Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Nurses and Our Addictions

When we think of the addicted nurse, we may often think of addiction to prescription drugs, alcohol or illicit drugs. But other types of addictions can also have negative effects on our lives as well. Of course, addiction to alcohol, meth or heroin is indeed an enormous health risk and problem for many individuals---including nurses---but today's post is going to place our focus elsewhere.

NOTE: This post is part of a rotating nursing blog carnival that is being hosted this time around by the incomparable Annette Tersigni, The Yoga Nurse. To see all of the posts submitted for this topic of nurses and addiction and curated by Annette, click here.

Technology Addiction

I admit it. I can barely live without my laptop. While I continue to avoid buying a smart phone out of a desire to not have such easy access to the constant flow of web-based information that we all seem to rely on, I still check my email and social media platforms multiple times per day.

A few hours ago, I made a tentative appointment to drop my laptop off for servicing in a few days, and just the thought of being without my trusted tool of communication and work sends me into a minor panic. True, I have a desktop computer at home, but my laptop is almost like an appendage of my body. What will I do without it for four days?

Nurses are like anyone else. We love our technology too, both at home and at work. How does this addiction feed us, and how does it starve us?

The Addiction to Stuff

Like many Americans, I have a lot of stuff, and I seem to accumulate more and more every day, even as I try to let go of things I no longer need. 

How many of you have attics, basements, closets and sheds just packed with stuff?

Nurses, do you hoard nursing books or journals? Do you save every last piece of equipment or professional flotsam and jetsam because you "might" need it some day?

Possessions are lovely, but when they begin to possess us, we may be in trouble.

Addiction to Adrenaline

Now this is where the rubber may hit the road for some of you. Are you an adrenaline junkie?

Do you work in the ER or as a flight nurse because you just can't see yourself working in a more quiet, subdued environment? Does the rush of saving lives and people running around hither and thither make your heart beat faster?

If you believe you're an adrenaline junkie, do you think it's good for you, or are you always hovering on the edge of burnout but just aren't sure how to turn off the adrenaline faucet?

Addiction to Being Busy

I can easily own up to this one. I'm sometimes addicted to being busy, whether it's at work or at home. As an entrepreneur, it's pretty easy to work 24/7, and I can also manifest an addiction to moving and doing just for the sake of it even when there's no work to do. How many of you can relate?

Nursing is a task-oriented profession for the most part, and most of us may feel that, when we're at work, we have to keep busy and keep moving. If there are no patients to care for, we restock the crash cart or the supply closet. If the closet's stocked, we organize it. Do we ever get a break? 

This culture doesn't necessarily condone just doing "nothing". Mindfulness is anathema to many of us Americans, as well as many of our counterparts in other industrialized societies.

When's the last time you just did nothing and felt good about it?

Addiction to Helping Others

Nurses love to help other people, right?  We're compassionate and caring, and we're the most trusted professionals every year, according to the annual Gallup polls.

So, are we also sometimes codependent? Are we addicted to helping? Is there something we're trying to cover up by always putting our energy out towards others? What are we hiding? What feelings are being subsumed by this addiction to helping and caring?

What Else? 

What other addictions are common to nurses (and others)? Yes, we have our own nursing culture and the things that make us tick, but we also live within the wider society and are seriously impacted by that society and its predilections and quirks.

Whether it's Percocet, alcohol, technology or adrenaline, our addictions are part of who we are. They can serve the purpose of covering up our feelings, hiding our true nature, or protecting us from something we truly don't want to look at more closely.

Are you hiding from something behind your addictions? Do you move and act mindfully, or are you on automatic pilot most of the time?

I'd love to hear your reflections on what you're addicted to, the ways in which you push yourself to keep moving even when there's no need to do so.

Nurses can be role models for our patients and clients, but in order to be role models, we need to look deeply at ourselves. When you look deeply at these aspects that I've mentioned above, what do you see and feel? 

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This post was written as part of the regularly published Nurse Blog Carnival. If you're interested in participating find out more details and sign up here.

To read the entire "addictions" edition of the carnival, click here. 








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