In the course of our nursing careers, we nurses can sometimes feel stuck in a moment we can’t escape. We work on dysfunctional units, we can’t find a new job, or we feel like we’re marking time while everyone else marches down the field of their nursing career to some imagined finish line. We can feel like all hope is lost.
When we’re in a place of professional stagnation, seeing the forest for the trees can seem impossible. All we’re able to see are the colleagues who talk behind our back, the high cost of a BSN program, and the limitations and failings of our place of employment.
In a quagmire of stagnation, it’s like being stuck in professional quicksand, but the death of our career can seem painfully slow. Can’t it just happen quicker and finally put me out of my misery?
Luckily for us, the human capacity and drive for self-preservation is high. When we’re faced with the proverbial saber-toothed tiger, we turn tail and run like crazy. When a coworker bullies us, we defend ourselves, ignore the bully, or consider ways to bully-proof ourselves (and get the bully fired). Self-preservation is natural; otherwise, we wouldn’t drive very carefully or eat our fruits and vegetables.
In terms of your nursing career, you also need to practice self-preservation by seeing possibilities rather than dead ends . If your workplace feels toxic, you can fight to change the environment or you can look for a new job; you can also just quit. If your colleague is unkind and curt, you can put your best foot forward and try to sit down and talk it out over coffee (better yet, meet with her over ice cream — I bet you’ll feel less angry while eating ice cream, but this is just a theory).
Self-preservation is about seeing possibility. If you’re trying to cross a busy city street and the taxis seem like they won’t ever let you cross, do you walk in front of speeding traffic or do you wait for the moment of greatest possible safety?
The same goes for your career. When things are at their darkest, do you curl up and cry in the corner of the nurses’ station (well, maybe you do for a few minutes, and that’s ok), or do you a) try to bring some light to the situation, b) check the Internet for job postings, or c) just go along with the horribleness that seems to get worse each day? If you’re choosing “c”, you need to convince yourself that you’re worthy of more.
There’s Always Another Way
If your workplace seems to be falling apart, you don’t have to stay. If your colleague is a nurse bully, you don’t have to put up with it anymore. If you’re tired of having doors closed in your face because you don’t have your BSN, you can put your nose to the grindstone and get one.
When we feel stuck, stagnant, or trapped, we’re not seeing possibility. When Nelson Mandela was in a South African jail for 26 years, he held onto the possibility of some day being free, and he went on to lead the country to freedom from apartheid. When Mother Teresa saw one more poor person starving on the streets of Calcutta, she saw the possibility of one more person being fed rather then giving up in frustration.
In your nursing career, do you feel like a starving person or a jailed freedom fighter? See the possibilities and allow the power of self-preservation to propel you forward.