On O2 sats of 8.

Phew, you guys. For what seemed like forever of feeder growers… I finally made it to the NICU side. And boy is it heaven. 

I’ve said it before & I’ll probably say it 10,000 more times. I’m not sure how I ever became an ICU nurse… I’m a vegan, hippie loving, yoga doing, frou frou Prius driver. I live the lifestyle I beg my former patients in the adult world to live. I never dreamed in a million years my world would become critical care. 

But the wires got crossed somewhere & here I am. The words ventilator, fentanyl & versed gtt set my heart afluttering. The rush of O2 sats of 8 (yes 8) fling me into another dimension. I didn’t even care that I missed my normal lunch/snack times. Maybe it’s being so far removed from the chaos of my former ICU job that’s made me this way. I suddenly appreciate the challenge and think less about the stress.

 It certainly still takes a toll, but it’s nice to reconcile with the fact that I am an ICU nurse after all. There’s no more Nurse bullies telling my I can’t do my job… that I’m too frou frou… that I have to want to run into the fire… this that or the other. Because while I’m still gentle & loving & kind… I do want to run into the fire for babies. I’m not a new grad anymore struggling to find my place in the world. I am unapologetically myself, in every iteration. And on most weekends, I am a proud NICU Nurse. 

On O2 sats of 8.

On the new new.

Hi readers of my nursey musings. It’s been a minute as I’m adjusting to my new job and my new work flow. Most days I can’t believe I’m getting paid to snuggle cute little babies. It’s different. SO different from where I came from, I’m not sure how to even entirely appreciate it. But I’m learning.

Learning how to function without overwhelming amounts of stress is like trying to put training wheels back on a bike you already know how to ride. Is it really easier? Probably not.

As it turns out, I am more of the annoying ICU nurse than I thought. I want to know “why, why, why, why”. I rarely trust a doctor or any provider for that matter to think for me. I am not sure what to do with relatively healthy humans on the nursery side. I pull anything I can possible find that’s relevant from what I learned with adults and want to know how its different in babies or how it affected them in utero.. and when I can’t find someone who knows, I bust out my textbook.

Some people look at me like I’m absolutely insane. Well, I am. I was raised by ICU nurses. To critically think. To question. To learn everything you possibly can. I am rolling my eyes so hard at how much I hate that my boyfriend called me an “adrenaline junkie”. Because it was easy where I came from to be the “frou frou” nurse.

But now I am amidst all the most gentle, loving, kind people you could ever possibly find. And I’m like hm.. I’m a little more abrasive than I thought. Being an ICU nurse hardened me in ways I didn’t even see. It made my brain see things in certain ways that I can’t undo.

Most people I work with have been NICU nurses forever. Never adults. Only babies. And I feel like it’d be easier for me if I had that innocence. I reconcile most of my feelings with one of my preceptors who’s been a NICU nurse for a zillion years and she jokingly tells me I’m too young to think the same way as her. But holding life and, more frequently than not, death for your first year of nursing will do that. I grew up fast.

And now I am relearning the chill. So if it’s quiet, it’s because I’m learning how to unwind.

On the new new.

On endings.

I never in a million years thought I would be sad to leave my current job. Somewhere around month 10 when my storm cloud was hovering over my head and I vowed that I had to get the heck out of there, I had absolutely no foresight into the periodic waves of sadness that would be infused in my last few weeks working with adults. 

It’s hard to leave any job, but this one made me a nurse. I am such a different person from when I started. I was scared, anxious, doubtful, unsure. In the last month, I’ve become something else. Confident, reassuring, the best version of my nursey self. I have answers to questions. I’ve received more hugs, more positive words from family members about the quality of my care. I’ve left work in happy tears from encouraging words from my coworkers who see how I’ve evolved or see who I am as a nurse  and want to emulate that. I am different. 

And although I’m excited to spread my wings and go to something I’m passionate about, I’m sad to leave my first job behind. The place that taught me everything I know. The patient & family names that made me who I am as a nurse.    The knowledge I’ve acquired. The friends, coworkers, family who always have my back. I am going to miss the heck out of them & this place will forever be inscribed on my heart. 

Time to translate everything I’ve learned to tiny people now. 

On endings.

On the next step.

I have waited since the day I applied for nursing school for this moment. I spent hours envisioning how I could let my soul shine & bring love & passion to everything I do. It was always, babies.

I remember in my Peds rotation and then again in OB, staring into those shining little baby eyes, wondering how I could ever do anything else. Because nothing could set my heart on fire quite like that.

I never thought I would be an ICU nurse. But the universe pulled me here. Oddly, demanding. Ensuring that I learned these skills. And even odder still, I’m so grateful that it did. I have learned and felt and dreamed and done so many things I could have never imagined. I am a different person. A stronger person. A nurse. I am confident & tough, but still soft and loving. I critically think. I advocate for my patients. And still have time for aromatherapy most days 😉

So I guess the next logical step is that I would transition that skill set from older adults to the tiny faces I set out to be a nurse for to begin with.  Starting in January, I will officially be a NICU nurse! And for all the times people mistakenly thought I already was (because Neuro ICU has the same acronym, haha), I am pleased and proud to finally have it be true.

There are no words to describe how it feels to finally hold the thing you’ve wanted most in your career. To admit it. To say it out loud. To say, yes… I am here. Exactly where I want to be!

So if it sounds like you’re not there yet, keep trekking. Never stop learning, never stop showing up… no matter what. And perhaps most importantly, even when it feels dark, lonely & even slightly hellish at times, never lose faith that the universe has your back. You will be where you want to be too!

On the next step.

On fire. 

There are very few times in the last year where I’ve truly felt that running into the fire was for me. But something shifted lately where I’ve suddenly realized how far this little gentle nurse has come. Somewhere in between orienting new grads to my unit & calling codes, I realized I’m (sadly) not a new grad no more. 

A few nights ago, I sat on one patient for most of the night. In fact, I was casually sipping a glass of water on a break when my coworker frantically showed up in search of a blood pressure cord & informed me, “oh your patient is here”. Yikes. 

Well, I roll into the room to find the disaster upgrade I had been summoning all night. We intubate. And as soon as everyone has left the room & we’re about to clean the patient up, I look up at the monitor with wide eyes wondering why the hell the VTACH alarm isn’t going off. Time to check a pulse, call for help & start chest compressions. I was informed later that I casually called our intensivist into the room with no panic in my voice. Typical of me, as I internalize all my stress. 

It was the longest three hours of my life, but I’m so grateful for the nurse I have become & my nurse squad that backed me up. ICU nursing is as good as the team that has your back & the intensivist calling the shots. And I was lucky enough to have the best of both worlds by my side that evening. I made a point to personally recognize every person that was there, from our intensivist to our code team to  my nurse squad to our nursing student. Even the day shift nurse who handled all the loose ends of chaos we left behind as the patient was quickly moved off our unit at shift change. 

I think it’s important to cultivate a culture that recognizes and stregthens each other. Because nobody wants to code a patient. Nobody wants to run into the fire. But we do run into the fire every day. 

And I’m grateful that I don’t do it alone.  I’m grateful that I hold life and death between my tiny nurse hands every day & that when things go down I have a team I can rely on. Thank you to every nurse, doctor, aid, repiratory tech, etc. that does the same! Thank you for making a difference in our patients lives and mine. 

On fire. 

On change making.

A few weeks ago a random event popped into my work inbox entitled “Creating a Community”. It sounded like the frou frou things I’m into, but with no description I quietly added it to my calendar. On the eve of my one year nursiversary, I made the trek downtown to my hospital for said meeting.

I walked in to find our CNO, ICU directors, shared leadership council members, & 2 other nurses I had never met before. I was informed that I was selected for this meeting because two separate colleagues brought my name up to our CEO about the new grad support group I created a few months ago. They told me it was evident that I was making a difference on my unit & wanted to know how they could apply what I was doing across the other ICUs. Every other person at this small meeting had 10+ years of nursing experience. I was humbled and amazed to be professed by my peers & recognized by some of the top nursing professionals at my facility.

And yet my point here is not to brag, although I am proud. My point is that there were so many people who told me to “just deal with it”. To “suck it up” “this is the way things are” “you’re too sensitive” “this is critical care” “people die”. The “that will never happen”, the “you’re just a new grad”, the “you’ll learn” & the hazing, broken burnt out spirits they came from. And to how many times I questioned if they were right because I was so “weird” for having holistic views on health in an aggressively acute setting.

Turns out, I did my first year of nursing just fine. That all the times my nursing school instructors told me to never accept the status quo just because that’s the way we’ve always done it…. that all the times my mentors told me to be myself… to pursue yoga & aromatherapy & anything else I can dream up…. it meant something in my professional world.

So my message here is don’t let anyone else tell you who you have to be. Be yourself. Do what you care about. Look at things differently. Be a crazy & a weirdo. Because that is how you make a difference. By standing up for what you believe in. By not being afraid to shine your light on things you know you can make better.

To nurses everywhere… you’re the fresh faced perspective of change. And don’t you dare forget how powerful one voice can be.

 

On change making.

On the first year.

Nursing. Nursing. Nursing. How, oh how, did I survive the first year of you? I ask myself this on the daily as my one year mark as an ICU RN rapidly approaches. I’ve moved past the terrorizing anxiety of questioning my ability to be a nurse, and in fact, have even found the strength to accept that I am “good” at it.

Skills have started to come with grace. And while it feels like my “frou frou” ways have dwindled being in critical care, in some ways they are even more prominent. Although I may be “good” at impossible duotubes, female foleys, not panicking in the face of deteriorating patients, being a supportive team member, always seeking growth, it is the little things that still bring me the greatest satisfaction in nursing. It is still the reasons I became a nurse to begin with, that hold the most prominent place in my heart.

It is the opportunities that I have now that I am less concerned with learning skills, more concerned with practicing the art of nursing that runneth over my nursey cup. The day I took my nursing vows (i.e. passed that horrible NCLEX), I swore to always base my care around human to human interactions and not just nurse to patient. And although my nursing identity is pretty strongly inherent in my every day life, as I have seen, heard, and done things few people outside of the nursing world can imagine, I haven’t forgot.

I haven’t forgot that my primary duty as a registered nurse is to serve with an open heart, open mind, and open soul. I live for the days I get to fulfill my own vision of nursing. The days that I prove holistic healthcare can and does happen in the critical care setting. The days I wildly dream about new ways to bring yoga to nursing. The days I make humans who sit in beds for 21 days feel beautiful and loved.

I wish I could predict what the future held. What world the next year of nursing will bring me. But in light of what I know, I will survive almost anything with the same integrity I came into the profession with. The same love. The same heart. The same two hands that often hold life and death and everything in between.

And to the baby nurses, who find themselves on a similar path, I swear to you… you will make it too. You will be the nurses you look around and want to be. You will learn how to respond to scary situations. You will start IVs, mix vasoactive medications, start chest compressions, go to rapid responses and actually know something, and perhaps even have a surgeon thank you(HAH!). You will instill faith in family members with your knowledge and confidence. You will make it through a shift without crying in the parking lot or on the way home. You will even like going to work because you are a nurse, and although it is the hardest work you will ever do, you were meant to be one.

Keep going.

On the first year.