Dreaming in nursing


I woke up at 0430 this morning with my heart pounding. Occasionally this happens, I have a “nightmare” about nursing.

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In this particular dream, I was working a night shift and at the end of the shift I was chatting with the nurses. I was getting ready for report, and I couldn’t remember seeing any of my patients; no names, no faces, no recollection at all. I began to feel anxious and I asked one of my fellow nurses, “Gee I hope I finished my charting” and she replied, “No I don’t think you closed out your charts.”

In a panic I ran to the charts. Of course in the dream they were not electronic, they were huge paper charts, perhaps as big as they could be about 6 inches thick, with hand written notes. I was trying to decipher the handwriting and figure out what was going on with a particular patient. As I read through the chart I realized I had not assessed this patient. I must have slept through entire shift. How could that be? Clearly from the diagnosis this patient would have needed pain medication, turning, toileting, and so on. Who was caring for this patient? I had nothing to chart and I realized that I would, at this last hour, have to go and check on all of my patients, assess them, check their meds, and then chart. My 5-year-old daughter arrived in the dream and wanted to play and I had to tell her no.

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Somehow, I woke up and had to convince myself it was just a dream, nobody was harmed, I was safe in my bed. For the record, I haven’t work the floor since the late 1990’s, though I worked as a hospice nurse and taught clinical in the hospital until 2005. Around that time, I finished my PhD, and began to focus on just honing my skills as an educator while I had two babies and raised them into young children.

I have this type of dream several times a year. I suppose I could do a dream analysis, look for the Jungian archetypes, or focus on my own life-anxiety and how it is related to my work. But I am really wondering about here is the dreams that nurses have: the good, the bad, the sleep time dreams, and the awakened dreams.

What is it that our hearts desire in our practice? What are we “dreaming of” in nursing practice and education… and how do we get there? Do we find reward in a broken healthcare system and as the largest providers of healthcare in the nation, how do we take back our practices of caring and compassion? How do we partner with others to create change? How can we use the Nurse Manifesto created by Peggy Chinn, Richard Cowling, and Sue Hagedorn to our benefit?

I would love to hear nurses’ stories about what they desire. I myself wrote a story about what nurses experiencing versus what we desire and you can read about that here: https://nursemanifest.com/research_reports/2002_study/nurse65x89.htm

This story was recently published in Creative Nursing journal. I am also presenting this story and supporting nurses in creating a personal plan of action at the American Holistic Nurses Association Annual Conference in Virginia Beach, VA this June. I hope to see you there!

3 thoughts on “Dreaming in nursing

  1. Wonderful inspiration, Carey! Thanks so much! Years ago I actually published an article that starts with a “dream of a healing house” (Chinn, Peggy L. “Nursing Patterns of Knowing and Feminist Thought.” Nursing and Health Care 10, no. 2 (1989): 71-75.) that people still contact me about occasionally! The dream in that article is not an real night-time dream, but it came about because of the experience Charlene and I had during one of her hospitalizations. It was so bad that to cope, she and I fantasized what we wished and dreamed that the experience could be … how we would create the same experience if we could do it over, from scratch! The fantasizing gave us some comic relief from the reality of what she was experiencing, and what I experienced as her significant other. So I would encourage everyone to create these dreams … they indeed can be our future!

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  2. Peggy, I had very bad experiences in the hospital when I birthed both of my daughters; more fuel for the fire to create change. I will look at your classic article as well. I agree we need to dream more and that is my hope for my presentation at AHNA, to support our dreams of caring and healing in nursing!

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  3. Carey, I used to have that dream frequently – always the night shift ending, day shift coming, and I would have been taking care of only one patient all night. Had no idea what had gone on with the rest! It must be the nurse’s dream! Recently I shared this recurring dream with a friend who is a nurse, and she was amazed to know that someone else had her dream! But I like the idea of creating your own dream or fantasy. Being more proactive,hmmm!

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