Sisters in Support

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    The article speaks to being supportive of colleagues and other Healthcare staff members rather then self focused. Shares my experiences with coaching young girls and how their behaviors toward one another closely matched what I have experienced in the nursing/ Healthcare industry.

    Sisters in Support

    In the days since the national march for women occurred, I have spent much time reading, thinking and listening to what this momentous time in our history means to people. As a woman I wear many hats: a nurse, a mother of 2 boys AND a girl, the wife of a physician, and coach for Girl on the Run, and many , many others. What I feel the most following this march is that we as women have a social, emotional, and professional obligation to support each other.

    My daughter is in 3rd grade this year. She joined a wonderful organization setup to empower young girls to “Be the change you want to see in the world” (my favorite quote by Mahatma Gandhi). I had the privilege to coach this group of 3rd thru 5th grade girls…..our future. I very quickly saw patterns and behaviors in the way they treated each other that are all too similar to what I experienced as an adult woman in the healthcare industry.

    I have been a nurse for many years and practiced in hospice, home care, several ICU specialities, med-surg, an outpatient private pediatric practice, nurse educator and built a hospital’s EMR from the ground up. I have had my share of “the worst day EVER” and have been there for countless colleagues who are having that same kind of day. I am sure I can speak for us all, in saying, who you work with can mean everything to how your day goes, good or bad. To be brutally honest, we all have colleagues that are caring, sensitive and helpful to their fellow staff and others who care for their own needs first. Those people want to get out on time. They keep their heads down, have no interest in team work and always are able to give report at exactly 7pm….grrrr!

    While my husband finished his medical residency, I was privileged to work at major university, trauma center, in the city. I had the PERFECT work colleagues. CCU nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists and doctors standing at my side everyday. We were in the thick of it everyday…”in the weeds as they say in the restaurant business”. Your patients were so critically ill that they would go bad so quickly. Those patients somehow never check with you on their timing of these events, because if they did, you would tell them to give you about ½ hour or so. You were just finishing and bed bath on a patient with CVVHD, with 10 lines runnings with life sustaining meds, on a vent with frequent mucus plugs etc.

    But, alas….Vtach alarms on your other patient. At this particular hospital, we had created an environment where fellow members would quickly respond to my patient and then send out the troops. All available nurses would pitch in, finish up my bathing patient, neatly organize my lines, tidy up from bath, and dose the meds. The respiratory therapists would clear some mucous plugs and stabilize their sats, and whoever was helping would chart for that patient while I tended to my emergency in the next room. No questions asked, charge nurse jumped in, read and interpreted rhythm strips etc, whatever was needed. Everyone’s hands were dirty so to speak. No man/woman left behind at 7p playing catch up with patient care or charting. And may I mention that a certain nephrologist would bake chocolate chip cookies by the dozen EVERYDAY to hand out to staff!

    Then my husband moved us to a small suburb after residency ended……..sigh. I had to leave the greatest work family ever! I went to work in the ICU at our “new small hometown hospital”. To begin with, I was shunned upon by a very clicky group of women who had worked in this small ICU since they came out of nursing school, in the same town mind you. (20 years ago for some.) I came in eager to work with new group. They were less than eager to work with me. First of all, I was a doctor’s wife AND I came from a big city hospital where we think we know it all. I was not very welcome and certainly not going to receive any help. If we had 5 nurses on staff that day, I would be given the most complex or chronic, “forever a patient” who called this ICU home, the most difficult to work with physician and if understaffed, I got the overflow. “She can handle it, she took care of sicker patients in the trauma hospital”, they’d say. All 4 nurses would give report at 7p and leave me there for another 2 hours to catch up on charting. Needless to say, I cried nearly every day and begged my husband to rethink this whole moving thing.

    Things got a bit better once i “proved myself” and had some one on one ”what’s- the -deal here?” meetings with some particularly difficult staff members. I reference this time to my kids and the young girls in how I see them treating each other. After all, that I get the chance to help shape their character hopefully for the better. (another area I am passionate about). No one ever ever, gets ahead or looks better by stepping on someone else. Teamwork is vital in society, no matter the forum. We all will need a village to have our back at times and we need to teach that at a very young age to our future generation. We do not need to agree, but we do need to respect and support each other both physically, educationally, professionally and emotionally. This is the key to being a good human, a team player, a supporter.

    I encourage these girls to listen to one another, to be aware of their surroundings and see who may need a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand. There are enough people in our lives who will be the bad part of our day, so it is our job to keep each other going strong. Don’t turn your head to make your life easier, jump in head first and help, even if you need to hold your nose at times, (a little side nursing humor). Stand up to those who are not doing right. The more of us that help, the more look bad that don’t. Set an example, “Be the change”.
    So as I reflect upon what this march did for me, it seemed is to solidify and remind me that working together we need to listen, understand and help care for each other. Largely this is why we all went into healthcare.

    We are caregivers; and that does not just include our patients. We care for their families and loved ones, and our fellow healthcare colleagues. Be helpful, lend a hand or two, be a shoulder to lean on at the end of a hard day. Take my patient off the bedpan so they will stop incessantly ringing the call bell for me while I have that end-of-life conversation with the family in the next room. Say thank you to support staff and ancillary workers, maintenance crew, cafeteria workers, janitorial staff. Ask how their day is going and listen. Smile, make eye contact, be kind, be helpful, and be a professional! That's how we change the world.
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    About smatacale

    My name is Sarah Matacale. I am an RN BSN and certified documentation, billing and coding professional, and freelance writer. I have a supportive husband and 3 beautiful children under the age of 10!

    Joined: Jan '17; Posts: 36; Likes: 260

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  3. by   Libby1987
    Love! I grew up with such a work family and have helped sustain it myself over the years as I know no other way. Makes the world of difference between enjoying rather than just enduring your work.
  4. by   HappyMom5
    Its so important to teach our girls (and boys) the Golden Rule. Treat others how you want to be treated. Growing up with that empathy would hopefully carry through into the workplace. Kids need to learn that the more we GIVE the more we GET. Thanks for your passion in working with the youth. We can change the world one act of kindness at a time. Glad to hear that your current work situation has improved!