How Nancy Nurse Got Her Groove Back

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

Nancy became a nurse 15 years ago. Back then, she was altruistic and full of energy and enthusiasm. A decade and a half later, she found herself unhappy, disgruntled and disillusioned. She frequently proclaimed that nursing was a lousy career and discouraged prospective nurses from getting into the profession. Nancy focused on the negative aspects of her daily work. Co-workers who once enjoyed her company now found her to be difficult, nasty and apathetic. Nancy’s miserable attitude was affecting the entire department and her patient care. She was in a career rut and felt powerless to change her circumstances.

When Mary Manager asked what was bothering her, Nancy said she’d been doing the same old thing for so long, the same old problems were still there and it had all become tiresome. Mary suggested Nancy switch from being reactive to being proactive by volunteering to be on a committee at work that interested her. Nancy protested that this wasn’t in her job description and that she wouldn’t be paid extra for it. Mary said it could be done on work time and was an opportunity to help solve problems rather than just complain about them. Plus, Mary added, Nancy would meet new people and develop new skills. Nancy reluctantly agreed to try it and was surprised that she liked the change of pace and had many valuable ideas to contribute.

Nancy’s friend, Supportive Sarah, asked what Nancy was doing about self-care. Nancy said she’d done very little because of time constraints and feeling guilty about taking time away from her family. Sarah reminded Nancy that self-care was not a luxury but routine maintenance for a nurse. Sarah pointed out that unmanaged stress takes a toll on nurses’ health, mood and relationships. Sarah suggested they go for a massage and a pedicure together to unwind. Nancy didn’t realize how stressed she was until she felt the tension began to leave her body during the treatments. People even told her she looked better afterward!

Co-worker Nate the Nurse, who was active in his specialty nursing association, invited Nancy to attend a chapter dinner meeting as his guest. Nancy had dropped her membership because she thought she didn’t have time to go to meetings. She went along to humor Nate, expecting to meet unhappy nurses like herself. But she was surprised to learn most of the nurses were friendly, professional and welcoming. Most of them seemed to love what they did in spite of the challenges they faced – including many of the same things Nancy was dealing with. Over dinner, nurses discussed best practices and ways to cope with daily struggles. Nancy also learned more about what was happening in the bigger world of healthcare and nursing. She realized how disconnected she’d become from her profession and was reminded she is part of a bigger whole. She realized many others share her struggles and rewards.

After graduating from nursing school, Nancy did not intend to further her formal education. But then, nurses became pressured to get higher degrees. Nancy was angry and resentful about this. Because she feared becoming unemployed and her employer offered some tuition reimbursement, Nancy begrudgingly enrolled in a few college courses. Once there, she realized that she enjoyed the interaction with other students and instructors. The assignments and projects compelled her to learn about things she had never known were related to healthcare, nursing and her life. She felt her resistance softening and education eventually became an exhilarating experience.

Nancy began to realize that her negative thoughts, lack of self-care, self-imposed isolation and professional stagnation had driven her into a career funk. Spending time with those who were more positive and proactive in their professional lives began to rub off on her. Nancy now sees each day as an opportunity to make a positive difference. She has goals that propel her forward. Her career always feels fresh and energetic. Nancy has learned a lot about herself and has a better sense of what her special skills are and of what she enjoys doing. This has allowed her to pursue more targeted activities, such as joining a national nursing association and becoming active in her local chapter, which offers her a great support system and sense of community. Nancy’s educational experience gave her more confidence and poise, not to mention knowledge and credentials. She is dreaming bigger dreams and is optimistic about her future. Nancy Nurse finally got her groove back

Copyright Gannett Healthcare Group ( All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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