When Work Becomes Family

by Nursetopia on February 16, 2017

“Family” by Laurel Harvey via


I’m enamored with “healthy work environments,” or HWEs…what makes them, how they form, how they disintegrate, how they change people, and how they impact the ultimate service or good and the financial bottom line. A key definition of HWEs is that they feel like a family.

Pop culture often jokes about “work family” or a “work husband” or a “work wife.” It’s true, though; we spend more time with our work families during the week than our biological families, so work should feel like a family…a functional, healthy family.

Part of being a family is living and working through the “mess” of family. Yes, there are great times, but family is rooted in sticking together through the hard times, the grieving times, the penny-pinching time, the frustrating times, the exasperating times, the tired times, the mundane times. It’s in the vulnerable moments of life  – whether inside our outside of the work environment – that we learn to ask for help, to share the load, to uplift those who feel defeated, to be the listening ear when a vent is needed, to pray together when no other words seem to be enough…to be a family. And just like a family, a work team multiplies joys and divides grief.

As a leader, it is easy to run away from these hard times, to silo “work” and “life.” As I’ve grown in my leadership skills, though, I have learned to press into these moments rather than try to find a way out of them. Because it is in these very moments when trust grows and the beauty of living life – and working alongside others – is realized…and a family is strengthened.

Have you ever worked in a place that felt like family? If so, what moments do you think contributed to that growth?

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A Nurse’s LIVESTRONG Day Tribute

by Nursetopia on October 2, 2011

My tribute this LIVESTRONG Day. (If you’re not wearing yellow today, you might want to change.)

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The Collision of Transsexuality, Religion, & Care

by Nursetopia on February 9, 2011

Ms. D. was never my “regular” patient. I did answer her call lights, adjust her IV pumps, and help with other activities as I saw the need or colleagues – Ms. D.’s “regular” nurses – asked. Ms. D. had terminal lung cancer. Ms. D. was formerly Mister D.

Yes, Ms. D. was transgender. She was in the middle of her transformation, and I honestly felt sadness when I did care for Ms. D. Not because she was transgender and I was uncomfortable. No, I was saddened because Ms. D. thought her cancer diagnosis was a plague from God for her transgender sins.  It was heartbreaking to hear – from her and from her nurses. No matter her nurses’ and physicians’ medical model cancer explanations, she would not be swayed. God was punishing her with lung cancer. He had to be. Her cancerous lungs were right beneath her silicone breast implants. No amount of discussions from healthcare providers or clergy convinced her otherwise.

Ms. D. needed palliative chemotherapy and surgery, but before she started that journey, she decided to take a different path – one that surprised us altogether. Ms. D. requested her silicone implants be removed. After still more discussion, the healthcare team honored Ms. D.’s request. And after the surgery, Ms. D. asked to be called Mister D. It was a confusing time for the healthcare team, but I am sure it was nothing in comparison to the confusion Mister D. was feeling. Not too long after his lung resection, Mister D. left for hospice care. I never saw him again.

Ms. D.’s thought of her cancer origin initially hit me hard. Why? What? I replayed it over and over again in my mind. I thought a lot about sexuality, religion, culture, emotions, family, cancer, care, you name it. I have thought about Mister D. on many occasions since then, too. I thought about him as I read the Oncology Nursing Society’s January Connect focused on the LGBT population. I thought about him again as I read about the stigma that still exists within the transgender community, including a story of a healthcare provider refusing to care for a transgendered person. And I’ve thought of him often as my organization works on a project related to the LGBT population.

I continue to think of him. A past collision of sorts with future impact. Mister D. will never know the impact he made on my life – both professionally and personally.


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Mean Nurse

by Nursetopia on January 7, 2011

Oxymoronic, right? Mean. Nurse.

Mean [meen] – adjective, -er, -est. Offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating; nasty; malicious: a mean remark; small-minded or ignoble; penurious, stingy, or miserly.

Nurse [nurs] – noun, -ing. A person formally educated and trained in the care of the sick or infirm.

Care [kair] – noun, -ed, -ing. To be concerned or solicitous; have thought or regard; to make provision or look out.

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