Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Here is the Truth

I was technically fired on June 30th. I have never been fired before. I have never even been considered for firing before, and I am left here, shocked, and wondering what in the world just happened? I have been working at OHSU, a humongus trauma I hospital here in downtown Portland, OR. I got hired on the adult oncology unit as an RN, with the understanding that I had 6 months to prove myself a good fit, and if I didn't make the cut, I would be "dismissed".

"Thank goodness I got a job so quick!" was all I was thinking when I got hired. "I'll just stay here for a couple years until it's time to go to grad school. I can do ANYTHING for 2 years." Or so I thought. At 3 months, my manager pulled me into her office, flatly told me all my flaws as a nurse, and told me she would fire me at 6 months if I couldn't "pull it together".

Here's where I think something's wrong with me. I think many people would look at this confrontation as a challenge, an opportunity to prove what amazing super nurses they are. Not me. I developed the strongest anxiety I think I have ever felt in my life. I suddenly felt like I couldn't ask other nurses for help because it would get back to my manager that I wasn't confident enough on my own. I felt like my manager had planted spies around, to keep an eye on my every move, and sure enough, she had! I would get called into her office to discuss something I had forgotten to document or a complaint from a neurotic patient, and other things that happen to just about every nurse. It is frustrating for me to think about these things. Why was I singled out so much? Why was it okay for another nurse to entirely miss a patient's temp spike, but it was unacceptable and grounds for firing for me to wait 30 minutes to notify a doctor about the same event?

I really do just feel picked on. My manager is a really closed, private, respecter-of-persons kind of woman. I am pretty much exactly the opposite. She saw my transparency as a weakness, a lack of confidence, while I view it as a strength and a sign of honesty. She told me she was dismissing me because she had to "make decisions based on patient outcomes." Here's something interesting. . .

In my head I was thinking, "What negative patient outcome have I personally, directly caused? When have I hurt a patient or done harm?" Then there was the phrase that often pops into my head when someone says or does something shocking to me. I said to myself, "What the hell?" I know that the answer to these questions is that I haven't done any harm. Everyone has gotten what they needed from me and all my patients have been safe. But my manager sees me as a threat. I am too open for her and it makes her think I'm a wild card, careless and unpredictable.

I was about to say these things out loud. I was about to make a beautiful rebuttal, but I stopped. I had already done everything in my power to defend myself in our previous little meetings. I always ended up feeling attacked and not listened to, like my word was not as valid as the person's who had reported me. So this time, I said nothing. Why would I defend a job I don't really like or want? A job that makes me miserable and feel belittled and scrutinized? I realized this job was not the right path for me. I have never felt as bad about myself as I have at this job. I was taught to feel guilty about things that were clearly out of my control, and I was blamed for things that were not my fault.

Am I a failure for not fighting tooth-and-nail to stay on this unit? I don't know that answer. I know I should not give things up just because they're hard. Is it fair to say I've had a lot on my plate since January of last year? I loved my sister-in-law, Miriam's blog post where she said,

So many critical moments in my life have been delayed. Like when John, one of my best friends from kindergarten through college, got killed in an auto accident. A year and a half later as I was walking down a wooded path, near the Genesee River in almost the exact location where I had seen fireflies for the first time, I started crying and it was finally for John. I talked to Matt Meyer about that after another friend passed away. Matt said that it was just that I was trying to survive and when the pressure let up a bit, I would finally deal with those emotions. The little parts of me screaming in fear and sorrow would out from quarantine to be tended to. He was right.

First of all, Miriam is so very eloquent. Second of all, I think that I have been in survival mode. Finally, it all came to a head, and I realized I could not hold it all together anymore, and I gave up the fight for my job. Can I put a time limit on how long it should take for me to deal with my grief? My own real quarantined emotions have finally erupted, and I could not handle the stress level of my hospital unit. For now, I can't function at the same level of acuity as I could when my life was stable.

It is really hard not to compare myself to others. I know there are incredibly strong single moms out there who work full time and build fulfilling careers and their kids are brilliant and inventing things. I don't know how to do that. Where do I even start to learn how to do that? I feel dysfunctional and broken. Where is my success? It's not in my family, that's for sure. Jude is addicted to watching movies and youtube because I have to get stuff done. He's started these screaming fits where he just cries and screams, "I want my daddy" over and over again. Any musical talent I once had has fallen to the wayside in my efforts to survive. In high school I had advanced English teachers tell me I could make it as a writer, and as you can tell from this post, I haven't had the focus to build that talent. I guess I am just moping, wondering how I am supposed to reach my potential when I'm so busy just surviving. Yet some people are able to do it, and excel at their talents in the face of adversity. I feel like I am neither successful at home nor at work.

One bright side is that since I don't have to go to work anymore, I can be more present and hopefully successful with Jude. We will just be poverty-stricken and not have health insurance.

Thanks for listening to me. If anyone has some uplifting advice or helpful things to read, I'd be interested in them.


  1. Oh Hilary.....you are an AMAZING mom!! You are nowhere near the term failure! You have taken the trials in your life and pushed forward. As corny as it sounds, just remember that the Lord is watching over you and Jude, and things will work out. I'm sure it is hard, and I'm not going to pretend that I know what you are going through, but here are some things that I do know. I have always looked up to you. You have an amazing personality that draws people to you. You are a wonderful mom! ( I have seen it first-hand). All kids will throw fits and scream and have to watch TV sometimes, but that does NOT mean that you are doing something wrong. You are tender-hearted. You are genuine. You are very smart. You are a very good, and competent nurse. You are STRONG. You are beautiful. You are a good friend. And, you can do this! I'm so sorry that you are struggling right now. I wish that I could help you in some way. Just know that you are loved!

  2. Hilary,

    I love you! God knows us and knows what we go through. EXACTLY what we go through. He loves us enough to let us and to help us learn. One thing that I have learned, but have to keep reminding myself because it's not my natural tendency, is that as long as we are doing what we are supposed to and following the Spirit, we are probably exactly where we should be in our eternal education and just exactly where our Father wants us. Even, and probably especially when, we're scared, nervous, worried, and worn out. He loves us even then, and sends His angels and His peace.

    Love you!!


  3. I have no answers. I have no advice for your particular situation. All I can say is that I understand feeling out of control and wondering if there really is a greater picture. Life is so not fair.
    My Stake President's favorite quote is, "You can do hard things." And if anyone can get through this it is you. You are amazing and like everyone else said you have always been someone who is admired.
    Trust me when it comes to the TV thing, kids are resilient this is not by any means a judgement of failure. You and Jude will both get through this together and it will make you stronger.
    You are in our thoughts and prayers!

  4. My first thought: "Oh good. Hilary can sleep now." When you are caught up on that part of your life, things will come together again. You have highly marketable credentials and you will find work. You are skilled and lovely and that job WAS miserable. You will do better than that.

    In the mean time, I recommend yoga (because I already know you are praying). It has helped me to deal with extreme anxiety.

    And also, figure out what you need and let all of us who love you know. You have hosts of devoted friends and family members who stand ready to help and provide. We want you to feel in control so we are not just jumping in and doing everything for you without your input. This is your life and no one wants to take that away. But I cannot imagine anything within our means and abilities that you would be denied.

  5. And by "our means and abilities" I specifically mean mine, and I am fairly certain there are others who feel that way.

  6. Hilary --- I want to say "ditto" to Miriam's words up there. All of them.

  7. Except instead of yoga, I'd recommend yoga-rt. Frozen. Lots of it.

  8. Hilary, I thought you might appreciate reading these posts by another single mother in the church.



    In the comments in response to one of her posts someone wrote this and when I read your words today I thought of you. God bless, sister.

    "In a one scene play by Thornton Wilder, “The Angel that Troubled with the Waters”, he writes of a doctor beset by depression who, along with other suffering humans, seeks to be the first to step into the healing pool of Bethesda, with the promise that the first one to enter the pool after an angel touches the water will be healed. The physician comes periodically to the pool hoping to be the first in line and longing to be healed of his melancholy. The angel finally appears, but blocks the physician just as he is ready to step into the water. The angel tells the physician to draw back, for this moment is not for him. The physician pleads for help in a broken voice, but the angel insists that healing is not intended for him.

    The dialogue continues – and then comes the prophetic word from the angel: “Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. Physician, draw back.”

    In love’s service, you are uniquely qualified to serve. And of those smiling faces in your ward, I assure you that, in their quiet hearts, there is sorrow that the eye can’t see. You will be able, with wisdom and compassion, to strengthen others, and, in so doing, have your own strength renewed.

  9. Hilary, I don't believe in failure because we are constantly learning and constantly changing! You just can't fail at life!

    You are such a beacon of light to so many people, especially me. I get a huge boost of confidence in my life just by knowing that you are my friend and that you are so real to be around. Those are my favorite qualities about you, and you're right, not everyone likes that, but you can't please everyone! You bring happiness and light to so many around you! To me, those things are more important than any lame job. Who needs career success when you are naturally gifted with love and wonderfullness?
    When i get down on myself i like to think,'"i have a right to live on this planet as a human species, just like everyone else! i have a right to be me, and a right to be angry at others around me sometimes. i have the right to cry, and the right to laugh. i have a right to live in the woods and eat bugs if i want!" Anyways, it works for me........

  10. Thank you so much everyone. I am serious when I say I feel much better. Thank you thank you thank you!