Are You On Fire?

Much like a forest fire, our spirits can experience a natural disaster.

A forest fire is destructive and dangerous, it wipes out all that is good and healthy and beautiful. It exerts its power and overwhelms everything in its path.

In nursing many of us come to a point in our career where the fire has overwhelmed our soul and we haven’t realized it or stopped to take a moment to appreciate the toxicity of the smoke surrounding us. We may fail to do the important growth work that is so integral to how we care for others. We forget to periodically evaluate our own forest—to look for the old and the brittle, the dry bushes, the dry earth, the lack of flora.

When we care for others it is so easy to forget what your forest looked like when you began your walk on the nursing trail. Our time is devoted to service for thirty six hours and then we go home for four days and spend half of that catching up on sleep and then the rest of it running around like mad to get all of our errands taken care of, the bills paid, the kids to where they need to be. Keeping our insides nourished is not on the priority list.

Combustion in nursing can have many causes. There are issues innate to the work. We care for our fellow man…and care….and care…and care some more. At the end of the day…or six years…or twenty years, we may have lost the vitality and possibility that were once in abundance in our own forests. The shady trees are gone, the creeks have emptied of fish and water. As he does in nature, man can keep taking until everything is gone and then stand before a desert and wonder what happened. Our patients take from us—our strength, our love, our hope, our compassion, our patience and they forget (as do we) that our resources can run dry.

If  you’ve taken a look inside and realized there’s only a desert left…well then, it’s time to plop down in the middle of that desert and look around you for signs of life. It’s there, and when you find it you will know what to do to grow your forest again. Is it time for a change in nursing specialty? Are you passionate about educating nurses or people? Maybe you’ve been ignoring the desire to get involved and learn more about nurse politics. Whatever that little piece of greenery inside of you is—don’t underestimate its strength and possibility.

Not only can we be drained by caring for patients, we drain each other by the way we treat one another. Humans are very good at setting fires not just in nature but on the inside of each other. Nurses are experts. If rangers knew about us we’d be banned from natural parks all around the country. Instead of helping to put out fires within each other to save the good things and help them grow stronger—we may throw matches in the middle of the beauty and watch destruction happen.

It’s called HORIZONTAL VIOLENCE…STOP!…. Look at the nurse next to you and don’t look at him or her as merely a person, but as a very important part in the balance in nature. When you do this it’s a reminder that all living things need nourishment and careful attention and handling. What can you do to add to another nurse’s forest so it flourishes? Make an effort to discover something new about the nurse next to you. What’s unique about them? As you would stop and admire a rare flower on a trail, admire the something new and different about the nurse sitting next to you. “Wow, look at this rare flower, there aren’t any others like it! How cool is this!” SHARE admiration with the nurse next to you. You’ve just now made a small contribution to their spirit and to the resources he or she will have to provide care to others.

Amid the destruction, fires also clear away what is no longer useful. They can be a source of renewal. They rid the earth of the old so that creation can begin again. Where there is destruction and ruin there is also the possibility of creation. Things may never grow back the same or in the same place, maybe there will be some completely different species of plants that crop up that have never been seen before. There is beauty in a recreating oneself after a fire, reevaluating the remnants, deciding what’s necessary to keep and what’s necessary to “let go.” Our work as humans is not static. Life and change are one in the same. You will change, your heart will change, your colleagues will change, and your dreams and goals pertaining to nursing will change. We don’t have control of change, for the most part. But as nurses we can put out the forest fire burning its way through our profession.

The next time you are at work, GET OVER the workplace politics, the gossip, who is answering the most call lights or who is getting the best assignments, who got to be resource nurse for two days in a row, or who took five minutes too long on their lunch break. These are the matches and the gasoline in our profession. When you find yourself engaging in these behaviors—remember you have the power to save and nourish the forest around you or the power to contribute to its destruction and the depletion of your own inner forest. It takes a few seconds to water a plant or flower at your house. If we all took just a few seconds a day to provide some water and nourishment and soil to one another as nurses…just imagine how insanely, blindingly, beautiful our forest would be…and its future.

11 Responses to Are You On Fire?

  1. Bobbi Mccarthy says:

    Amanda,  very well said.  Burnout is very real and I suffered from it without even realizing I was…I didnt know what to call it~ but my desire for nursing was gone, I was critical and short tempered…I went to work but felt drained before even getting there…. thankfully I began taking college classes for my BSN (after 19 years of nursing) and my advisor/ BSN professor challenged all of us with a self care routine and by seeing ourselves as a holistic person along with our patients…slowly my feelings changed from hopeless to hopeful and my life has been changed so much for the better.. that was almost 2 years ago now…I now practice yoga, Reiki and I write my feelings out instead of holding them in.  All of this has given me the desire to stay in nursing and some improved skilled to give better care to my co-workders and patients.  I hope those reading your blog will see some light at the end of their tunnel of fire.

  2. Akissingkk says:

    Amanda, I’m Bobbi Rogo’s  sister and I’m also a nurse. Your blog hit the nail squarely on the head!! I’ve been there I’ve felt this fire I was a nurse on the surgical cardiothoracic floor for 5yrs as well as worked agency work in many different situations. Then I moved on to Home Care which was equally exhausting and the nurses in home care tore each other up as well, which I found odd since you didn’t even work side by side these nurses. God forbid they saw your patient next and you didn’t do something or do it the way they wanted you to the fire storm started… I have always said nursing is the only profession that the nurses “eat there young” and then terrorize the rest… Are we not pre-programmed to nurture our young? How sad that we are in a profession of caring and giving yet most nurses don’t take the time to see more than that nurse who didn’t answer her call bell right away. Gee maybe she was up with a sick child half the very short night and has hit exhaustion half way through the shift. I was actually grateful when I was fired from the job in home care. The work load was far to much and after awhile you just can’t keep up anymore. I’m a single mom of 2 kids now 15 and 19 but when they were little life was even more hectic. Anyway I made the decision to go back to school not to continue my Ed in nursing but to add to it with Massage Therapy. WOW God surely knows what he’s doing. Massage Therapy focuses on holistic practices and it has surely brought me full circle and made me so much more aware of not only seeing myself holistic but my clients as well. Meditation (not to be confused with Medication) lol and Positive thinking have also changed my life. If there is any advice I can give other nurses it would be… you have to have balance in your  life take time for yourself there is always something that can wait. Meditation is sooooo powerful!! take a class or go to you tube they have plenty of guided meditations clear your mind and your soul. Negative energy is harmful in so many ways! You can  not effectively take care and give to others if you are not balanced. You wouldn’t run your car without gas don’t run your life without it either!! Nurses take time to refuel your spirit your mind and your body your patients will be glad you did and so will you!!
    Many blessings to every nurse everywhere!!

  3. At one hospital I worked at I was at the top of my game, my dream job. taking care of the sickest of the sick and i relished in the challenge and adrenaline rush of it all–and seeing the patients get better and even having the honor of helping people transition….at the same time I was going to school full time for my masters then my NP…..I started noticing changes in my energy levels even though I was a gym rat….I was losing muscle, getting weaker, always sleepy, my focus was off. After a year and a half of getting worked up—and about 120 pounds later, I was diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome…..the doctors told me my days of critical care nursing were over, and that I nearly killed myself……I ended up getting a gastric bypass and went on leave….but instead of being supported back to recovery I was harrassed daily by my nursing management—id get called into the office multiple times a shift, id have to sit in between my two managers and listen to them go down a list of my inequities. My charting was being monitored each shift, my patient care teaching was criticized—basically if I dared forget to cross a t or dot an i I was written up…..God forbid I forget to answer my phone in the bathroom. I began having panic attacks before work, during work, and after work. I knew I lost my edge…and had to walk away. I made several contributions to patient care and nursing care here….but I knew they wanted me out. I had even tried submitting a project to help the unit with TCAB implementation and my manager balked at it and accused me of plagiarising the work and said my work looked like a ‘stream of consciousness.’—ie; ‘your psycho.” I was devastated. my experiences there has made me determined to make change in our profession. nurses were always too focused on who got the ‘light assignments’ or who got leadership positions, how many of your call lights they were imposed upon to answer, gossip was terrible and the resulting morale was awful. it was a toxic work environment to say the least. I miss the challenge deeply, but I do not miss being harrassed by management and having my work to help the unit succeed being insulted. Transformational leadership was not present in any way shape or form and looking back, I can see nurses with advanced degrees werent expected to actually “use them.”I made a promise to myself that someday I wanted to fix the ‘eating our young’ phenomenah and get rid of it forever! I think it just takes one little bit at a time…..and slowly but surely we can create a much more sensitive, supportive and forgiving profession than the one we were handed. If we are handed the expectation from the Joint Commission and the CMS to improve patient care outcomes—we must learn and encourage the “Nursing of our own” so that we are nurturing one another shift by shift—-this alone, would have a huge impact on patient care outcomes—–eating our young=poor patient outcomes. period. Nurses must also be encouraged and championed to share advanced nursing knowledge, they should be able to contribute to their work environments without feeling like their contributions are childish or stupid or unwelcome. This is how our profession sets itself back. Tomorrow’s nursing leaders need to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say goodbye to the example set by previous generations of nursing management—this is 2012, not the 1980′s or the 1970′s—you either change with it and harvest the talents and abilities of your staff–and set the example for peace and acceptance or get out and let someone new and innovative and transformational take the reigns. Its my belief that the older generations of management are so intent on holding on to the reigns of power, and feeling threatened by todays advanced degree nurses and their new knowledge that they push down and push back instead of celebrating the talent, potential, and assets they have right there in front of them. In nursing we must learn to ‘share’……by holding on tight and pushing everyone away and keeping leadership to yourself—you only hurt the profession and you leave it worse off than when you first went in…………..and how sad is that.                 

  4. Thank you for following Amanda’s case, this is the latest.
    The War Against Amanda Trujillo, April 25, 2012, Mother Jones, RN, Nurse Ratched’s Place:”I still support Amanda Trujillo and some people who have read the allegations against Amanda have questioned my judgment. Frankly, I don’t believe these allegations because I personally know two other nurses who have been reported to their nursing boards by their former employers. One of my friends was reported to the BON after she spoke up about unsafe nursing practices at a shady nursing home, and the other was reported after he chastised hospital administration for placing psychiatric patients and staff in an unsafe environment. Their former employers cooked up all kinds of false allegations against my friends who are both stellar nurses. Their former employers crucified their character, but in the end they were both cleared of any wrongdoing by their respective state nursing boards. There is an escalating pattern of abuse as more unscrupulous employers are using nursing boards as the ultimate scare tactic to keep nurses “in their place. ” Amanda is just another victim of this ploy.”http://www.nurseratchedsplace.com/2012/04/the-war-against-amanda-trujillo/

  5. [...] Are You On Fire? January 2nd, 2012 by Amanda Trujillo, RN, MSN:”A forest fire is destructive and dangerous, it wipes out all that is good and healthy and beautiful. It exerts its power and overwhelms everything in its path. In nursing many of us come to a point in our career where the fire has overwhelmed our soul and we haven’t realized it or stopped to take a moment to appreciate the toxicity of the smoke surrounding us. We may fail to do the important growth work that is so integral to how we care for others. We forget to periodically evaluate our own forest—to look for the old and the brittle, the dry bushes, the dry earth, the lack of flora.” http://nursetalksite.com/2012/01/02/are-you-on-fire/ [...]

  6. Thank you for discussing Amanda’s case, this is from her blog.

    1,000 Shades of Nursing: Why are we “really” celebrating Nurses Week? May 9, 2012 By Amanda Trujillo, MSN, RN, @nurseinterupted:”There was an interesting tweet chat taking place this evening with regards to Nurses Week and how everyone celebrated their week or reflected on their profession. Several great view points were offered up. My own perception of Nurses Week is that it is a metaphor for every way our profession has stagnated, failed to progress, remaining fractured and at odds with itself about where it should be and how it should get there. Hell, we’re still trying to bridge the gap between academic nursing and clinical nursing. It’s not difficult to empathize with some of the views raised this evening: The disdain with the recycled food offerings, the traditional ice cream social that makes some of us seethe inside, the hospital logo stamped on nursing “swag,” the lack of any gifts of appreciation, the “lumping in” of Nurse Week with “Hospital Week,” or whether we even need the proverbial “pat on the head” as one nurse blogger put it. Im conflicted: As a profession—HOW are we leading, and HOW are we advocating?http://nurseinterupted.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/1000-shades-of-nursing-why-are-we-really-celebrating-nurses-week/

  7. The Moment of Impact: April 21, 2010: by #AmandaTrujillo, MSN, RN, #nurseup #nursefriendly #healthcare:”The day my life collided with something greater than I could ever wrap my head around in this lifetime…..I heard a quote recently that conveys the enormity of the year’s events…its message, perfection, but not in the way I would like to envision life perfected, the way I want it, the way I wanted it, the way I thought I had it…..in any case, I like this quote because it encompasses the past, the present, and the future all at once.”
    http://nurseinterupted.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-moment-of-impact-april-21-2010/

    The day that changed Amanda’s life forever. To follow her case and others, kindly visit http://www.nurseup.com

  8. Fired for educating a patient? TruthAboutNursing.org, May 2012:”On February 1, the Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO-TV ran a short but good item by Peter Busch about veteran local nurse Amanda Trujillo, who said she had been fired by Banner Del Webb Hospital and had a complaint filed against her with the state board of nursing because she had educated a patient about the risks of an upcoming surgery and scheduled a consult about hospice. A hospital spokesman reportedly said that “the doctor, ultimately, is the focal point that directs care for patients” and that “company policy” forbids nurses to order a case management consult.”
    http://www.truthaboutnursing.org/news/2012/may/trujillo.html

  9. Fired for educating a patient? TruthAboutNursing.org, May 2012:”On February 1, the Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO-TV ran a short but good item by Peter Busch about veteran local nurse Amanda Trujillo, who said she had been fired by Banner Del Webb Hospital and had a complaint filed against her with the state board of nursing because she had educated a patient about the risks of an upcoming surgery and scheduled a consult about hospice. A hospital spokesman reportedly said that “the doctor, ultimately, is the focal point that directs care for patients” and that “company policy” forbids nurses to order a case management consult.”
    http://www.truthaboutnursing.org/news/2012/may/trujillo.html

  10. The latest on the case:

    Facing a Crossroads, #AmandaTrujillo, MSN, RN & the Arizona State Board of Nursing:”At the heart of Amanda’s case is Patient Advocacy. Her patient was having second thoughts about a Liver Transplant evaluation, and Amanda helped fill in the gaps. The doctor, Dr. Keng-Yu Chuang (Source AZBON public records), who had only offered the liver transplant, went ballistic when the patient asked for Hospice info instead. He demanded the hospital serve Amanda’s head up on a platter and that the Arizona State Board of Nursing be contacted.”
    http://nurseup.com/wordpress/?p=2850