I am incredibly close to my 20th year as a nurse. As this anniversary approaches, I have been thinking a lot about my nursing legacy. As a mid-career professional, I find myself faced with new situations and opportunities.
I am no longer the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed nurse of my youth. I am more thoughtful, a bit less tenacious and slower to act on new ideas. I am not looking for external praise as I once did, instead I am striving to be a happy, healthy and engaged mid-career woman.
As I look back on my career, there are several patients who helped me create my legacy as a new nurse. One of these patients was a young mother who was dying of cancer.
Story of Legacy
She and I met late one night while I was working in Hospice. She was having symptom control issues that the family could no longer manage alone. She was only moderately responsive when I met her. We only shared a few words, but her life changed mine.
She had children the same age as my children. Her children laid on the bed with their mom as me and other nurses came in and out of the house for several days providing continuous care. I was there when she left this world.
She and her ex-husband had divorced several years prior. Her family shared with me that she was still very much in love with him. He came in during her final hours to say good-bye and she peacefully drifted off to heaven with the love of her life and their two children by her side.
I remember praying for strength before each visit. I was trembling and my heart was breaking inside for this family. I maintained a strong exterior and was the calm, poised nurse they needed.
Each night as I drove home, I cried because I could see myself in this patient. Her little family, broken by divorce was the future I saw happening to my own family. I had not shared the struggle I was going through with anyone, but it was very real to me.
She taught me to never allow a day to go by without fighting for and loving the ones who mean the most to you. She taught me that love knows no boundaries. Her children taught me that your mother’s love is one that will break your heart but keep you strong at the same time.
Creating a Legacy
Now, as I look towards the next 20 years of my career, I am in a new place. I no longer provide hands on care. I work as a telephonic nurse case manager. I am building a business, helping others and sharing my knowledge through words strung together to create stories that I hope will move people to action.
I have done a lot of research and reflection on what I want the next 20 years to look like. I created these 5 Tips for Creating Your Nursing Legacy -
1. Share Your Knowledge - As nurses, we educate others every day. Whether it be medication education, self-care instruction or tips and tricks of the trade, we are educators.
Share your knowledge. Identify your natural gifts and give them freely.
2. Care for Others - I was once told I was too much of a “social worker” in my leadership role. As first, I was crushed and thought that I needed to be meaner. Then, I realized that if being a “social worker” meant I cared for those I worked with, so be it.
Today, I take extra time to show love and concern for others. This is part of my legacy. When someone says, “Thank you for caring”, I know I have done the work I was sent here to do.
3. Be a Coach - Build others up! You will not be here forever. Nurture young nurses.
Love them! We have been created for community. Don’t go through life without being a cheerleader for another person. It will be your best job yet!
4. Create Trust with Others - In order to be trusted, you must be worthy of trust. Offer trust and respect in all of your relationships. Be accountable. Maintain confidence.
Be the person you wish you had in your life 20 years ago.
5. Find your Tribe - This has become such an important part of my journey as a nurse entrepreneur. I did not even know I needed a tribe, but now I know for certain that I would be lost without them.
You need to belong. You need to have others you can turn to in times of uncertainty. Others who have allowed you to be your true self with them and who will offer the same in return.
Whether you need help with setting up your business, raising your children or performing a procedure. You need a tribe.
Legacy is what you leave behind. It is what you work so hard for each day. Create it with intention and passion.
What will be your legacy?