Today, a photo memory popped up on my Facebook feed from a few years back. It pulled me to a time and place among an informal circle of influential nurses. It is a circle where titles don’t matter and where everyone is stripped to the basic element of being human. It’s a safe place. A place where we stop and think as a collective mind for a brief period of time.
On this day a few years ago, the topic of greatest interest happened to be legacies. Some of those in the circle were transitioning to a new work setting while others were thinking about leaving the work environment to experience the hobby of retirement (I say hobby because I promise you a nurse never retires). Ultimately, we engaged in a dialogue to discuss the concept of legacies across transitions. It’s not something that happens over night, nor without our individual influence. It is of our own doing, albeit dependent upon our actions and how others perceive them.
The discussion was rich and included powerful questions such as: How will I have impacted others? Will I have passed on all of the wisdom the next generation needs? Will I have prepared the next generation enough? How will others perceive my legacy? What is meaningful about my contributions? After all, finding meaning in our work is what gives us the greatest satisfaction. It lets us know that what we did was valued by someone else. As nurses, we put our heart and soul into caring for others. In return, we experience a tremendous sense of unspoken worth.
Maya Angelou once said, “You have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is what you do everyday. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped. That’s your legacy”.
There are 101 ways to create your legacy in a 12 hour shift. It starts by being on time and being prepared. It continues with how you interact with your peers and patients. It is created in how you listen. How you care. How you show respect. How you communicate. How you deal with workplace incivility. How you work in a team, and how you show love for yourself.
So I call upon my health care colleagues to think about the multiple ways in which patients and colleagues will remember you. At the end of the day, you will be remembered for your courage, attitude, behaviors and skills. Were you the nurse who could nail every single hard stick IV placement? Were you the physician who always held your patients’ hand when you delivered unfortunate news? Were you the unit manager who remembered the smallest of details about your staff? Were you the one who always took the stairs? Were you the one who encouraged everyone?
Who do you want to be? Because who you chose to be every day will become your legacy. Make it a great one.