Balance, A Difficult Word

Kristina - Longview, Texas
Entered on June 23, 2008

Balance, A Difficult Word

I believe in balancing family and career. It took a frightening event to make me see I needed to reprioritize my life. Several years ago, I woke up in the Recovery Room inconsolably bereft and began crying. It wasn’t from being scared about the extreme allergic reaction I’d just had to Niacin, even though I’d momentarily stopped breathing. Nor was it from the common confusion and reaction to gaining consciousness. I believe it was for another reason.

A few minutes earlier, seeing my brick red face, a side effect from the high dose of Niacin just prescribed by my doctor, fellow nurses had urged me step over into the Recovery Room and rest awhile. I reluctantly agreed, sat in the rocker normally reserved for parents soothing waking toddlers, and began drinking water from a white foam cup. Suddenly, my head felt very wrong, a kind of itchy woozy feeling, so I held out my water cup to a fellow nurse and whispered, “I think you’d better hold this,” right before I slumped over in the rocker.

When I awoke I was on a stretcher in the Recovery Room, hearing my name called as if from a distance. I felt like I’d been tugged back and forth internally between consciousness and unconsciousness, with the urgent thought of needing to wake up, not because of family or friends, but due to two work related items. I felt compelled to wake up because of the ceaseless pull of completing some important papers lying on my desk, and the need to attend a managerial meeting.

Awake in the Recovery Room, I felt awful. My head was hurting, but inside I felt worse. How in the world could my thoughts have been of work, instead of my husband and sons? What if this had happened at home, where no one would have been immediately available for respiratory support? The thought chewed at me for days. I knew the answer, but delayed my response. I did not have the proper balance between work and family.

The nursing profession demands a lot of personal effort out of each individual, and being a nurse manager elevated that level of accountability and responsibility. Nursing units are the nursing manager’s responsibility, even if the house supervisor assists with emergent duties during off-duty hours. The three nursing units I was managing were ultimately still mine, twenty-four hours a day. And somewhere in this mix of professional obligations I had lost some personal balance, placing family behind duty.

I woke up from my almost not-waking state crying, ashamed at having almost died without having had proper balance in my life. I awoke to my own needs, knowing I needed to take better care of myself by not placing family after work, but by balancing both. I had to make a few compromises to achieve this balance, but ultimately, both my family and career would benefit from this reordered peaceful coexistence. Balance, a difficult word, but something I needed to achieve. I believe in the need to balance family and career. It took a scare to wake me up.