Amanda Anderson, BSN, RN, CCRN, works in critical care in New York City and is enrolled in the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing/Baruch College of Public Affairs dual master’s degree program in nursing administration and public administration. Her blog is called This Nurse Wonders.
I found myself getting annoyed with a dying cancer patient today. I don’t think this is an occurrence any honest nurse would deny, but when I could feel my blood pressure rise every time she dry-heaved, I knew it’d been a mistake to come to work this morning.
Not my proudest moment.
You see, I’ve felt my nursing self change of late, with an urge growing within me to slowly step back from the bedside, at least for a bit. Perhaps it’s school and the clarification of future goals forming in my mind, but clinical work has felt more like job-work, and this other work, this future work that largely centers on telling my nursing story, is becoming what I think of as calling-work.
Staring down at my poor patient, I realized I’d swung the balance of bedside work and calling-work too much to one side lately. I’ve been working—as a nurse—too much, and working—as a writer and a student—too little. After seven years of bedside nursing, and the joys and trials of per diem work, you’d think I’d know better and respect my limit on 12-hour work.
But my wallet calls out to me in a loud voice of alarm, drowning out the subtle, more compelling but also riskier voice of my story. I knew this morning, when I responded to a call for work, that I should stay home and pick up the pen that I’d left lying motionless since finals began two weeks ago. I knew I needed a solitary day to sit and reflect, write and muse. And I knew that the unpaid hours of writing would pay off far more than the hourly rate I’d receive for my shift in the hospital. Maybe not in money just yet, but definitely in peace . . .
I followed the voice of my bills, though, and clocked in at 7 am. It wasn’t even 11 by the time I was biting my tongue and taking deep breaths in the presence of my poor patient’s agony. How could I be so incredibly insensitive to such pain? Or, to reframe my own inner query: how could I neglect my own needs, and thus compromise my ability to compassionately tend to hers? Read the rest of this entry ?