Over breakfast, after the night shift, we have all tried to outdo each other in describing the colour and consistency of the body fluid that has stained our shoes, but there is more to our stories.
We look death in the face every day and see life, how can that not bubble up in a story?
We have a story of a favorite patient who touched us or of surviving a heroic shift – our daily lives are fodder for films, novels and TV specials.
Yet many of our stories are not written by nurses. We leave it to others to describe our lives and sadly, people become deluded. Nurses become sexpots or saints, and not hard working men and women who make a difference.
When we leave it to someone else to tell our stories, someone else has a hand in shaping who we are. Every film we see where a nurse longs to have an affair with a dreamy doctor should cause us to take up the pen and tell our story.
After all, nurses have the right to write, right?
Blog them, type them, record them. Put them in newspapers, magazines or on the web. However we do it, we need to write our own stories.
“When we leave it to someone else to tell our stories, someone else has a hand in shaping who we are”
About four years ago, I started to write and my first reaction was probably like yours: “Who? Me? I’m not a good enough writer!” I had such a panic attack you would think my teachers gave me post-traumatic stress disorder.
But I had a story I wanted to tell, so I wrote every day for the last four years.Sometimes I wrote a lot, sometimes a little. Sometimes the writing was good but frequently, it was awful.
I learned that there is a great deal of similarity between nursing and writing. You have to write to learn to be a writer, just as you have to work as nurse to learn nursing. Like nursing, you learn more about writing from your mistakes.
In one of my stories I wanted to write from the point of view of a younger, pregnant woman who was of a different race to mine. I struggled to find her voice. I found myself listening intently to the pregnant young women in my practice and incorporating that into my writing. I would write a scene but then change it because I knew that a pregnant young woman would act differently, and so the writing improved immensely.
“Like nursing, you learn more about writing from your mistakes”
The writing had another effect – I found that the more I understood this character, the more I understood my patients. I became more tolerant. I saw strengths in this population that I had missed. My teaching and nursing intervention became more effective and I started to enjoy my job more.
I discovered the real benefit to writing; in telling our own stories, we become better nurses.
Mark Darby is a registered nurse and author of Pharaoh’s Midwives: A Retelling of the Nurse Midwives in Exodus
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