When the Career Cookie Crumbles | The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 134

On November 13th, 2017, I published a blog post focused on the notion of a nurse’s career cookies crumbling and things going south. I hear stories from nurses about hard moments in the course of a career, and I see how much pain and confusion this can cause.

when the cookie crumbles

When the Cookie Crumbles

I’ve spoken on this show before about recovering from being fired or bullied, bullying. It’s not easy when this happens, but things can be turned around.

In the aforementioned blog post, I discussed five main areas where I see nurses’s careers going in a not so positive direction:

Getting fired: Being fired can be demoralizing and painful. We can judge ourselves harshly, beat ourselves up, and otherwise feel miserable. Failure — or what looks like failure — hurts, and picking ourselves up after being fired is a tough task. 

Not getting hired: When your job search seems fruitless and you’re either not getting called for interviews or the interviews you actually have aren’t leading to offers, you can feel demoralized. 

Bullying: Bullying — also known as lateral or horizontal violence — is a scourge of the nursing profession. Nurse bullies are out there, and although people like my friend Renee Thompson is fighting the good fight to eradicate it from our midst, it still happens — a lot. Some nurses end up quitting jobs and even leaving the profession entirely because of the effects of bullying. This is unconscionable, but it happens every day. 

Stress and burnout: Stress seems to be an enormous factor for nurses. Untenable nurse-patient ratios, long hours, difficult patients, difficult doctors and colleagues, and lack of time to rest, eat, drink, or go to the bathroom all add up to a overflowing rain barrel of fatigue, worry, and stress. And when that stress barrel overflows, nothing good can come of it. Physical, psychemotional, and spiritual symptoms arise, and the nurse may soon realize that he or she is burnt out, toasted, fried to a crisp, and at the point of exhaustion. 

Boredom and dissatisfaction: Sometimes, nurses aren’t burnt out, bored, or otherwise under great stress. Believe it or not, sometimes we just get bored. When you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time as a nurse, it can become somewhat rote and robotic. In some ways, you can relax when things are so familiar that you can do your nursing job with one hand tied behind your back, but this type of familiarity can breed a form of lassitude and professional laziness that doesn’t serve anyone. You can go through the motions, but if your heart is no longer in it, what’s the point? Is a paycheck enough, or do you need and want more out of your work and career? 

ADPIE for the Crumbled

I also recommend using the nursing process  — ADPIE — as a means of getting back on track and moving your career forward when things seem to have moved backward. Here’s another excerpt:

When the cookie crumbles, one of the first things to do is to assess the situation and see what’s going. Whether it’s a cardiac patient with tachycardia or a nursing career turned sour after being fired, it’s the same thing — you gather data before taking action. 

Next comes the diagnosis. Is it a lack of self-confidence? Was your workplace just too toxic and getting fired was inevitable? Did your communication skills alienate you from your colleagues, leading to an irreparable rift that resulted in your being laid off? Diagnosis your situation and determine the root cause if you can. 

A plan is next on the crumbled cookie to-do list. What are you going to do about it? Career coaching could help, and so could counseling or psychotherapy. If your communication skills are lacking, maybe you need to find out what kind of communicator you are and learn to alter your style to fit various situations. 

Next you implement the plan and see if it helps. Does the career coaching move the needle? Does counseling uncover some uncomfortable stuff you need to unpack? The plan may be short- or long-term, but it needs to be geared towards getting your career and life back on track and overcoming the manner in which your personal cookie crumbled. 

Finally, evaluation is necessary. Did your interventions work? Have you moved the needle? Did you uncover new diagnoses that need to be addressed? Maybe parts of the crumbled cookie were reassembled, but some other areas still need some work. If learning about your communication style opened a can of worms about how your mother treated you when you were a child, maybe some communication coaching or training could open the door to the need for intensive counseling or psychotherapy. Perhaps it’s time to reassess. 

Fortifying the Self

In terms of building yourself back up, here’s an excerpt:

On episode 132 of The Nurse Keith Show, I discussed the importance of doing your inner work. And on episode 130, I dove into the notion of the nurse’s inner critic. I also highly recommend episode 128, where I talked all about the role of curiosity and passion in your career.

If your self-esteem has been damaged by a negative work experience, it’s a good time to lean into activities and relationships that fortify your sense of self-worth. Spend time with people who are able and willing to reflect your best characteristics back to you. Connect with a career coach who can help you identify your greatest strengths. Attend a workshop that can help you pause for some self-reflection, or spend time doing things that you truly love.

Whether it’s camping, reading, writing, hiking, or skiing, there are things that make you feel good. So, when things in your career go south, lean into activities and people that can buoy your spirits and keep your self-esteem elevated.

Picking Up the Pieces

A crumbled cookie isn’t destroyed — it’s shape has been changed but it’s essential ingredients are still intact. Your nursing career is similar — nothing truly spells the end, unless you’ve determined that the end has been reached. Sure, there are situations wherein circumstances may determine that nursing must be left behind as a viable career path. But this is rare — most careers can be reinvigorated and breathed back to life with some effort and sweat equity.

Has your career cookie crumbled? Do things feel like they’re falling apart? Have you lost your way? Are you feeling as if the bottom has fallen out from under you in regards to your professional life? Never fear — things can still be repaired.

Picking up the pieces may not be easy, and there may be a tough road ahead. However, with the right support, self-care, and a keen eye towards what’s most prudent to do in order to make things right, you can get your nursing career back on track and your cookies reassembled. Whatever type of cookies they may be, it’s not too late to bake a new batch and turn up the heat on your nursing career once again.

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Be well, dig deep, find joy, and keep in touch!

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