Where you work and what you do forms a huge part of your life. The average person’s life is divided into three parts: work, home, sleep. Work is a pretty huge piece of the pie.
At work we meet different people who influence us in different ways, and we influence them. We make friendships and unfortunately enemies, people will love you or hate you or not even notice you. And how you tackle any of these scenarios shows strength of character or lack thereof.

Then there is the nature of the work. Maybe you work with people, with computers, with numbers, with your hands, with tools. Maybe you have a nice boss, a terrible boss, an incompetent boss or maybe you are your own boss. Maybe you work in a place that is mismanaged, or you are part of an institution that lacks funds or the opposite, you work in a place that runs like a well-oiled machine.

Where am I going with this?

The fact of the matter is, your job shapes you and moulds you.

At least that is my personal experience. When I signed up for nursing at the tender age of eighteen, I was thrown onto a ward almost immediately. Each ward is run differently, mostly according to the nursing officer who is stationed there. Some run the place smoothly and calmly. Some run the place like a regiment. In some wards the nurses practice incredible team work and in some wards they just totally hate each other. Some wards have patients who require little intervention and some wards have patients who need constant supervision, like in intensive care or the NICU. I am not saying that some wards have less work to do than others. I am saying that the nature of the work is different and heavily depends on the style of leadership of the nursing officer or charge nurse.  

That being said however, in wards with a very high turnover of patients needing constant intervention within a very short time, stress reigns. Pressure pushes its way in from every angle of the hospital. Nurses call in sick due to burn out, putting further pressure on the ones that are there. Then of course one must factor in the character of the nurses. Not all nurses are hard-working and not all nurses are caring. There is always one in every shift, the person who always disappears or always has an excuse up his or her sleeve. And this person will cause more pressure to be placed on the ones that are hard-working as they have to make up for the slack. Then the person in charge starts to rely heavily on these good workers and the rotten apples stay there, stinking up the bag because touching rotten apples is unpleasant.

And then one of two things happens:

1. The once caring and hard-working nurse stops caring because she/he sees those around them not caring and seem to be benefitting from their lack of work ethic. A kind of, if you can’t beat them join them kind of thing.

OR

2. They get massively burnt out and depressed, stressed and grow old before their time and start suffering from physical and mental manifestations of stress like weight loss or weight gain, hair loss, asthma, peptic ulcers, infertility and many others.

 

Also, nurses in a big unit, especially nurses in charge end up doing many duties that don’t always coincide with nursing but become their responsibility due to the pecking order. Like, a care assistant legally cannot organise and sign for a patient’s medication, but a nurse can do a care assistant’s work. A clerk cannot remove a patient’s sutures but the nurse can update the computer database and order a file and answer the phone. And if the nurse starts refusing to do all these things, a fast-paced unit simply will not run smoothly.  

And that is why all the good people leave these kinds of areas. They would rather take a dive into the unknown than continue to feel undervalued and undermined and worst of all, abused.

Unfortunately, I began to feel like option two. So when I saw an opportunity, I took it. I applied for a post that had just opened, but never in a million years did I think I would get it. In fact, I did not even tell anybody that I had applied. At the time I had run into a phenomenal bit of bad luck so my mind frame was that nothing good could possibly ever happen to me.

Then a few days later, I received a call and was informed that the position was mine if I was still interested and I accepted. On my next day of work, I was called to have my duties explained to me and I was asked to start right away.

And that was that. In a heartbeat, everything suddenly changed. I said my goodbyes to some of the lovely people I worked with and I packed my things and walked into my new office.

And all of a sudden, I got a new lease on life. In the few days I have been here, I realised that my work life does not have to be so much of a burden. It is not unheard of to wake up and be happy to go to work. And this all dawned on me when I noticed how conditioned I am by stress: that feeling of worry if you are not doing something all the time. I am so used to accommodating my place of work that I did not ever entertain the notion that sometimes my place of work should accommodate me. For example, my new team gave me some reading material about the nature of the new project I am about to embark on and I was about to put it in my bag to take home, when I was told no, home is home and I should read up about the project during working hours.  

I am aware that it is early days and maybe a few months down the line I will be thinking ‘dear God, what have I done??’ but I have a feeling that I will not. I have endured a lot, professionally and personally.

Maybe…just maybe…and I say this with trepidation…the sun has chosen to shine on me a little bit?  

  

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