Embracing paradoxes

At the core of nursing is the idea that they can educate thousands of us, at scale, to learn and apply the same knowledge and skills across a variety of settings and scenarios.

We learn to do what we’re taught and what’s expected of us because we know it matters.

In essence, then, nursing is about following.

But – it is also about leading and creating.

In one moment, we need to follow rules, procedures and guidelines. And in another moment, we need to be willing to forget the rules, look at the status quo and curiously question what we’re doing.

We need to stay inside the box, and think outside the box.

If we want to do meaningful work and have a satisfying career in nursing, we need to embrace this paradox and hold other contradictory ideas in our minds at the same time:

I work for someone else, and I’m my own boss. 

I must do what I’m supposed to do, and I must do what I haven’t been told.

I must follow, and I must lead.

I must work alone, and I must work together. 

I must respect the rules, and I must challenge rules. 

I must follow instructions, and I must create new ways of working. 

I must achieve the best possible outcomes for my clients, and not worry about the outcomes of making change. 

I must embrace the suck, and I must not succumb to suffering. 

How you work and the kind of work you do is a choice. But please don’t think for a moment that your only job is to do what you’ve been taught and told to do.

If you can embrace these paradoxes, you can do anything.

I hope you will.