Why I Cried At Work

I spent last Friday morning at work crying. I was in my new job at my new hospital and in training. The training I took Friday morning was a mandatory two-hour computer-based session about the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children or CSEC. I cried with the testimonials and the trauma described by survivors and experts in the field. I felt a combination of rage and helplessness while I watched and listened to the videos. Luckily, I was in an area where no one else was sitting around me, so I felt I could express my grief and despair without too much concern.

I think this is part of what scares me about being a pediatric nurse. I worry if I can emotionally regulate myself when working with abused or neglected children. I also wonder and hope I can recognize and report abuse should I ever encounter an abuse victim. As difficult as it was, I appreciated completing the training and felt it was valuable. As a nurse, I am a mandatory reporter and must report child abuse when I suspect it. However, I think the general population should also take the introductory training about the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children to increase awareness, recognize and reduce risks, and maybe correct misconceptions about victims.

It is unlikely that the public would voluntarily take a two-hour training about the Sexual Exploitation of Children. Despite this, I hope to educate my readers and others who come across my blog or social media posts, because I think it’s important and is something I can easily do to help victims of CSEC. Some of the things I learned from the training are found below:

I can cry and grieve for these children, but I also want to take action. Let me know if you learned anything new from this post or if you found it helpful. I’m also curious to learn and hear from others about ways they support victims of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Major Update: I Quit My Job!

I have not posted in a while because I have been busy with some life changes. I recently resigned from my new grad RN job and accepted an offer to work at another hospital. What could have possibly taken me away from my #1 choice hospital and my highly pursued new grad program? A spot in my dream unit, the NICU!

It was tough for me to leave my program since I felt like the people were supportive overall. I truly appreciated the environment, community, and staff. I was learning a lot and growing as a nurse. However, my experience as a new grad RN working in the Float pool with adult patients also affirmed that my ultimate goal is to work with babies in a NICU.

My hospital has a NICU, which was a big reason I applied to their new grad program – I had hopes to move into their NICU eventually, especially after having a NICU preceptorship during nursing school. However, after working as a resident, I learned that the NICU at the hospital where I was employed does not accept inexperienced NICU nurses. The NICU manager recommended I apply to an L&D fellowship after my Float Pool residency, and maybe I could transfer to the NICU afterward. That would mean the earliest I could go to our NICU would be 2023, and that’s with the caveat that I would get accepted into a competitive year-long L&D fellowship. I would be competing with other nurses whose ultimate goal is to be an L&D nurse and other more experienced nurses previously rejected from the L&D fellowship.

After learning all this, I had the opportunity to interview during a mass hiring event for another hospital. The hospital already had my application from earlier in the year, one of the 70+ positions I applied to before starting my new grad program. I shared I only wanted NICU positions – there was no other reason I’d leave my new grad program since it was a great program in a good hospital. I interviewed with the NICU manager at the new hospital via MS Teams in between scheduled night shifts. At the end of the interview, she shared she’d like to hire me. I gave my job three weeks’ notice once I passed the background check and received a target start date. I started orientation for my nightshift NICU position at the new hospital on Oct. 1, last Friday.

I know it’s customary to give two weeks’ notice, but I felt obligated to give my old hospital three weeks. I ended up working four more shifts than if I had only given two weeks’ notice. During those four shifts, I had the most brutal shift I’ve had since coming off preceptorship and working solo. If I had left sooner, I could have saved myself from experiencing the most horrendous shift I’ve had so far. Luckily, my last shift was smooth and helped build my confidence after feeling torn down and broken from the week before – I met my patient’s needs promptly, charted everything on time, gave good shift reports, and my patients had no incidents. At my last job, I ended on a good note and had valuable learning experiences. My horrible shift in the week leading to my final shift taught me that when I’m overwhelmed, not only should I delegate, I should escalate to the charge nurse or nurse leaders. I will remember how awful my experience was on that shift to remind me in my nursing practice: “When Overwhelmed, Delegate + Escalate!”

I will remember this lesson as I start my new job. I am excited to have the opportunity to be in a NICU again. The children’s hospital where I precepted during nursing school opened its new grad program about a month after starting my previous job. Various cohort-mates encouraged me to apply, but I decided I needed to give my program and hospital a fair chance. I passed the opportunity to apply to the children’s hospital NICU new grad program before learning that my hospital would not hire me into their NICU for at least two more years. I don’t regret not applying to that NICU program because I’m grateful for my experience and feel more confident as a nurse because of what I’ve learned working with adults. I gave my program a chance and put forth my best effort, and concluded that I wasn’t willing to wait years to reach my goal to be a NICU nurse.

The earnest pursuit of career goals is somewhat new to me. For years, I didn’t know what I wanted. I knew that I was comfortable but not necessarily excited or passionate about my previous career as an engineer/scientist. During performance reviews, I would dread when my manager would ask what 5-year plan was because I wasn’t inspired by what was around me. I didn’t want my manager’s job, and other than becoming more skilled, building my expertise, and gaining more leadership experience, I wasn’t sure what else to say. Now, it’s nice to have a goal (dayshift NICU nurse) and work towards it.

It’s still a little terrifying:
“What if I don’t like it?”
“What if the staff is mean at the new hospital?”
“What if it’s not what I thought?”
“What if I’m not good at it?”
“What if I can’t handle the long commute?”
“What if I can’t last long enough on nightshift to make it to dayshift?”

Sometimes, you don’t know if you’re going to like something or will be able to handle it until you give it a try. I also have to be open to the possibility of failure or making mistakes with this new job – it’s those moments where real growth occurs, however. That’s how I became a better engineer or scientist. I made a mistake and remembered not to do it again. It’s like doing something wrong a couple of times before you figure out how to do it right, or in the most efficient way.

I think a terrifying part of being a novice nurse is mistakes in healthcare can have a profound and permanent impact on a patient and patient’s family. If I made a mistake as an engineer or scientist, many processes and people were in place that ensured no one would get hurt or injured. Delays or mistakes I made may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they would never hurt someone. As a nurse, I no longer have that sense of security or protection. It’s anxiety-provoking. I’ve met many nurses with high blood pressure, anxiety, or depression due to the stresses of this profession. I don’t want to develop health issues because of my chosen career. I went into this profession to help people, so I try focusing on how I can help or improve care vs. contemplating the many ways I can injure someone or how someone may injure me (a genuine consideration with adult patients).

I’m still a recent grad with less than a year of acute care experience and still developing. Fortunately, my employer views me as a new grad and is willing to train me as a NICU nurse. I consider my new position as an opportunity to learn, grow, and be a better nurse. I’m going to try to focus on that and becoming the best NICU nurse I can be. Wish me luck!

Sage Reminders about Moving Forward

I attended a retreat when I was younger where the speaker talked about going on a journey in a car as a metaphor for life. As the driver of your life, you may have a map or route in mind and see the road ahead. Every once in a while, you look at your rearview mirror. While moving forward in life with your plans, it’s worthwhile to reflect periodically and look back at your life, your rearview mirror. However, no one drives a car long-distances by focusing ONLY on the rearview mirror. In the same way, to move forward with life, you cannot be stuck in the past.

As I’ve shared, I’ve been interviewing for new grad nurse positions. Some interviews have gone well, and some have not. I need to look back at my interviews to understand where I can improve and what I did well to move forward in future applications or interviews. However, it doesn’t serve me to beat myself up and ruminate over any mistakes I might have made. I can be overly critical of myself, but that’s crippling and doesn’t help me. It’s important instead to learn from my mistakes and consider what I can do differently the next time I encounter the same scenario. I suppose I needed reminders to not dwell on my shortcomings and be solutions-oriented instead – I have an important interview next week. Throughout this past week, I have noticed messages reminding me about how my focus determines my path.

My first reminder came in a reflection from a 2021 Lenten devotional I’ve been reading, “Embrace This Holy Season” by Joseph F. Sica. In the February 22 entry entitled “Getting Past the Past,” Joseph F. Sica shared:

“When you find yourself being drawn back into the pain and negative experiences, choose to focus on the present—on what is happening right now—and recognize that history is history. To get past your past, you need to accept it as it was and leave it there. Then pay deliberate attention to this moment—a time that’s never been before and is loaded with opportunities and possibilities. All you have to do is seize them.”

He then offers the helpful practice of taping the following quote to a mirror: “Never look back unless you’re planning to go that way.” It reminded me of the retreat speaker sharing the story about driving using one’s rearview mirror. While I wouldn’t suggest NEVER looking back, don’t be fixated on life’s rearview mirror.

My second reminder came in an email from Marie Forleo, an entrepreneur. She was talking about her relationship with her husband and shared the following:

“Human minds are wired to scan for what’s wrong, especially when it comes to our significant other. We criticize, correct, and attempt to control them. We’re quick to judge and point out (either in our head or out loud) what’s not working. My suggestion? Stop that ASAP. Where attention goes, energy flows. Make a commitment to keep looking for what’s right about your partner. Focus on what they did do, who they are as a soul, and what’s wonderful about them — then proactively and verbally acknowledge that to them consistently.”

While Marie Forleo was talking about relationships, her statement about energy going where our attention flows applies to life, in general. We can focus on mistakes we’ve made in the past, our shortcomings, or we can focus on our strengths and continual improvement. As someone starting over in my career, I need to acknowledge when I do things right because it is easy for me to self-criticize when I do something wrong or not exactly how I would have liked. I’m still learning and developing as a novice nurse, and I need to give myself some grace.

Finally, my third reminder came from Brene Brown, a researcher who focuses on shame and vulnerability. She has a podcast and had a guest, Dr. Edith Eger, discuss “Recognizing the Choices and Gifts in Our Lives.” Below is a quote from Dr. Eger that caught my eye while I was on LinkedIn:

I love the concept of finding an arrow and following it. We can’t move forward without an idea of our destination. Otherwise, we’re just wandering. If I make mistakes, after attempting to correct them, I need to know how to prevent them from happening again or improve myself. I’ve lived long enough to come to an understanding that God will present me with the same lesson over and over until I learn from it. Without a path to move forward, we may end up in circles.

Maybe you, too, needed gentle reminders to focus on moving forward. Perhaps you need to acknowledge your gifts and talents instead of dwelling on your shortcomings. Learn from your mistakes and move onward. Envision what you want, be assured of yourself, and head in that direction!