Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Does a Nurse Become a Writer?

I'm often asked how a nurse becomes a writer, usually by other nurses who would like to take their career in another direction. They hear that I'm a "nurse writer" and they want to learn more. I've written about this a few times and each time, I admit that I don't have much to offer in the way of advice.

I wrote about my identity crisis as I made the transition from nurse to writer, for the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). In Being a Writer Doesn't Mean I'm No Longer a Nurse, I talk about the change in my life as I reconciled my two identities, that of nurse and that of writer. It wasn't a fast change, I can assure you. There was a lot of angst involved in resetting how I thought of myself.

I still feel guilty sometimes that I'm not working as a nurse in a clinical environment. Quebec, as are many parts of the world, is experiencing a nursing shortage and I know that they can use all the help they can get. Every so often, I do go back into the system to work for a while, to stay up-to-date and keep up my skills. But as the years go by, I find myself more disassociated with the system and more unwilling to put up with the bad sides of the job.

Nursing is challenging. Nursing is rewarding. There are things you can do as a nurse that can help change a life. But it's also hard on the body and soul. The politics that don't allow nurses to think for themselves, to have to be the target of unhappy patients or families regarding issues or policies over which they have no control - they all get to you. Physically, working on your feet - or should I say running on your feet - every shift without much time for breaks, shift work, working on holidays and weekends without realistic extra compensation, and mandatory (yes, mandatory) overtime at many places - they all get to you too. And despite all that, I miss it. Nursing is part of who I am and I'm grateful for all I've done and all I learned. But now, my nursing is part of my writing, which is now who I am and what I do.

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