Your whole life you have been working towards something, and now you have arrived. Like your climbing up stairs and are finally at the top, and you can’t go any higher. Take a minute to think about what that means up to your life so far. In elementary school you were working towards being in middle school. Then as a middle schooler you were looking forward to being in high-school. In high-school the pressures of your family were immense to chose the right college and the right major. Once you finally made it to college everyone is asking you what’s next? And for you, that answer is most likely starting your career in nursing. And finally, after graduation and passing the NCLEX, you have arrived. You have been striving to reach this goal your entire life, and now you are here. According to Merriam-Webster the definition of arrival is as follows: the act of coming to or reaching a place ; the act of arriving.
But when you arrive it may be a little bit anticlimactic. And possibly even a little disappointing. I mean those dreams you had as a young child may have just come true after sixteen years of efforts through advancing your education, and there might be many of those dreams that just don’t jive with reality. Of course you have other things to look forward to in your life such as getting married, advancing your career, starting a family, or any number of different things that might matter to you. But as far as your years of education, you have arrived (unless of course you are planning on getting your MSN, MD, or PhD; but eventually you will arrive).
It is a strange feeling. There is defiantly a sense of freedom as you look back at all you have accomplished and realize you no longer have to strive towards a goal. But for me, I felt a little bit lost. Maybe you won’t feel that way, but as I have collaborated with colleagues and friends that seems to be the general consensus. I realized quickly that for me I needed something that I was passionate to pour my life and energy into. Now I realize that many of you reading may be in a different stage of life than I was. Maybe some of you are married, starting a family, or maybe nursing is your second career, so this may not fit for everyone. You might already have something or someone very worth while to invest in. But as a single woman, I needed an outlet to be passionate about.
These outlets that I used to express my emotions or talents for me were not singular, nor was every outlet related to my career. Work-life balance is something that is incredibly important. According to Psychology Today, “Work-life balance is important…for rejuvenation, and to develop and nurture friendships and their “non-work selves.”” An outlet I discovered very quickly within my career that brought fulfillment was through education. In my first year of nursing I had the opportunity to mentor two young nursing students through their senior practicum and I realized that education was a passion I needed to invest more time into. Another outlet was the importance of my Christian faith and belonging to a community who shared those values. The final outlet I poured into was my blog which enabled me to combine my passions into a constructive hobby that was able to be a connection and encouragement to other nurses. So apart from my nursing career, I had other areas of my life I was focusing on. I had three main outlets: finding my niche in education in nursing, my Christian faith and community, as well as investing in my blog. From personal experience it is really easy to spread yourself far to thin, so be cautious as you are finding what is most important to you. Invest in what brings you the most joy and fulfillment. If you have a family or are in a relationship, they may be one of your outlets. If you are going back to school, that might be one of your outlets. Be willing to say “no” if you know a certain obligation will drain your energy or is something you are not particularly interested in.
As I mentioned before, something that is imperative in your first year of nursing is finding a community of friends and family you can relate to and where you feel like you belong. That community might be found among your colleagues, from previous relationships with family and friends, or with new network of people outside of work. For the most support you will probably desire to grow relationships from each of those groupings.
One of the first times I felt like I had made a close friend on my floor was when I invited my co-worker Tori to get pancakes after we had both worked three weekend nightshifts together. We had just spent thirty-six hours together in the past three days, but it wasn’t until that hour together at breakfast that I felt I was able to connect with her in a meaningful and personal way. The nursing world tends to be so hectic, and stressful that you are only able to see certain facets of someone at work. You can’t assume you will become friends with colleagues without investing time outside of work building relationships. This can be a challenge when you have eighty other nurses that work your floor, so don’t assume you will have close friendships with everyone, but over time your community will come together. Another weekend almost our entire floor who had worked three day shifts together, went out to celebrate surviving the weekend by going out for drinks together and it was a blast. I continued to spend time outside of work with these men and women until they became friendships that were sustainable even without our shared work environment.
As far as your relationships with your family and friends that are already established you will need to continue to invest time into growing these relationships. I lived an hour from my immediate family and closest friends during my first year as a nurse, and although I was able to go home and visit fairly frequently I wanted to continue devoting time through FaceTime, texting, and other social media outlets. As a result our relationships continued to grow and provide an environment where I knew I was fully loved and fully accepted.
Networking with new people who are not part of your work environment might prove to be the most challenging of each of the groupings because it requires being uncomfortable, putting yourself out there, and risking that you may not fit in. In my experience I have found authentic relationships through my Christian community. But there are several ways to find community outside of work, the main idea is to get involved.
So even though you have arrived, you have a long and exciting journey ahead. A meaningful first year in nursing is evidenced by outlets for your passions, finding your niche in nursing, and creating a responsive community.
Thanks for tuning in,
**Photography Credit: Julie Yang Photography