The traumas of work.

If I told you, I just finished a day at the steel mill, would you believe me? Wearing this denim jumper got me thinking about physical labor, and work.  For the past eight years, I’ve worked as a registered nurse. My career has taken me to New York City, Boulder, Colorado, and the glamorous states of Iowa and Minnesota. I never worried about job security. I’ve always earned a good wage. And, there is a particular satisfaction that comes from supporting people in crisis.

A boyfriend’s father once told me that working in the medical field is like going to war and returning home to loved ones who can never fully understand what you’ve seen. This man was an interventional cardiologist and spent his days with his hands in peoples’ chests. He experienced death, literally at his hands, and had to deliver the worst kind of news to loved ones. In many ways, I think his war analogy is spot on. When I was fresh out of nursing school, I took my first job on a busy medical-surgical unit in a hospital in Iowa. I worked twelve-hour shifts, took 15 minutes for a lunch break and on a good day, I peed once. One week into my orientation period, a patient of mine coded and died unexpectedly in his room. I still remember his name and the way he asked for more apple sauce. As the sun was setting, his intestines burst open, and it wasn’t long before he was on the other side.  Following the code and attempts to save his life, the code team disbanded, machines were turned off, the door to his room was closed. People grabbed their pagers and moved on. My preceptor began answering call lights while I ran into the bathroom, and sobbed. There was no debriefing or time to talk about what happened. Everyone simply moved on. I sat in the parking lot after my shift and cried until I was out of breath.

Years later, at a different clinic, a patient threatened me after I informed him we could not refill his narcotic pain medication. I was asked to explain that we were concerned he was taking too much. In a small office, I calmly delivered the news that he would not be getting a refill. His face got red, his eyes widened and he stood up and said, “fuck!” I was directed to escort him outside the clinic as his behavior escalated. As we stood outside the clinic when he began feverishly digging in his pocket and called me a word that rhymes with “trucking itch.” When he raised his hand to hit me, I ran. Someone called 9-1-1. After the police questioned everyone involved, including me, no one talked more about it. Our medical director asked if I was okay. I said “yes,” as you do when ten people are standing around you. And that was it. I went home later, and I cried.

In my experience as a health care professional, we are expected to be superhuman. In the world of medicine, the stakes are higher. If you give the wrong dose, you could kill someone. If you cut into the wrong limb, you could be sued. This makes sense to me. Expecting that a nurse, or a doctor, or a medical assistant will go through something traumatic and be able to brush it off, pick up the pager and clipboard and move on immediately, is wrong. The medical culture of grin-and-bear-it and do-what-needs-to-be-done are breeding burn out and compassion fatigue. Traumatic events need attention and love. After a close call, a patient dying, or a threat, medical professionals need time to process. Processing is not done in the moment, while adrenaline is still pumping. Staff should have the option to have their feelings witnessed in a peaceful space behind closed doors. Co-workers should have the opportunity to provide support and re-assurance that the right things were done. Debriefings need to happen. When salve is not lovingly applied to these wounds callouses are formed, and providers will walk away from medicine. I’ve seen it. And I’ve felt it.

Nurse’s Week has come and gone. Shout out to all of the amazing medical professionals I know. Your dedication to serving others is what it’s all about. Your hearts are golden and your ability to be present with the pain and suffering of the world is a rare gift. In a lot of ways, healers are super heroes. And, we are also human. We struggle with our own demons. We feel inadequate. We cry with our patients. We bleed.  Our softness is our strength.

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Flipping Back: Ditching my smartphone for a flip phone.

I look like I’m twelve years old, so I’m sure the AT&T salesman assumed I would be an easy sell. Wearing a polo shirt and new Nike shoes, he bounced towards the door with an iPad in hand. He smiled wide. He was ready to sell me something expensive! I smiled and added a disclaimer to my request, “You’re going to think I’m crazy…” I said. “I want to trade in my iPhone 5S, for this,” I said, pulling a flip phone out of my jacket pocket.

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One Helluva Deal

On a slushy gray day in New York City, I made what turned out to be a very impulsive purchase. I had moved to New York City a few months prior and was having a severe case of the homesick blues. I missed my car, my friends, and my savings account. I was feeling sad and needed a little pep in my step. So, I hopped on Groupon. A $20 gel manicure sounded nice, but I was in the mood for something new. A 12-day juice fast sounded boring and a lifetime membership to an oxygen bar sounded worse. Scroll, scroll, scroll….and then I found what I was looking for. For only $60 I could experience an introductory Colonic session. Without hesitation, I flicked my finger, and it was mine.

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Sensual Lifestyle

A few nights ago I walked Lake of the Isles with a good friend of mine. She and I discussed our relationships with our men and our smartphones, our dreams and our mutual love of a clean, inviting home space. We agreed that a pile of clothes in the corner or a crumb laden floor takes a toll on one’s well being. This perspective may seem dramatic, and in some ways, I suppose it is.

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PODCAST Announcement!

 

 

My dear friend and I are launching a podcast called The NO APOLOGIES Project! This podcast features brave stories of pivotal moments in the lives of women. I am SO proud of the work Bernadette and I have put into this. And, I’m humbled by the women who have stepped forth to share their experiences with us, and with you.

I hope that you’ll take a listen and follow along on our website + IG: @noapologiesproject. Perhaps the next voice we hear on The NO APOLOGIES Project with be yours. Submit your story idea here.

 

Yours from the North,

Steph

 

Image by Amy Anderson 

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Big Dreams & Tiny Thoughts

The nomad life style is so appealing. As much as I like having a semi-permanent nest (renter style), I like the freedom of the open road more. I’ve dreamed about meeting a man who will build a tiny home with me and bid adieu to the comforts of a King bed in exchange for a tiny one with just enough room for our tiny love story.

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Follow it

Sometimes pursuing your dream feels a little like herding chickens in a glamorous dress. People might be watching you and thinking, what the hell is she doing out there? This is no reason to stop what you’re doing however; keep on following that chicken…I mean, bliss.

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No bubbles, no corks, no shots.

lifestyle blog 6 months no alcohol

From July 2015 to December 2015, my most spoken phrase was, “I’m sober as an ox, let me drive.” Giving up all alcohol for six months was a fascinating experiment. Years of mindless drinking inspired me to try a period of mindful abstinence. And I do love doing things to the extreme. For me, it was easier to cut out all alcohol versus reduce consumption to say, 80%. Ordering a drink had become a sort of knee-jerk reaction. Menus were placed on the table at a restaurant and a round of drinks were ordered, like clockwork. A first date meant several glasses of something to shake off the nerves and serve as a sort of Slip n’ Slide to intimacy. I’m grateful that I don’t have a destructive relationship with alcohol, but like most people my age, I engaged in enough weekend nights of binge drinking to have my decisions make for a rough Monday morning. I had developed a drinking habit, and habits have consequences.

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