Today I have decided to be honest about burnout and how that led to me leaving the University and going back to practice. For nearly the whole time I was in higher education I suffered from imposter phenomenon and that was excacerbated when I was made to stop my PhD. I definitely had a high level of disillusionment, I became disengaged from most of my colleagues and I simply did not enjoy my work. I was bored and I was isolated – my idealistic approach in HE to improve patient care did not seem in tune with a more commercialised and industrialised education system and I simply had to leave. In hindsight I might have benefited from some discussion about how my interests and skills could have been used more effectively. If there had been a possibility to redeploy me into a role that involved working with colleagues to help them be more engaged with reflective practice and be more reflexive with themselves and their students. However that conversation was not had and I left, left to work in healthcare practice where I felt I could make a difference and directly impact on patient care. I did not foresee what was coming and I still harbour a residual amount of anger about how I was treated and the consequences of spite and narrow minded meanness. I am not ready to make nice yet and I suspect that there are some people who I hope never to see or speak to again. Cowards make me angry and no one has apologised to me for the disgraceful way I was treated.
I now realise that much of what I was experiencing emotionally at work was an echo of an earlier trauma and that my distress and anguish were directly related to my awful experiences as a student nurse.
I hated my first ward and the staff were vile. I was homesick and lonely in an unfamiliar environment and I found it difficult to make friends. I didn’t feel like I fitted in and the nursing care was limited and I was appalled by how the elderly in the ward were treated. I was ostracised because I wouldn’t eat the food off the meal trolley and I was ridiculed by the Danish nursing auxiliaries because I took a while to grasp some of the tasks.
My job last year reminded me of that, the smells, the environment and the type of nursing that is limited and task orientated. It was all too much and it surfaced as crying, frustration and an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness (not very good if you are a senior manager). Only one person cared enough to explore what was going on, the rest ignored it or exploited my vulnerability and used it to get rid of me. It was a horrible and nasty experience and not one I would wish on anyone but it hasn’t led to a breakdown or a catastrophic decline in my well being. No I have overcome adversity and I am learning every day about I can use my knowledge and skills to equip professionals in human services to thrive not just survive in their work.
This collage represents some of my feelings, it includes maps of Cambridge, uniform blue and layers of discontent and hurt represented by the red. I had a horrible time as a student, my Dad has recently confessed that he knew this and now wishes he had done something about it. I don’t think it would have helped, I was ready to leave home and I loved being in Cambridge, it was just the nursing and nurses that I had problems with and I continue to wrestle with that conundrum up to the present time. I loved being a nurse and undertaking the nursing role. I am also very clear about what I consider to be good nursing, it’s just that I don’t feel I fit it, I don’t understand some of the motivation and I certainly just don’t get those who resist reflection, self awareness and person-centred care – I won’t put up with it, in a post-Francis world it is not to be tolerated. As a manager I made that very clear and that’s probably why I am now a freelance trainer exploring my business options … being on the edge of things is fine but I fell off and I am learning how to get back on step by step.