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Page 118

Day. There is always that lurking fear that, was it something I did or didn’t do
that they are just not telling me about.

Mary stayed in touch with classmates she considered her support group as she

searched for another NP position. It was through one of them that she found the NP

position she now holds at a walk-in clinic. “I am finally able to think of myself as a

real NP” she said at the last group dinner meeting. In spite of the detour she crossed

the border and found her way back to her main path.

Scared: Facing the Lions and Tigers and Bears

Whenever I’ve met a man I’ve been awfully scared; but I just roared at him,
and he has always run away as fast as he could go. (Baum, 1900/1960, p. 68)

The Cowardly Lion admits to his companions that he is scared of everything

but covers this fear by scaring others away. He joins Dorothy and the other

companions on the journey to Oz to ask for courage. What does it mean to be scared?

The word scare has a Middle English root skerre, and as a verb means to frighten or

terrify and to drive off (OED, 1989). When Dorothy and her companions were

frightened they ran off the yellow brick road and hid in the woods; they were forced

off the path by fear. Casey writes of being guided by “landmarks or by one’s own

pathmarks” (1993, p. 26). My conversants lead me to ponder the bodily experience

of place and fear. Is part of the reluctance to change places fear of the unknown or of

failure in the new place? This vulnerability shows itself in the words of my


Standing Alone

In her book about places that scare you, Pema Chödrön addresses the desire to

avoid change:


Page 119

Many of us prefer practices that will not cause discomfort, yet at the same
time we want to be healed. But the truth is that we can never avoid
uncertainty. This not knowing is part of the adventure, and it’s also what
makes us afraid. (2001, p. 6)

The participants all indicate a degree of discomfort and fear as they changed from

their RN to NP practice. I could hear the fear echoing in their voices, especially

during the first round of conversations which occurred when most of them were very

new to NP practice. Heather admits: “My first day [of NP practice] there was a lot of

anxiety.” She continues to discuss what causes the anxiety in her new practice: “It

was all new and different in the way you were going to be functioning on your own

without, really, anybody overlooking you or backing you up.”

Jeaneen relates similar feelings of needing a back up person as she started her


When you actually get out there, you are thinking: Where is that person that is
supposed to be standing behind me that I can just turn around and say, ‘Do
you agree with me?’ I think it is kind of a shock when you get out there and
you turn around and that person is not there anymore.

Later during the conversation Jeaneen comes back to the same idea: “It is scary

without that person. I didn’t realize when I was in school how much I grew to depend

on that person behind me.”

In a classic book written for nurses as they go into practice, Schmalenberg and

Kramer write:

For the new graduate, the movement from the yesterday of school to the today
of nursing practice can create feelings of helplessness, powerlessness,
frustration, and dissatisfaction. This turmoil can be labeled “reality shock.”
… Reality shock is the conflict resulting from the movement from the familiar
subculture of school to the unfamiliar subculture of work. The two
subcultures have their own values and behaviors. (1979, p. 1)


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