Name: Yun Cee Dirsa
Where do you live? New York City
What does it mean to have a voice?
“Voice” is a culmination of your beliefs, your experiences, and how you want to live your life. Each person’s “voice” is unique and invaluable.
How did you find your voice?
My voice was shaped through awareness from my personal life experiences, traveling to other nations, and listening to people I’ve met along the way.
What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?
When I was growing up in Michigan in the 80s and 90s, there weren’t many Asians. My hometown was not diverse and I always felt like an outsider trying to fit in. Even when I visited my grandmother in South Korea, the Koreans would tell me I’m not Asian because I was born in the USA. I remember crying as a kid and saying, “What am I?"
To be honest, I’m not sure if I even know what my cultural identity is except that I’m half Chinese and half Korean by birth. When I turned 18, I packed my bags and moved to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts to major with a Photography major. 18 years later, I’m still living in NYC. Can someone please tell me I can call myself a New Yorker now?
Moving to NYC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For the first time, I felt like I belonged. I don’t know if it’s because I went to art school, but cultural identity was not a big deal on campus. New York City was my campus and I felt that the environment was very inclusive. Differences, whatever they may be, are revered and embraced. I can just be myself here and it is completely okay. In a strange way, NYC gave me permission to have a voice. Everyone has a voice but most are fearful to say anything; Afraid of retribution, recognition, rejection, self worth…vulnerability.
I know these are some of the internal battles I face on a regular basis and there’s no way I can be alone in this. (Yes, I watched Brené Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability and absolutely loved it.)
Tell me about when you finally found your voice.
I didn’t find my voice until my late 20s and am still refining it in my 30s. As a first born child from Asian-immigrant parents, I’m not supposed to have a voice because I’m female and young. As I entered adulthood, I realized this holds back a lot of brilliant and fabulous Asian women because of expected cultural norms or behavior. I think each woman needs to find her own individual balance. Women from strong cultural backgrounds probably have it a little harder in today’s world and converging expectations.
Two years ago I launched a podcast and blog, “Resus Nurse,” as a means to provide free nursing education on topics that aren’t traditionally discussed in most nursing schools or hospital orientations for Emergency Nursing.
Often, Emergency Departments are looked upon as a place you come to when you’re sick but the “real care” doesn’t happen until you go upstairs. I can tell you that is not true. Emergency Departments provide care that no other unit can provide because we deal with several emergencies all at the same time. My personal mission is that any critically sick patient can walk into any Emergency Department and receive the same excellent care regardless of geography, culture, language, or socioeconomic status. I believe the knowledge to care for these patients just has to be shared, discussed, and applied to Emergency Nursing. Although a podcast and blog are non-traditional educational tool for nursing, it’s a great way to disseminate education. In the spirit of #FOAM (Free Open Access Medical education) - my content is free. The informal format is how most of us learn anyways.
In the last year, I had two surgeries that made me question what is actually important in life. I thought I had breast cancer and it was completely benign but still required surgical removal. Several months later I had to get another surgery to save my ovaries. I feel extremely fortunate and lucky to have a good outcome. Working in an Emergency Department, I’m used to having answers right away. Personally, the hardest part for me…was waiting. Waiting months for a diagnosis, waiting for a treatment plan, waiting to have my surgery, waiting to heal, waiting to exercise, waiting to regain my strength. Nurses have a tendency to not take care of themselves because they are always taking care of others. Nurses have to learn to take care of themselves too. Although my episodes focus on critical care nursing in the Emergency Department, I plan to expand episode topics to include wellness, leadership, and the basics of emergency nursing. I hope that through this non-traditional education method, I can help elevate nursing as a profession and bring the joy back to nursing…we need more nurses at the bedside.
Define “voice” and why it is important?
Your “voice” is a culmination of your beliefs, experiences, and how you want to live your life. I think that as you continue to grow in life, your “voice" expands as well. It’s the essence of who you are as a person and what you will become. Each person’s “voice” is unique and invaluable. If everyone came to the exact same conclusion every time - there would be no growth, change, excitement, joy, or accomplishment. Life becomes predictable and we may lose the sense of wonder, hope, and sparkle that is needed in each of us. When people are willing to take chances and speak about what they believe in, contribute to discussions, and have friendly debates, it creates a richer understanding of any subject. It’s how we can evolve at home, at work, in society, etc.
In society, people are often punished, disciplined or ostracized for not conforming to the norm. I see this starting at a really young age and by the time someone becomes a young adult, they are afraid to think outside of the box. Thinking outside of the box is what we need! This is how we get good music, art, ideas, inventions, innovative products, medical advancements - the list is endless! While I can appreciate rules, advancement can only happen if you mindfully break the rules. Having a voice doesn’t require you to be in a position of power. Leaders who are in positions of power to cultivate staff shouldn't be afraid of ideas that challenge the status quo. If it doesn’t work, probably no biggie. If it does work, it can be incredible!
There’s a traditional Japanese aesthetic “wabi-sabi” that translates into accepting the beauty of imperfection. It’s okay to be different and our differences should be embraced. We probably spend too much time worrying about what others think of us, our thoughts, our voice. So while I understand that it's really hard to stay true to yourself - to your “voice" - it is exactly the reason why it’s so important to trust your own “voice.”
What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?
I have two powerful lessons I’ve learned :
1) As a female, my voice may not carry the same weight as a male. And as a non-Caucasian female, my voice may have even less weight.
2) Women have a hard time supporting other women - we are our own Achilles’ heel.
We as women have the power to change the dialogue between women. We are currently in another wave of feminism and although I don’t know what a modern feminist looks like exactly, I think that might be the point. We should not question ourselves for being brilliant, gorgeous, talented, or fabulous. We should not question ourselves for being a wife, mom, CEO, doctor, nurse, lawyer, judge, politician, teacher, yogi, artist, singer, actress, etc. Why can’t we celebrate our differences instead of being judgmental towards each other?
As women, we have to be nicer to each other and learn to accept who we are and who we choose to be.
Our paths may change and that is also completely okay. Women should be celebrated for their decisions, not criticized or ridiculed. Whatever balance a woman decides on, we should respect and celebrate it! Whatever decision a woman makes, it’s not an easy one. You want to be a stay at home mom? Awesome! You want to work and hire a nanny? Awesome! You don’t want children? Awesome! You want to feed your babies with breast milk or bottle or both? Awesome! You don’t want to marry? Awesome!
I think that if we want to have more equal pay, fill more leadership positions, have more representation in our government, etc - we need to stop playing vicious games to each other. Right now, we have the opportunity to empower all women. So let’s support and empower each other.
Yun Cee Dirsa, BFA, BSN, RN, CEN is a Registered Nurse who specializes in Resuscitation and Critical Care Emergency Nursing. She is the host of the popular Resus Nurse Podcast and Blog. Her interests include maximizing nursing care to critically ill patients, nursing education, and wellness. She currently lives and works in New York City, loves eating noodles, and practices Iyengar Yoga.
Twitter: @resusnurse @yun_cee