I am still a nurse

“Do you miss being a nurse?”

People ask me this question all the time. Honestly, it sets my teeth on edge. I am still a nurse. I have been for 38 years.

I even have a genuine license from the State of Ohio to prove it. I would never give it up.

As my friend (and coworker) Lorna says, she uses the critical thinking and problem-solving skills she learned from nursing every day.

“Think through every option and find creative ways to work through things,” Lorna recently told me. “That comes in handy in every aspect of life.”

Like Lorna, I operate every day pulling from the incredible life lessons I learned from nursing. What else did nursing teach me?

Glad you asked.

20 life lessons I learned from nursing

The theme for National Nurses Week 2018 was: Nurses inspire, innovate, and influence. I agree.

Here are 20 ways nursing can inspire and influence all of us:

1. Stand up for yourself. Some surgeons will roll right over you if you let them. So don’t. Be polite, be respectful. But stand up for yourself.

That applies to everyone, everywhere.

2. Humor can defuse most tense situations. Laughter releases endorphins.

Do it often.

3. Roll with the punches. No matter how my day starts out, it rarely goes the way I thought. The easy patient I had at 7 a.m. can arrest at 7:05. So just keep moving.

4. Never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself. Never. Ever.

Let’s face it, I have cleaned more than my fair share of bodily fluids. There is no job beneath me.

5. If your gut is telling you something, listen. Sadly, my gut is waaay more intuitive than my brain at times.

6. Don’t get caught with your pants down. Always think through every contingency.

You don’t want to say, “Well, I thought about that, but …”

7. Listen. You learn a whole lot more from listening than from talking.

8. Every shift, food once, water twice, and make sure to get to the bathroom at least once.

9. Nobody is perfect, especially you. You will make mistakes; owning up to them is actually a relief.

10. I have had to learn that when people seem demanding, they may be stressed, too. You may not understand all the pressures they are experiencing. Take that into consideration.

11. People can be irrational. It is not a character flaw. It is just who we all are sometimes.

12. Keep your perspective. As a nurse, you have days worse than most people can even dream of. Try going out and facing a mother and father whose child just died on the OR table.

That is stress. Everything else is just – other stuff.

13. Leave work at work. You will be happy and your family will be happy. The next day is soon enough to deal with the other stuff.

14. Learn your own personal signs of burnout. Do something about it before you have a complete meltdown. That helps no one.

15. Keep your head down and focus. You will end your day happier because you will have accomplished more than you thought possible.

16. Some days, your absolute best may not be enough. Focus on the good you did instead of how it did not come out the way you wanted.

17. Be compassionate. You never know what someone is going through – or what bad news they have just received.

18. You can never wash your hands enough. Sometimes, I feel like Lady Macbeth.

19. No matter how much they pay you, some days it is just not enough! But that is just life. Get over it. Tomorrow will be better. And they might even be paying you too much tomorrow.

20. Be grateful every day. Life can change in a split second. Emergency Departments are filled with proof of that.

Working with the best

I have had the honor of working with some of the best nurses in the world – both in hospitals and here at Hyland. If you know a nurse, be grateful they are in your life.

But there is no doubt nurses are a weird lot. They often have unhealthy coping mechanisms. Most have a “sick” sense of humor.

But they are my tribe and I love them. So to my friends, coworkers, and fellow nurses Lorna, Julie, Colleen, Jill, Dolly, Bonnie, and Karyn – Happy Nurses Week! The world, and Hyland, is a better place with you in it.

Kate Barney

Kate Barney

Kate Barney, RN, is Hyland's marketing portfolio manager for the healthcare industry.

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