Some years ago, my husband, a close friend, and I went on a self-guided, 110 mile, 8-day hike to complete half of England's Coast-to-Coast Walk through the Lake District. A touring company planned our accommodations and provided a photocopied map showing the sections of trail we would travel each day. We began on the coast of the Irish Sea and headed inland. Hiking was arduous as we ascended the crags and traversed miles of pastoral countryside, but at least the first day's navigation was easy with clearly marked trails.
No such luck on day two. After trekking 17.5 miles with few trail markers, we discovered we had climbed the wrong mountain. The landmarks were all wrong. Our photocopy map was useless. With no GPS or cell service, we stood atop that mountain and took a moment to regroup. Spotting a distant road, we descended a steep trail through a boulder field toward it. The route was rough—we made it down, but not too gracefully. By now it was dark. Using headlamps, we hiked out and eventually found the way to our inn. Tired and sore, we endured being kindly admonished by the innkeeper, who said she was about to “dial up the search team.” The next day, we consulted a local trail expert, purchased the right maps, and ultimately finished the trip as planned without another hitch.
This true story is a good metaphor for a nursing career. It illustrates the importance of periodically assessing whether or not the path you are following is the right one. If you feel engaged and fulfilled, you have the answer. Then again, if the landscape has turned unrecognizable and darkness is falling, perhaps it is time to consider a navigation change and a new map. A challenging journey through a boulder field might await you, but the desired destination may be unobtainable any other way.
For nurses who feel lost, take time to regroup. Survey your landscape and think through the options. The map you follow is your choice, not necessarily the one handed to you. Keep your map updated because routes change. Do not let boulders intimidate you, but first research all available paths. Climbing to the top of the wrong mountain is disappointing, but it just might give you a better view of the right mountain on the horizon.
Be safe and well,
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAWM, FAAN