I started a new job this month, meaning I left my job at Brigham and Women's Hospital. While I'm excited to be an infusion nurse at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, I'm pretty depressed at the idea that I will never set foot onto my old unit, 6A, again. It's being renovated and when the original staff return to their home base, it won't really be a home base anymore. So much will change, including patient population, staffing numbers, and unit layout. It will take months before home is truly home again.
Looking back on my experience on 6A, I feel so incredibly fortunate to have stumbled upon such an amazing floor. Like this new position, I have no idea how I got it. I feel sad and honored to know that I got a taste of what felt like the 6A legacy - quality care due to quality staffing numbers. A lot of other units abhorred us merely because of our numbers - how come we got an extra nurse while they had the heaviest patient on the floor meanwhile balancing their other three? They're right. How come? Why couldn't other units staff like us? I know I'm young and have much to learn, but if there's one thing that's crystal clear to me, it's this: it all comes down to the bottom dollar. Brigham slowly became all about the bottom dollar, beginning with the nurse strike, and then the later changes made on our floor. When I first graduated from nursing school, I had one clear-cut mission in mind: patient-centered care. With all the fuss and controversy swirling over my head about "Am I going to cross the picket line?" and "We asked for the extra nurse and couldn't get one," I didn't feel as if it was about patient-centered care anymore. I know what you're thinking: "Young, stupid nurse." And maybe I am, but isn't this what they teach you in nursing school? During orientation? What you see in the news? Isn't is all about the patient? And if it is, why are they suffering? And why are nurses suffering, bending over backwards just to get the resources they need to care for those patients?
I started to feel cheated, as if I signed up for one thing and got another. When you're a new nurse and you get your first nursing job and realize the power you have to influence peoples' lives, you don't take that task lightly. Being able to stand by people in the most trying times of their lives will forever be a gift I hope to never underestimate. Everything is good until you start to be able to look past the scope of your own patients and your own day, and take a glimpse at the institution around you. The fervor I felt when I first joined was dwindling, and if that meant I should leave, I was going to do it because I didn't want to lose my thirst for learning, patient advocacy, and true, patient-centered care.
Don't get me wrong, I loved my two years at the Brigham and would give so many things to be able to stay on the floor alongside the nurses entering this time of transition. There are some outstanding nurses with major backbone that have given me the guts to stand up for what I believe my patients need. Those nurses really showed me what the core of nursing was, and what it meant to build a connection, have your patients trust in that connection, and use that connection to turn medical care into something beautiful where they find themselves walking out the door and visiting you three months later during their check-up. I was very lucky to be a part of this magic, and to see the workings of what a floor should look like. The shit you read in your textbooks in nursing school.
But I do feel like now, more than ever, those skills are going to be paramount when I start my new position. I'm already being challenged in so many new ways. It's that familiar fear that reminds me that I'm doing something right. I'm comfortable being uncomfortable again, and I'm invigorated to be the stupid one again who has to learn everything over again, even going back to cancer fundamentals just to make sure I have it right. I'm sad, but so determined.
This space of fear between comfort and newness is such an exhilarating place to be. People hate it. People dread it. But if you really take a moment to understand the position you're in, you'll realize that it's the best place to be. It means that in this very moment, you are better than you were when you were standing at comfort. And that much closer to newness and the next step.
And when you're all done with that, you do it all over again. Newness becomes comfort, and you become.. well, whatever you choose to be.