My Last Shift for a While, and Rejecting the Indian Nurse Narrative

Tonight is my last shift at my stellar travel nurse gig. I have no plans for another job, but have been reassured that as long as I take less than a year off, I will not have a problem getting a job when I want one. I have loved this assignment for a lot of reasons. It’s in a specialty that is extremely comfortable for me to work in. I’m working with lots of young and sociable nurses, but also a lot of senior nurses who are jaded and entertaining. It’s the first work environment I’ve been in in which the majority of the nurses are people of color, which is incredibly refreshing. My assignments (meaning the patients I am assigned to take care of) tend to be incredibly fair, and if I’m overwhelmed, there are enough people who I trust that I can ask other nurses for help.

The crew of nurses I first became a nurse with. We had a damn good time together.

The crew of nurses I first became a nurse with. We had a damn good time together.

Simply? I love being a nurse. Being a travel nurse is the perfect union of contradicting traits within me. I can be flighty, resist setting roots down, push against falling into a routine, and learn something new every single day. At the same time, I get to take care of people! I get to be the calming voice that explains what is wrong with a patient to them, or to their family member, and how we are going to help them. I get to monitor them, watch them often slowly decline, and be the voice that consistently explains to the doctors (over and over and over again) the new, acute symptoms that need emergent management. I get to stay one step ahead of the game while constantly keeping my calm.

Telling strangers that I’m a nurse can lead to a lot of reactions. People within radical communities often think, rightly so in my mind, that it’s a radical act to be a healthcare provider and tend directly to the needs of sick people, as well as to help improve the well being of generally healthy people. Others, though, see that I’m a brown nurse and assume that I don’t have a personality. I’m just an obedient, “typical” Indian: “Her parents probably made her do it,” they think. Other, older Indians, usually strangers, sometimes ask me directly why I didn’t become a doctor. “After all, nursing is what you do when you’re stuck in India. We’re across that lake now, you should be doing better,” the question implies.

Being a nurse is a radical act to me.  Having the opportunity to be with people in moments of sickness and health is incredibly rewarding. Helping a family understand that death is inevitable is, in other ways, just as rewarding because sometimes honesty can save a person from a lot of pain. Acting as an ear for someone to vent to, and sometimes even being the wall that someone shouts at when they need to express their rage, are components of my job. Remaining calm when I want to cry or shout back require emotional steadfastness that is not “typical” of any human being. It is a skill. Doing what I love professionally, while simultaneously having the opportunity to do what I love when not “professional”, is a radical act. Allowing myself to have time to not always be “professional” is a radical act within a system that commodifies our time.

So I’m leaving a job that I love. I’m taking time off from my “career development”–not because my work is heartless, not because it’s a painful daily grind, not because I’m burnt out, not because I got into it for the wrong reasons and need to go “find myself”. Not because I’m going back to school, or bedside nursing is getting old. I’m leaving my job that I love because you don’t have to hate work to want time off. Instead, I love so many things and nursing lets me experience all of them.

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One thought on “My Last Shift for a While, and Rejecting the Indian Nurse Narrative

  1. I love these sentiments. Often we hear the tales of people “burning out” or “running away” — but an insightful/forward-thinking person is able to create a sustainable lifestyle where these things don’t have the space to even occur.

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