Not only is Brooke a badass sober nurse and an out-loud recovery advocate, she is Canadian! And I have to admit, I have a major girl crush on all my sober sisters up North.
Brooke has been a Licensed Practical Nurse for seven years, and in recovery for nearly as long. In addition to the usual suspects – drugs and alcohol – Brooke has overcome codependency, gambling and a binge-eating disorder. Her story illustrates how stubborn our blind spots can be, even if we’re educated and the source of our problem is right in front of us.
Brooke worked as a nurse in a treatment centre (Canadian spelling in her honor!) caring for patients with addiction and mental health issues. She recalls colleagues at the centre who were in recovery as well. Yet it took tragic consequences, including the overdose death of a friend, before Brooke woke to the fact that she too needed serious help.
This month’s spotlight nurse is proof that we do recover, from all the things! May her story bring you hope, and serve as potent ammunition against stigma and shame.
But there’s another Nurse Florence I want to share with you today. She also served in the military – World War II – and retired from Skagit Valley Hospital in 1981, the year I was born. A beautiful Japanese Maple was given to her as a retirement gift. Thirty-eight years later, this tree flourishes in my front yard.
While she may not boast the same accolades as the esteemed “Lady With the Lamp,” in my view, she deserves recognition this National Nurse’s Week, amidst the global celebration for Year of the Nurse.
FYI – This post will NOT cover the following mask-based material:
Politically charged discussion re: mask availability/approval (though it’s no doubt mixed messages and misinformation are leading players in the delayed decision to recommend them.)
Controversial discourse regarding public access to masks and healthcare professionals shortage. (though trust me, it’s caused me a significant amount of heartburn.)
Heartfelt pleas, imploring you to wear a mask, based on my firsthand witness of ongoing tragedies. (though each shift bears more testimony that masking vigilance is necessary. And OK, there may be an overture or two within.)
The following is an examination of human behaviors and relations, of judgment and compassion, and tracks my evolution from mask-critic to humble mask-aholic.
MaryBeth Murphy has been a nurse for over 30 years, the majority of that time spent in pediatrics.
Just over 3 years ago, she broke her ankle and decided to use the time to get healthy. This included challenging herself to not drink alcohol. One seemingly “small” habit change and the trajectory of MaryBeth’s life changed forever.
Not only did she embrace an alcohol-free lifestyle in 2016, she took the opportunity to look honestly at her career and personal goals, bravely admitting that working at the bedside was no longer on that list.
MaryBeth is a holistic health and recovery coach, yoga instructor, reiki healer, craniosacral therapist and more!
I am in awe of this woman’s character and determination and honored to have interviewed her.
It is most certainly the Year of the Nurse, and I’m proud to share one nurse’s journey from daily drinker to holistic health coach!
Working Nurse recently published my article detailing a day in the life of an ICU nurse caring for patients with Covid19. My words were as authentic as possible while being cognizant of the public platform and sensitive nature of the content. (It could be helpful to read that article FIRST to best understand!)
Healthcare is a rapidly evolving system, and in times of Pandemic, the rate of change is unparalleled. By the time the article hit the internet, many of my observations were already out of date. As I read it today, I think to myself, this was obviously written before.
Before is a mentality I imagine you can appreciate.
Before Coronavirus, I could go to the movies. Before the pandemic, I could engage in group-hugs. I used to buy toilet paper anytime, anywhere; but that was before.
For me, a nurse in a medical ICU, BEFORE was an era in which the virus was evident at work but I wasn’t personally affected. Each shift was increasingly intense and surreal, but otherwise, life went on as normal. “Covid” patients were sequestered to a few specific rooms and my personal concerns were compartmentalized right along with them.
Our department was at near capacity with Covid-positive patients.
our dwindling PPE supply – masks, gloves, and face shields – were placed in a locked room and rationed while staff use shower curtains and hand-sewn masks as replacements
Visitors were restricted from the hospital campus in its entirety.
Short staffing and the quantity of the patients made it impossible to have a secondary/observer RN to help. We now put on/take off our PPE, disinfect our supplies alone and generally have 2:1 assignments (2 patients to one nurse) – patients this critically ill were always a 1:1 assignment before.
I composed that paper before I had lived through the solitary dread of being the only caregiver in a room with a crashing patient; sweating through my scrubs and paper gown, my view obstructed through a bleach-smeared face shield. Colleagues stood pensively outside the glass door, offering support via walkie-talkies, prepared to enter but waiting until the crucial moment. For the sake of staff safety, and to preserve PPE, we must question: does this require a second set of hands? Is this moment worth the use of our equipment?
In the past week, my role has changed drastically. My nursing scope has expanded to include phlebotomy (drawing labs), housekeeping, and respiratory therapist skills. We’re taking all measures necessary to decrease exposure to Coronavirus, and to preserve protective gear. A nurse is one essential person that must enter the room multiple times a shift. Therefore, the decision has been made to require nurses a multitude of tasks that others would normally do. While decreasing how many people are exposed, this increases exposure to the nurse.
Finally, the article was penned long before I understood the evolving nature of the virus, worked desperately and yet futilely to care for and save patients in their early 40s. Before I woke to the news that doctors and nurses are contracting and dying of Coronavirus too.
My original article just doesn’t express my present day-to-day as a nurse on the front lines.
My new reality.
Across the globe, everyone is coping with their own version of this new normal. Struggling to make sense of this; to stay sane. So many of us are hurting – physically, emotionally, financially.
Shannon McDonald’s smile is contagious. She’s funny and kind and has a passion for refurbishing furniture and hitting the trails with her family on their ATVs.
But it wasn’t always this way.
In 2009, Shannon’s life was the stuff addiction is made of: a lack of coping skills “I was a negative person”, a troubled relationship “My husband and I were awful to each other” a legitimate cause for pain prescriptions “migraines and herniated discs” and high-stress job as an emergency room nurse in a Level 1 Trauma Center.
Similar to my experience, Shannon learned the hard way: marijuana’s not the gateway drug, opiate prescription pills are.
This post is longer than usual but worth it! In the following interview, Shannon opens up about procuring drug hookups in jail, suffering withdrawal from heroin, and finally, the joy of recovery.
Recover and Rise: Shannon, how long have you been sober, and what do you define yourself in recovery from?
Shannon: My sober date is Dec 2, 2015. I’ve been in recovery for 4 years and 3 months from drugs, alcohol, job burnout, and a generally crappy attitude – LOL!
There is a strong cultural acceptance within our collective culture, but I think especially for nurses that feel they need a quick stress reliever. We are particularly complacent about alcohol’s overall impact on our lives. I believe there is a lot of shame attached to this as well.
Brittany is a wife, mother of 3, and nurse of almost 13 years.
Raised an ultra-conservative Mormon, Brittany never considered touching a drop of alcohol until after she experienced a crisis of faith and left her church nearly 6.5 years ago.
Once she got a taste of alcohol’s so-called benefits, the drink became increasingly difficult to put down, even as the consequences became increasingly unbearable.
This is an all too familiar tale for many of us.
In the interview below, Brittany bravely shares how she’s overcoming self-diagnosed perfectionism and codependency, (two common conditions for nurses), and how she decided to put down alcohol outside of any religious, moral code. Brittany lives alcohol-free because it’s right for her and her family. Choosing sobriety aligns with her newfound life of radical self-love and acceptance.
I’ve suspected for awhile something is wrong with me. For the last couple of months, I’ve been researching and seeking professional opinions to get to the bottom of my issue.
(And for once it’s nothing to do with addiction, alcoholism, job burnout or codependency!)
My search for answers took me to the National Nurses in Business Association conference, which was held in Las Vegas in September. While my alcohol-free lifestyle made me feel like a total stranger in Sin City, I was blown away by the business leaders, innovators, writers, and coaches all gathered together. Each and every one of them a Nurse!
I also met career coach Nurse Keith. He led a workshop on creating written content and I immediately signed up for his services. After just one session together and a brief examination of my blog, we agreed; I’ve suffered a severe case of BLOGHORREA.
I’m happy for the opportunity to make amends to the organization, my coworkers, my patients, and the nursing profession. It’s not a privilege I’m taking lightly. I know the rate of relapse. I know this could be my last chance at a blemish free nursing license.
Two point five years ago, I had to leave my position as a nurse in Critical Care due to probably the most shameful and disturbing reasons a nurse can imagine.
It feels nothing short of miraculous that I’ve been given an opportunity to return.
(Although some might say I’m returning to the scene of the crime, and they would technically be correct.)
For nearly five of my 14 years as a nurse, I worked in CCU and loved the job, despite its flaws. I felt at home in the role. But I completely mismanaged the stress in my life, making tragic and regretful decisions.
For the background on my detour away from “overachiever” into “Real Life Nurse Jackie” check out this BLOG I wrote, publicly declaring myself as an addict.
I was let go from the job, spent three months in treatment and submerged myself in recovery. Since returning to work, I’ve been employed in lower acuity areas than CCU, working my way up – but stayed on night shift because it’s where I’ve always felt most comfortable mentally and physically.
Probably beginning somewhere early last Fall, I felt in my soul it was time to take another step forward. I reached out to key people in administration, asking their blessing to apply for a new position. I also talked it over with my case manager and my sober support system.