How Are You Infecting Others Today?
By Pamela Mangine, BSN, RN, CCHP-RN
This year, after more than 10 years as a correctional nurse, I took a temporary detour from my role with Ramsey County (MN) Public Health as health services administrator for the sheriff’s office to become an Acute Care Psychiatric Services staff nurse in a hospital Emergency Department. I am working the night shift to accommodate my other roles as a full-time mother and part-time student, working on my doctorate in psychiatric mental health at Winona State University. I felt the Emergency Department setting would provide me with excellent clinical experiences that would benefit me in my future role as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner while I juggle family, classes, and clinicals. I plan to graduate in 2024 and return to corrections at that time.
Returning to the bedside has been a humbling, rewarding, and invaluable experience. Initially, I was anxious and nervous, worried that I had lost my groove. I felt rusty! I went from being an experienced leader to being a not-so-novice staff nurse. I was terrified. The worst was the feeling of possible rejection. I began to question myself. Would I be accepted? Did I make the right decision?
I am happy to report that it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have learned so much, as a nurse and, most importantly, as a leader – and not only in my academic program. The relationships I have formed, the exchanges, insights, and feedback I have received from my colleagues have taught me more than most leadership courses I have paid for! Those things are priceless.
I’d like to share one of my uplifting daily experiences. Any clinical setting can throw some curveballs at you. However, when you are ready to end your day after a challenging shift and a colleague comes in wearing a big smile as they begin their shift…that makes all the difference!
Every time this particular nurse enters the unit, he brings a ray of sunshine. He doesn’t criticize, he doesn’t judge. He understands shift work. If he sees you are struggling to wrap up, he jumps in and partners with you. He has a family and understands that you do too. He empathizes with you and sends you off as soon as he can. He softens the stress with a joke. At shift report, he is joyful and enthusiastic. He asks how the shift was because he truly cares about you and the patients. Many of us look forward to his enthusiasm and not-so-small talk. I have overheard coworkers say they wish others were more like him as their frowns turned upside down. He has quietly taught me so much.
Health care professionals are all-too-familiar with the concept of infectiousness, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. My coworker reminds me that attitudes are as contagious as germs and can spread like a virus. How will you infect others today?
The incarcerated are a very vulnerable patient population. Too many people only want to lock them up and throw away the key, forgetting they are someone’s family member and will return to the community we all share. It is imperative we invest in recovery and rehabilitation and pave the road to improved patient outcomes. And as my coworker has reminded me, a positive attitude can really ease the way along that road.