As a mother of a nine year old daughter, and a nurse, I often think of the importance of raising a child in the world today. This task encompases instilling and fostering certain qualities that will ensure her success in the future. My daughter has some natural born qualities that, I feel, will guide her toward a career in healthcare. By fueling her critical thinking, confident, strong minded caring and compassionate nature, I believe she will be part of a generation of nurse innovators that will change how we practice healthcare.
As I sit here working on this article, I am looking out the window on this beautiful afternoon. I am thinking, "Holy cow where do I even start?" First and foremost on my list of job titles is my position as a mother of three children, a 10-year-old boy, a 9-year-old girl, a 6-year-old boy, and my 46-year-old husband most days. I could stop right there with the amount of work, stress, pressure, and effort. It is enough to make us all emotionally collapse some days. I am a nurse, not just any nurse, but one that was BORN a nurse.
What does it mean to be born a nurse? Nursing is in my heart, soul, and emotional make up. Any of you who have the same natural born nurse psyche understand the emotional investment that comes with this. Here is the heavy part- MY DAUGHTER IS JUST LIKE ME! Not only am I responsible for raising a next generation woman, but one that seems to be headed toward a career in nursing. So, this "Holy cow where do I start?" statement literally means, where and how do I start to raise a confident, strong minded, caring, compassionate, critical thinker who can stand her emotional ground when life throws her curve balls?
How can I help create a new environment for next generation nurses while I raise my sweet girl to become one?
Nursing has changed so much even over my 20 years in the profession. Gone (mostly) are the days where nurses are just giving baths, bedpans, meds and saying yes sir to any orders given by the doctors. This may be due, in part, to how women have changed over the decades. We are not meek and helpless. We are more comfortable in our skin. We speak openly of our questions and concerns about the world we live in. We take leadership roles in the workforce and do it well (thanks to our multi-tasking brains). We balance more on our day to day plate than ever before.
Some lucky people are born with confidence. My oldest son, for example, you can not burst that kid's bubble even when he needs it! I, on the other hand, was not born with confidence. I work at it every day and there are always setbacks. When our daughter popped out with her strawberry blonde hair, green eyes, and freckles, I vowed to help her achieve confidence within herself. I would give her all the tools, pep talks, worst case scenario run-throughs, positive body image discussions, to attempt to aid her to grow up confident.
It was easy when she was small. She has always loved her face full of freckles. My husband has them too and has always told her that he sprinkles some of his on her at night when she sleeps. One day at a park I overheard a girl, roughly the same age as my daughter, ask in a snotty tone,
"What is all over your face?"
My sweet girl deflated; my mamma bear chest inflated waiting to growl out in protection.
I waited a minute and watched, my daughter gathered herself and said, "They are freckles and my Dad gives them to me as a special present when I sleep".
Ok, I thought, she has got this! Whew!
Confidence like this is necessary as a nurse today.
We have to be ready to defend and protect our patient's rights and wishes at all times. If we are given an order that may cause harm, or is questionable, we need to stand confident and ask "why" questions and defend our concerns.
The famous quote, "You never know how strong you are... until being strong is the only choice you have." Cayla Mills could not be truer. As a nurse, how many of us found ourselves in over our heads? It may include patient load, insufficient staffing, a tough family, first day of a new job, or being floated to an unfamiliar unit.
Think about the young patient with a lacerated liver that is too sick to transfer and you are his ICU nurse. Family is a wreck, blood transfusion after blood transfusion, constant labs, hemodynamic monitoring, vasoconstrictors, respiratory distress, decreased urine output, road trips to get scans, AND you have one or two other patients. You have not had a break or lunch. You've had to pee for hours, but the doctors are bedside with you providing constant care.You know what? I made it, and so did my patient. The shift eventually ended and I went home and cried. I was scared all day, but what got me through that day was being strong minded kept me together and thinking clearly all day.
When my daughter was In Kindergarten, she started to come home from school with blisters and calluses on her hands every day. I first asked her what she was doing and she explained confidently that she wanted to get all the way across the monkey bars. When I brought her to school the next day, I was speaking with her teacher and she told me that my girl was spending 30 mins every day practicing and practicing those monkey bars until she could get across every time. I love that. We fuel passion and dedication in our house. Strong minded and determined people get things done! As children, they are difficult to parent, however, these qualities are desirable as an adult. They end up being our innovators and our future thinkers that think outside of the box. They do things not just because it is what is needed to get things done but to reinvent or develop a new way to attack a problem head on.
Caring and Compassionate
Naturally, some people are born more compassionate and caring than others. These traits often carry them into professions such as nursing. I remember as a child watching and interpreting moods on people's faces. The kid at school who is chosen last for dodge ball, or has something said to them about not having the latest styles to wear. Even though I did not understand what that meant at the time, I remember feeling tremendous emotion when friends and family members grieved the loss of a loved one.
Our daughter, since ever, looks to me when she sees a child with a disability. She asks questions and then wants to know how she can communicate with them, or play with them. She cries during Disney films. She is the first to come to me when I am crying due to frustration, sadness, anger, or even joy (I am one of those people that cries with all emotion). She reads subtle changes in mood, facial expressions, body language. She notices mild physical disabilities, a slight limp, a communication issue. She has that intuition when something is just not right. She does not give up when someone tells her that they are "fine" when she knows they are not.
I developed severe hearing loss about 3 years ago, I wear hearing aids bilaterally, and was having a "Poor me, "I am scared" moment alone in our bedroom. My girl came in with a hug and a portable CD player and headphones with the movie Annie set up because "it's your favorite". She said she thought it would take my mind off my worries.
As nurses, we need this type of compassion for others. We need an intuition to know when something is just not right. You need to read your patient and understand their subtle changes from baseline. Like I said, some of us are born with this trait, others are not. Those nurses that are born with it, stand out among the rest.
My daughter also knows how to make someone feel noticed and appreciated. She commented on an older ladies earrings at a store one day. To be frank, they were awful. The lady lit up when my daughter commented on them. When we left the store my daughter said, "Mommy is it bad that I did not really like the earrings? The lady looked like she needed to hear something nice." Another area we fuel is caring about the people around you.
As a nurse, we need to read and care about our patients, as well as our colleagues. They might be feeling overwhelmed or particularly affected by a patient, physician, or co-worker interaction.
This generation must be conscious that technology can interrupt face to face time. Emails, texts, tweets may not convey the emotion or context to which we are speaking. Encouraging our kids to look people in the face, feel for/with them, see past themselves and the screens of technology and reach out to others. This quality will help our children connect with the world around them benefit the future of healthcare.
This is one of my favorite attributes that good nurses share, the ability to critically think. Often, a patient's condition changes without notice. Thinking quickly, clearly, running through options and choosing the best choice of action is imperative to quality care. Now, more than ever, nurses have a greater responsibility to the patient's overall care. We are at the bedside for 8 to 12 hours a day. We have conversed with all of the key players, the patient, family, doctors, PT, pharmacy etc. We hold the most information on the total patient picture. Therefore, when changes occur, we have the best overall view of our patient, mentally, physically and emotionally.
My favorite jobs were the ones where the nurse was seen as the head of the care team. We rounded on our patients with the physicians, pharmacy staff, therapists etc to fill in the blanks and critical think along with the team as to the best care plan. This is a quality that I believe has to be fostered.
When my daughter is interested in something or we see something interesting, I ask, "why do you think that is this way?" or "How can we fix this problem?" or "What would be the next best thing to do?". Encouraging my children to ask questions, think through the answers, also to work with their siblings to problem solve has been instilling a critical thinking mentality to handle problems they face. They don't expect someone else to tell them what to do, they participate, sometimes even when we are not asking for it.
This is the future of nursing
Critical thinking is what will move us ahead as innovators and trendsetters, it's what will change the art or nursing, the scope and level of care we can provide to our patients and families. Critical thinking is what keeps our patients safe through catching errors and thinking through the what-if's that may arise with various interventions. This will continue to redefine what nursing is to the healthcare industry and our patients and families.
So, I guess I figured out where to start. Raising children is a very challenging task that my husband and I don't take lightly. We are both in healthcare and recognize the value of raising the bar on the future healthcare leaders. Throughout history the innovators in nursing have displayed all of the qualities we just discussed, from strong minded critical thinkers, to caring, confident, and compassionate practitioners. They have paved the path for us all to travel down. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to raise my daughter to not just use these paths but to create new ones for her generation. We as nurses, also need to look beyond our generation and foster, encourage and cultivate our children to advance and innovate the future of healthcare!