Shifting from compulsive care taking - meet Kateri

How long have you been a nurse and what area of nursing do you currently work in?

I have been a nurse for 6 ½ years, primarily in pediatric intensive care. I recently transitioned to an administrative position as the clinical bed coordinator for patient bed placements using my clinical background to determine appropriate placements. I’ve been collecting data to improve patient flow and determine barriers. I am hoping to be an effective nurse advocate as well as patient advocate, which can be a hard balance to find in hospital administration! I miss the bedside, but for a variety of factors, the new position was a good choice for me.

Tell me your biggest pet peeves about nursing.

The first is the lack of broad public understanding of nursing; who we are, what we do, what our overall impact on the patient experience and health care system is. The constant and continual misunderstanding and misrepresentation of nursing really annoys me. The second part of this pet peeve is the terrible job we as nurses do at fixing this. I feel like in some ways the introduction of social media has allowed nurses to worsen our reputation rather than repair it. In making our voices heard I worry we often just come off as nagging or annoying, like the kid always complaining that they weren’t invited to the party rather than making the necessary steps to become a valuable friend to the person handing out invitations!

 What do you love most about nursing?

My favorite thing about nursing is that it is one title that encompasses so many things. There are so many places you can go with nursing and every single one of them is an awesome opportunity to be present and important to humanity. Every day in nursing, regardless of your specialty or workplace setting has you involved with people, in the best of times and the worst of times. As nurses we become experts in our own area with the option of becoming an expert in another area.

 What throws you off balance about working as a nurse and how do you know you are out of balance?

I get thrown off balance by the compulsive need to help. Whether it is helping my patient, helping my coworkers by coming in for overtime, helping my profession by getting our message out. I think this compulsiveness would have been a part of whatever I chose to do, but as a nurse, the opportunities to slide out of balance are numerous. And it is so easy to talk myself out of needing a break. When you are constantly surrounded by people whose lives are in crisis it is easy to minimize the warning signs in your own life that are trying to tell you it is time for rest. I have a chronic illness and I have often slid too far into a flare up by minimizing my symptoms to care for the patients in front of me. It is silly but it has happened enough time I can actually call it a pattern.

 What brings you back into balance?

My kitchen! When I am out of balance I bake. The consistency of mixing the right ingredients and knowing what it will yield makes me slow down and come back to a place of centeredness. Writing helps as well. It’s funny because I find that when I let my life slow down and make consistently healthy choices I struggle to write. When I am exhausted and overworked words flow out of me like water.

 Tell me your most interesting or funniest story as a nurse.

A few years ago, while I was on orientation in the PICU, I was assigned to take a post-op open heart repair baby on Valentine’s Day, the surgeon invited me to the OR to watch the surgery, so I spent a few hours of Valentine’s Day gazing into the open chest of an 8 month old little girl as she had her tiny heart repaired before running upstairs to prepare to take care of her post-op. It made for a very special Valentine’s Day, I’m not sure that anything will ever top that.

 Tell me about your most favorite nursing job and why.

Being in the PICU is my favorite because the variety of patients you see is so broad, even two patients with the same diagnosis but different ages present so differently. The patient is the entire family unit so your care has to change for that as well, each family is so different, each kid so different. No two days or experiences are ever the same. When everything works out, you have saved a child who will one day be an adult, fall in love and become a parent. It feels like such a huge responsibility but such a gift as well - not to mention the clinical challenges every day brings.

 What advice would you give to new grads starting out?

My advice would be to find a mentor. It doesn’t need to be the person orienting you either! In your first few weeks, watch the people you work with. Take note of the nurses you like to follow because of the way they left the patients for you, or the nurses you like to work alongside because they are skilled, helpful and kind. Find a nurse you want to be like, and learn from them. Your preceptor will teach you how to be a nurse on your unit, but these mentors can teach you how to be a nurse for the long term. Oh, and have an outlet such as running, writing, or yoga - (wine doesn’t count unless it is consumed with a good friend).

Learn more about Kateri on her blog.

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