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Nurse on the Run

Back from the Brink of Burnout

Published February 19, 2013 3:58 PM by Lorettajo Kapinos

I fell in love with nursing at the young age of 13 when my mother, a foster parent, agreed to assume care of a newborn in Neonatal Intensive Care. She only had to drag me with her once. After seeing the nurses in action, I begged her to bring me every time she visited 'Peanut.' She always obliged. I spent hours watching the experts measure vital signs, teach skills to family and handle every crisis with ease. My goal was to be that smart in that situation. Well, life doesn't always work out as planned. I'm not a NICU nurse. But I am an ER nurse. I became that smart over time, in a different specialty. And then, I quit, almost.

Burnout snuck in long before I noticed. It was like the perfect storm, with warnings present but easy to ignore or explain away--until it engulfed me. And then, all I felt was misery. I wasn't surprised when I finally admitted what was happening. However, I was saddened. I once thrived on the nursing process: assessment, intervention and reassessment. (Yes, I skipped a few steps, but hang in the ED long enough and you will too.) I lived and breathed it. I loved it. I didn't know how to define myself without nursing. But the thought of doing it, literally made me feel ill.

At the time, a lot of changes were happening professionally-computer documentation became paramount, staff turnover increased and management changed. Work became a place I barely recognized. Things were also dynamic personally. Both of my kids were now in school. They didn't 'need' me around during the day. My husband traveled for work, increasing the demands on me at home. This point in my life forced me to take a hard look at my inner self, including hopes, dreams and goals.

For a while, I backed off from work. As a per diem, I cut my hours down to 16 a week. I thought by focusing on my family, it would help balance out the stress. It improved for a little while, but eventually, even two days a week became a hassle. I never called out or blew off work, but I sure had the desire.

I eventually sought an opportunity to work in a different emergency department. This one was smaller than the trauma center and teaching hospital I'd always known. It wasn't any less busy but it had different priorities and different staff culture. At the time, I used the analogy that it was like trying a different flavor of ice cream. I was bored with strawberry and needed to try chocolate.

During this time, I studied the moments I felt the most, both positive and negative. I explored what triggered these intense feelings. In many ways, I retreated into my own head and space so I could figure out what I wanted to do next. But I also stepped out and tried new things. Both opposing actions introduced me to corners of the world I may not otherwise have found.

Writing, by this time, had already found its way into my heart and soul. It became my outlet to make sense of the world around me. It filled me with pride but also gave me a sense of release. Some readers of the Healthcare POV may remember my Tales from an ED Nurse blog. Sadly, though I loved writing, I had to stop contributing while at the height of burnout, because I felt I had nothing positive to offer.

So, why am I back? Did I push through they burnout?

Well, during my course of self discovery, I also began listening to what others had to say about me. In the past, I'd heard things about my leadership abilities and how I inspire others, but I always dismissed them. But when seeking a new direction, I actually allowed myself to take notice of it. I did not force myself to believe it, however, I did accept the possibility they were right. And it excited me.

I also helped move an idea for a book into reality. This taught me how to use my voice to achieve something. I spoke up for myself and the others involved. The final product was a collaboration that I hope helped the storytellers and will continue to inspire others in times of tragedy. It's still new, so I am waiting to see where exactly it will go, but I'm fairly optimistic for the book's future.

Those impetuses were enough for me to explore other possible outlets for my desire to lead and learn. I dug deep down into the source of what made me feel so frustrated and realized I wanted to fix all that I saw was broken with nursing. I know. Big dreams, right? But one has to start somewhere and why not go big?

And that's when I decided my dream job would involve educating nurses. I looked into many different avenues, including colleges. But nothing seemed right. So, I held on to hope and waited. I knew the right opportunity would come along eventually.

I took enjoyment from my family. I examined my strengths and weakness. I tried new things.

I fell in love with running.

Picture 1 My Family supports at my first 5K

And then, when I wasn't looking, a chance came along that changed my life. A long time mentor returned to the periphery of my life. Over the years, I'd always looked to her for guidance and inspiration. She never let me down. So, it was an easy decision for me to apply for a job (at yet another hospital) to work under her, except this time, as a staff nurse educator.

I wasn't sure I had a chance. I didn't know if I had the skills. But during my interview, I had a strong sense of peace. For the first time, I didn't feel I was grasping at straws to survive. Instead, I felt I was reaching for the next level. I knew whatever the outcome, it would be right for me.

A few days later, I did not hesitate to accept the job offer. That was six months ago. Since then, I've experience more than a few growing pains. I am frequently out of my comfort zone, but because of that, I learned to ask for help and accept assistance. I've struggled with self doubt. And still don't truly believe what others say about me, though for the first time in my career, I'm considering it.

So, why does running matter to this story? Because it changed not only how I saw myself but how I view the world. It helped me overcome an embarrassing addiction (smoking) and let me stop fixating on perfectionism. It added another dimension to my life. And the best part? I can run fast or slow or long distances or short, depending on my schedule for the week. But best of all, it clears my head, so despite the chaos of life, I can think clearly. And it gives me balance.

I hope to share through this blog how I balance all the components of life: work, family, fun, and maybe if I'm brave enough, some of the hard times too. So, come along for the ride. And no, I won't make you run unless you want to.

To read more from Lorettajo go to https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLorettajo?ref=hl or http://www.lorettajokapinos.com/.

2 comments

It's great to be back. Thanks so much Rebecca!

Lorettajo Kapinos March 3, 2013 9:40 PM

You're a superstar! I'm so glad you're back! :)

Keep running to your goal, it's in sight.

Rebecca

Rebecca Rose, Author February 28, 2013 3:00 PM
MA

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