When I reflect on my first year of nursing school, I think about how bright eyed I was about entering a career that was stable, fun, purposeful and flexible. Just like many others, I went into nursing feeling as though I could make a difference. The elation I felt after getting hired to my first nurse position, something that paid way more than the accustomed minimum wage, was indescribable. It seemed I had climbed a mountain and everything I could see from the top appeared perfect. For the first couple of months during my orientation, it felt that way. Then, as I became more independent, my patient load grew, the demands became more abundant and expectations great. I still enjoyed it and had a sense of expanding my knowledge and responsibility. Soon, incredibly stressful situations would arise where patients would assault others including staff, attempt suicide on the unit in which one instance almost became successful and engage in out of control breakdowns that required security involvement or mandatory sedative injections. These experiences left me understanding how some nurses could become weathered, cynical and overall jaded. Honestly, there came a point where my exhaustive frustrations proved greater than those moments of excitement and fun. At times, heading into work became dreadful, as I started counting down the days and hours left before I could enjoy a long stretch-off work. I needed an attitude readjustment! How could I get back that feeling of doing something important and actually have fun?
I started taking more initiative to immerse myself in conversation with co-workers who were cheerful and truly seemed to enjoy their work amidst the chaos. It was the social worker who laughed when discharge planning never seemed to flow smoothly, the nurse who wasn’t afraid to do a little dance after a patient’s labs improved and the charge nurse who had a magical way of lifting up everyone on the floor after an incident. Supporting one another and talking about our frustrations helped immensely.
Another piece of the puzzle was my mind’s response to overwhelming situations. I gained an awareness that everything going through my head, concentrated on helplessness, tiredness, and annoyance. I had even begun to expect some sort of aggravation every shift! This put a stain on the day and made each problem seem even worse from my perspective. I forced myself to find the adventure in every dilemma and if possible, discover a lesson. Expectations then transformed into anticipating what good could come out of every shift. Each moment we come across a situation that seems dire at the time gives us an opportunity to learn. In my case, I’ve learned that not every crisis means disaster and not every problem needs to be figured out immediately, some things just take time.