Time to Stop the Madness

I started out thinking this blog would be about my experiences consulting in prison. But as I wrote, I realized that my madness is outside the wire and inside my mind. It is the madness of producing and output. Measurable success, as determined by “them.” I don’t know who “them” are, but I do know I constantly strive to continue working, continue to produce; to be worthy, valuable, balanced and whole.

I taught a leadership course a while back, and part of the dialog from young nurse leaders, was that they worried that we, their boomer bosses, would not think they were valuable or productive enough because they left before 8pm at night to go home to their families. We, the boomers, had role-modeled complete imbalance in our lives, and these younger generations thought it was the way they had to be successful was to imitate us.

I recently wrote about looking at the “slow lane.” I have written about “preferment” instead of retirement; doing what I want to do professionally instead of what I think I need to do working full time. What I didn’t realize until recently, is that I am the cause of my biggest madness. Everyone I know my age is struggling with at least one health issue that makes them uncomfortable. Some are on their way to permanent disability. But they stubbornly resist retiring or working less-part time or per diem~not because of money, but because of perception. I thought I shouldn’t retire until I was disabled or unable to work. How messed up is that?!

Where did we aging, exhausted boomers get the idea that productivity equaled value? That working 70 hours a week was required? That taking time off during the “work day” to see a child play a football game is “cheating?” That we must work ‘til we drop from keeping 87 balls in the air? Is it in our nature as nurses to be workaholics? Are we avoiding tough things in our life? I have a dear friend that needs at least one major surgery she has put off for 8 years (!) …because she doesn’t have time (and doesn’t want to do it).

Part of this madness is the “women in the workplace” expectations of the eighties. All of our role models worked 15 hour days and every weekend. It goes right along with those stupid bow ties and pinstriped man-suits we all wore to be “taken seriously.” What the hell were we thinking?!! I am just now learning about balance and being whole. Progress but not perfection. That resting is not a weakness.

I have been a nurse for almost 42 years. It has been the most rewarding career I can imagine, and I have learned many things, including my experiences inside the wire (prison) which I will write about another time. For now, I am taking a well-deserved, long overdue nap!


Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN


Physical Violence Against Care Providers

There have been numerous articles in the past few years about nurses, physicians and other care providers being physically assaulted by family members of patients in healthcare facilities. The most recent was the incident of Ms. Wubble, an ER RN following her hospital policy on caring for a patient, and then being forcibly restrained by a police officer for not doing what he wanted her to do. While the officer faced serious consequences for his cowardly and inappropriate behavior, the issue begs a bigger question.

When did it become acceptable to physically lash out at those caring for patients in need? Why do folks believe that yelling, screaming, hitting or other assaultive behaviors fixes anything? Why are providers the likely target? What does it say about our collective humanity that this is happening with regularity, and whose job is it to stop it from happening? Do healthcare employers have a responsibility to protect their staff from violent patients and families? Are providers doing everything they can to protect themselves?

In 2000, a National Institutes of Health study identified almost 50% of physical violence in the workplace happens in healthcare settings. That means care providers are much more vulnerable than other work place settings. Do healthcare settings acknowledge this? Are there true safety precautions in place? Paging the security guard to the ER does not count as a precaution! All healthcare providers are important, but as boomers retire, RNs are becoming precious commodities. What is your facility doing to address this issue? What are you doing? Don’t wait; start the conversation!

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Eyeing the Slow Lane?

As I consider retirement, I am struck by several competing emotions….How do I feel productive without making any income? What will I do with my time? Shouldn’t I be older or disabled to retire now? What will people think? Have I worked enough? When the airplane I was on recently slid off the runway, none of that mattered. However, it is a good idea to evaluate your situation thoroughly before deciding how to move forward.

Do you want to slow down? Have less stress? Have more personal time? Enter the twilight of your career? If job related stress is making you crazy, what are your choices? If you cannot quit your job all together, you may feel stuck. But, there are alternatives. According to Dennis Nishi, plenty of professionals are scaling back on their workload or ceding management responsibility (WSJ.com, 2010). You have choices, even when you feel stuck. Start by considering:

  • How you evaluate goals and measure your personal success? A successful career does not have to include 60 hour per weeks. Consider how you can work your job around your home life. What does that look like for you? There are routes to advancement or continuing your career within healthcare that will satisfy your personal need for more time, less travel or pursuit of a hobby.
  • Can you accept the idea and results that you are limiting your career ambition? Who you are is not what you do. You need to integrate what is most important to you into your life first; then work other things, like your job around that.
  • Are you willing to boss others less? If you downscale as a manager, you can apply skills to a position that doesn’t require overseeing employees. If you have proved yourself to your facility/industry and provide something valuable to the organization, moving to a role with fewer direct reports will not be viewed negatively, unless you present it that way.
  • Are you willing to tell the truth and be upfront about your decision? Whatever you decide to do, it is important to communicate your intentions and plans in a way that demonstrates your commitment to the facility/company, organization and industry. Explain why a different position is a good fit and have a frank discussion/dialog about why you want to make the downward move. Always play to your strengths.
  • Have you prepared your finances? It is crucial that you take time to plan financially before making changes that impact your salary. Plan your savings strategies, budget and expenses around the new income level before you make the change.
  • Are you willing to think ahead? If you change your mind about the downward move, you will not be harming your career. You can spin the decision positively when you apply for new positions. Tell the interviewers what has changed and why you are ready to “get back on the track.”

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Leadership and Mental Fitness

There have been numerous recent articles about the mental fitness of public leaders. The articles appear in self-help blogs, newspapers, and magazines. I recently came across a list of etiquette lessons that every child should learn. As a society, we are talking much more frequently these days about how we treat each other.

It seems that business leaders should also be evaluated on their mental fitness and capacity to lead. Based on an opinion-based editorial that appeared in the LA Times recently (Gourguechon) there are five qualities that define strong and strategic leadership. These criteria are condensed from the US Army Field Manual 6-22 Leader Development. (2015)

Trust: Trust is thought to be fundamental to the functioning of a team or alliance in any setting. Leaders who do not instill trust or enjoy it from others cannot get individuals to work together.

Discipline and self-control: Leaders must demonstrate control over their personal behavior and align that behavior with Army core values. Psychological filters or neurologic braking systems become very important as a leader. Leaders must be able to deal with disturbing thoughts, and powerful emotions, without doing everything that comes to mind.

Judgment and crucial thinking: These are complex and high level components of mental function. These include skills and abilities to assess, differentiate, plan, prioritize and compare. Deficiencies in these areas cause rigid and inflexible thinking.

Self-awareness: Leaders with this quality have the ability to reflect and the interest in doing so. They recognize their effect on others and are open to feedback. They know themselves, and do not blame subordinates for failures.

Empathy: I found this to be a surprising trait listed in an Army manual. Leaders who understand another person’s point of view and can understand someone else’s feelings and emotions have an essential component of leadership. This is a significant skill in the healthcare landscape as well.

While these attributes are not all of the characteristics a leader needs, it seems all of us in leadership roles should take a minute to evaluate how we “measure up” in these crucial areas.


Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

The Parent Report Card

When I was a young mother raising two kids as a single parent, I didn’t have time to worry about whether I was “doing it right”. I worked full time, had two kids in two different schools, sports activities and seeing two different therapists because I was divorcing and both had special needs at that time. I made it through every day hanging by my fingernails!

I look back at that time now and wonder how the hell I made it all work without losing my sanity. Now I have my children as grown adults who routinely don’t agree with me on a variety of topics. I often wonder if they are issuing me a “report card” on my parenting. One of my children ferociously disagrees with most everything I hold dear and important. One has an addiction that comes and goes in life. For the longest time, I thought these things meant I didn’t do something right.

I have to regularly remind myself that because we disagree or they are hurtful, it doesn’t mean I got an “F” as a mother. I can still be true and authentic as myself, and allow them the freedom to live their own lives as THEY see fit, not by my standards. I did my best, and now it is up to them to be who they are. Even though I am an experienced co-dependent (!) I no longer get to control and enable their choices.

All of us can be good parents by taking care of ourselves. Following our own path and dreams is actually role modeling healthy self-care behaviors as a parent. That means we get an “A” for effort and intention every time!


Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Citizen Malaise

There have been many articles that outlined how contentious our recent election was. No matter who you supported or voted for, everyone felt strongly about the outcome for their candidate. However, after the election results were confirmed, it seems many folks felt even worse.

As I talk with individuals and listen around my community, there is a pervasive sense of fear and dread. It doesn’t seem to be about just the new administration’s activities or choices, but rather an all-encompassing, life-encroaching cloud that I call citizen malaise. It isn’t just about immigration or healthcare reforms; it is an over-arching sense of doom and potential destruction. It is more than politics, dislike of a candidate or a political party.

It is about issues near and dear to many of us. Living with the constant nagging reality that deportation could be a reality for your family. Or the climate change regulations you supported are not being continued. Privacy laws for the internet are affected by changes at the FCC. How do you carry on your daily work in this environment?

Old stalwart advice is to focus on helping others when you feel depressed and overwhelmed. For citizen malaise, I believe it is about activism and advocacy. Do not let the fear silence the stories that once empowered you! (L. A. Times, 3/29/16). Pick the issue that bugs you the most and talk or write about it in a constructive way. By the way, this is not the same as bashing behaviors on Facebook and other social media. Join a grassroots advocacy organization, especially if you are a woman; to further the agenda and principles of the Million women marches.

The one thing you don’t have to do is sit silently and fume. This is your chance to activate your “soul wellness” by doing something to counteract your citizen malaise!

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Not Being Enough

Recently I spoke to someone who shared how anxious he was to interact with a visiting sibling. His sibling has achieved strong academic success, but still struggles with managing emotions and relationships. The young man I spoke with was certain that everyone who saw them together would assume the sibling was more successful than he, based solely on accomplishment.

I pondered the conversation for a long time. First of all, how did this young man get this burden on his heart? When did he learn that society decides that what matters most is what you achieve? Who made that happen? We have certainly seen some of the results of this dysfunctional balance since the last election cycle. People are angry, frightened, and more prone to acting out. Rage has become the new normal. Acting out in your own best interest regardless of how it affects other has now become common practice; albeit unacceptable to many. If you doubt this last sentence, read the recent newspapers about our new executive branch of government.

No one should be made to feel not good enough. Not even by their selves. We are all placed on the planet with unique gifts, skills, and abilities to help us achieve our human purpose. We all have a different purpose, and make our individual journeys to achieve that purpose.

While we are advocating for a more reasonable government and tolerance for immigrants and refugees, perhaps we can also rally loudly around advocacy for ourselves. That we all matter, we are all valuable, and we ARE ALL good enough! What do you think?

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN