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Shavawn Boyer, RN and Coach

Recently a nurse died after she was attacked at work.  The situation saddens me.

Nurses are loyal by nature.  This situation has me thinking that maybe we aren't being loyal to ourselves.

Some reports of the incident said that the nurse finished her shift and some reports said that she didn't and she went to the ER.  She sustained a torn ACL and her head was slammed against a desk.  I don't think with those injuries she could have finished her shift but maybe she felt fine and thought that she could.  The unit may have been understaffed already and she didn't want to put her fellow nurses in a bind by going to the ER.  This patient attacked multiple nurses.  I know that not all of the nurses could go to the ER at the same time.

I remember when I got my first job as an RN.  I wanted to be a good nurse.  At that time, in my mind, being a good nurse meant that you inconvenienced yourself so that other people would like you and could see that you were a team player.

For example, not taking a lunch break, staying 4 hours after the shift when someone called out, not letting management know that I hadn't taken a lunch break, and going to work even if I was sick.  I probably lost out on hundreds of dollars by not telling management about not taking my lunch breaks.  I learned early on not to tell because I got called into the office and told that I need to work on my time management skills because I wasn't able to take my lunch breaks.  It was hard being a charge nurse with 6 patients of my own.  When I stayed till eleven o'clock to help out, I still had to drive an hour home.  So I wouldn't get home until midnight.  Those days were the longest days.  I got up at 4 am and wouldn't get into the bed until after 12:30 am.  Sometimes I would have to work the next day.  The only thing that saved me those days is that the manager would let me come in at 11 am instead of being there at 7 am so that I could get some sleep.

I learned how to say no when they asked me to stay afterwards all the time.  I would do it sometimes but not all the time.  I was getting so sleepy trying to drive home after a 16 hour shift.  I was also spending a lot of money on hotels when I was too tired to drive home.  I didn't want to get into an accident by being so sleepy.  I had to learn my limits.  I was in my late twenties but I was starting to feel like I was older than that.  I wasn't taking any care of myself.

I also had to learn how to say no to my co-workers.  I don't like to work 3 days in a row.  I never have liked to.  I'll do it sometimes but I don't like it.  When my co-workers would ask me to switch a day on my schedule that would put me working 3 days in a row, I would have to say no.  I also love to have 3 days off in a row too when it happens.  I don't ask for it but I love when the scheduler puts it in my schedule.  It feels like a mini vacation when it happens.  When my co-workers would ask to switch because they saw that I had 3 days off, I would most of the time tell them no.  I learned that I had to stop inconveniencing myself all the time so that they would like me.  I will help when I can but I do have the right to say no, just like they have the right to ask.

I remember one time when I went to work sick.  I was giving a patient their medicine and all of a sudden the room started to spin.  My ears started to ring.  I had to sit down on the small dresser and take some deep breaths.  Eventually the room stopped spinning and my ears stopped ringing.  I had been feeling sick that morning.  I didn't want to call out because we were already short staffed.  Once I got to work and had that dizzy spell, I was also scared to drive home.  I lived an hour away from my job.  What if a dizzy spell happened while I was driving home?  So I worked my shift.  Thankfully I didn't have another dizzy spell and I was able to drive home safely but I probably should have stayed home and taken myself to a doctor.

Do you think that nurses are loyal to other people more than they are to themselves?

In my experience when I take care of myself, I'm able to be a better nurse for my patients.  I have to be loyal to myself first before I can be loyal to anyone else.  I can't give anything when my cup is empty.

Nurses are givers by nature.  We love to take care of our patients and help them but when it comes to ourselves we put ourselves last on the list.

Maybe we can't change that overnight but maybe we can start by eating a healthy lunch at work or drinking more water.  Your mood and energy level starts with the food that you put in your body.  Its a small step that will have a major impact on you.

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