to share the moments that make us laugh.  We love to share the moments that are super gross.   We love to share the moments that are absolute chaos.   However, many of us shut down when it comes to speaking about the moments that leave us emotionally drained.  We try to forget about the moments that leave us breathless, heartbroken, devastated, and/or questioning why we do what we do.

My specialty is critical care.   Critical care has allowed me the opportunity to see people at their most vulnerable not only recover, but prove miracles happen everyday.  Sadly,  I have also witnessed my fair share of people cross over from this life to the next.  Preventing, witnessing, and fighting with death is what we do.   Sorry the RN doesn’t stand for refreshment and narcotics.  Nor are we waitresses.  We work to save lives.  And death is that annoying family member that shows up at 2 am causing all sorts of drama and commotion.    Death doesn’t care about your economic status, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age, height, weight, or looks.  Death is an equal opportunity taker.

The process of watching an individual die, whether quickly or slowly, is something few people ever witness.  Sometimes the process can be etched into your mind so strongly you can recall the events, names, and people who were there like it was yesterday.   You see the look of utter shock and grief flash across their face.  You know they are going to ask you the same questions again and it is okay.  You try to block out the cries.  You try to encourage them to share memories of this person and encourage them to lean on each other for support.   You feel terrible to have to ask them – what funeral home would you like to send their body?   You give them time and then sometimes you have to wrap their bodies and send them down to the morgue, if a funeral home isn’t selected as of yet.   And even after years of doing this job, the process is difficult.  The process hits you at the core & all you can do is emotionally let go.

The past few weeks has been emotionally overwhelming for me.   I rarely have had to call an medical emergency/cardiac arrest (code), yet in the past couple of weeks – I have had to call two and in the end neither patient survived their injuries.  And I watched one lady slip away as her brain swelling couldn’t be stopped.   All three cases stick with me.  However I will share two out of the three stories because I think sometimes people need a look at the harsh parts of what we do.

The lady who slipped away from life due to brain swelling was hard.  It is hard to watch someone neurologically decline.  It is even harder to look at the person who has loved her for 56 years, watch her die.  He told me wonderful stories about the woman he loved.  He called her the boss and respected how she raised their family and supported him while he provided financially for the family.   He wanted her to recover.  He said he would be lost without her.  He said how much he loved that woman.  He gently stroked her hair and kissed her forehead while reminding her constantly.  “Baby, I am right here.  I haven’t left your side.”  He looked at me and asked would she be returning home to him.  I gave my PC answer – “the next 24-72 hours are the most critical.  We will have to wait and see.”  I didn’t have the heart to look him in the eyes and say you won’t be bringing home your wife, lover, best friend and mother of your children.   You won’t be holding her hand or kissing her again.    I am grateful I didn’t have to see her die with him by her side.  My heart would have broken for him.  And the days ahead that no words would be able to soothe or heal.   The pain that no one would understand because his life partner was no longer standing by his side.

Death doesn’t discriminate & it took a woman in her 20’s like a thief in the night.  I can remember wanting the physician to see her as soon as possible because I didn’t like anything I heard.   The physician was busy and said when they got a moment they would be around.  Pt wasn’t breathing the best and we had some conversations about comfort and not wanting to remain this way if nothing could be done.   Got her breathing treatments going and he O2 sats started picking up and she was sleeping soundly.  The physician peaked in and saw everything improving and basically said if you need something call but she will be fine.  I didn’t feel comfortable but I started to think maybe I am just paranoid.  I kept calling doing labs, listening to her breath sounds, monitoring everything looking for signs, and some things were improving.  She was comfortable and still resting in no distress.    An hour before shift change, I was outside her door and heard her let out a yell.  I went inside.  She looked at me and said “I can’t breath.” Told respiratory to get an ABG stat while I called the physician.   Within the two minutes it took to call and get a response.  I saw her go from having a rhythm to asystole.  We tried to save her life while her family member stood by the entire time just watching in shock.   We never saw life return to her body.  Finally I hear a crying out from the other side of the room “no more”.   After 27 minutes, we declared this young woman dead.   I couldn’t catch my breath.   I heard her family member say remember our conversation from earlier & I did.  And I couldn’t hold back the tears. I had to walk away because heartbreaking doesn’t come close to describing how I felt.  I came back and held this lady and told her take all the time you need.  And we talked about her not being in pain any longer.  I was assured there was nothing I could have done.  I did everything possible, yet I felt like a failure.   I carried that home with me that day.  And still do in some ways.

I love what I do for a living.   I can’t imagine doing anything else at times.   However, we forget that health care providers are people as well.  We also leave part of our hearts with you.  We hurt and grieve the loss of our patients.  We are impacted by the losses and victories of medicine.

Decisions, priorities, & remembering sometimes you can’t have it all

Apparently being an adult is complex and continuing balance act.   Since returning to Texas things have been going well, however I do have to iron out the occasional wrinkle that pops up.   I have consistently been going for my workouts with no complaints except for a constant state of soreness.   Yesterday, I decided to have some fun with friends – stayed out way too late, got an hour of sleep, while out ate/drank way too many carbs and my trainer can read my state of being just by looking at my face.   “You look tired” led to a whole bunch of questions and a scolding that lasted the entire hour I worked out.   This scolding included everything from picking priorities to being reminded that I have all the tools I need to accomplish what I want but it does me no good if I don’t use them.   I left the gym feeling like shit.   I hadn’t been scolded that bad since I was a kid.   Priorities.   Improving my health is important to me & I am the first person to admit that sometimes I don’t have all my shit together when it comes to this health journey, but where is the balance between accomplishing goals & having a life.   Perhaps I need to work on finding this balance or realize that this commitment is a constant state of being.   Giving up isn’t part of the plan.  I am gonna have to start  being that odd friend that brings their meals with them to events and occasionally passes on wine or margarita night.   Ugh.   Why couldn’t my mother have slept with a man with better genetics?

Work is beginning to feel like home again.   My confidence in doing what is right has been restored in many aspects.  I am learning to accept that I am not perfect.  I am going to make a mistake once in a blue moon, but that doesn’t make me incompetent or incapable of doing my job.   99% of the time, I knock it out of the park.  I do a great job & that isn’t me tooting my own horn.  It has taken years for me to believe that I am good at what I do.   I need to start pushing myself to start studying for the certification I failed by 5 questions but it is so hard to put in that time & energy only to fail once again.   Graduate school continues to be a thought because I have to think about my future.  However, I don’t wanna go through the application process again.  Twice I have applied & twice something weird has happened. My application has been rejected because someone forgot to turn in something on time or it arrived freakishly late.   Perhaps it is a sign that graduate school isn’t meant for me.

A certain person has been on my mind all week long.  Could be the unfriending me or could be the fact that no matter what I do I just can’t shake this person out of my memory/mind.  I hate that I still care about him.  I hate that I miss his lips on mine, his laugh, & that voice.  I miss our conversations.  I wish I could find a switch to just turn off my emotions for this person but that button doesn’t exist.  I try to focus on other things, keep myself busy, and hope with time I won’t remember – yet I still remember.   I could try the theory of sleeping with someone else but I found out many, many years ago that doesn’t help.  All I can say is I hope he is experiencing half of the torment I am in regards to me as I am for him.

Even though I have some wonderful friends here, I miss my friends & community back home.  They are part of my heart & I carry them with me even when I go off to different assignments across the country.   I am hoping to take an assignment closer to home the next time, however I am still trying to really think about where I want to go.  I had it all figured out.  I had a plan & because of developments in my personal life I now have to reconsider those plans.  What are the pro’s and the con’s of moving to this area  or even close to that area?  Will I still be able to do the things I desire or will I have to change certain things in order to avoid potential drama?   Is it easier to take something again out here in order to avoid the potential drama of someone thinking I moved to a certain area just to be closer to them?   I hate making life choices based on others, but I am also realistic and try to think of all the possible scenarios before jumping into something.  At this stage of life, it is about protecting myself, my emotions, and my overall well-being.