Hi there. My name’s Todd.
I felt called to nursing early on in my career. Like most of us, I had definite ideas about how I’d serve and a vision of what it would be like. And like most of us, my career didn’t turn out quite like what I’d had in mind.
For one thing, after my experience as a combat medic, I envisioned myself as a daring rescue nurse rappelling from helicopters—not caught in the crossfire of nursing and healthcare politics.
More importantly, I went into nursing pursuing a calling to help people be well, and found instead a profession at war with itself, struggling to live up to its vision. Here were a few of my biggest shockers:
- Nurses feel trapped, providing “sick care” rather than on true patient wellness.
- The nursing scene operates like a relationally violent pecking order, with nurse leaders (and even physicians) at the head of the roost, and other staff licking their wounds while bullying those beneath them. Talk about a toxic environment!
- The constant fear nurses seem to feel about standing up for their rights—lest any perceived mistake should cost them their licensure.
- The long, stressful shifts (often followed by long, stressful “on call” periods) often lead to chronic burn-out.
I watched, over and over again, as this negativity and stress crept from the workplace into the personal lives of my colleagues who, like me, had come to nursing with a burning desire to serve mankind and instead ended up as just another piece in the confusing healthcare puzzle, while the job gnawed away at their inner reserves,straining relationships with spouses, kids, parents and friends.
This isn’t what we’d signed up for.
- We didn’t sign up to negotiate unit politics and fall prey to top down or horizontal bullying.
- We didn’t sign up to fulfill only half our calling, spending most of our time fixing illnesses that could have been prevented with more focus on “well care” instead of “sick care.”
- We didn’t sign up to miss all the juicy things in life, demanding that our lives take second-place to long hours, stress, and feeling overwhelmed.
- We didn’t sign up to develop our practice around preventing being sued versus caring for patients adequately, consumed with charting and practices that check a box rather than help patients.
Though we didn’t sign up for any of these things, they set in anyway, and we came to accept them as part of the package.
I’ve seen colleagues put their heads in their hands, consider their options, and feel like there was just no way out.
Should they just soldier on and try to cope?
Should they spend a few grueling years in school to try skipping ahead in the pecking order?
Should they try a different area of nursing—could things be better there?
Should they just walk away from their calling and the security and income that went with it?
With these gnawing questions, it’s no wonder many nurses wish they’d chosen a different career!
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
After more than 20 years working in the profession, I’ve seen these problems from almost every possible angle:
- From the perspective of a dyed-in-the wool, boots-on-the-ground RN.
- From the perspective of hospital administrators and staff leaders, as I worked alongside them implementing new technologies…
- And now, from three years’ perspective as a wellness expert and coach helping motivated nurses create the lives and careers they want.
And the conclusion I’ve come to is this:
There absolutely is a better way.
Most of the solutions out there—encouraging stressed nurses to take up yoga and meditation, for example—are often just placebos. Like the rest of our “Sick Care” system, they treat symptoms rather than root causes.
The way to improve things for nurses as individuals, for nursing as a profession, and for patients, is to move beyond these kinds of “Band-Aid” solutions, and get to the root of the problem.
If we want things to be different, we have to make a change.
Over time the field of nursing has evolved, but it can continue to evolve in a better direction. We can cultivate change through a community of nurses who promote workplace civility, nursing staff input, and recognize the value of nurses
Most importantly…Nurses need to think and act outside the box.
What I mean by outside the box is outside the confines of traditional nursing roles.
Let’s encourage and empower each other to challenge current working conditions and lead change, to inspire patient-focused healthcare, and to rejuvenate our motivation, energy, and excitement to forge our way back to our original mission and excitement about our careers.
- We need a movement of men and women within the profession who are willing to stand up for nurses and the nursing profession.
- We need to cultivate in nurses a better understanding of what their options for practice and employment even are. There are vast options that nurses can do for work that is meaningful and fulfilling.
- We need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset to empower nurses to lead institutional transformation as change agents from the inside out, or from the outside in with bold new models that challenge Sick Care with Wellness Care.
- We need to break free of the mindset that sees a nurses’ time as a simple tradeoff of hours worked for dollars received, to refocus on the value they can bring.
- Encourage and empower nurses to lead change and challenge current working conditions.
- Focus our motivation on the energy, excitement, and success that comes when the mission is Wellness Care.
Expect miracles to happen, doors to open, and see change begin in our lives as well as those of our patients.
And that change must begin, at its most basic level, with a movement that starts with individuals. With me and with you.
Together, we can do this.
I hope you will.
If you’ve ever felt…
TRAPPED in a workplace environment that pits you against your coworkers,
FRUSTRATED by the “sick care” philosophy that treats symptoms rather than promoting wellness, or
CRUSHED by the long overwhelming shifts.
THIS is your permission to make a change.
Together, we can do this.
I hope you will.