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Showing Up

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Erin Wells, BSN, RN, CCTC, CPN
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Chicago, IL, USA

"Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up." - Brene Brown

In thinking about this month's edition, I must confess that I had a bit of writer's block and even thought about skipping out this time around. Given the fact that I have moved to a new city, started at a new institution, crossed the line into the world of adult healthcare and stepped into a manager role for the first time this summer, change might have been an easy target. My inspirational muse however was having none of it. As a huge fan of Brene Brown's work, I have read this quote about showing up more than once. When I came across it again on Friday, I took it as the universe giving me a nudge.

When interviewing people for any position in transplant, I always tell them this work is the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime and there is never a dull moment in transplant. Most of us could work around the clock and still never check off all of the boxes on our "to do" lists or ever completely tackle that perpetual someday pile on the corner of our desk. As a coordinator, my biggest end of day struggle always came back to, did I spend enough time in the right places? What if I spent a few more minutes with the patient and family in clinic who were struggling with waitlist fatigue or the newly transplanted teenager struggling with chest tube anxiety? Did I give enough time to the mother of a new referral on the phone whose world was turned upside down with the news that she would have to pick up and relocate her family's life for an indeterminate amount of time to undergo the rollercoaster of transplant? My end of day struggle has shifted with my new role, but I still have that same nagging feeling. The difference now is that instead of worrying about my patients and families, I worry about my team. Did I make sure and check in everyone today? Do they feel supported and valued? Are they getting out of here at a decent time and did they get enough sleep while they were on call? How can I help them from falling into some of those all too familiar traps I struggled with?

What I try to always remember, and now stress to my team, is that sometimes the bravest and most important thing you really can do is to show up each and every day. No news to anyone reading this, but transplant is not for the faint of heart. It demands an unyielding level of time, brain space, energy and emotional reserve to do this work day in and day out. The reality is sometimes all we can do is show up. There's no guide book for what to say to a parent of a dying child, a teenager in rejection or a staff member losing the war to finding balance in their life. I don't always have sage advice and sometimes have no idea what to say at all, but I do my hardest to show up and be present. Some days it feels like I spend my entire day in meetings, putting out fires and getting nothing accomplished, but I just keep hitting the reset button and showing up.

So here's my two cents advice portion of this article. When you have no idea where to start or what to do, start with showing up. You can't connect with patients and families if you don't show up and you'll never fully appreciate all the transplant roller coaster ride has to offer if you don't learn to connect. ■

Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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