Finding My Way

We are postop Day 3 from my grandmother’s back surgery. After months of increasing pain and disability, she underwent a spinal fusion on Tuesday. Major stenosis…her orthopedic surgeon told her he was surprised she was walking at all.

It’s been a rough go. Recovery from major surgery is no picnic, especially when you’re 75 years old. We’ve been taking shifts overnight to sit with her, help her reposition, make sure she eats something. I’ve felt surprisingly in my element. Confident in my knowledge and in my ability to contribute to her care. As a granddaughter and as a nurse.

I’ve watched the nursing staff carefully. Not because they’re doing anything wrong, but because it’s been a while since I worked acute care. And I’ve been deliberating going back. As I posted earlier this week, my clinical hands-on skills are rusty and I’ve been avoiding that fact, convincing myself that I don’t need them, rationalizing that I’m happy where I’m at.

I am happy where I’m at…for now. But I feel a little bit stagnant, a little bit restless. And the truth is, I do need those skills. I do need to learn more and to utilize my critical thinking skills in a faster, more acute environment. If I want to become an advanced practice nurse, I need to know that I can walk into a patient care situation and know that I can handle whatever comes my way. I’ve got the art of nursing figured out – I know how to be present with my patients. But the science, the skills, the problem-solving abilities are all still developing. I need to know that the nurses I work with can trust me to know my sh*t. Can know that I have been in their shoes and I understand their role and the demands on their minds and bodies. I would feel somewhat fraudulent were I to continue “moving up” in my career without expanding my skills first. And if I am going to be an oncology NP, which is still my dream, I need to be an oncology nurse first.

My first go-round as a hospital nurse was an unmitigated disaster. I know that it wasn’t completely my fault.

But I also know that when it hit the fan, I buckled under the pressure. I have the benefit of hindsight to know where I let myself down: I believed that I couldn’t do it.

I need to believe that I can. I need to give myself permission to make mistakes, to not always be the expert, to learn from my nursing community. I need to be okay with being a novice, and I think struggling with that identity was my Achilles’ Heel.

Now comes the hard part: Convincing hospital recruiters that I do have what it takes and that my first venture into acute care was an important lesson in resilience and coping.

So begins another round

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