Here’s a few things I’m realizing that I’ve learned, either over time or recently, through nursing:
- How incredibly nice a person is will be directly proportional with how terminal their illness is. Yep, sad to say, some of the very nicest people you will ever meet are on the oncology floor….for the final time. I have nursing students in clinical right now on oncology and neurosurgery; it is an incredibly depressing clinical rotation for all.
- The more entitled patients are going to be the younger generation. Yep, 90% of the time the patient you flat out CAN’T please will be in their 40s. Or 30s. Or 20s. Or a retired nurse! 😉
- We have taught our younger generation to not be able to tolerate pain. At all. Yep, the 90 year old lady with rotator cuff surgery can last 12 hours off of 2 Tylenol. The 38 year old with a minimally invasive procedure needs Dilaudid every 3 hours and complains that it is not enough. People kind of need to realize that SOME pain is inevitable; but the expectation today is NO pain.
- You are always a psych nurse. It’s funny, when I left full-time psych nursing nearly 20 years ago, I thought that I’d “left” psych nursing. But no, you never leave psych nursing. Because sadly, the number of patients with a concomitant mental illness has exponentially increased. Whether because we are doing a better job of identifying these illnesses, or we’re over-diagnosing them, I can’t say.
- It’s all about the poop. Or pee. Or other bodily juice or fluid! Seriously, as nurses, we may not LOVE that stuff, but yeah, we want it out of you. In adequate quantities. Hopefully looking the way it’s supposed to. The only thing you can keep in ya is your blood. Please keep that to yourself. Or else my busy shift gets much busier…and quickly.
- Illness, injury and the stress of hospitalization can either exacerbate a person’s worst tendencies and characteristics….or bring out the greatest strength, patience and kindness imaginable. Both responses to stress need to be recognized, acknowledged, and dealt with in the same kind/respectful manner.
- I realize the need we as nurses have to distance ourselves from the stress and horror we deal with on a regular basis. I get it. Hell, even I do it from time to time, with my dark and twisted sense of humor. Whether it is the pitch black humor, or the stepping away from the person by calling the patient “room 203” or “the appy down the hall”. But GOD I hate that. That isn’t the “appy down the hall”. That is George, or Mr. Smith. That is your PATIENT, not a room number or diagnosis. While I understand how nurses do that, I freaking hate it. I have my black humor as a survival mechanism; but I won’t dehumanize my patients to desensitize myself to what they are going through. When I catch myself doing that, it’s time to go into office work or something.
- We, as nurses, are collectors. We are given the gift of collecting moments, and special interactions, that other people will never have the opportunity to have. My life is enriched by every person I share the universe with, whether it is a pleasant interaction or a challenging one. From everyone, I gain and learn; and the moments we gain as nurses working with patients are unlike any other moments we will share with people.
- Everyone has a story. That patient in that bed, that is NOT who that person is on a regular basis in their life. Find out who that PERSON is, not just who that patient is. And feel honored that you get to be a part of their story, even if it is only a small part.
- The amount of poo and it’s consistency will be in indirect proportion to the amount of help you have in cleaning it up! (and will be directly proportional with how tired you are and how late in the shift it is; yes, the awesome intense blowouts will often occur after 5:30)
It is challenging, and hard. I get drained and tired at times. But I know, truly, how blessed and lucky I am to be able to be a part of this profession. There is no more rewarding job on the planet than providing care, respect and dignity to those who momentarily have lost their own.