Rooting (back) into nursing.
Since I've been in Los Angeles, I've been working in an under-resourced government hospital in West LA. I'm not going to specifically name my workplace at this time, though give me a bit longer and I just might.
I moved to LA thinking I would immediately have greater focus on my creative endeavors, namely with this podcast, and planning more collaborative artsy shows. This was one of many reasons that I decided to move to this magical, frantic, creative, excessive, impoverished, misunderstood city. I started working, after a several months-long break from nursing, right after moving to LA. My focus has been questionable. And my workplace extremely taxing, but nevertheless I experienced a surprising re-invigorated spirit for the art and science of nursing. Though I've struggled with whether or not to bring nursing into the focal point of this podcast, I can't help but discuss it, as the service of care feels especially important not just in my life, but, I would argue (and whether they would like to believe me or note) in society at large. Plus, I've come to realize that, the provision of care for those who need it (and we all need care at one time or another) is an underappreciated service in this time, though it will, in the next few years become even more valuable. Of course, as the service of caring has been an occupation mainly made up of women and immigrants, it has not been well-respected or regarded. That is, until, we were considered "heroes".
After things started to open up in 2021, following the trial that was lock-down and the height of the pandemic, nursing became the last thing I wanted to focus on. Though I was busy training in the Emergency Department at the Seattle branch of aforementioned under-resourced hospital, I was bent on focusing on non-nursing whenever possible. This was, in part, because I was still burnt out and prematurely jaded with the profession of nursing. For me, it wasn't even the pressure of being a frontline worker necessarily. It was more the feeling that the pandemic only forced people to look at a healthcare system already failing those requiring the most care to begin with. In my mind, nursing had always required us to confront health inequities and get up-close-and-personal with suffering. Being a "front-line worker" was scary before the pandemic. For me, being able-bodied, I didn't fear for the transmission of infection from my patients as much as I struggled with the emotional toll of the work. I happen to tend to carry things heavily. Plus, as a new nurse, I was naïve to the importance of advocating for myself in a setting that would inadvertently take advantage of me because of my youth.
The pandemic pushed me away from the spirit of nursing as we all seemed to react in fear and isolation. It drew me closer to myself and my desire to create, to spend my time actively participating in creative efforts to make sense of the suffering I encountered in work and life. But also just to enjoy life through dance, imagination and expression. It convinced me that the purpose of life really is to root into what you love, into what makes you feel alive. Then, to carefully share it with others. And to pay as much care in observing the creations of the other. To care for them through the act of listening well. With the hope they'll do the same for you.
So, last year, I became more focused--then ever before--on the pursuit of capturing the stories of artists who inspired me. I wondered if storytelling was more aligned with my purpose then healthcare at all. Turns out I may have multiple passionate pursuits, and for better or worse, that's how it goes with me.
But, now I find myself in the present, cozied up in Alana's Coffee Roasters in Culver City, fully wondering what really motivated me to move to the city of Angels. The extremes are more extreme. The streets are flooded with rainwater and my apartment furnace is broken. I'm attached to the hospital system I find myself in, for whatever reason. And I trek on with a hope that maybe I can manage to make an impact in the workplace, where nurses take care of 6-7 patients at a time with little support, resources, or coverage for breaks. A feeling of burn out hangs in the air, and last week one of my patients told me honestly: "why don't you work at Cedars Sinai or a hospital that has better standards so that you don't get burnt out". I laughed, well sir, this is where I am. And for whatever reason we find ourselves in the same space. But beautiful moments always seem to emerge amidst the heaviness. Like holding space for a young woman's hardships on the inpatient psych ward and offering her a hug, then seeing her through the discharge process to another facility, packing all her belongings she has in a few bags.
I thought I was running from nursing, but now I can't imagine leaving it. The process of knowing people's pain, seeing it, and doing my utmost to help them be comfortable feels so intrinsic to how I maneuver. It's the art and science of nursing which I was after. Maybe I did just need to change place to see that.