Recently I fell into a whole self–created story around my worth and my competence in relation to my work as a nurse. This happened because I assumed something and reacted.
What happened was that one of the patients that a colleague and I were responsible for was allocated to someone in a different team. My colleague was still involved with this patient but I had been removed. I had returned from days off to find out in a roundabout way the patient was now on the other team’s list, and that my colleague and the other team nurse would be working with her. It all felt a bit ‘hush hush.’
I immediately went into a reaction. But I didn’t share this or ask any questions to find out the reason. I doubted myself instead. How many of us do this to ourselves?
“What have I done wrong?”
“Why doesn’t the patient want me?”
“Everybody obviously knows about this, how embarrassing.”
I shrank and made myself small. This then began to be reflected back to me rather quickly as I was so affected that I did a couple of things very awkwardly. I had taken on ‘wrong,’ ‘not worthy of being a nurse’ and ‘shame of being singled out’ – personas which were definitely NOT me.
I still did not ask what happened or try to resolve the situation straight away, but allowed the feelings of unworthiness to fester and build in me. It is astounding the stories we can concoct when we place ourselves in such positions!
It felt terrible. Especially since it is rare now that I do this. I generally stay very solid and connected with me and can feel very clearly whether something is true or not.
I eventually came to my senses and realised I had totally abandoned myself because of an assumption. I saw that I had an investment in people liking me, in needing to be seen to be ‘a good nurse’ and in not making mistakes.
I knew that the only thing to do was to ask directly and I felt to do this openly with the other nurse, no matter who else might be in the office. It felt like a useful topic to discuss between us all because I knew I was not alone in this experience – it has happened to most of us.
So, the next morning I asked if there was a reason the patient had been moved: “Was there something I had or hadn’t done to upset the patient or the family?” and “If there was, could we talk about it as I would really prefer to know straight up so I can learn from it rather than it being hidden?”
They all laughed in surprise and someone said, ”No one would EVER not want you to be their nurse!”
I shared about my reactions and they said, “You’re not alone there,” and “Isn’t it horrible what we do to ourselves?”
A great discussion around reactions in our work ensued. It was wonderful. I could feel we all felt supported by the fact that I had spoken up and asked the question and that we might all do that more readily if anything similar should arise. It was like we now had permission to be more open about such situations.
It turned out that part of what I had been feeling was true in that something had happened, but it was concerning another nurse who had been assigned to and had had a difficult event occur with the patient while I was away. She had been working together with my colleague to tie up the loose ends to the satisfaction of the patient, her family and themselves.
I had made it ‘all about me.’
I learned a lot:
- To not assume anything
- To ask questions or express what is going on for me before letting things get out of hand
- To remain present and connected with myself as I normally would have, which naturally ensures that I am able to respond to a situation rather than react to it.
I recognised that a past hurt led to this reaction and began taking steps to address that. Why did I need to be accepted and recognised as a ‘good or perfect nurse.’ Aren’t I enough as I am?
And, appreciation for myself was needed for speaking up, even if it had taken a while.
Through this experience and being willing to look at my part in it, I also got to appreciate my awesome colleagues for their openness and honesty and their willingness to go there with the discussion around such reactions.