One of the biggest (and least talked about) problems in nursing is the fact that we’re bombarded with images, messages and expectations about what we’re supposed to do and how we’re supposed to feel about our work. We’re lead to believe that if we work full-time, wear scrubs, keep up our nursing skills and work in acute care we’ll feel adequate and be successful.
As as consequence, these pressures lead us to do what everyone else is doing because we think it’s the right thing to do – not because it is.
Besides feeling pressure to fit in, there is a dangerous expectation that we’re supposed to be self-less and put everyone’s needs ahead of our own.
What many of us don’t realize is that it’s impossible to truly care for other people if we’re not compassionate with ourselves first. I know this because I’ve experienced what it’s like to sacrifice who I am to be someone I thought I was supposed to be – and because I’ve worked with many others who’ve sacrificed themselves to be people they’re not.
It took me a long time – most of my life, actually – to learn that in order to find joy and satisfaction and be successful and engaged in our work, it’s necessary for us to ask ourselves tough questions, like:
- Who do you want to help, and why?
- What are your personal values and beliefs?
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- When are you at your best?
- What does a good day look like to you?
- What kind of work would you do if you didn’t have to worry about people’s judgment?
Answering these questions is crucial, but difficult. Most people never answer them because it never feels like a good time or the right time to think about these things.
It’s tempting to keep slogging though life and showing up at work, but I can tell you that the only way we can build successful and meaningful careers is to know who we are, and being okay with we who are.
I never intended to write about improving the lives of nursing students and nurses against the backdrop of the harsh realities of today’s world. But I also didn’t intentionally choose the wrong path and burnout, either.
To help you know your story – your values and beliefs and realize the kind of work you want and need to do, here’s something that might help you get started: My Story Worksheet.