Can Nurses Change Course? Thoughts on Inertia

When I hear the word inertia, the meaning I think of is actually paralysis:

The loss of the ability to move (and sometimes to feel anything) in part or most of the body, typically as a result of

Take One Daily by jparadisi

Take One Daily by jparadisi

 

illness, poison, or injury; inability to act or function in a person, organization, or place.

The actual definition of inertia is:

A property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force. Inertia is the inability to change course.

Nurses experience inertia when we are unable to switch gears from the high emotional output of our jobs to the more “normal” activities of our personal lives.

I wrote about my difficulty changing course in “The Hostess With The Mostest.” In that post, I describe struggling to transform from on-duty nurse into a party guest at the end of a shift. The difficulty is not only in physically changing from work clothes to party wear. It’s also in retooling my brain for party talk. I have to remember how to talk about favorite restaurants, or the latest film I have not yet seen, instead of cancer nursing, blogging about nursing, or the other related things I spend large amounts of my time doing, casting a shadow over a perfectly good cocktail party.

I think about this while observing people who are not nurses enjoying themselves by taking funny pictures with their cellphones while I avoid being caught in any photographs I wouldn’t want an employer to find on Facebook. Do I worry too much, or is it this a characteristic that makes me a nurse?

It’s healthy for nurses, like myself, to avoid inertia and change course through external activities after leaving our places of work. I find it easier said than done, however, not because I can’t relax, but because “normal” life sometimes fails to hold my attention.

I suspect other nurses find normal life less interesting than their nursing roles, too. If we aren’t over-scheduling ourselves with committee meetings, working overtime, all the while being the World’s Best Soccer Mom, we don’t feel busy enough.

This point was brought home to me by a friend who commented that I seemed tired after I said I was going for a run after getting off a 12-hour shift early. I told her, “No, I’m not tired. I only worked eight hours today.” She replied, “For most people, eight hours is a full day’s work. Go home and get some rest.”

I didn’t. I went for the run. I do my best thinking while running, not meditating on a yoga mat. It’s hard to walk when you’re born to run.

Do you think preferring a busy and sometimes-hectic lifestyle is a characteristic of nurses?

The Hostess With The Mostest

photo: jparadisi

It was a Saturday, my weekend “on” at the infusion clinic. Weekends are hit or miss: only a few patients needing daily IV antibiotics, or as busy as a weekday shift, which is how busy this shift was. My nurse colleagues, clever and cheerful, kept the mood of the shift lighthearted, however.

I don’t know if our positive attitudes contributed, or if it was the other way around, because our patients were also lighthearted. Considering we were spending a Saturday together in an oncology clinic, this speaks volumes about the resiliency of the human spirit.

On a whim, during a lull in the morning we served our patients buttered toast and juice. It was a modest, spontaneous celebration received with joy.

The shift ran long. Expected at a friend’s home for bubbles and small plates, I rushed to get ready.

I have written before: I don’t go out much.

Do other nurses find the sudden transformation from duty to party as unsettling as I do? A quick shower to remove any bacteria hitching a ride home from work; applying a new red lipstick to enliven my poor face that’s been up since O’Dark-Thirty, forcing my feet from comfy clogs into black pumps after standing on them for an eight-hour shift. Looking at the results in a mirror, I felt like a magician.

I’m glad I made the effort. My friend is The Hostess With The Mostest, and the party was fabulous, with platters of delicate finger foods, and chilled, sparkling wines. The guests were glamorous. I saw old friends, and met new ones. It was fun.

That particular Saturday, work and home life melded into a full day of celebration: first at work with colleagues and patients, then again in the evening with friends.

 “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust