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A nurse’s journey

I have learned that what I have always wanted in life wasn’t to be educated, to travel, to be rich, or have authority, but to do work that matters to me. I have found that I have the least amount of interest in working with sick people. I have realized that I am finished with…

I have learned that what I have always wanted in life wasn’t to be educated, to travel, to be rich, or have authority, but to do work that matters to me.

I have found that I have the least amount of interest in working with sick people.

I have realized that I am finished with stifling my interests to work in a system that doesn’t fit me and most of the people it serves.

And I have started to wonder whether we all experience a similar journey in life before doing meaningful work.

A journey of learning, experiencing and seeing things we cannot unsee. A journey of sacrifices, failures and suffering, that teaches us important lessons, and shapes us to do the work we’re supposed to do.

You know, the kind of journey where you hit rock bottom.

Here’s mine:

From age 30 to 32, my family and friends will tell you that I was miserable. During that time I hustled as a nurse practitioner in a small rural town, working 50 hours a week, hiding from every problem I saw. I was constantly stressed, unable to sleep, and too afraid of what might happen if I spoke the truth. I spent every day trying to catch up from the day before, only to fall further and further behind. At one point I was hypertensive and handed a prescription for Amplodipine… and yet I couldn’t stop. No one could stop me. 

I was powerless to quit until one day, it ended. 

I recall the exact moment when I couldn’t fathom living another day distracting myself from problems and doing work that didn’t matter, just to make a pay check.

The moment when I was done with saying “my boss won’t let me”.

The moment when I suddenly understood who I was, who I wasn’t, and what I was meant to do with my life.

I survived the ordeal of burning out from the realities of working in a broken health care system. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hitting bottom changed me forever.

When we know that the pain and suffering we’ve experienced was worth it, and when we believe everything that’s happened to us was only getting us ready to be our true selves, and do what scares us – that is when a nurse’s journey begins.

A nurse’s real journey is about doing the work that chooses us. The time before is a rehearsal preparing us to thrive when our plans fail, and plans almost always do.

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Thriving as a nurse in today’s world

Demands us to do things differently. Apple wan’t the first company to build the personal computer, and Amazon wasn’t the first online store. The reason Apple is Apple and Amazon is Amazon is because they’ve done things their competitors chose not to do. In nearly every industry, the most successful people and organizations are making a difference by doing…

Demands us to do things differently.

Apple wan’t the first company to build the personal computer, and Amazon wasn’t the first online store. The reason Apple is Apple and Amazon is Amazon is because they’ve done things their competitors chose not to do.

In nearly every industry, the most successful people and organizations are making a difference by doing things that haven’t been done before. They’re thriving because they look at the status quo and do the opposite. On purpose.

Unfortunately in health care, many providers fight to maintain the status quo of a system that isn’t working by prioritizing quantity over quality. It’s not that they can’t see fewer people or increase the amount of time they spend with them, it’s that they won’t slow down long enough to think about how they could provide the kind of care people really need. 

But there are health care providers who do choose to focus on quality rather than quantity. It’s not that they can’t see more people more quickly, it’s that they won’t short-cut care.

As more people have more choices about who provides their health care, success will come to those of us who obsess about the ways in which we will help them.

Now, more than ever before, having credentials and being first matters less than the work we actually do. Today’s world rewards people who have the guts to do what other people won’t.

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Health care: the long and the short

In the short run, we reward figures of authority. In the long run, we reward people who create the most value. In the short run, top-down management wins. In the long run, front line workers are empowered to create change. In the short run, we treat health problems after-the-fact. In the long run, we prevent health problems before they…

In the short run, we reward figures of authority. In the long run, we reward people who create the most value.

In the short run, top-down management wins. In the long run, front line workers are empowered to create change.

In the short run, we treat health problems after-the-fact. In the long run, we prevent health problems before they happen.

In the short run, we invest millions of dollars in hospital care. In the long run, we invest in the resources that keep people out of hospital.

In the short run, we manage the urgent and emergent problems. In the long run, we do the important work first.

In the short run, we fit in all the way, keep our heads down and do what we’re told. In the long run, we stand out and lead.

Short runs are selfish. They waste money and time and human resources. And they cause unnecessary suffering.

The nursing crisis in Quebec is proof that short runs don’t work.

It’s easy to blame the government for our problems. But the truth is, we’re all responsible.

We know people suffer when they shouldn’t. We know people fall through the cracks, and wait too long for care. We know people don’t get the time and attention they need.

So why do we keep allowing this to happen?

Because we’re afraid. 

We’re afraid of what people might think if we say something. We’re afraid of losing our licence to practice. Of getting fired. Of being judged. Of failing.

The prehistoric structure in our brain that saved our ancestors from wild animals is the same one that stops us from challenging the status quo of a health care system that’s not working.

The Resistance, Steve Pressfield calls it, is this powerful force inside each of us that holds us back from doing uncomfortable work. It’s the voice in our heads telling us we’re not good enough. That we can’t make a difference. That it’s not our responsibility. That it’s someone else’s fault.

The Resistance is why we’re stuck with a system that doesn’t work.

What we all need to realize is that health care will only improve when enough people are brave enough to stand up and demand a new way of doing our work.

When we agree about the purpose of health care.

When we no longer tolerate wasting resources doing things that don’t make sense.

And when we’re able to dance with the fear of making change happen.

With the right amount of persistence, different education, and a collective willingness to create a better future, the long runs will get shorter and health care will change, one day at a time.

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The better way to make change

What do nurses do? Besides doing assessments, giving out medications and consulting with colleagues, have you ever thought about what nurses do every day, regardless of where we work? We try to make something or someone change. Many of us work towards educating people and helping them to make better decisions about their health. Some…

What do nurses do?

Besides doing assessments, giving out medications and consulting with colleagues, have you ever thought about what nurses do every day, regardless of where we work?

We try to make something or someone change.

Many of us work towards educating people and helping them to make better decisions about their health. Some of us work at influencing health care policy-makers and legislation. And there are some of us who work at improving access and reducing health care inequalities.

Seth Godin argues that,

for most of us, our job is to make change. Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.

We just don’t think about nursing this way.

Making change begins with realizing that culture influences everything we do. That the ways in which people think and act aren’t actually decisions at all. They’re cultural. A part of who people are.

The reason why people sometimes feel disrespected by us has nothing to do with our ‘nursing skills’, and everything to do with our cultural sensitivity.

Which means that anytime we want to help change something or someone for the better, we need to begin by understanding and shifting culture.

Most of us are used to teaching, helping or influencing one person at a time. In hospitals, clinics and legislative buildings, we meet with the people we seek to impact one by one, behind closed doors. Because this is the way it’s always been done.

But in the long run, this approach isn’t nearly as effective or efficient as organizing groups of people who want to change together.

When groups of people come together for a common purpose, with a committed leader and a way to communicate, they’re far more likely to reach their goals.

The most influential organizations make change not by influencing one person at a time, but by connecting, organizing and leading groups of people who want the same thing.

If you want to change the status quo, to help a population of clients improve their health, to improve the quality of care in your organization or to make your workplace a better place to be, start by finding and forming a small group of people who want to change.

You don’t need everyone. You just need a few committed people who share the same goals.

The hard part is to stop trying to change people who don’t want to hear from you.

Making change is much easier when you create a culture of people who believe what you believe, and want what you want.

Never underestimate the power of groups. They can change everything. Groups of families, clients, colleagues, businesses and lawmakers always have, and always will.

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The Chance of A Lifetime

Nursing is a platform of opportunity to make a difference. But the process of becoming a nurse, and the work of nursing is anything but easy. While motivation can come from anywhere, for me it happened when I became a nurse practitioner and couldn’t keep up. I built NursEd because I was unsatisfied with the existing…

Nursing is a platform of opportunity to make a difference.

But the process of becoming a nurse, and the work of nursing is anything but easy.

While motivation can come from anywhere, for me it happened when I became a nurse practitioner and couldn’t keep up.

I built NursEd because I was unsatisfied with the existing tools available to support the learning needs of future and current nurses.

Most courses, textbooks, seminars and conferences fail to consider how people learn – and what nurses need to know. And that’s not good enough in the information technology era, when people long to be treated like human beings.

Education must be interesting, accessible, helpful and relevant for us to practice nursing. And that’s precisely why I’m challenging myself to breakdown barriers impeding the learning and work you need and want to do.

I believe that the most influential education is the kind that teaches nurses to see differently, to speak up, to innovate, to improve care and to do work that’s meaningful.

And so, NursEd. A different way to learn. A new way of thinking about the work we do.

To help you get the education you need to succeed in the world as a nurse today, we’re going to move away from the CPNRE, and focus on the work that lies ahead of you. A future filled with impossible possibilities.

I hope you’ll join me.

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