At work we are required to submit a portfolio. This includes a CV, a list of achievements, goals and an essay regarding a personal decision made this year. As I think hard about a decision I've made it dawns on me that the most daunting decision I have made at this point is to continue to work in an environment in which I am feeling burned out and fatigued. When I tried to express my fog called thoughts - this is what came out.
"Mommy, why do you have to go?"
Every day now, I am asked that question from one of the most important people in my life - my six year old daughter.
"I miss you when you are gone."
"When you are home you sleep all day."
"I miss hanging out with you."
I pause only for a second, look deep in her eyes and consider whether this decision that I'm making in this moment will affect this soon to be adult forever. With the television blaring, fighting for attention I tell her, "I'm sorry baby, I have to work." I push her arms off of me and release myself from her grasp.
I kiss my son on the forehead with his headphones on, barely acknowledging my existence. I wish for a moment that I could put more time into our relationship, but I don't have time. As I walk out, my daughter stands in the doorway in her true essence; hair flying every which way but down, shoes off, chipped nail polish screaming to be repainted, arms out, grin wide as the Nile saying "give me a hug."
I hug her and close the door. My knees scream at me as I jog slightly down the stairs to my car. The brightness of the car lifts my sad spirits and dries the tears before they come out of my eyes. I start the engine of my V6 Convertible Ford Mustang and listen to the engine rev hoping that something in this material possession will make this separation easier.
All the patients are now a blur. They're blurs of body parts, cries, moans, whimpers, whispers, dirty looks, yells for attention, yellow firefighter pants and as always blood on the ground. The whirlwind of emotions of the emergency room are now commonplace to me. But I still cringe whenever I see blood on the floor. I get right on my knees and wipe up the blood as best I can with the blurs of the ER whipping around me. I get up and keep moving because I know the drill here. Patience is a pastime, fear is nothing, condescension is expected, abuse is understood, sadness is normal, anxiety is a bartering tool, manipulation is rewarded.... and happiness is rare.
When I leave this place, I leave a piece of me with each patient. Every shift, it's me that's restrained and pulled away to another facility against my will. It's me standing outside of the room stressing as 3 nurses hold my sick child down. It's me that lies in the bed with my eyes swollen shut so that I can't see. It's me that is getting attacked by another drunk patient next door to my bed. It's me losing my first child. It's me that is getting told I have cancer for the first time. It's me with a gunshot wound to the chest. It's me sitting in the hallway holding my newborn as the young doctor pronounces my husband. And it's me that's relieved of my anxieties and being sent home, only to be called later because I forgot my prescriptions.
This is compassion fatigue. This is burnout. This is my life, and every day I am told this is not happening, this is not bad, this is totally doable, this is not real.
And every day I make the decision to come back.
As I drive home sleepiness clouds my vision, my head rocks back and forth endangering my ride home. Careless Los Angelinos honk at me and whiz by me like I'm a drag on society. My whole world seems dark. My days seem long and meaningless, but no one notices my tears and my complaints are mute. What effects will this decision to continue this work have on my future and my life? We'll see once we get there.Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
Tiffany is an ER nurse for 7 years and a has worked at a fast paced large metropolitan level one trauma center for 5 years now. She has her TNCC, MICN, ACLS, PALS and now CF (compassion fatigue).
Joined: Jun '18; Posts: 1; Likes: 10
from CA , USJun 6"This is compassion fatigue. This is burnout. This is my life, and every day I am told this is not happening, this is not bad, this is totally doable, this is not real.
And every day I make the decision to come back.
As I drive home sleepiness clouds my vision, my head rocks back and forth endangering my ride home. Careless Los Angelinos honk at me and whiz by me like I'm a drag on society. My whole world seems dark. My days seem long and meaningless, but no one notices my tears and my complaints are mute. What effects will this decision to continue this work have on my future and my life? We'll see once we get there. "
I like your article. I do worry about you though if you truly are feeling like this, and especially after only 7 years. I hope you really are thinking about how this will affect not only your future but also your present. I understand if this is just a "dramatic effect for writing" but please take care of yourself for you and your family. (I mean this sincerely out of caring!)Jun 6Wow!
You're an excellent author. I felt like I was being pulled into a novel.
It's my dream to be an ER Nurse...being there for people on what is most likely their worst day.
You inspire me, keeping going, fight the good fight.
And like Daisy4RN says, take care of yourself first and then your family, patients come third. You don't have to live with them the rest of your life or grow old with them, patients change everyday, family doesn't.Jun 7An amazing read. I have never worked ER but I've been a nurse for 21 years, 17 of which were spent working full-time in various settings. I remember well what burnout felt like...I spent the last two years of my career fried to a crisp, and I should have left nursing before I did. I know, hindsight is 20/20, isn't it?
As a couple of other posters said above, I hope you'll rearrange your priorities. We're supposed to work to live, not live to work. Your children are only young once. Don't be like me and miss out on their childhoods...that's time you'll never get back. I wish I'd been there more for mine instead of always being at work, thinking about work, talking about work. Granted, you probably can't afford to quit entirely, but you simply MUST find a way to make your life work. If that means leaving the ER and taking a less stressful job, so be it. I know you probably love your job when you're not actively hating it, so this may not be an easy decision. But I hear the desperation in your voice, and I know from experience that once burnout goes that deep, something's got to give. Don't let it be you and your family.Jun 7I really enjoyed your article. But I too, as a colleague am concerned for you that, if you really do feel this way, perhaps it is time for a change.....?Jun 8I hope you can find a way to spend more time with your children and work in a lower stress environment.
Rudeness from others should not be routine.
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