How Being a Nurse Made Me a Better Writer and Vice Versa

People lose it when they learn that I am a nurse. The instances leading to this may be through a show of my PRC ID, a throwback photo, or when someone significant to me introduces me as a Registered Nurse.

And the usual reaction I get?

“Oh you’re a nurse and you work as a writer? Sayang naman!” {loosely translated: What a waste}

Whether that person is just trying to make a conversation or just don’t have anything witty to say, I’ve totally had it. I usually get this reaction from old-fashion individuals who think that you should pursue a career based on whatever course you took in college. They are those narrow-minded people who lack creativity, fun, and risk-taking capacity in their bodies.

I know I don’t need to explain myself, but here’s a backgrounder (in case you don’t know my story yet):

As a teenager, I’ve learned that I have a pretty good command of written English. It was something I truly enjoy and would’ve wanted to turn into a career but the pressure of helping out the family got ahead of me.

And so in the year 2010, I finished BS Nursing and took the board exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN). I then worked for four years as a Staff Nurse in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. I’ve had some of the best trainings and clinical experience any nurse could ask for, but incidentally, I wake up every morning cursing and contemplating whether to go to work or not.

Finally, the time came that pulling my hair up, lifting patients, working on different shifts, running for 8 hours non-stop, and going home exhausted to my last body cell took a toll on my life. I then decided to call it quits. I said, ‘I hate you Nursing’, and then left.

{You can read some of my Nursing-related blog posts here}

That was in 2015. I then decided to give my love for writing a shot: I took a job as a Content Writer for an SEO company and became more serious in producing content for this blog. Thus the astonished reactions I get when people who met me as a writer later on learn that I actually have an RN at the end of my name.

Living the dream! ✍

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I totally disagree that I’ve wasted my life being a writer. However, allow me to share why being a former nurse helped me be the type of writer I am today.

Thank God I am a nurse turned writer, because for me…

1. Deadlines are chicken

I work as an SEO writer and you know how crazy deadlines are in SEO. There’s just too much to write, proofread, and edit. Thankfully, my previous work made me beat deadlines by seconds, not even minutes. Because if I give the medication or attend to a complaint a little too late, that patient might not make it through the next shift.

This kind of training instilled a sense of urgency and proper prioritization on me. I am able to decide which press release or article should be written first so it will go out to the client the moment he needs it.

2. I never panic

This is despite the extensive workload and deadlines I need to face and accomplish every day. Nothing’s still heavier than lifting patients four times my size to change the diaper, run to and from the station to prepare medications, report to the doctor any critical observation I may have seen on my patients, and document everything by hand.

My officemate once asked me: “Peng, how do you keep your calm despite all the demands for the Content Team?”

My answer: “Oh I’m a nurse, I’ve seen worse”

For me, for as long as no one is dying, there is no need to panic. Whatever challenge in keeping up with deadlines is presented to me and my team, that soon will pass.

3. Late night writing: what’s that?

My nurse turned writer brain works pretty well across all time zones: because night shift. The fun part is, I rarely feel sleepy even if I am writing during wee hours. Just like now, time check: 1:41 AM.

I guess that’s the beauty of doing what you love, much like when you’re with that person who holds your heart: long hours don’t feel long at all, in fact you wouldn’t even count them. Right?

Now here’s the exciting part…

Just last year, an opportunity of moving to Germany came to me. The offer was damn good: free language training, possibility of quick permanent residency, and the chance to see Europe to take cool photos and stories for Instagram and for this blog of course. Oh I can’t believe I failed to mention Octoberfest, LOL.

There was one catch though: they need me in Germany as a N-U-R-S-E.

Oops.

That caught me off-guard, to be honest. 

I thought about it long and hard.

After a while, the chance to broaden my horizon and find other opportunities for me and my blog made me say yes.

I know it’s a crazy decision. Working as a writer made me decide that this job is what I want to do for the rest of my life (I don’t intend to work forever, but you get my point). I said yes to the offer because I want to know what Germany has in store for me. The only opportunity though at the moment, requires me to go back to Nursing. 

I believe my nearly three years of being a writer prepared me well for my stint as a nurse once again. 

Nurse Writer 1

Because now…

1. My attention to detail has immensely improved

Writing and editing for years taught me to double and sometimes triple check whatever’s in front of me, just to be sure. I can now detect even the tiniest mistake wherever I am, and that’s not limited to written stuff. When a certain portrait is not on its usual place, for example, I am quick to notice it and even quicker to ask what happened. When a friend has an unusual look on his face, I know at first glance that something is wrong.

I believe this trait will be helpful for me once I stepped into the hospital again. Double or triple checking doctor’s orders, medications, dosages, and laboratory results as well as assessing changes in my patients’ conditions will then be second nature to me.

2. I can explain myself better

As a nurse, we need to document everything that we’ve done to the patient. We’ve sworn by the rule “if not documented, not done”. We do this through narratives that we call ‘nurse’s notes’. Of course I’ve been writing since forever so I’ve never had any problems in this area.

I’m pretty sure though that my experience as a writer will help me with the documentation part.

Except that…

I need to do my nurse’s notes in German, right?

Holy cow.

3. I have a relaxed body and mind

Three years out of the Nursing profession did good to me. It provided my body with the rest it needs. I could just imagine if I never stopped being a nurse since 2010, I bet I’ll have horrible hair, irreversible back injury, severe varicose veins, and chronic migraine by now.

Because of this rest, my mind and body is now more relaxed and ready to be abused once again. My hair is free from tie marks, my back strong, my legs well-rested, and my head pain-free.

I’m like a new gun ready for battle.


4. I recognized that other jobs are difficult too

When I was still a nurse, I had this bad belief that all occupations are easier than Nursing. I mean my job isn’t only physically exhausting but mentally and emotionally as well.

If I have 10 patients in one shift, I need to check all their vital signs (blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate, temperature). Yes, each and every one of them. I also need to give all their medications while making sure I’m giving it to the right person at the right dosage, time, route, and frequency. I also need to bring them to other areas of the hospital if they have special procedures. Sometimes I also need to assist them in the bath, reposition them every two hours, calibrate their IV fluids to make sure they don’t get empty before or after the intended time, measure their urine and stool output, and many other tasks that just enumerating them makes me so tired right now.

When I was still a nurse, I observe other workers in the hospital. There’s this laboratory guy whose only job is to get my patient’s blood sample but he does it on the arm where the IV line is; so the vein got clogged and I had to reestablish that line. There’s also this respiratory guy whose only job is to nebulize my patient and then leaves the nebulizer on, for me to turn off when done. Like seriously, how hard is that? How about this IT guy whose only job is to keep all the computer-stuff working and then the medication ordering system busts just in time for a Code Blue???

Three years ago I would’ve said, “Why couldn’t these idiots do their jobs better while I’m here doing a job crazy difficult that should be done by no less than five people?”

Yes it’s that difficult and it even feels more difficult because I compare my profession with others.

But now, having worked for a totally different industry, I had the realization that no job is easy. I’ve already established that I love writing, but I admit, there are days that I’m presented with topics I know nothing about, like microelectronics or engineering, and of course producing content for such is far from being simple.

I remember that after an 8-hour shift in the hospital, I usually go home with aching legs. After a day in the office though, I have aching shoulder blades. Suits me.

5. I make money during my free time

I couldn’t have possibly practiced my writing better if I wasn’t employed as an SEO writer. I learned how to research and write fast and it allowed me to take on freelance writing tasks during the weekend.  I also noticed that I was able to manage my time better for my other money-making schemes. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t as exhausted as before after a day’s work. Yes, that could be the case.

Taking on freelance writing jobs gave me a platform to practice my craft, accept projects that I truly care about, and provides exposure to my dear blog.

Nurse Writer

Final Words

You see, nothing is entirely a waste. It’s all in the mindset and how to effectively utilize all the resources and learning gathered along the way. Thank you to all who told me that I’m wasting my life, because I got to contemplate and see that no, you are wrong.

I’m not wasting anything; in fact, I’m making the most of all the talents I have.

Can I get an Amen for that? *wink

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