labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Friday, July 18, 2008

Breaking the Cycle

I've been fortunate for most of my student clinical career to have preceptors who don't subscribe to the philosophy, or at least strongly, of "I suffered and so should you". It is not unique to midwifery; I've seen it in nursing and medicine. For instance, when I was in nursing school we often heard that new grads would just have to accept night shift jobs on over-worked med-surg units because that is what those did before us. Or being the new grad on the floor meant the more senior nurses treated you like shit just because they were treated horribly as new grads. When residents were fighting to make their working hours more humane several years ago, the opposition was arguing that they worked 180 hours a week when they were residents, and so should the residents now.

In midwifery school, I knew this would likely be the case as well. Like I've said, I've been lucky to have escaped this for the most part. But it has been said to me that when my preceptors were in school, they had to do 36 and 48 hour shifts, couldn't work a job, didn't see their family for weeks at a time, well.... what exactly are you saying to me? That I should suffer like this, too? I resent this because suffering doesn't equate sound clinical education. Being sleep deprived, family deprived, life deprived does not mean I will be a better midwife. Actually, I feel quite opposite of this. When I arrive to clinical well rested, I make better clinical decisions and feel more available for the women I will care for. If I managed to have a day or two during the week that I actually got to do things just for me, or got all the housework done, I don't feel stressed about the other days being filled with school work and clinical hours. And when I get to spend time with my husband, I feel supported in what I do and all the hours I put into this. How can this not be healthy? Why should I be miserable just because those before me were?

If this attitude of requisite suffering was let go, I'd imagine we'd have more midwives. I've heard my fellow nurses say that they would consider midwifery school but don't solely because they know how horrible their experience will be. I think this is pretty counterproductive for both current midwives and future midwives. We need more midwives, so this attitude needs to change.


Sheridan said...

This makes me think of how moms when they say they are hoping for a positive birth experience, how quick other moms are to tell their horror stories. If I suffered, you will too mentality is not helpful in so many areas!

Kirstin said...

As a brand new RN, I have been fairly lucky as well, thus far, to not have a lot of "eating their young" type preceptors, in clinical or at work. I think it helps a lot that I am starting out my nursing career in a teaching hospital. The "I suffered and so should you" mentality does seem to be still around in the medical school attached to my place of work, however. It's kind of scary to see the overnight resident slowly plodding across the nursery, rubbing sleep out of her eyes, when peds is called to a birth (I work in a NICU). The resident looked so sleep-deprived, there is no way she could be thinking straight. Luckily, that particular birth turned out just fine, so the peds resident didn't have to make any life-or death decisions. But still, Eeeps.

Great blog, by the way...

Hilary said...

Ugh, I hear you. Wish me luck as an Ob/Gyn resident. I think there is a special feeling that bad hours are a given when it comes to birth related fields.

LilyRN said...

This is exactly why I transferred out of CNM program to the NE (becoming a professor) program. I didn't want to be abused and work 80 hour weeks.
I love delivering babies and wish I could be a midwife. But the hours would ruin nursing and I would be miserable.