I just loved Butterball…he made me laugh and taught me so much. A student nurse at the time working at a retirement home, one of the gentlemen under my care was ‘Butterball’ – coined by me after the Butterball turkey.
With glasses that filled a large portion of his face, a perfectly round belly full of ascites and a shiny, bald head, Butterball also had a killer sense of humor. He always had a smile on his face and loved to tease anyone within reach.
I carried a pager that was connected to patient call bells and every 30 mins, Butterball would ring for the facilities. Three months of this and not one trickle…he wore an adult diaper but I thought he may still be feeling the urge. I dug into all of my nursing textbooks researching urinary conditions and what might be plaguing poor Mr. Butterball. With hundreds of potential diseases at my fingertips, I decided to review the situation with my fave Nursing professor.
After a lengthy recount of Butterball’s situation, she simply offered this: Have you taken even 20 minutes to sit alongside him and just talk? If you were sitting alone in a small room 22 hours per day, everyday – what would your ‘needs’ be? There was my AHA…Mr. Butterball was lonely and just needed that interaction.
That’s when I learned that medicine is more about people and their basic needs than about diseases, medications, or equipment.
I had never aspired to be a Nurse Manager because I felt it was a no-win position. Had seen co-workers move ‘up’ to this position and change. Everyone seemed to stop liking them as they turned cranky…sqeezed tightly between the bedside nurse as advocate and upper management who had pre-existing agendas.
Funny how we view things before having lived similar experiences. Most in healthcare are thrust into these roles without any support – whether PD, mentorship, or experience outside of “the institution”.
Don’t wait for your organization to hand you the golden key. Read, ask questions, then read some more. Do some volunteer work around your own unit, your child’s school, or another local organization where expectations are not as great or time-sensitive. This work will eventually pay off in spades!
Let us never be betrayed into saying we have finished our education; because that would mean we had stopped growing. - Julia H. Gulliver
Looking back, it is much more clear to me but during my 20s, I was so lost – could never seem to find my “niche”. I generally lasted only a couple of years at any one place – med-surg, then CCU, then Addictions, then NNICU, then Flight Nursing, then Education…ahhh. I actually loved all of them but I didn’t know why I got that itch to move on after only a few years.
I was 12 years old when I applied to be a volunteer at our local hospital..always knew I wanted to be a nurse. Unfortunately, they told me I had to be 13. My birthday was in November and I had applied the summer before by teen years began. After being rejected, I decided stubbornly to type a letter to the Director asking her to please make an exception.
She said YES! I had a fabulous 3 summers volunteering with the elderly and hearing-impaired children…and the first time I got what I wanted (outside of pitching a fit to torchor my parents).
Coming full circle and after all of those years moving around, I finally found my “niche” and the reason I chose Nursing in the first place…to learn something new every day and the flexibility of CHOICE.
My ex-CEO who is a wise and white-haired man shared something with me that I have never forgotten. He said, “I knew that I had done my job well as a father when my daughter experienced her first failure”. I didn’t initially understand what he was getting at until he qualified it with, “It was then I knew she had the courage to fail…and that is one of the greatest gifts a parent can pass along to his or her child”.
It really changed my perspective towards my own mistakes (my folks should be REALLY proud) and the mistakes my children will eventually make.
Thanks Old Man:)
The senior nurse on the unit approached me and asked if I would like the experience of assisting with one of her patients. She would take the 36 year old woman (we’ll call her Jane) who had 3rd degree burns on over 85% of her body into the physiotherapy room and place her in the tub. Following that, we would do her dressings together.
I thanked God that this was a sterile procedure and that I had to wear a mask….my facial expression needed to be covered seeing the depth of the damage to Jane’s body. As I stood there alongside the deep bathtub, she laid back to relax and her arms floated to the surface. It was then that I noticed Jane had no hands. I don’t know what it was but at that moment, I became very curious. Her missing hands shocked me but also intrigued me.
Once we had completed the dressings and left the room, I immediately asked the senior nurse: “What happened to Jane’s hands?”
She replied: “Her 8 year old son was also in the fire” and then the nurse walked away.
I was puzzled – what did her 8 year old have to do with Jane having no hands? Just then, my cohort who had a 2 year old son pulled me aside and teary, told me that Jane used her hands to put out the fire on her son….that she did so while on fire herself and until she could no longer use her hands.
Five years later, my first son was born and I remembered Jane. I finally KNEW what mother power felt like.
A leader is someone that everyone wants to follow – because they have a clear vision and know how to communicate it. Leaders make us feel secure, they renew our energy, and they LISTEN. Although they may not always take action, or even be in the position to take action, they still acknowledge.
A manager is not necessarily a leader and a leader is not necessarily in a management role. That is an important distinction to make. You can be on the lowest ‘rung’ of any organizational ladder and still be an effective leader. Even in my children’s cliques, a leader can always be identified. We heard a lot about self-actualization in nursing school and indeed, that is critical to becoming a leader. One has to eliminate ego, be a good listener, and be non-judgemental. You have to be self-assured and comfortable in your own skin.
Generally, this is only achieved as a child or teen (because they are too ignorant to know that they don’t know everything), which is why peer pressure is so huge in this population. The other, is after life experience. Some get this sooner than others and some will never get it.
Bottom line, the sign of a good leader is the person who has many willing followers. When you look behind you, are there people there?