Toastmasters Project Number 1:
My mantra in life, cliche as it may sound, is ‘Make the world a better place’. Probably why I became a nurse – to help other people. Sadly it is easier said than done. To live up to it takes a lot of courage.
Mister Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, guests, let me share with you my story.
Not a long while ago, I started working in a hospital intensive care unit. I was working one night shift and I was assigned to a patient who just had a nasogastric tube put in. This is a feeding tube inserted into the nose long enough to go into the stomach. This needed to be x-rayed to confirm placement before we could commence feeding the patient.
So I phoned the X-ray technician to come to the unit to perform the radiography. She said she would be coming ‘in a while’. I waited for her and a few minutes later she arrived. Now what I could have done better was to ask her how long it would take before she could come. That way I could have alerted the orderlies to come earlier and make better use of everyone’s time. To make up for this lapse in judgment, I rang up the orderlies as soon as the tech showed up. After about 10 minutes, there was still no sign that the orderlies were coming so I had to think on my toes and take another alternative. I knew there were other nurses free at that point. Since I could not leave the room because my patient was on the ventilator, I pressed the call bell to see if any one was willing to help out.
And so with a stroke of luck or should I say, lack thereof, a few people came to my rescue. It was the shift leader and her assistant. Their commanding stance scared the shit out of me. I should’ve seen it coming – the big black eyes of the big bad wolf. With an air of arrogance and a thunderous voice, the shift leader commanded me to turn the call bell off, and told me upfront she isn’t helping because it’s not her job, that my patient was big, and that I had no choice but to wait for the orderlies. I was berated in front of other people and I felt a lot smaller than my 5 foot 4 inches frame. To make matters worse, I just lost my voice and did not reason at all. I stood there, frozen and lifeless. What was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t thinking. Despite my superior IQ, I felt idiotic. All my confidence went down the drain. In the presence of the x-ray technician and the other nurse, I felt so humiliated for being made to feel I made such a bad call when what I was just trying to be efficient.
I did not mind getting criticized. However, the manner of how I was told off was just plain unacceptable. I’m a professional for crying out loud. I did not go to university to be treated like a mere pawn in a chess game.
In that moment, I felt sorry for two people. One for my emotional tormentor. She had no idea how horrible she made me feel. And even if she had, she couldn’t care less probably. But I felt sicker in the gut for myself. I should’ve stood up for myself and said something. Not that I should’ve counteracted fire with fire, or challenged her into a physical duel. She was twice my size, as old as my mother, and if we fought I would’ve been smashed straight away. I have respect for older people, sometimes too much that I fail to recognize that this cohort can make human errors too.
I take pride in being a man of few words, not a man of no words. It felt so frustrating that I could have explained but I let my inner demon of lack of confidence get the better of me. And for that, I am more humiliated with myself for not being bold enough to make a rational response, letting the cycle of bullying carry on.
Finally it dawned on me – the experience was an important learning curve. It’s probably one of the reasons that drove me to find avenues to build my speaking confidence and be here in Toastmasters. Now I am a work in progress – and I couldn’t be prouder of myself for actually rising above the situation and taking the first step to try to be a better person.
Somebody once said “There are three kinds of people in this world. Those that make things happen, those that witness things happen, and those that wonder what the hell happened”. I choose to be part of the first group of people. I choose to not let fear and ignorance take the toll on me. I choose to blaze trails, be confident in myself, and rest in the assurance that as long as I know I’m just trying to do the right thing, I am on the right track. I cannot undo what happened in the past but I can surely learn from it. I choose to stand up against the big bad wolves. I also work to not be a big bad wolf myself, knowing firsthand its negative impact to someone’s psychological well-being.
At the end of the day, the only way bullies can exist is when victims never try to dodge the bullets. Ending bullying, beginning with me standing up for myself, in its purest, most organic sense, that ladies and gentlemen, is my humble contribution in making this world a more habitable place to live in.