I wake up in the morning at 5 am to get ready for work. I quickly brush my teeth and wash my face. I scrounge around for my scrubs in the dark because my husband is still fast asleep, hoping that they will match!! I run to the kitchen to start the coffee. I make my lunch and his in record time. I dart out the door by 6am and make the drive through the city to work. I like to put on some music, put down my phone and take that 30 minute drive to pray for my day and just….not think.
I walk into the hospital in silence. I see familiar faces, stethoscopes in tow, and we kindly waive, but none of us know what the day is going to bring. We don’t know what assignments we’re going to get. We don’t know who we’re going to meet. We don’t really know how sick our patients will be. We don’t know if we’ll eat lunch. We don’t know when we’ll get to go to the bathroom next. We don’t know what in the world will be handed to us today, but guess what? We’re prepared because we are NURSES!
Every year, nurses week comes around. We’re given a lunch box, keychains, trinkets, and umbrellas. It’s a kind gesture with good intention (I think?), but it’s slightly insulting. Because nobody knows what it’s like to be a nurse, if you’ve never been one. No body knows what it’s like to walk a day in the shoes of a Nurse who has the weight and responsibility of unstable lives in our hands. No body knows the pressure, the expectations, the EMOTIONS that we deal with on a daily basis. We take care of LIVES. And THAT is the GIANT difference between us and any billion dollar product/service industry out there. We take care of LIVES!
Let me share with you a few scenarios:
The Broken Mother
I get report about patient, a year younger than me, who has critical cancer diagnosis with mets to the brain. This patient walked into the ER, and 5 days later has a palliative care consult. His “death crackles” as I call them, are getting louder and so is his mother’s bedside cry. I begin to suction, almost to the point of manually bronching. Tears filled my eyes as I saw the sadness take over his family. I stayed strong in that moment because I was their nurse. “Staying strong” didn’t mean not crying. Staying strong meant being there. It meant doing my job and taking care of this Mother’s child when she NEVER envisioned losing him in this way. I cried with them. I stood with them. I was just their NURSE.
Another day, different floor. I get a foreign patient who spoke no english and had a terminal cancer diagnosis. Her family couldn’t understand exactly what was going on, despite our translators efforts. I think it was more of denial. This poor women had a feeding tube placed that was doing nothing but hurt her. We knew she wasn’t going to make it, but the family felt it was giving up hope. I watched her facial grimacing worsen, and I got permission to titrate her morphine pumped. I hopped in that bed with her and brought 2 of my favorite nurses in with me. We sang our hearts out to this woman as she took her last breath. We tried our hardest to let her transition peacefully. We WERE the only family she had that day. And I was just her NURSE.
Feeding The Heart
I got up early one morning to grab coffee and breakfast for some family members who I noticed wouldn’t leave their dying mother’s bedside. I met them a few days before when I cared for her. She was frail and weak as could be, and the metastatic cancer was now causing confusion and disorientation. No one came to visit except them, and I noticed that they wouldn’t even leave the room to eat. It broke my heart, because even though I’m sure they didn’t care about food, they needed something in them. I sat with them for about 20 minutes before my shift. We ate bagels and smiles were cracked from sharing funny stories about their loved one. It was a tiny breath of fresh air for us all. I remember that morning, getting up was hard. But sitting at that bedside conversing and seeing them come to life in just a small way, made it every bit worth it. I was just their NURSE.
We All Have Our Stories
We all have stories like these. We’ve touched and seen things that people would never imagine. We don’t eat. We don’t pee. We cry. We scream. We laugh. We run (to the bed alarm). We poke. We push. We pull. We wash. We fix. We serve. And we do ALL OF THIS IN THE NAME OF A LIFE!!! Nurses go above and beyond what school teaches. And that’s what makes a NURSE and this profession so unique. You can’t teach people to love, to care, to cry, to empathize, to FEEL the way that nurses do! They are pre-equipped with these caring traits. The skill is what we learn in school….but I’ve learned in my short 5 years of nursing, those traits are what make up a TRUE nurse. It is TOTALLY a role that starts from a young age in your heart, if you ask me!
I sometimes wonder the thought that goes into picking out nurses week gifts. I’m sure HOURS of work are spent finding the BEST keychain and umbrella for us (sigh). As I appreciate that at least something in done, there is still a nationwide undertone of feeling unappreciated and undervalued as a nurse. And a keychain for nurses week is just an indication that we feel important enough to well….get a keychain. I’m not looking for a Louis Vuitton purse. I just simply want to feel respected, valued, and to have a voice in NURSING care.
I just want to take this time, AS A NURSE, to say THANK YOU to all of the AMAZING, hardworking, sacrificial, and BEAUTIFUL nurses out there!!! I spent Nurses Week in DC FIGHTING for this profession. THAT is a REAL Nurses Week if you ask me! As a post-Nurses week blog and dedication, I want to say thank you and that I’m proud to be a nurse warrior, standing along side you in this daily battle of emotion for MANY reasons. I love you guys!!!!!! THANK YOU for being a NURSE!!!!!!