pondering the whysIt is inevitable that many of us will face a bad day at work. Whatever the situation may be, feelings of frustration, anxiety, and even depression can accumulate over time and put us at risk for experiencing nurse burnout. Burnout can motivate nurses to either quit their jobs or leave the nursing profession completely. We have worked too hard to just give up on everything we set out to accomplish.  We can’t allow negative people, such as difficult coworkers, challenging patients, and family members, or having bad days stress us to the point to where we begin contemplating walking away from everything we have worked so hard for.

I’m going to share with you a method that I use when I experience a bad day. What I do is focus on three primary whys that keep me in this profession. What I mean by this, is that I think about where I came from, where I am now, and where I am going. I write them down on a small note card and carry with me throughout the day. Sometimes I wear a special bracelet or nursing pin, something tangible, to remind me of my whys. This simple method has worked for me on some of my toughest days. I hope it can do the same for you.

WHY #1. Think About What Brought You Here

Nursing was not my first career choice, in fact I wanted to go into broadcast journalism. It was my mother that originally planted the idea of nursing into my head. She always said I had the heart, personality, and passion for it. I was her oldest child, who assisted her with small things to help care for my siblings. She knew early on that I had the compassion to care for others. Now, a little something about my mother: My mother was a divorced mother of four children who worked as a nursing assistant for many years. She dreamed of going to school to become a nurse, but her circumstances did not allow it. Naturally, she wanted to see one of her children accomplish what she always wanted to do. It wasn’t until many years later, that a life turning event motivated my decision to become a nurse. The compassionate hospice nurses that helped me care for my dying mother in her last days solidified this calling as the one for me. I had challenges of my own but pushed through them to reach my goals. Being the first in my family to obtain a college degree is one of my greatest accomplishments. When I have a bad day, I think about how far I’ve come and the sacrifices I made in the past to be here. I worked hard for this profession; therefore, I must protect it. This perspective keeps me going on some of my most challenging days. Hopefully, this is enough to keep you going, too.

WHY #2. Think About Why You’re Still Here

Why do I continue to stay in nursing? Simply, I love what I do! I feel that my work is meaningful and has purpose. I enjoy taking care of people and making a positive impact on someone else’s life. Furthermore, a career in nursing has been good to me and my family. Nursing allows me to make enough income to pay bills and keep food on the table. Work is stable and provides good benefits to provide a sense of peace. When I have a bad day, I think of my motto—Nursing has been good to me; therefore, I will be good to it.

WHY #3. Think About Where You’re Going from Here

When I entered a nursing program in 2008, I made a personal commitment to give it all or nothing. This is the profession that I chose; therefore, I will learn as much as I can to develop into the best nurse I can be. Being at my best is a personal commitment I have made to the patients and families I serve. I will remain proactive and engaged, regardless of how difficult things can get. I advise you to focus on becoming the best version of yourself. For some it may be furthering your education to become a nurse practitioner, educator, or leader. As for me, I aspire to become a nurse executive one day. This is what keeps me going. The challenges you may face are not meant to break you, but rather to strengthen you and prepare you for the next level of your career.

The next time you have a bad day, just focus on your whys to get you through.

Brooklyn Winston, MSN, RN

Brooklyn Winston, MSN, RN

Brooklyn Winston, MSN, RN, has been a nurse for seven years, primarily working in the medical-surgical/telemetry and medical intensive care units. She is currently a registered nurse at the University of Kentucky Hospital.
Brooklyn Winston, MSN, RN

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