Confessions of a nurse

In Retrospect: Nursetopia’s 2016 One Word

by Nursetopia on December 31, 2016

Rather than resolutions, I pick one word each year to guide my thoughts and actions. I’ve done this for the better part of a decade, and I have chronicled each of these one words on Nursetopia since the blog began. You can find past one word summations for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, and I’ll post my one word for 2017 tomorrow, but today I’ll review my one word for 2016 – “stretch.”

Boy, howdy! (That’s “southern” for holy cow or O.M.Gosh!) Stretch was an appropriate word as I kept it at the forefront of my mind on many occasions. I used it frequently to encourage myself to “lean in” rather than “push away” from uncomfortable or unplanned moments throughout the year or to rise to presented opportunities.

For example, I directed a second, different healthcare service line – cardiovascular services – which expanded my background and experience. An oncology nurse running the CV services? Yeah, it actually worked, and it helped me realize that my nursing specialty isn’t only oncology but, rather, nursing leadership; it was great experience to see that healthcare really does look and work very similarly behind the curtains of every service area. With that, though, I worked more this year than I ever have in years passed (even when I opened a new cancer center), and I almost pulled a heart-string in the process, feeling pummeled in every way and like a failure both at work and at home. For a self-proclaimed overachiever, it felt hopeless at times – like I didn’t have enough time or energy to cover everything that needed to happen to realize our service line strategies. I felt like I was doing a disservice to my team members, my organization, and my family.

What I didn’t anticipate is that my stretching throughout 2016 included actually saying I needed a change in my work and giving that work to another leader so I could have happiness in both my personal and professional lives. It was hard to say so, but I did it. It stretched me greatly, and it was humbling.

My stretching continued by working diligently to maintain margin in my life – margin for the priorities that matter most to me.

Earlier in the year I applied for a large role; I didn’t get it. That was stretching, for sure, and while I didn’t say so at the time of writing, I shared about it and how those similar moments have shaped – and stretched – me.

I submitted the largest writing piece of work I have done to-date in my career, editing a healthcare book for the general public. That was quite the stretch: working with the publisher, developing the table of contents, finding all the authors, and then editing the entire work. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am excited to see it publish around May 2017.

Personally speaking, I picked-up a forgotten hobby – theater – for my self-care, and I am so glad I stretched in that way; it fed my soul in so many ways.

In addition in 2016, my family and I decided to begin our long-dreamed-of foster-to-adoption process. What stretching moments that has encompassed!

How was your 2016? Did you have a one word or resolutions that guided you?

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Pressing Forward: 2016’s One Word

by Nursetopia on January 1, 2016

stretchKnowing I’ll live with my one word for a full year, I take quite a bit of time to consider my next one word. After much consideration, I’m drawn to stretch. 

[Gulp]

As much as I tried to move in a different direction, I feel it coming for 2016, so I won’t resist but, rather, embrace it. Better yet, I’ll apply it to my entire life.

Stretching isn’t meant to “be stretched thin.” Stretching in physical activity, for example, serves the purposes to warm up and cool down the muscles, reduce injury, improve balance, increase range of motion, reduce stress and tension, and enhance performance. Stretching should not be painful, should not be omitted, and should be a part of daily physical activity.

I’ll stretch my relationships, my ideas, my writing, my work, my health, my encouragement, my finances, my business ideas, and my time as part of daily work to better balance, reduce strain, and enhance my overall life.

What’s your one word for 2016?

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Nursetopia In Retrospect: 2015’s One Word

by Nursetopia on December 31, 2015

onewordEach year I select one word to help guide my efforts throughout the year. It’s my form of a resolution, I guess. It’s quite amazing to think of the word weekly or daily in some cases and actually implement it in various efforts, and it is always beautiful to reflect over the goodness that word has helped bring into my life. Since doing this one word effort, years 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 have been quite interesting and enlightening, and I’ve smiled reading back over those end-of-year perspectives, marveling at the threads that have woven into my life far deeper and more brilliantly than I anticipated.

2015 has not disappointed.

My one word for 2015 has been give. And, boy, did I.

I found myself giving more to my family, to my work, to people around me. I gave my time in ways I never have before – stepping onto organizational boards of directors for not one – but two different, wonderful organizations. I volunteered more time to students and precepted eight undergraduate nursing students and two graduate nursing students throughout their nursing leadership courses as well as several business students and community leaders who asked for time with me. I bought more lunches and coffees than I may have ever done collectively in my years prior. I gave more thanks than ever in my life, writing over 1,200 thank you notes as best I can tell from various calendars and documents.

As much as I gave and gave and gave, I will transparently tell you this has been one of the best years of my life – filled with more joy and contentment and, yes, even wealth, than I have ever experienced. I have more meaningful relationships; I feel a sense of contribution; and I do not miss any of the money I have spent or donated over the last 12 months, but I do recall the warmth of those lunches and coffees and time and money well-spent with others or on meaningful efforts. It’s amazing how that has happened.

I have always believed in principles of giving – reaping what you sow…tithing…”give and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38). I have tested that principle this year in all forms. It remains true.

I am thankful for the gift of giving in 2015, and I hope to continue it into 2016, but that’s not my one word for the New Year. I’ll share that tomorrow!

Did you have a one word for 2015? If so, what was it? What are you looking forward to in 2016?

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Cure a Case of the Mondays with Gratitude

by Nursetopia on June 12, 2015

I had the case of the Mondays. You know the feeling; everything seemed to fall apart at work or be too busy for me to catch my breath.

Amazing, though, how gratitude washes away the Mondays – or fear – or anxiety – for me, at least. As I pulled away from work in my air conditioned vehicle, with tires in great shape and full gas tank, I drove on paved roads – passing an ambulance on its way to the exact place I was leaving for the day. I picked up my smartphone and called my family who was all safe and sound within our home, getting ready for an evening of rest. I had the luxury of silence on my way home, able to process the day, and I thought about the coding specialist who identified cost savings, the nurse who agreed to write an article for professional publication, the physician looking for ways to expand our integrative medicine capabilities, the manager diligently filling her team with the right candidates, the manager who secured emergency resources for a patient, the nurse who identified process improvements, the social worker who protected a patient from harm, the nurse who offered to come into work if needed, the pharmacist who spoke up about an environmental concern, the leaders who entrusted an issue to my hands and mind, the colleagues who helped me with an intensive, new process…and those are the examples I thought of in the first five minutes. I paused thinking of how blessed I am to work with such exceptional people.
And as I realized how blessed I am at work, making a prosperous wage, I pulled into my home driveway and entered my air-conditioned home, warmed by the love of a healthy family who needn’t even think about where the next meal will come from because the scent of supper, from a bubbling crockpot, was filling the rooms. I took a warm shower and put on clean clothes, only to be met by one of my children asking to spend time with me.
Rough day? What rough day? Gratitude is self-care for my soul.

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Rain, Rain Go Away

by Nursetopia on November 4, 2014

It’s a Tuesday and raining in many parts of Central Texas. Those close to me know today is my favorite day of the week. And that it’s raining – well, that’s just icing on the Tuesday. Any other day like this I would spend checking on team members and patients, planning programs, or analyzing data for leaders and my healthcare system to show returns on investments in care.

But today is very different. Rather than caring for others or the business of oncology, I sit in a waiting room with my family, preparing to walk through an extensive cancer treatment journey alongside someone I love. I have cared for others in this exact position; I have presented and published on these emotions and this process; and today I live it and I cope by writing through my own grief. In the waiting room. As the rain falls on a Tuesday.

Rain, rain go away…

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Slow Progress is Still Progress

by Nursetopia on January 17, 2014

Slow. Slooow. Slooooooooooow. Like a snail moving-in-molasses-on-a-cold-day slow. It’s painful. Especially to those who are accustomed to quick movements, stealth flow, and instant responses. It’s almost unbearable. And, yes, for some, it’s definitively unbearable and they must move on to save themselves. Adapt or die. This is true for the brain, as well.

I get that. I understand it. I know the feeling. I like strategic, quick moves and results. I enjoy bouncing from completed initiative to completed initiative. I really love seeing a strategic plan for a project in retrospect, and I’m one of those people that tend to push others to accomplish what seem like unrealistic deadlines and goals within tenuous timeframes. Funny thing – people end up reaching those deadlines and goals and astounding themselves…but I digress…

There are times when stealth just won’t cut it. The “yesterday” deadline is [yawn] over-rated, and the only way success is measured is inch-by-oh-my-save-me-this-is-painful-inch and moment-by-Really?I-feel-like-I’ve-been-at-this-forever-moment. On more than one occasion in my career, I have had to readjust my pace for the health and well-being of my team.   Sometimes I slowed down, and other times my team acknowledged it was ready to pick up the pace. In all matters, the organization, the programs, the quality of patient care propelled forward. Fast or slow. Why?

Because progress is progress. While it can be mentally strenuous for leaders, sometimes slow and steady is necessary and ends up leap-frogging others who traveled at break-neck speed. “Haste makes waste,” anyone?

Have you ever lived this lesson?

Copyright ant.photos via Flickr Copyright ant.photos via Flickr

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It’s a silly mistake, but leaders make it everyday – overlooking people for a position simply because the applicant lacks experience. I know because I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve also experienced this mistake as an applicant, as well.

Sure, experience is important, especially for some roles. Experience brings wisdom and know-how and can develop a program or a business quickly. But many times, a role can offer experience to a candidate, a candidate with passion and potential.

Right after I finished graduate school for my MSN and MBA many years ago, I applied for an open nurse manager position in the hospital I had been working in for three years. The hospital had grown me as a new nurse, my unit leader had done everything in her power to make me a success, working with me and my grad-school, growing-family schedule to ensure patient care was covered and I had a full paycheck. The management role wasn’t a specialty stretch for me, but when I spoke with the assistant chief nursing officer about the position, in an informal interview, she told me I didn’t have enough experience to manage a nursing unit. She really did discourage me rather than validate my passion and work ethic to dive deep into the information and personally grow while developing the organization and people around me.

As it turned out, that was a shaping moment and likely one of the best things that could happen to me. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Shortly thereafter, I moved to a new city, and ended up leading a statewide program for the Texas Nurses Association that catapulted my career and developed me as a leader in many ways. I had absolutely no experience leading such a program. But, the executive director, the team, and the entire organization took a chance on me, looking at my past patterns of initiative and hearing my passion. Thankfully; I owe much of who I am as a nurse leader to them.

I think about both of these instances when I look at resumes/applications and interview people. Experience is great, but if I interview someone with experience and they don’t have passion or drive, I quickly turn my attention to other applicants.

Potential is often just as important as experience yet frequently overlooked. If you regularly hire people, how do you manage the experience-versus-potential balance?

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Looking Ahead: 2014’s ‘One Word’

by Nursetopia on January 1, 2014

2014 is no exception to my one word tradition. I started thinking about my one word for the year two weeks ago. It didn’t take me long at all to find the word because I have known for a while what I have missed for a few months now – likely because of my recent move to a new city.

2014Relationships. 

In 2014, “relationships” will be my focus – in every sense of the word. I want to focus on my children, my husband, my siblings, my parents, my extended family, my friends, my team, my coworkers, my Lord. I want people to be my priority in words and actions. I want to have more lunches with friends, more phone calls with family, more cuddles (without technology in front of me), more talks, more walks, more letters, more stolen moments, more frozen moments, just more moments.

I’m really looking forward to 2014. Happy New Year!

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In Retrospect: 2013’s ‘One Word’

by Nursetopia on December 31, 2013

Each year I select one word to help focus me. Here’s my hindsight reflections of my 2011 one word and my 2012 one wordIt’s amazing how the one word threads throughout the months, frightening sometimes. I guess that’s the purpose and should be expected as I think of the word continuously, right?

NewMy one word for 2013 was “new.” I was extremely excited about the obvious word for the New Year. Indeed, “new” dominated my life in 2013. I read (or listened to) numerous new books, including completing a long-time favorite and honored book in a shortened timeframe, which was a goal of mine. I enjoyed several new recipes, including learning to bake bread. My husband and I instituted a new rule for our date nights; we had to go to a new restaurant each and every date night out. It made for some of our best dates, and now it is a permanent rule for us, which has been incredibly fun for our rut-prone, eat-the-same-thing-every-time selves. I wrote a lot of new poetry; some of my favorites this year are Greater ThanPainting CareWhen Leaders Cry, and MissingI made several new, free, printable cards for anyone to have and use; some of my most-loved ones are Seek-And-Find Customizable Nursing AppreciationDon’t StopTriple-Threat Nurse, and No Wonder Nursing Uniforms Had CapesI had two new bosses within the year, one expected and one unexpected. I was invited to join a #BCSM Twitter chat as an expert panelist, which was incredibly fun, and I also served as the Oncology Nursing Society’s 38th Annual Congress Chair, which was, without a doubt, an experience of a lifetime. And after living in our new home – our first-owned home – for only a year (yes, one year!!and just months after we newly painted and developed the space just for us, we sold our home, moved to a new city, and I started a new job – a great opportunity and tremendous responsibility to hire much of a new team and open a new cancer center.

Whew. 

New is great. What I didn’t really think through at the beginning of the year, though, was that new always – always – comes right after change. [gulp] Now, I’m not typically scared of change, which is a good thing, but a lot of change and a lot of new definitely make for stressful and scary times. 2013 has felt like a roller coaster in many, many ways.

I’m ready for 2014, complete with a new word and all, which I will share tomorrow! Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

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Hopes for the Future: A Letter to My 20-Year Nurse Self

by Nursetopia on December 15, 2013

A follow-up to yesterday’s letter

Hey, You!

I hope this finds you and yours well, getting ready to celebrate another holiday season. My heart cries a little when I think of ten years into the future – how long you and your Love have celebrated one another now as well as how old the littles are at the moment you’re reading this. Well, even if you are, actually, reading this. None of us are promised tomorrow, right? And if not, then none of this even matters. You’re exactly where your heart sings. And, if you are reading, then carry on…man, this letter took a weird turn, no? Haaa!

Really, I hope three things for you – continued health, happiness, and Salvation – because I think, even at this point, I’m certain that’s all that really matters. I hope you are holding fast to what matters. If you remember back, it’s the scary thought that remains with you each day at the time I write this – that you keep the priorities the actual priorities. Everything else…well, it’s gravy. 

And speaking of gravy, I fully expect a PhD by now. Oh, heavens, please tell me we actually get over the hump and obtain that elusive sucker! I bet you’re still writing, but I wonder if you’re still blogging. I hope so. I really do. And I hope it’s still happening right here at Nursetopia. 

I hope you’ve realized at least one of the several businesses you’ve been thinking about for so long now. I hope you’ve found the right business partner(s) and have had the chance to skip a lot of heartache in the process.

I hope you’ve been able to give back to the schools and organizations that have spurred you on and that your giving is more than monetary gifts.

I hope you’ve been able to stay true to yourself. In every single way. You might smile while reading this, thinking of some of the wild hopes and dreams that paper cannot contain at this moment – only hidden within my heart. No doubt, much will remain hidden, but I do hope for those secret hopes, too.

I know it’s unreasonable to hope for no heartache over time, so I won’t. I will, however, hope that those tough moments become stepping-stones – rather than roadblocks – for you and that you share those moments with others, to help lighten the load for yourself as well as to help others avoid the same mistakes and worries. I really hope those moments don’t make you cynical and calloused but rather, even more kind-hearted and determined to make the work of healthcare better.

I hope. I hope.

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Joni Watson, MSN, MBA, RN, OCN®

 

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