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 when we’re educated, and the source of our problems is directly 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 multiple 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.
A self- admitted perfectionist, Khara graduated from nursing school Suma Cum Laude, married her high school sweetheart, and had two children together. But beneath the surface dark secrets were brewing.
From a young age, Khara experienced anxiety and depression. By college, she was perpetually bingeing on alcohol and chronically high on weed. Becoming licensed as a healthcare professional didn’t help Khara eliminate her toxic habits; in fact, the culture of nursing normalized them for her.
Like many of us who searched desperately for relief from emotional pain through substances, Khara tried for years to moderate before ultimately facing and overcoming her addiction to being numb.
She came to a realization: there is no escaping discomfort through drugs or alcohol. Trying to do so only kept her separate from herself and the beauty of life around her. Four years ago, Khara found her freedom in sobriety.
Khara’s story is so empowering, I felt bad having to edit it down to one brief interview! But Khara’s on a journey to becoming a recovery coach, and I have a feeling she’ll have many opportunities in the near future to share her story of hope and healing.
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.
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.
This year’s even better. Every single one of the 366 days in 2020, dedicated to us! (Yep, it’s a leap year!)
In honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed 2020:
THE YEAR OF THE NURSE
I might be a tad biased, but if anyone deserves a whole year of devotion, it’s me and my nurse peeps.
#YON2020 isn’t just an excuse to eat birthday cake with Nurse Flo’s name on it. The WHO intends to advance nurses’ vital position in transforming healthcare around the world.
Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services…They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities. The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
I’m on board with boosting legislation that results in Universal Health Care, but my agenda is a little different; I’m concerned with the health of nurses themselves.
So when I first heard the phrase “Year of the Nurse” this is what (and who) came to my mind:
Critical Care colleagues physically exhausted, facing moral distress
Colleagues in recovery fighting to keep their license, sobriety and lives intact
Nursing students who are ill-prepared for the sacrifice their careers will demand
I thought of the secret shame so many of us harbor, overwhelmed with life and work but desperate to keep anyone from thinking we’re weak. We even hide from our coworkers, despite our shared experience which could foster deep connections if we felt empowered to let down our walls.