Truths and Lies in Nursing

Some healthy perspective for a Friday afternoon:

Truth: What I do at work holds great responsibility and implications for others’ lives.

Lie: I am responsible for everyone I could possibly be responsible for, and should feel guilty if I take time off, don’t pick up an extra shift, or need to request a lighter assignment for my next shift.

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Truth: The work I do in nursing is very meaningful.

Lie: What I do as a nurse is what makes me valuable as a person, so I better keep working.

(Clarifier: The truth is, I am valuable and beloved for who I am, regardless of what I do.)

*

Truth: It is wonderfully appropriate for me to receive thanksgiving and appreciation from people for my service and care in nursing.

Lie: If I am not a nurse, I cannot make contributions to the world worthy of deep, sincere thanksgiving and appreciation.

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Truth: I have a lot to learn from nurses who are senior to me.

Lie: I am of less value to my unit/organization because I don’t know as much as senior nurses.

(Clarifier: The truth is new nurses have refreshing zeal, so much updated knowledge to contribute, and years of passion and skill ahead to offer. I draw from their energy all the time, and look ahead with hope for our profession because they’ll be carrying the baton forward when I’m too ancient to go on!)

*

Truth: The work of nursing teaches me a lot about goodness and compassion in the world.

Lie: I am compassionate and good because I am a nurse.

(Clarifier: The lie I point out here is not meant to be as cynical as it may come across. It is more of a word of warning to watch subtle, defensive presumptions we may start to make about ourselves. Vocation does not automatically equal moral value.)

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Truth: I have a lot to offer as a seasoned, experienced nurse. 

Lie: As a seasoned, experienced nurse, I have a right to belittle younger nurses who know less than me. 

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Truth: So many things go wildly wrong in my patients’ lives. 

Lie: All of these things are going to surely go wildly wrong in my life and the lives of my loved ones. 

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Truth: We can help a lot of people in a lot of ways for a long time. 

Lie: We can help everyone in every way, forever. 

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Truth: We can’t compare ourselves to our colleagues because we never fully know how everyone is doing with the stress and grief they encounter at work (and in their personal lives).

Lie: All my coworkers are so much more stable than me in handling the saddest, most stressful cases together with personal life stressors.

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And finally, just for some lightness:

Truth: All kinds of bodily functions and dysfunctions are normal and objective to me. 

Lie: It is normal and objective to speak in detail of these bodily functions and dysfunctions over dinner with folks not in healthcare. 

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The weight of the work we do in nursing can sometimes convolute our perspective on what is really true. My hope is that we will continue to find greater freedom for our emotional, mental and spiritual health as we untangle ourselves from the lies and live in the grace that comes from truth about who we are and this work that we do.

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