When you realize again that what you do is not who you are

By 9 A.M. all manner of positive thinking has gone out the window.  I’ve got 3 patients arriving at the same time, orders weren’t put in correctly for a patient (again…)  doctors are irritated for no apparent reason, I can’t get an IV started on a patient, and we’re short staffed and don’t have coverage for breakfast breaks.  (“Hangry” is a real thing, people!)

Yes, I do take care of people, meet them in a vulnerable place, and comfort them before heading into surgery.  Yes, I’ve witnessed some of the coolest medical anomalies ever, including a 76 pound tumor get safely removed from a woman’s abdomen.  But many days I come home wondering if any of it really mattered.  If I really made a difference at all.  I think, “God, are you here?  Where are you in the midst of all this craziness, pressure, sickness and negativity? I need to be helped too.”

In 7th grade I decided that I wanted to be a nurse.  I wanted to “help people”.  Two and a half years into my career and I can tell you that I do get to help people.  I have the opportunity to experience people in a very unique time in their life-a time they are often afraid and unsure of what’s ahead.  Currently I’m a Pre-op and Recovery room nurse at a hospital near Detroit.  Working in a hospital means I’ve met drug seekers, sweet old ladies, people in car accidents, victims of gang violence, mommas who lost their babies, pregnant 14-year-olds, organ donors, and cancer survivors.  It also means I work long hours, take call on weekends and holidays, get yelled at, pooped on, and regularly come home with sore feet and some kind of body fluid on my scrubs.  

Most times my day starts out on a positive note.  I may be tired, but I generally have a good attitude thinking, “God has made today and has already gone before me into it.  He’s got this.”  

I’ve recently been having an extra hard time leaving work at work though.  I’ve noticed that I’m taking what happens at work, like interactions with coworkers, ways doctors talk to me, or the kinds of patients I have, and letting it affect my thoughts about the kind of person I am.  For example, if a patient raves about how comforting I was to them and how great I put their IV in, or I describe my job to others and their response is, “Wow, you’re so great, I could never do what you do!”  I start to believe I’m this awesome person.  But if my coworkers don’t sing my praises, and the O.R. is upset that my patient isn’t ready yet, and doctors are mad because I didn’t remind them to do their paperwork, I start to think, “I must not be good enough.”

What I’ve realized, is that what I currently believe about who I am is deeply shaped by my circumstances and what others say about me.  *Sigh*  I’ve been here before.  This struggle is nothing new for me.  I need to learn it again.  Circumstances change.  People change.  Relationships change. So why allow my identity and value to be defined by such temporary things?  I still think it’s okay to take into consideration the opinions of others, and take pride in what we do for a living. The danger comes when we elevate those things and allow them to define our identity.  

God is the only eternal one, the only constant one.  If I really believe He’s God, that He is good, and I am His child, then why do I struggle to let Him be the one to define my identity?  I need to be reminded of who He really is, and who I really am.  I need Him to speak to my heart and remind me that true life is only found within Him – not my job title, my coworkers, or even my friends and family.  

Here is the truth I must re-learn: We belong to a good God- one who numbers the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:6-7), and engraved our names on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:15-17).  One who claims us as his children (John 1:12), and describes us as “chosen” (Ephesians 1:4), “precious” (Isaiah 43:4) and His “handiwork” (Ephesians 2:10).  We are intimately known and unconditionally loved by the “name above all other names” (Philippians 2:9), the ultimate authority, God himself.  Scripture says, ”He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…”  (Colossians 1:16). If anyone gets to decide anything about us, shouldn’t it be Him?  

Sometimes I just need to be reminded, that I’m no better of a person because of my job, and I’m no worse of a person because of what others say about me.  In fact, my value doesn’t depend at all on what I do, but rather on what God has already done for me.  My value is decided by the costly blood of Jesus.  Knowing this truth sets me free to be who I am, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing.

It’s humbling to realize that I’m broken and in as much need as the patients in my care.  Like I said, I am in the process of learning this over and over again.  Thank goodness for our patient and faithful God who walks with us in our mess. Hopefully this is an encouragement to all of you on your faith journey!

You may also like


  1. Dear Katie – Your words are wise, beyond your years. Your article is a great reminder of God’s truth and love. I’m so thankful that what I do does not define who I am.

    Your article brings to my mind a song: Good, Good Father

    “You are a good, good Father,
    It’s who You are, it’s who you are…
    And I am loved by You,
    It’s who I am, It’s who I am.

    I am also blessed to have you in my life!
    Momma C