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Three More Letters

14 September 2011

It seems my fourletterslater have led me to three more letters – MSc. A year and a half after completing my BScN (and a whole lot of unanticipated confusion later), I find myself taking my nursing practice in a new direction.

I’ve just started my Masters in Science (Health Informatics) through the University of Victoria. This is a few years earlier than what I had once planned for in terms of a timeline for graduate studies, which just goes to show that plans aren’t set in stone, and we need to constantly re-evaluate and re-adjust.

There have been some feelings of shame and guilt for me since stepping out of direct patient care. When I first returned to Edmonton from Halifax, I felt embarrassed at the idea of letting any of my nursing friends know that yes, I had returned to Alberta, but no, I wasn’t working and didn’t have a plan to work in nursing. Was I a fraud? Did I fake my way through nursing school, embracing every opportunity extended to me with no intention of continuing in the profession? Had I wasted precious years studying a field that I wouldn’t pursue? These sorts of thoughts persisted for many months.

A turning point came when I realized, had any of my nursing colleagues told me that they had experienced a “hiccup” in their career paths and were unsure of their place in, or intentions with nursing, It would not have crossed my mind, nor would I have found it acceptable to accuse falsification or deception, or to ostracize a person from the profession. Why in the world would I hold myself to a different expectation, or treat myself with less consideration? It’s been a hard lesson, but I’ve come to realize the importance of self-acceptance. This image captures the concept well:

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

We hear “self-care” and think – okay, I need to get my exercise, and I should sleep x many hours, and check off these food groups every day. Oh yes, and find time somewhere in there to do something I enjoyas if downtime is a task, and self-care is another chore. Well, caring for self and preventing burn-out also involves being nice to yourself rather than beating yourself up, being realistic with self-expectations instead of unreasonable, and having the sense to change your plan if, after making an honest attempt, it’s not working for you and you’re not happy.

With this in mind, I’m heading into my new program not only with a focus on my career-minded strengths (my themes being strategic, activator, restorative, individualization, and achiever – results taken from StrengthFinder 2.0 Report), but also with a different perspective, which places value on my needs, limitations, and the person I am outside of my professional roles. I’ve found that an easy way to help myself make decisions is to ask, “Will it build my energy, or drain my energy?”.

I’m relieved to say that I’ve reconciled my professional identity crisis, and am not ashamed to talk about my deviation from staff nursing – in fact, I find it valuable to have a clinical perspective as a budding health informatician; I intend to work, quite possibly in nursing, once circumstances are favourable (i.e., adjusted to grad school workload and personal health conditions). I used to say “first and foremost, I’m a nurse”. Although I still consider myself a nurse while I start scratching out a role in health informatics, I know now that first and foremost, I’m a person – professional and career expectations aside. This way, I’m happier, healthier, and I genuinely feel as though I’m taking care of myself. What could be more important?

Yours in nursing, informatics, but most importantly, in authentic self,
Angela

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. adraghavan permalink
    14 September 2011 11:02

    It’s admirable that you could realize the importance of self-care on your own and how it’s not about methodically finding down-time from a crazy life you once chose to do, but rather just about treating yourself well no matter what. It took me quite a few years to realize that difference.

    It’s easy to have unbounded ambitions. What’s hard and remarkably gutsy is to be honest to yourself and define the right path within your boundaries. Stay happy and all the best with your new direction. You’re certainly a 100% authentic! :)

  2. 14 September 2011 16:46

    Self-care and continuous self-evaluation are so important. Props to you for identifying your needs and moving forward! All the best as you settle down in Victoria!

    • 15 September 2011 13:15

      Thanks Sable! I should clarify: I am doing most of my coursework from Edmonton, with some travel to Victoria for onsite work. I knew my support network here couldn’t be replicated (especially after the Halifax adventure!), so I decided not to move. Meaning, we should get together sooner than later!!

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