Why be a nurse?

I was in a job interview earlier this week, and the person who was interviewing me (a fellow nurse, with many years in the field as well as in education) was telling me that she remembered her very first patient….her very first “code blue”….her very first patient death. Some things stay with you, even if they are from 40+ years ago.

Every nurse, everyone in health care, has patients that touch their hearts and memories, for some reason. Patients who influence us, in our thought processes, in our quality of care, in our attention and desires to do things differently for them. They may have survived or not, but they have left an indelible mark on our souls, our heads, our hearts, as well as on our dedication to the profession.

Sometimes, it is a losing battle. Sometimes we know it, sometimes we don’t. But the best we can do is, the best we can do. And whether someone survives or not is out of our realm a lot of the time. Awareness of that fact, and acceptance of it, is essential to our jobs and to our sanity.

So why be a nurse? When you lose half of your patients, despite your best efforts, and yet, there is never a shortage of people, patients, those with poor lifestyle choices, those with bad luck, those with bad karma, those who are old, who are young, who are shockingly like YOU? Because even when the actual outcome is out of our hands, the treatment of these people is well within them. And when I am taking care of a patient, I know that they are getting the BEST care possible for that 12 hours. If I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t still be doing this.

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.”

Old Emily Dickinson had it right…..that’s what this job is all about

“Nurse’s day” and “Hospital week”

Originally posted on May 8, 2014
National “nurse’s day” is May 6th. (“Hospital week”, which celebrates and thanks all who work within the hospital setting, is coming up next week; May is apparently a month to honor moms and other caretakers!)

Most of the time, hospital’s celebrate these special days with treats for the staff (generally high fat, high sugar treats! Because who doesn’t want an ice cream sundae at 1am?? *I* sure do!!), possibly little gifts, like mugs or water tumblers; a hospital I’ve worked with has done nice pampering gifts, like 10 minute massages and mini-facials or hand scrubs (yep, ice cream is out, I’ll take luxury!)

But honestly, the beauty of this profession is that we are celebrated, treated, and thanked every day. Oh, not always will all patients appear grateful for when you are waking them at midnight for a shot, or at 4am for lab work! But the saying goes that a job done well is it’s best reward; and this job, when done well, gives us bonus kudos every single day we work. It’s in little things sometimes; sometimes a smile, sometimes a patient who has been in great pain finally relaxing; sometimes in reading the “numbers” and seeing mathematically that a patient is showing their signs of improving.

Good nurses do this work with their hearts open and giving; you can’t do this job without opening your heart to your patients, their loved ones, and your fellow co-workers. At times a nurse may appear to be less emotionally impacted by a given situation; trust me, they are feeling every bit of it. We learn how to guard our emotions in the heat of the moment, to be the most effective at actually doing our job; but we hurt with people, we cry with people, and we feel joy with people. It’s just that some of those emotions are more helpful to the patient when shown directly to them, and those which would negatively impact the patient will be carefully hidden until we get home.

I received a hug last week from a lovely, sweet lady who lost her father recently. I was one of the nurses taking care of him, and then essentially her and her family, during the whole situation. This beautiful person who is still so hurting from her loss hugged me and thanked me for all I did for her and her family, and said she is trying to be able to give thanks to everyone who was involved in her father’s care. Nurse-mode me (and of course, what I would do anyway) hugged her back tightly, said “you’re welcome”, and asked how she and her family are doing, and telling her to please take good and gentle care of herself. And then I got in my car and cried a little on the way home for this sweet lady’s loss.

The hug, and the cry, are “thank you’s”. Nurse’s day came early to me.