Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today, I want to give you a bit of a life update as well as talk about some of the bigger things that have been going on. Let’s start with the fact that I am not ok and my solution is that I am going to take a leap of faith. It is terrifying, but I know that things are not sustainable as they are. Which means that now must become a time of change, whether I want it or not.
For those of you that don’t know, I am currently working as a bedside medical surgical nurse. The job is demanding and brutal on my body. With my chronic illnesses, I have been struggling to be able to physically perform my job. I often leave the end of my shift completely exhausted and in high levels of pain. Given the current healthcare environment, I know that things are only going to get worse. I am working in conditions that do not allow for basic human dignity or basic self care needs to be met. The shifts are 12 hours long. During those shifts, I rarely get to take a break of any kind. That means that I go the whole shift without eating, sometimes without drinking and often struggle to be able to take my medication because it requires that I have eaten something. It also means that I am not going to the bathroom or just stepping outside for a breather. None of that is allowed because I am being treated like I am a robot rather then a human being that has needs.
But more then that is the psychological tole that it has taken, especially through the pandemic. There have been too many patients that we couldn’t save whom I said good bye to as I zipped them up in a body bag. For the first time in my 20 years as a nurse, I find myself unable to tell you how many people I have seen pronounced dead this year. And I cannot for the two years before that either. This hurts my soul in a way that I cannot express to you. I can no longer recall all their faces and I never knew all of their stories. Some of them I met for only a few minutes and some I never knew before I was assisting with the code. People should never be reduced to tasks that we perform for our job and certainly not during those final moments when they are upon this earth. Yet, I feel that there have been so many who have been denied the basic humanity of dying with grace, dignity and love.
There is the crushing realities of a for profit medical system that is grinding to a crisis point while the country seems unaware. While there is absolutely a crisis in this country of not having enough medical staff available to do the work that is needed of us, that is not the central crisis that is happening. Yet, no one is talking about it. No one is talking about how having a for profit medical system has put making money before taking care of people. While people are being denied basic medical care and patients are dying while waiting in the ED because there are no beds available CEOs are raking in the money hand over fist, seemingly unconcerned.
Today, hospital boards compare the compensation of their CEOs not to other community-based nonprofits but to their for-profit publicly traded hospital CEO peers, who themselves are compared to leaders in the largest industrial and financial companies trading on Wall Street. Since many boards set CEO salary by obtaining “comparable” salary data, this becomes an ever-spiraling upward cycle.Nonprofit Hospital CEO Compensation: How Much Is Enough? 
What we need are socially responsible hospitals that have the needs of the people at the heart of their business. This is not what we currently have in this country. Instead, the overwhelming number of hospitals are run on a model of greed that is sucking the life out of both those who work in these facilities and those who come as patients in order to generate more profits. Only about 1.8% of the Hospitals currently ranked in the Lown Institute Hospital Index were awarded the highest rank on equity, value, and outcomes.  This should not be a rare exception. This should be the standard of care at every hospital and every clinic and every doctor’s office. When you present to any facility in need of health care services you should be receiving the your care at the highest levels.
Instead, patients are receiving care while they are still sitting in the waiting room and many are never receiving the life saving care that they desperately need. Instead, we are allowing greed to drive our health care to a point of crisis. On 11/7/22 a letter  was sent to the President regarding the boarding crisis in this country, yet there has been nothing about this in the news since. No one is talking about how doctors are screaming in alarm that our emergency rooms are no longer capable of taking care of the patients that are coming to them.
The American Health Care system is unsustainable. It is in crisis and no one seems aware. Those of that are working in the health care system are also in crisis. In the past three years we have seen more patient deaths then ever before. We have received no extra compensation, no additional time off and no mental health support to help us cope with this enormous emotional burden. Instead, we are given articles and news coverage about nursing burn out. We are encouraged to engage in self care and use better coping skills while we struggle with deep trauma issues. While these things are important, focusing the public discourse upon these topics suggests that the nurses are failing to properly cope rather then health care facilities failing to provide proper emotional and mental health support services.
The violence within hospitals continues to escalate with nurses taking the brunt of the damage. In the past ten years, the rates of violence in hospitals has increased by 95%    with the pandemic only adding fuel to the fire. Research has shown that most nurses have experienced some form of assault while performing their jobs. When you include sexual assault, threatening, assault and verbal abuse into the definition of workplace violence, the number of nurses who have experienced violence while working rises to a staggering 100%.  When comparing nursing to other fields, the numbers become ever more disturbing. Nurses are more likely to experience violence while at work then any other profession.  A nurse has a higher chance of experiencing violence while working then all other occupations combined.  When looking at work injuries, 12.8% of injuries at work are caused by violence for nurses as compared to 4.2% of injuries from all other occupations combined. This means that nurses are more likely to be injured at work due to violence then a police officer or someone working in a prison or even security professionals.
None of this is sustainable. Not for our healthcare system and not for the individuals that have been struggling to provide adequate care while also struggling to survive within this very broken system on the brink of collapse. Just like every other nurse working in this horrible environment, I have been finding it difficult to maintain good mental health. This has lead me to a point of personal crisis. My working as a bedside nurse is not sustainable and because of that, I am choosing to leave. I am doing this so that I can give myself a chance to heal from all of the trauma that this profession has given me and so that I can give my body the things that it physically needs to survive, let along thrive. I know that this is the right decision. I cannot take care of others when I am in a state of crisis. Despite knowing this, thinking about leaving bedside nursing hurts me deeply. I am aware that it is highly probable that I will never return to the bedside.
Despite how much it hurts me to do so, I know that it is the time for change. I know that if I choose to remain at the bedside things will change anyway, but in ways that are beyond my control. The consequences of remaining in an unsustainable working environment are either a mental or physical health collapse that one may or may not recover from. All humans have limits and pushing beyond those limits results in things breaking, often times in ways that can never be fully repaired. So, I am leaving now while I am still able choose the manner in which this change comes and while I am still able to recover my wellness. While the experiences that I have had over the past few years will leave me forever a different person, they are things that I am confident that I can heal from if given the time and proper environment to do so.
On top of every that has been going on in the healthcare system, there have been personal losses. My grandmother died from heart failure at the beginning of the pandemic, so I was lucky and was able to be with her at the end. But I miss her so very much and think of her all the time. I wish that she was still here for me to talk to in my times of struggle and grief. She has always been a huge part of my life and now it feels as though that piece of me is hollow and raw.
My 17 year old nephew died, mostly a stranger to me while living in another country and I have struggled to provide emotional support to a sister whom I cannot embrace. Despite all my education in mental health and having a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification, I feel woefully unequipped to offer her anything that is meaningful in the face of this enormous loss.
A dear friend died when he lost his fight with depression and committed suicide. I have struggled with feelings of guilt for not having been able to help him more in his fight. There have been regrets for not having invested more time in this friendship. Mixed up in all my grief are the complex feelings surrounded how much I can relate to the feelings and state of mind that led him to the breaking point. As a neurodivergent living in a world that generally rejects us and constantly sends us messages of being undesirable, I can understand wanting to be done with all of it.
For the past year I have been back packing around all my grief and trying to figure out how a person is supposed to process through things this big and intense while struggling to physically get through the day. My mask has been serving me well. It has allowed me to continue to work while I struggled with moral and ethical issues that challenged my core beliefs. But a person can only mask for so long before that mask begins to crack and finally breaks. We call the breaking of the mask a meltdown. Which is when you have reached the end of all your silverware. There are no spoons. No forks. Not even any knives. There is no means left with which to carry yourself forward. And the result is a complete collapse. I have been having meltdowns this year and have been on the edge of them often.
This is the edge that I have been standing on while desperately clutching onto whatever silverware I can get ahold of. The inevitable truth is that I will eventually fall because this is not sustainable. We cannot ask people to work in high intensity situations without ever having periods of recovery. It is not sustainable. So, I am choosing to leave it behind before it crushes me. It isn’t a matter of taking a job at another hospital or nursing facility because they all share the same problems. I’ve been doing this long enough now to be certain that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. So I am leaving bedside nursing and it terrifies me because the outcome of this choice is far from certain. But I know that we cannot make the same choices in our lives if we want things in our lives to change.
I am choosing to take it on faith that everything is going to be alright. I am choosing to have faith that I will find my way through this darkness and I will grow large enough to be capable of holding it without breaking. Change is coming and I am choosing to embrace it. I am leaving behind bedside nursing and I am going to be working full time as Zebra Pig. It is too soon for me to really know what all that means yet, but I am choosing to have faith that I can create a place where people can find refuge; including myself.
For now, I am going to keep my focus on the streaming but with more time available to me, I will be able to expand what I am working on. I haven’t considered yet what all will be included in that. I plan to continue to take things one day at a time. For right now, I have two weeks to work out my notice that is required for my nursing contract. This means that I have six more shifts that I will work as a bedside nurse and then I will be moving into a new chapter in my life. I am going on an adventure and I would love for you to join me.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!
- Nonprofit Hospital CEO Compensation: How Much Is Enough?
- ‘An ever-spiraling upward cycle’: nonprofit hospital CEOs paid 8 times more than average worker
- Lown Institute Hospital Index
- Letter to the President
- Violence Against Nurses Worse Than Ever, Analysis Finds
- The CDC Work Place Violence Prevention for Nurses course
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
- Occupational injuries and illnesses among registered nurses
- Fact Sheet | Workplace Violence in Healthcare, 2018 | April 2020