Saturday, May 26, 2007

strength of character may be aquired at work...

So I've changed jobs. No more the cushy life of a clinical educator, swanning around Monday to Friday with graduate nurses, offering assistance and support. Now it's the life of a nurse at the coal face - smoothing fevered brows (as if), washing dirty derrieres (that's more like it!), placating irritable relatives... and working weekends.

Ah, the joys of real life nursing! The rewards. The hard yakka. Gotta love it.

Having said 'gotta love it', I'm not sure that I do anymore. People keep asking how I'm finding it back on the ward, with all it entails. My standard reply is 'I'm not sure yet. I'm still adjusting'. Which I am.

Some things I can immediately identify as not so great. Take working until 10pm only to return at 7am the next morning - not my idea of the ideal job. (In fact I consider it a sure sign our managers have not worked shift work in more than a hundred years) Washing those dirty derrieres wasn't high on the list of things I missed in my previous job either - satisfying as it may be to see a clean rear at the end of it all. And eight hours straight on my feet. Urgh.

On the upside of shift work is the feel of being on perpetual holiday. Well at least that's how I'm feeling, having been chained to the hospital from Monday to Friday, cramming birthday present shopping into that tiny sliver of time left at the end of a day (and that's without even considering the time needed to wrap and post them), and spending weekends attending to crucial wifely duties such as dusting, cooking cakes and scrubbing toilet bowls! I'm now enjoying the freedom of not being required at work on Monday. Or Thursday. Or Tuesday. Not all in the one week of course, but I feel released from the monotony of day-in, day-out routine. There's a certain mental space to be found in hanging out at home until 1pm. Of course you can't have this without working weekends. It all evens out. Which is probably why I can't decide if I like shift work or not.

If it was as simple as weighing up such prosaic negatives and positives I might find the shift work evaluation more simple. But there's another dynamic at work here - an interpersonal dynamic! Just between you and me, I think I work on the most egotistical ward in the world.

I deliberated for some time about moving to this ward purely because of its personality - it's known for nastiness, and with good reason. Individually each person can be quite pleasant but when working as a pack they have the ability to tear shreds off the poor innocent who does not conform to their way of thinking or nursing. That most of them have never worked outside of this particular ward is inconsequential. That they are parochial and shallow doesn't concern them. They know best. All the time. Period.

In the end it was yet another old lady with a fractured hip that forced my hand. I just couldn't face another fractured hip when I've always loved abdomens. So I moved away from my previous ward home and stepped into the danger zone where I've had plenty of opportunity to observe the dynamic. It's all there from the pack mentality to the stunning alteration in behaviour when one of the pack is isolated from their pals.

Today I concluded it isn't so much about nastiness as egos. As I said, they always know best so any new staff member must be tested by picking holes in their practice until the pack are satisfied that the new nurse also knows best.

I come into the ward in a slightly different position from the average new staff member - they already knew me from my previous position, and conversely, I was aware of their idiosyncrasies. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed, so over the last few weeks I've been steeling myself for the move. In discussions with my spiritual director I've been planning exactly how I will approach the situation. What character will I display in the midst of the morass? How will I be different from those around me? What can I do as I leave the house that will give me strength in the middle of the battle?

To be very, very honest, I didn't come up with a definite plan. I stuck a photo of the green lacewing insect on my fridge as a reminder that God is with me and promised to look at it, breathe deeply and commit myself to God as I stepped out the door each day. That was about the extent of my planning.

Yet somehow, just doing that seems to have helped. I have sensed God's presence with me - I've even had the strength to walk away from a gossip-fest. I can see the good and bad buried in my heart (those gossip-fests are so tempting!) but somehow the good is coming through. Lately I've been drifting through life following the crowd - it's become so bad that sometimes I won't even speed up the windscreen wipers in the rain unless I see other people wiping quickly! Now, all of a sudden I have the courage to be different. It's as if seeing the unattractive characteristics of others has turned a spotlight onto what I don't want to be, and I feel spurred on to display the opposite*. And it feels good.

So after two weeks on the ward I'm still not sure about nursing in the long term, and shift work definitely hasn't won me over - but I'm loving the way this job is stretching me and growing my soul in a way I haven't grown for a long time.

*Disclaimer: this is not intended as an indication of having attained angelic status. Hidden inside, the bitch still lives. She's just locked up for now!

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At 12:57 am, May 27, 2007, Blogger Deanna said...

It sounds like you have great insights about what you're doing, with whom, and why.

That is a gift, like the lacewing insect. What a pretty bug!

At 3:20 am, May 27, 2007, Blogger Angela said...

ugh. i hate messy work relationships that make you feel dirty and tired. yahooo! for you for walking away from ugliness and towards beauty. it's so hard.

At 5:27 am, May 27, 2007, Blogger Cherie said...

"...it's become so bad that sometimes I won't even speed up the windscreen wipers in the rain unless I see other people wiping quickly."

Don't you just feel like the biggest stupid-head when you find yourself doing things like that? I do.....I sure do.

This post got a lot of sympathetic reaction from both Tom and me - very honest, human, and astute. (Tom chuckled aloud and pointed at these words of yours on the screen: satisfying as it may be to see a clean rear at the end of it all.

At the end of it all - you are clever, Cec!

At 9:39 am, May 27, 2007, Anonymous Sandy said...

I see you have been able to use your psychology in all of this. This is good stuff Cecily. Taking this on is obviously good for you.

I love the disclaimer.


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