May 29, 2020

Living Life in Real Time: Looking Back While Stepping Forward

I’ve said it many times before, although not necessarily on this blog: It’s crucial to live life in real time, to be neither simply reactive nor excessively proactive. In terms of a career in nursing, this means to avoid lacking initiative or foresight. To be reactive is to live in the past, to allow other people and institutions to determine the course of one’s career, to imagine that the locus of control over one’s career lies outside oneself. To be excessively proactive is to envision a reality without connection to one’s present reality, to fantasize about the way things should be to the neglect of the opportunities and threats that present themselves.

Lately, I’ve been approaching the point at which I sense a need to evaluate the assets and liabilities in my nursing career. Specifically, having entered this field as a second career with nonnegotiable family commitments, I must ask how I can be both personally fulfilled and productive in as close to a self-actualizing manner as possible. In other words, what should I aspire to accomplish during the remainder of my nursing career that will also be of benefit to my patients, my family, those within my circle of direct influence, and society at large?

Nursing is in itself a lifestyle of sorts. There’s something distinctive about the mode of life of a nurse. Nurses aren’t simply “born.” Among other possibilities, they’re called, cultivated, and socialized. There are, of course, other modes of life that are similar in this respect, a notable example being military service. However, none of them is exactly like nursing, which is as it should be.

Nursing school, from the Associate’s degree level to the doctoral level and in any field within nursing, is a means of induction into nursing life. All of the effort exerted toward achieving consensus among nursing leaders concerning the curricular content of nursing education has essentially been directed toward the propagation of nursing as a way of life. Underlying all nursing organizations’ efforts to establish the scopes of practice of their respective specialties has been a sort of professional procreation. Without parents, there can be no offspring, it seems.

As I consider my nursing life, these considerations necessarily involve a deep self-understanding of my motivations as well as aspirations. In terms of my formal professional development, I must chart a course through at least one or two more educational programs. Indeed, I’m working through a certification right now. I’d also like to continue to contribute to the field as well as my health care organization through service on one or more committees. Committee service is something I’ve missed since the shared governance experience I gained while practicing on my former nursing unit.

Beyond these formal and more easily measured goals, I’d like to take up ancillary projects, including research and publishing. I’ve always enjoyed certain aspects of conference attendance and the learning they so often involve, some of it very informal. For me, this is in part a matter of laying out the topics of greatest interest to me. Because my ideas and interests tend to be interconnected in many ways, I frequently experience the tension between small-scale, easily defined projects with little impact and large-scale, somewhat amorphous projects with potentially broad implications.

This blog, Morning Vitals, was created to serve as an outlet for all of these things as well as to establish dialogue in community on certain topics of mutual interest. As a man in nursing, I’m well aware that my viewpoint may be in the minority, but I’m working with the conviction that the ideas discussed here are worth a fair hearing at least and may even serve to redefine nursing for the better. As a scientist and educator, the desire for knowledge and the desire to pass on that knowledge rank high on my list of priorities. However, knowledge in a vacuum is virtually irrelevant, and casting knowledge before those who don’t value it is close to irreverent. Hence, my desire for partners in dialogue.

In the future, I plan to organize Morning Vitals in such a way as to broaden its reach while strengthening the value of its content. Along the way, I hope to build a community around this content. Please join in the conversation. It should prove well worth your time.

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