Gina Kearney has been a nurse for 25 years in a variety of settings; med-surg, oncology, HIV/AIDS, home care and integrative/holistic care in both hospital and academic institutions. She is the Director of Community Education for a hospital on Long Island, New York, that provides health education and counseling as well as conducts outreach/screening programs for individuals who may not have access to care.
What do you love most about nursing?
The many settings that nursing allows us the honor of working with others to bring them comfort, peace, wellness and healing.
Tell me your biggest pet peeves about nursing.
My BIGGEST pet peeve by far, is what nurses often say when they have “moved up” to administrative roles that take them away from direct patient care. In many instances, I have heard colleagues comment “I used to be a nurse”. This makes me crazy. Once a nurse…always a nurse! We need to remember that our insight, critical thinking and experiences as nurses inform us in our professional (and personal) lives. We should be proud and articulate what we have learned and remind others to do the same.
What throws you off balance and how do you know you are out of balance?
I know I’m out of balance when I don’t love what I do anymore. As soon as work begins to feel like drudgery, it’s time to take a step back and listen to that inner voice. Negativity and anger are sure-fire ways to throw me off. Not resting enough or allowing time to recharge and refocus on what is important is definitely a balance-buster.
What brings you back into balance?
A sense of humor is critical. Sometimes, it can be easy to get caught up and take things way too seriously. A bit of laughter can be all it takes to put things back into perspective. Mindful breathwork and a moving/walking meditation works well for me too. And if all else fails, I get on the floor and play with my two adorable pugs. Sometimes we just need to play!
What are the pros and cons of pursuing a doctorate degree?
The decision to pursue doctoral work is not to be taken lightly. It is a huge commitment and a potentially life-changing, transformative experience. I have found that I am a much deeper thinker and have found ways to take my previous nursing knowledge to a whole new level, which has been incredible for me. I hope to return to teaching at some point and my PhD will help me if and when I decide to return to academia.
The cons include the long hours, grueling work at times, the expense, and the strain on family members as you shift your focus but like many things, the hard work pays off. If you are committed and have good support, you can find the right balance to make it work!
What advice would you give to new grads starting out?
Be patient with yourself and your learning. What seems overwhelming at the beginning soon settles as you find your rhythm. Find a good mentor, ask lots of questions and stay open!
Most importantly, don’t let technology interfere with your ability to connect with your patients. Technology is good, useful, and sometimes a necessity, but it will never be a substitute for mindful presence in your interactions with others. People heal, not computers and scanners.