For the first time in my thirty-six years of nursing, I had to think twice about renewing my license. This has never happened to me before, but like all things COVID-related, neither had a pandemic. I sat in deep reflection on whether or not I should renew. The thoughts streaming through my mind focused on how and why I arrived at this place of questioning.
In the year that wasn’t, I have learned the depth of my colleagues’ despair in nursing. I have witnessed disrespect and untenable expectations. You can only swim upstream like a salmon for so long before you turn around and float back down the river. So, I sat with the uncomfortable feeling for quite some time as I contemplated whether or not I should renew my license.
I decided to Tweet out my renewal question in an effort to break through the silent suffering that many nurses experience. Most of the responses were supportive and encouraging. Some were reflective of the insidious nurse bullying that is the dirty secret of our profession. There were nurses who agreed and have had similar questions, and those who soldier on, no matter what. I was always that nurse, the one who soldiers on, but this time I let myself sit in the questioning. As Glennon Doyle says, “we can do hard things,” but I wonder for how long.
In the end, I did renew, but this time it was with intention, keeping in mind that I do have a choice in the matter. Having a nursing license is ultimately about being responsible for the health and safety of whoever is in your care. In my case, it is children’s health and safety that weighs most heavily on my mind. The totality of that responsibility is what lies beneath my questioning. Keeping kids healthy and safe in a typical school year is daunting enough, add a global pandemic and it becomes nearly impossible. No one wants to miss anything when it comes to keeping kids safe, especially school nurses.
I am not ashamed to admit that I had second thoughts about renewing my license. I invite civil discussion, not the hurtful kind because we need to rethink and reimagine nursing. We should no longer tolerate the intolerable. There is nothing noble about soldiering on when ultimately it impacts our own health and well-being. Nurses have the right to flourish too. We are not machines, and we are not dispensable. COVID has taught all of us that…