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Are You Running Out of Gas? Here’s How to Get Filled Up!

By October 10, 2019 No Comments

Life is hard. Life as a nurse educator is even harder!

I will never forget how overwhelmed I felt as a new nurse educator trying to navigate academic culture that was very different from practice culture.

Since many of you are in the midst of the fire that is otherwise known as mid-semester, I want to share what I have learned in my journey, and what I am currently experiencing as a PhD student to help you stay focused, and make a difference as you embrace the responsibilities of teaching the next generation of professional nurses.

My Story

I have been on overload this Fall, first scrambling to find a study site for my dissertation study because the planned university withdrew suddenly, then putting out an SOS email requesting study sites, then spent hours responding to emails and personal inquiries to find the right fit.

I finally found a study site, then spent untold hours revising the numerous documents required to implement my experimental study. But the devil is in the details that included obtaining institutional review board (IRB) approval from the university I attend, the state Institute of Higher Learning, then IRB approval of the participating university.

In my haste to attend to all of these details, I neglected to obtain final approval of the statistician of my committee regarding my proposed statistical analysis. I did this the day before my proposed defense and he recommended revisions that would impact the original study design I had proposed.

Since I was accustomed to being on a frenetic pace, I kept plunging ahead and implemented numerous substantial revisions to my study without the feedback of my primary professor (never a good idea!).

My defense was unsuccessful and required me to make numerous edits and redefend three weeks later which was successful, but put the timeline to implement my study for the fall semester in jeopardy.

This chain of events brought me to the brink of the perpetual ledge. I took a look down and began to openly wonder if it was worth it and if I should just go back to writing case studies and leave my intentions of having a doctorate and study to assess the effect of unfolding case studies on critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and clinical judgment in the dust.

I share my story and journey for a reason. I know that my story is not unique.

You too may be also feeling the burn of an incredibly busy school year. If you are a new educator, you are likely struggling with the transition to academia and may also be wondering if it is worth it.

There are three things I learned that brought me back from the brink. I know they can help you make a difference and be more than an educator, but leave a lasting legacy with each student you teach.

1. Activity with intention.

Why do you do what you do?

As a type A driven dude I love being busy and getting things done. The downside is that I can be busy and begin to become physically and emotionally exhausted. Then I loose sight and perspective of why I am doing what I am doing.

Motivation matters. I had to remind myself why am I pursuing my PhD? It is not to obtain a title but to grow as a nurse educator, implement a study that is relevant to nursing education, and share what I learned with other educators to help transform nursing education.

If I keep this before me I stay grounded and have a clearly defined purpose that inspires me to keep going even when the going gets tough.

What about you? Why are you a nurse educator?

For many it is your passion but academia can be a joy stealing environment. This passion can soon dissipate and you are soon left going through the motions.

2. Two are better than one.

In the midst of my frustration and despair, I waited too long but finally reached out to a fellow doctoral student colleague and had a long and needed talk. Having someone to talk to who understood my unique struggles was comforting and healing.

She shared her struggles and I soon realized that though physically isolated in a hybrid online program, my struggles were not unique and I was not alone.

As a nurse educator, who is your go to colleague that can support and encourage you during the inevitable storms that will or may be already present?

Without this support I guarantee that it will only be a matter of time before your boat goes under. That does not need to happen.

Solomon, the wisest man of ancient history wrote in Ecclesiastes this timeless wisdom that remains relevant today for every nurse educator:

“Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better. If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble.”

3. Stop, drop, and be still.

If you were literally on fire, you must stop, drop, and roll to put the fire out.

If you are in the midst of an internal fire due to challenging circumstances that are beyond your direct control you too must stop, drop what you are doing and be still.

If you allow circumstances and the tyranny of the urgent to influence how you live your life, you will realize too late that it is not the urgent tasks on your to do list or what is needed to complete your dissertation in time that are most important, but the relationships of friends, family, spouse or significant other.

Ironically, that which is most important do not demand your time but can die over time due to neglect because they were not inherently urgent.

Next Steps

To take that next step in your journey to put gas in your tank to go the distance in your calling and leave a legacy as an educator, take the following practical next steps:

  • Identify your why then write it down. This is your personal mission statement you must never lose sight of. To many, your decision to become a nurse educator doesn’t make sense, but you have been created with unique talents and abilities that your students need. After writing your “why” down, put it on a Word document, frame it and place it in your office as a daily reminder.
  • Read the article, Tyranny of the Urgent. This article has helped me and provided needed perspective by identifying what is really most important (relationships) and making time for it in my life.
  • Read the book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. This practical resource builds on the principles in Tyranny of the Urgent and will help you understand the importance of margin or blank space in your life to refresh and restore your soul.

In Closing

You do not want to be a shooting star as a nurse educator and quickly burnout but need to pace yourself for the marathon that is in front of you.

Use this weekend to stop, drop, and be still and identify your why with passion and purpose as you live to serve others through the talents you have been given as a nurse educator.

Though the path may be hard, persevere. You are right where you are for a reason. Though your students of faculty collagues may not value or appreciate your unique contributions, you must keep your tank full, persevere to be faithful with the talents you have been given that will powerfully impact the next generation of nurses you are teaching and training!

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