Sunday, September 30, 2012

Seeking out Discomfort

Image credit: Chad Podoski, Flickr

I spent the past few weeks at work waaaaay out of my comfort zone. It kind of sucked.

As part of my orientation for the ICU step down unit, I'm working on a six week rotation in Surgical Intensive Care.

The ICU is...intense. In two weeks, my preceptor and I sent two patients emergently back to surgery, saw two patients re-intubated (a definite move in the wrong direction), and took care of someone having a massive stroke.

I also learned how to use an arterial line without getting blood everywhere, saw the importance of assessments every four hours (because you catch the stroke as it's happening), and spent lots of time running to the supply closet and then standing there looking desperately for scissors or gauze or a chest tube setup or whatever supply my co-workers were waiting for me to find. I felt like a nursing student all over again. I just wanted someone to ask me to put on a sugar tong splint or work in triage or do something that was familiar to me.

I hate to admit it, but I know I'm a much better nurse after this experience.

Neale Donald Waslch said "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." (I found that quote on Answering Oliver but I can't find the specific post).  I don't completely agree with this statement: I couldn't handle feeling this overwhelmed and stressed out all the time. I got home exhausted every evening and laid awake worrying at night. There are some benefits to having a comfortable routine.

What I do believe is that in order to grow, sometimes we have to seek out discomfort.

Occasionally the uncomfortable situations come on their own, and all you can do is muddle through. But other times you might find yourself stagnating a little, and then you have to go looking for the discomfort. Surviving the  uncomfortable in our lives makes us stronger and better.

However, when you're seeking growth through change and discomfort (or when it's imposed on you from outside) in one area of your life, I think it's important to cut yourself a little slack in other areas. I haven't beat myself up if I missed a workout or grabbed some takeout instead of cooking. A few lazy days were very necessary.  Everything can't be a priority, and "learning experiences" can be exhausting. I don't want to prove that I'm a superhero, I just want to be the best Melissa I can be.

What kinds of challenges in your life have lead to growth and improvement?

Speaking of improvement, remember those Every Day for a Month projects? There's one coming for October. Stay tuned!

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