I’m sitting in her office listening to reasons why she’s not considering me for this position. Listening to these reasons, I know they are heresy, gossip, and anecdotal at best. In my heart, I know they are lies.
The chair I’m sitting in doesn’t have arm rests. My hands feel very unnatural resting in my lap. I can feel my face get warm, my cheeks flush, and my palms get very sweaty. I have lost my words and my eyes fill with tears.
“I’m a good nurse.” I assert. “My references are excellent.”
She concedes. “Your references are glowing, but these unsolicited comments are concerning and I need to address them.”
My mind is on fire. I have a million thoughts rattling around in my head and million things I wanted to shout in my defense but none of them will help. I say nothing.
I walk out of her office with sweat behind my wobbly knees and tears in my eyes. I have been defeated. Questions and angry concerns abound, I walk through the muted color hallways of the hospital and out to the street. A block and half away I stop for coffee. The simple change of focus lights all of the questions that are in my brain on fire.
What makes you a good nurse if your boss giving you a “glowing” reference means less than the pathetic gossip of one self-important individual? What is the yard stick against which good nursing care is measured? How do I move forward? How do I go back to work after being shamed?
Are you a good nurse because you complete provider orders and delegated tasks without asking any questions or is it that because you question an order you are concerned about that you are a good nurse?
Are you a good nurse if you let the patient stay in bed all day even though you know it is the worse thing for them or does making them move and ambulate make you a good nurse?
Are you a good nurse if you don’t get any thank you cards from patients but you also don’t receive any complaints?
Are you a good nurse if your standing as a good employee is intact and you have consistent above average yearly evaluations?
Are you a good nurse if you prioritize care and work over developing a relationship with the patient and their family or is it because of ones ability to develop a relationship with everyone that you are a good nurse?
Is it enough to be a team player at work even though you make minimal efforts to hangout with coworkers on your day off?
Is it excellent clinical knowledge or being an example of excellent clinical practice that makes you a good nurse? Can it be both?
Is it more important to represent the mission and vision of your organization while you are work or actively live that mission and vision everyday especially when you are not at work?
I wish I knew the answers to these questions. It would be easier to rationalize these professional setbacks and roadblocks.
The only option I have right now is to continue to focus my energy and frustration where it really matters: providing excellent care and working to improve the health outcomes of my patients. I’m just not sure anymore if that’s enough to continue to define myself as a good nurse.