Monday, March 03, 2014

A Message to the Nurse's Future Self

So nurse, it's twenty years in the future, and you have two more decades of nursing under your belt. You've cared for thousands of patients, held thousands of hands, and looked into thousands of pairs of eyes. What do you remember, and what do your patients recall? What stands out for you? How does your career compare to your expectations, dreams and aspirations?

Patients Remember

What do your patients remember about you? First, they don't remember your name, and that's almost a certainty. Maybe a special one or two will remember, but most of them will instead recall how you cared for them and touched their lives at a vulnerable time. 

Next, they remember your kindness, the way you looked at them, fluffed their pillow, started an IV with extra care, or made them more at ease. They may not recall exact moments, but they might say, "You know, when I was in the hospital in 2014, there was this nurse who was so kind to me. I can't remember who he was, but he really made my hospitalization so much gentler. I wish I could remember his name so I could send him a note. God bless that man."

I've actually heard people say things like this. Have you? Do you think they say things like this about you? I sure hope the do.

Nurses Remember

So, future nurse, what do the last twenty years of nursing look like to you? How do you feel about your career? Did you burn out or did you burn bright? Did you care well or did you end up no longer caring at all?

What do you remember, nurse? Do you remember the kindness of your colleagues or the way they bullied one another? If you witnessed bullying, do you recall stepping in to interrupt the harassment, or did you look the other way? Did you speak up or was your very silence an act of complicity? Will you remember standing up to injustice or turning your back when your voice was needed the most?

Nurse, did nursing over the last twenty years build you up or tear you down? Was your spirit lifted by your work or diminished by it? Did your body suffer from the stress of your work or did you care for yourself well enough to survive, and possibly even thrive?

Nurse, when you think about your patients, do you think of them with caring and compassion, or do you think of them as burdens on your nurse's soul?

When you think about your colleagues, were they a source of support or a source of complaints, rancor and resentment? How did you support one another? How did you make it through the tough times? Did you laugh? Did you cry? Were hugs readily available? Was mutual support part and parcel of your day?

Back to the Future

Nurse, in thinking about how you will look back on your career, is there anything you would like to change now in order to make that future brighter?

Nurse, do some of the questions I've asked make you feel uncomfortable? Do you recognize ways in which nursing has already become burdensome? Are there ways in which you may already be burning out? Are your colleagues also suffering? Have you turned your backs on one another already, or are you there for each other through thick and thin?

If you think about what you will feel and experience in twenty years as you look back on your career, what can you do now in order to alter that potential future outcome? How can you approach your work, your colleagues, your patients and your career in a way that will make you reminisce with pride, joy, intact health, compassion and fulfillment?

Think hard, nurse, and consider the future you desire, and then consider how to make that future a reality by acting righteously and authentically in the present moment.

Nurse, the future is yours to create. How will you create a great one?
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