The best career advice she had ever received, and then she gave it to us

The best career advice she had ever received, and then she gave it to us

Written by Courtney Murrell

This June marks 16 years since I finished the PSW College certificate program, and I can still picture the night that the RN instructor shared with us, what has been the most important career advice I have ever received.

It was nearing 21:00, we were a classroom of exhausted women that had worked a full day already, made dinner for our families, written out study cue cards for the last test of our last course, before the final exam only days away. I remember looking around the classroom as our Nurse Instructor began saying how rewarding of a career that support work is and how each of us should be proud of ourselves for the hours we put in thus far. 

She shared about her journey through Nursing (she had been a Nurse for 30 some years at that point) and that one piece of advice she had received early on, she wanted to pass on to us, too. 

She shared from her heart that “not every day will feel like it does right now, some days your body will hurt, some days your heart will break, some days you may question why you do what you do.  You may feel rushed and like what you do does not matter, but it does, it matters so much. Most importantly, you might even be made to feel like being a PSW is an entry level position into healthcare. It can be, and if that is what ends up being true for you, that’s great! But remember, being a PSW is enough, too. 

“Remember, being a PSW is enough, too!”

Nursing is not the same as support work. There are parts of the scope of practice that overlap, but there is space for both.  So, take up space! Most importantly, while you take care of others, take care of you, too.”

“Most importantly, while you take care of others, take care of you, too.”

Self care is a term that is familiar to most everyone these days, but what does it mean when you are a PSW?  What can you do care for yourself while caring for another/others?

I invite you to reflect upon these questions: 

What does self care mean to me?  Is it art, is it a hot bath or a massage?  Is it time in nature?  Can I find a way to practice self care while I am working?  What might that look or feel like? 

It’s amazing how impactful words can be. Not only the ones we speak, but also the ones we write, or the ones that we sing or that come out in other forms of expression. 

One of my favorite forms of self care is writing. I enjoy creating word art with images and acrostic, or rhyming poetry.  For me, this is a way of caring for myself. When I write about being a PSW, I can share my passion for this work while honouring the raw and very real emotions that can accompany it. Much of my work is kept private, but this is a piece I wrote in honour of my colleagues and the team that we are, when we come together each day providing palliative and end of life care in our hospice. 

the work we do is special
ordinary moments are sacred here
we know the clock is ticking
so we slow down and hold time near
we smile and hug and listen
we hold weight that cannot be seen
and when one more life transitions
we know exactly what that means
in time someone new will come to us
we will travel a journey brand new
the work we do is special
we need holding and caring for, too

Self care looks and feels unique for each of us. It is an essential tool in our care kit, yet so many of us struggle with fitting it in to our personal lives, let alone our professional lives.

Considering the varying settings that PSWs practice in, there are undoubtedly many ways that one could practice self care while at, and away from work. Think of the setting you work in, and what might it mean for you and to those you care for if you practiced a few moments of self care during your work day?  

It is my hope, that in taking a few minutes to reflect over the work we do as PSWs, Nurses and caregivers, that we take time to ask ourselves, “what do I need right now?” Then take that one step further and explore how to bring that into fruition. 

9 Responses

  1. I love reading your writing. It is your art. I’m glad this form of self care supports you and the amazing work you do. Being a PSW is so much more that the tasks of meeting an individuals ADLs. The “S” in our acronym, “Support” speaks volumes to the work we do; walking with and supporting individuals through active listening, advocating their needs and just caring for them. No one chooses to face a life limiting illness, but if it happens, I’m proud to walk their path with them.

  2. What a lovely and timely account of significant moments of clarity in our lives, and our working lives! The suggestions are excellent advice & pathways to caring for ourselves in both working & personal lives. Kudos to Courtney Murrell.

  3. Wow, so Incredibly written and expressed! What a beautiful poem as well. I am not a PSW, I am a mom, a mom who needed to hear the message you shared and apply it to my life. It is a message we all need to hear. Thank you!

  4. What a beautiful write up and the poem is so true. Being a PSW for 25 years. This is so true.

  5. I so appreciated the heartfelt thoughtfulness of this article and poem. Sometimes I know we forget about the positive impact we have on people’s lives during their many journeys throughout their lives. I think many of us think that we don’t do enough in our careers as healthcare providers partly due to our caring nature and also our caring never ends. Throughout my 50 year career as an RN I have learned that self care is so important for me as well as the people I have the privilege of caring for and sharing my knowledge. Here’s to all the PSW’s, nurses, caregivers, and families who care so passionately to make a difference in the lives of others. Take care of yourselves!

  6. What a powerful message. I have been a nurse for 48 years and continue to work with PSWs and DSWs (Disability Support Workers). These front line workers invest their best to provide quality of life, safety, support and care every day. They are the foundation of the organizations that they work for and truly make a difference in profound and important ways.

  7. The work you do is so impressive, important for your patients and there families. Thank you for being the caring person that you are. And take care of yourself also because without your health and strength nothing happens. Love Auntie

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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