To become a competent nurse, is a lot like becoming a skilled gardener. You have to find your “personality.”
When I planted my patio garden in the spring, I relied heavily on the advice/opinion of the experienced gardener at the garden center near my house. I told him that my patio got morning sun – from seven in the morning until one in the afternoon. He recommended shade to part-shade plants, and highly discouraged me from buying anything that required full sun.
I had planned to plant herbs — decorative and edible — because they are easy to care for, can be used for flower arrangements as well as cooking, and because they are cheap and if, perennial…always come back bigger and brighter each year. I also wanted to plant a few hardy perennials, like black-eyed susan and coneflowers for the same reasons. When told him this, he strongly advised me not to, and showed me the shade plants.
I bought and planted some shade plants – steering off my intended “garden plan” and trusting his – since he was the one with more experience, after all. These plants required a lot of care, and watering, however…and were typically more expensive, and soon enough I deviated back to my own plan. I bought perennials that I liked – full sun ones — with a feeling of fear and rebellion that all decisions of “gut-feeling” bring. I bought things on the sale racks that my local hardware store was tossing for next to nothing. I bougt herbs and I even brought some black-eyed susans straight out of the ground from my mother’s garden in NY.
Now, as the end of the summer nears, I look at my garden. The flowers and shrubs that the “experienced” gardener sold to me are still there, for the most part. Some of them have done well, some of them are clearly dying (I’m not the most dutiful waterer, I’ll admit). But the ones that I chose to get — the ones that I had an attraction to in the first place — are actually the ones that are growing the best. They are hardy, tall, and green. It turns out, that my patio gets enough sun to be considered full – a thought I kind of suspected at the beginning of the process, but one that I doubtfully pushed aside when confronted by the experience of a seasoned gardener.
The same goes for nursing. At first, every other nurse is more experienced and seasoned. They’ve had every patient, know every trick and have seen everything in (and out of) the book. Questions to all of them bring millions of answers — all of which seem correct, and better than the next.
When I first got out “on my own” as a nurse, I vascillated from opinion to opinion. I asked more questions and followed more advice than I thought possible. I copied my preceptors daily “schedule” and mimicked her hourly habits. I wrote my notes the same way, filled out my flowsheet the way she had, and even completed my assessments and organized my room like she did.
These were all self-survival methods – ways to teach myself a trade when I no longer had a teacher by my side, but it wasn’t until at least six months after starting that I began to deviate. I realized that, even though she religiously started work a half an hour early so that she’d start her day ahead of herself, I didn’t really want to do that. I stopped religiously washing my patients at two o’clock, and started to assess whether they really needed two full baths a day. I assessed people differently, asked for help when she had never done so, and spoke with the doctors in ways she never would.
I developed my own personality. Yes, some of the things she taught me I still use in my practice – just like the plants from the experienced gardener. But some, have shriveled up and are no longer part of my work routine. Other things that I do, I chose to start doing myself, and they have added things to my behavior as a nurse and fellow employee that I’m very happy with.
So, as I look back on my garden after a hot, hot summer…I’m happy with what I see, and excited for it to come back in full bloom next year. Much like my first year in nursing. Because, with creativity, experience, and peer input (and the ability to decide what of it is good to keep), my “personality” can only get better with time.