In today’s episode of the Haelan Nurse Chronicles, we have a very difficult but important topic to discuss.

Please know that we will be discussion suicide.  If you are in need of suicide support, please call 988 for immediate assistance.

So, full disclosure to those of you who have experienced the loss of a loved one by suicide or mental illness, know that we are talking today about the impact of how the nursing crisis is affecting millions of nurses, and we’re gonna honor the life of one nurse Tristan Kate Smith, who ended her life by suicide.

It is devastatingly insightful to get an insider’s look into her relationship with nursing, her relationship with burnout and short staffing and nurse specific traumatization, much of which was avoidable. And so I’m going to read today to all of us, her “Letter to My Abuser”, which was published after her death in by her father in the Oakwood Register.

I’m just, I’m going to read it and do my best to honor all that she experienced and as reflects of what so many nurses experience.

I teach undergraduate nurses in their entry to practice program, and I often feel like there’s more that I wish I could do. My book, Nursing Our Healer’s Heart, and my non-profit’s Breakup with Burnout Academy is one way in which I am stepping up in my leadership, in my light work, and doing what I can to make a difference for my nursing fam and for our profession.

So with that, I invite you to do what you can do with, with your leadership and your light work.

All right, so here is the letter to my abuser by Tristan Kate Smith, published in the Oakland Register by her father. And it starts like this. Letter to my abuser. Ever since I was young, I expressed interest in healthcare and becoming a nurse. So I began my study. I gave my heart, my body, my mind to you.

I dedicated long hours and days and gave you my all. I have cried with my patients, with their families, and for them, I held their hands and they held mine. As I moved forward in my nursing career, my patients and their families have been there for me, supported me, and reminded me why

I do what I do. I thought that was enough. This would be all I needed to carry me through my career. I told you I would be there through the good and the bad, but you have taken my heart and slowly crushed the goodness it had. You love, bombed me with affection and told me I was going to into a career that matters. I could make a difference.

You made me feel comfortable despite the rumors of your abusive past rumors that I didn’t want to believe the compliments, the pizzas, the thank you letters gradually had less meaning to me. Though the staff I worked beside began to go away. In your eyes, these staff were unnecessary. But it came at a high cost for the advertised quality care provided to our patients by those of us who were left.

You asked my colleagues and me what we needed to help patients and improve satisfaction scores.

And we told you the truth. But then you sent us to online courses that taught us just to smile more and be friendlier with the patients. That’s when I began to understand your cruelty and manipulation. I remember the first time I heard about nurses getting hit. I remember that you asked them what they’d done or didn’t do to prevent it from happening.

Don’t protect yourself by fighting back. You said just stay with your hands over your heart and wait until security comes. You created an environment of fear and a blame of, I’m sorry, you created an environment of fear and blame in a place where we already felt unsafe. You blamed us for things out of our control. You criminally charged my colleagues for things that happened as a direct result of your own actions.

The law doesn’t protect us, and it doesn’t, and neither do you.

I no longer feel like you care about me or the people you say you serve. I sit at my front desk just waiting for someone to walk in off the street and shoot my patients in me. You do not care about keeping us protected. You haven’t provided even the slightest amount of security to keep us safe. You use and exploit us to line your pockets using the common citizens money for overpriced healthcare.

You are a narcissist. I can see you for what you really are. You say you care, but you ignore us. While we beg on our hands and knees. You tell us we have to do so much and that we put up with so much. But when we dare to think we are finally going to get the love and support we deserve, we get a pizza party and free pens for the healthcare heroes.

I so desperately want to continue to help people, but I cannot stay in this abusive relationship each day. You ask me to do more with less. You beat me to the point that my body and mind are black, bruised and bleeding out. I’m only sorry to my patients and colleagues. You deserve so much better. But my abusive partner is relentless. If I stay, I will lose my sanity and possibly my life forever.

This is the end of Tristan’s letter.  A letter to her abuser, written by Tristan Kate Smith, published by her father Ron Smith in the Oakwood Register on October 4th, 2023.

Now, this this is heart wrenching. I’m surprised I got through it without crying because I cried the first few times I read it.  It took many practice runs to be able to read it without weeping. You can hear the emotions starting to come in my voice.

Millions of nurses could write a similar letter.  Millions of nurses across the globe are experiencing what Tristan experienced.  Nurses do not feel safe because they are not safe.

And this is what is at the root of the nursing crisis. So in the weeks and episodes and months ahead, we will be unpacking how we can help nurses to insulate themselves from toxic work places, work environments, colleagues, and patients.

So we can start the healing process so that we can heal internally in our nervous systems, in our polyvagal system. We can start to work from our healed scars instead of our gaping open wounds and come together as a nursing profession in our communities, in our groups, and across the world to ensure that we don’t lose another nurse to burnout.

To do our part to ensure that we don’t lose another nurse to nurse-specific traumatization.

To do our part to ensure that we don’t lose another nurse to suicide.

I hope you’ll join me in this effort and, and consider purchasing my book, Nursing Our Healer’s Heart or  The Break Up with Burnout Academy for Nurses.

The the call to action is clear.

If we do nothing, the problem will persist. And you or I could be among the nurses who leave the profession, leave our roles or perhaps, or perhaps leave our lived experience.

From my healer’s heart to yours, thank you for the important work you’re doing. Please consider nurturing your nervous system every day and in every way.

From my healer’s heart to yours and until next time, thank you, thank you, thank you.


Dr. Lorre 💕

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