This Odd Simultaneous Pursuit: On Teamwork and my Honest Inability to do it All

I’m not cut out for this job. Not entirely, not always. My ego bristles against that truth, fights that truth with all its emotional strength. There are days when I picture some unreal, superhuman nurse who knows everything (as I approach the still very young two-year mark into my nursing career), who has the skills and smarts to perform every skill be it my first or my hundredth time, who does every task for every patient without disappointing, who listens patiently and therapeutically to an anxious parent, and then goes home unfrazzled to cook a hearty dinner, tidy up the house, and engage in meaningful conversation with loved ones. Well, to the Supernurse who lives in this illogical place of my brain, I want to ask you to please stop lying to me about the reality of your existence.

My ego would love for me to put flesh on this elusive idea of Supernurse. There are days when it strongly, strongly insists. But until I can lay Supernurse to her final resting place, my ego will never fully understand how much I need others, how important it is for me to let myself need others, how this really is the only way any of us will be cut out for this job of caring for children and families in a pediatric ICU.

I need my coworkers to help me and teach me. I need my respiratory therapists to do what they are so good at doing. I need my social workers and chaplains and child life specialists to be that calm, therapeutic presence for my patients and families when my necessary tasks are calling. I need my patients and their family members to take ownership of their own needs where they can. I need to recognize and value my role in this team, not too small, nor too grandiose. I need to let myself let my husband sit me down when I get home, despite all my compulsions to clean, so that I can just be.

False (or at least incomplete) humility is so vastly different from true humility. It’s the difference between, “I don’t know how to do that, so please don’t hold me accountable for it,” versus “I don’t know how to do that, but yes, please teach me.” It’s the difference between, “I’ve got a lot of demands on my plate but no, no, I don’t want to trouble you,” to “Thank you so much for offering to help me, and yes I will take you up on that.” I am sobered to see how much I still operate in the former rather than the latter. It’s got to change. A right heart, not only in nursing but in all areas of life, means that I work hard on learning and growing in my own skills, and that I lean more on others too. Both can be hard. Especially when you’re aiming for both at the same time.

I’m not cut out for this job. Not entirely, not always. But the team around me, the team I am a part of, is. And I am cut out for my role in this team, so long as I continue, diligently, intentionally, in this odd simultaneous pursuit of both independence and dependence.

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