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What are we waiting for?

That thing you’re afraid of doing or saying at work – if your fears actually came true what’s the worst thing that could happen?   If you  raised your hand during a meeting to share your ideas told your boss the real reason you’re falling behind asked for permission to work less hours  proposed a…

That thing you’re afraid of doing or saying at work – if your fears actually came true what’s the worst thing that could happen?  

If you 

raised your hand during a meeting to share your ideas

told your boss the real reason you’re falling behind

asked for permission to work less hours 

proposed a different way of working

created a new committee at work

confessed to making a mistake

started a business

reported an unsafe colleague

found a new job

what’s the worst thing that might happen?

Would it be the end of your life? Unlikely. Would the outcome be irreversibly damaging? Probably not. 

Sure, if you said or did what scared you someone might disagree with you or misunderstand you; you might feel embarrassed, or be judged – and then what? 

Often, the things we are most afraid of doing cause only transient discomfort, rarely are the outcomes irreversible. And, risks usually aren’t as scary once we realize that the worst that can happen won’t hurt us in the long run. 

We’re all afraid, so there’s no sense waiting for fear to go away. We just gotta dance with it.

Facing our fears feels risky, but failure to act on our fears is the greatest risk of all.

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The river metaphor

People who are drowning in a river need to be rescued. Without our help, they will get seriously injured or worse, die. People at risk for drowning in a river can be given a life raft to pull them out of harm’s way. There might not be enough room for everyone on the raft and…

People who are drowning in a river need to be rescued. Without our help, they will get seriously injured or worse, die.

People at risk for drowning in a river can be given a life raft to pull them out of harm’s way. There might not be enough room for everyone on the raft and some people will be too far gone to get in it, but it can help avoid drownings.

If we go upstream and see why people are going into the river in the first place, we’ll have a better chance of stopping people from entering into the water and prevent the need for rescuing those who are drowning.

This is a metaphor for the work many of us do.

If we work downstream, always rescuing people moments away from tragedy, always catching people just before they fall, or picking them up after they’ve stumbled, we’ll never get a break. But, if we look upstream and see what’s causing people to fall, to get sick and to suffer, we can avoid the unnecessary rescuing we’re so used to.

Until we place more value on prevention, the upstream work of seeing, mitigating and stopping problems before they cause harm, we’re going to continue to struggle with hallway health care, unnecessary disease and the chronic stress that comes with rescue work.

Saving people is a value many of us hold dear. I get the appeal of watching paramedics, firefighters, police officers and ER workers do their thing. Like many people, I’m also drawn to the ‘high’ feeling brought on by stress and adrenaline. In fact, I’ve become so comfortable with feeling stressed and being surrounded by illness that it seems unnatural when I’m not.

As much as we love the idea of saving lives, that’s not what health care is all about. People don’t want to get sick and injured. They don’t want to suffer.

People need our help. They need us to work with them, without judgment and help them change what they can before it’s too late.

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What control over my schedule means to me

  Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work. – Mary Matalin A few months ago I read an op-ed in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department. In this article…

 

Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work. – Mary Matalin

A few months ago I read an op-ed in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department. In this article she writes about the struggles of working moms in today’s culture, and what needs to change. This was the first time someone used language to describe what I’ve come to understand over the past few years. Having control over your schedule isn’t a job perk, nor should it be a privilege. It’s the only way women can successfully raise children and manage their careers.

Soon after my daughter was born in 2016, I realized that working full-time, 9-5 Monday to Friday as a nurse practitioner on someone else’s schedule wouldn’t allow me to be the kind of person, partner, parent and nurse I wanted and needed to be. Until that time, I worked at least two hours over-time nearly every work day and spent most weekends trying to catch up. I knew I couldn’t keep doing this as a parent or a wife, so it was time to change.

I spent the entire first year of my daughter’s life working towards being in control of my schedule and working from home as much as possible.

Although my family was a huge reason why I decided to work from home and gain more control in my working life, the main driver behind my decision to change how I worked was having cancer. For those of you who don’t know, in 2014 I was diagnosed with a Hurthle cell carcinoma – an uncommon form of thyroid cancer. If it weren’t for having cancer, I don’t think I would have prioritized my family’s needs and my own wellbeing. It was my wake up call to start living on my terms before it’s too late.

Besides managing NursEd, these days I work as a nurse practitioner providing virtual care services from the comfort of my home and do home visits for local residents. For the most part, I get to decide when and where I work. Although my hours aren’t always consistent and predictable, they work for me and my family right now.

I don’t make as much income as I could working full-time for someone else, and I sometimes miss relationships that develop from working closely with colleagues. I have no interest in experiencing the overwhelming stress that comes with working for inflexible organizations. I’ve seen the suffering that comes with prioritizing a career over family, and I can’t do it.

The boundaries, hard work, commitment and sacrifices it takes to raise young children and have a career feels like running a marathon. Just having more control over where, when and how I work makes it possible to try my best.

I wish we didn’t have to choose between our careers and our family, but we do if we work in the majority of health care organizations. Most organizations simply don’t make it easy for us to juggle our conflicting responsibilities.

Here’s what would help:

  • Let nurses work together to create schedules that work for them. 
  • Figure out what needs to be done at work, and what can be done at home. 
  • Match work, child-care and school schedules. 
  • Leverage technology to better integrate personal and professional responsibilities.
  • Create a work culture that celebrates and values the role of parenting.

If we want working moms to remain in the profession and have fulfilling, impactful careers in nursing, we can make it easier by having honest conversations with our colleagues, friends, peers and managers about what we need, because our choices and our values matter too.

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Better with practice

There’s the practice of technical skills that get better over time. With enough persistence and effort, you can become proficient at injections, inserting catheters, starting IVs and dressing wounds. Perfect techniques in your work and become an expert.  Difficult and more valuable is the practice of intentionally showing up every day and choosing to be…

There’s the practice of technical skills that get better over time. With enough persistence and effort, you can become proficient at injections, inserting catheters, starting IVs and dressing wounds. Perfect techniques in your work and become an expert. 

Difficult and more valuable is the practice of intentionally showing up every day and choosing to be empathetic, respectful and kind. The practice of gratitude. The practice of choosing what’s right over what’s comfortable and easy. The practice of seeing and solving problems, and doing what isn’t asked of you. The practice of helping people feel cared for. The practice of trying new things. 

We’ve succumbed to the belief that the technical skills in our work matter the most, because that’s what gets taught, practiced and tested. What actually matters the most to the people we help is how we make them feel through the choices we make and the difficult practices we engage in. 

We get better at being ourselves and make the greatest impact when we practice, not when we perfect.

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Find your heroes

Too often, we look at people who are succeeding, people who we consider a hero and we mistakingly believe they have it altogether. But heroes aren’t perfect. They are normal people who have overcome hurdles. They are successful because of their failures, fears, risks and struggles, not in spite of them. I’ve recently discovered many…

Too often, we look at people who are succeeding, people who we consider a hero and we mistakingly believe they have it altogether. But heroes aren’t perfect. They are normal people who have overcome hurdles. They are successful because of their failures, fears, risks and struggles, not in spite of them.

I’ve recently discovered many heroes (like Seth, Brene, MarieTim, and Cindy) and they’ve made my life so much better.

We don’t need to meet heroes for them to have an impact. The examples they set in their work and their lives are often enough to help us become the people we’re meant to be and do the work we’re meant to do.

You don’t have to look very far to find them. Heroes are right in front of you, whispering in your ear and showing you the way if you’re paying attention.

Coaches are rare and expensive, but heroes are everywhere.

What would your heroes do?

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