Shift Observations: When It Feels Like Work

Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.

Dale Carnegie

Derail photo by jparadisi 2012

I had one of those patient assignments I couldn’t get control of. The care plan refused to move forward in its time frame, despite fervent pushing. There were unexpected variables: The patient possessed few usable veins; those she had were challenging, and time was lost starting her IV. The infusion wasn’t available when expected. Once it started, the vein blew. No harm occurred to the patient, but another vein had to be found, another IV had to be started, all at the cost of more lost time. It became clear the patient was not going to be on time for a scheduled procedure in another office. This happens once in a while in the ambulatory setting, mostly because the parties doing the scheduling are unaware or overly ambitious about what can be done in a limited amount of time.

I called the RN at the office scheduling the procedure, explaining our patient would be late. Then I returned to my post, watching her IV, willing it to stay open and unobstructed. The expression on my face must have been intense: I didn’t notice our nursing student enter the unit until he came to me and asked, “Tough day?”

This student returned to school to pursue a career in nursing. His commitment, work ethic and accountability are rare. Despite raising a family, and going to school full-time, he finds things to do above and beyond expectations. He’s smart and funny too, with a natural ability to get along with our crusty, all female staff. He’s going to be a great nurse.

“Yeah, it’s a tough day,” I replied. Remembering how hard this nursing student works I realized, instead of whining, I had the opportunity, a choice, to show some professionalism. I explained some of the factors making the assignment difficult. Without thinking, out of my mouth came the words, “Solving the problems is what I do as an RN. This is what I’m paid to do. When things go wrong, that’s when my education kicks in full throttle. I’m here when the work is slow, for the times when things get tough.”

The student smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s what makes it a profession. It’s like when I had my company, the job was easy until there was a problem. That’s when it felt like work.”

He’s going to make a great nurse.

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

Oregon agates in their natural state. photo: jparadisi 2011

It’s late Sunday evening as I write this post. Usually I’ve already written one and clicked the “publish” tab by now, but what the hey, I’m not a trained seal, you know?

Anyway, David and I went to the Oregon Coast for a brief trip to celebrate a family birthday. Surprisingly, it was sunny there, and sunny days are as rare as agates on the beach this spring. Now we’re back in Portland, and the clouds darken the sky as if someone put a gigantic hat over the city. However, my day was brightened to find that Dr. Dean Burke mentioned my post from last week among those of other talented nurse bloggers in The Millionaire Nurse Twitter Chat edition. Thank you!

Normally, when I know I’ll be out of town, I plan a post in advance so it’s ready to publish on Sunday evening, but this week time flowed away faster than a spilled latte at the nurses’ desk. First, work was crazy busy: the kind of shifts that make you come home and go bibbety-bibbety-bibbety, while drooling. Despite this, I felt strangely fulfilled. My colleagues and I worked well as a team, and we made some significant improvements in the lives of our patients. Being busy is not the same thing as being frustrated. Hard work resulting in good outcomes is its own reward.

Speaking of which, I was accepted into a juried art exhibition this week. I really wanted to make it into this show, but now the work begins. There’s an artist statement to write, a résumé to update, and framing to do before the show. Achievement comes with a to do list. Being an artist requires a level of professionalism similar to any other career. It’s not all crayons and finger paint.

Added to this week’s frenzy, my favorite 11 year-old had a band concert. He plays trombone, and shows promising talent. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. In fact, I showed up late for a gallery reception I promised I’d attend months before rather than miss it.

On the drive home from the Coast, David asked me how I was doing after such a busy week. I told him I am tired, but content. If I could save time in a bottle, this is how I would spend it: in meaningful relationships, and doing meaningful work. David said, “What else is there to spend it on?”