When You Can't Turn "Off"
nammi, Nurse, General Practice, 09:33AM Jul 24, 2015
Diane M. GoodmanNursing is an insidious job. It gets into your blood and your heart, and at some point, it becomes you. You begin to meld into the person with no "off" switch, the one who eats, sleeps, and breathes nursing into everything and everyone around you.
I recently became that person, and I needed a family member to set me straight.
None of us are immune. We could become entwined with our careers after a week on the job or forty years. It could occur after a particularly heart-wrenching loss, or after achieving a longstanding goal or award, but the signs and symptoms are irrefutable: we interrupt our peers at lunch to discuss an interesting case we received, in spite of their sighs of frustration. We resolutely discuss "work" talk at baby showers and bridal events, when everyone else clearly wants to focus on the task at hand. Additionally, we see disease &/or disaster at every corner of life (with a teachable moment attached!).
Once we lose our ability to turn "off", we forget to engage in non-nursing events. Sleep? How silly. Our minds are churning over the events of the previous day, wondering where we could have found an extra five minutes for charting or patient contact. TV and movies? Hah!! We have articles and policies bookmarked that need attention. We'll never get caught up if we sit through several episodes of Shark Tank....
Hopefully, a family member or friend recognizes the ailment and nips it in the bud, as mine did. Sitting at a teaching hospital to review films (as a patient, not a nurse practitioner), I was convinced the wheelchair-bound patient in front of us was speaking to me when she asked for assistance. My husband, ever the logical one, knew she was not in distress and was questioning the group at large. He reminded me to turn my nurse switch "off" for two seconds and put a layman's hat ON, nearly impossible to do. He reminded me I can take the invisible ID tag off and be someone other than a nurse, which it seems I had forgotten how to do. I suffered through it, but he was right. Everyone lived! I had been so quick to bounce off that chair before his arm gently stopped me.
As painful as the experience was for me, I would guess that many readers have lost the "off" switch as well. Am I right?