Today, I write this post incredibly inspired by the nurses I’ve had the pleasure of working with, speaking to, and have known. This year, I will be hitting my third year as a registered nurse with most of my experience in the Medical/Surgical department and most recently, Orthopedics. This week is Nurse’s Week, and it’s allowed me the opportunity to hear and read stories shared by both patients and nurses around the country that really hit my core. There’s a feeling of humbleness when I hear patients talk about the nurses that they remember, the ones who have stood by the bedside and held their shaking hand before a risky procedure, or the nurses that worked tirelessly through the day to be that patient’s advocate when no one else was listening. Just a few hours ago, my friend told me that she had a hospice patient the other day who held her hand and shared her final words and moments with her before she passed. If you ever speak to a nurse, ask them to tell you a story and I guarantee that you will feel touched. There have been so many moments even this early in my career, where I’ve walked out of the hospital knowing that what I did truly impacted a person’s life and that my job matters. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be those life-saving instances. It could be something so small, like calling a doctor for a different pain management regimen to help ease the pains of a newly diagnosed cancer patient. Or guiding a patient’s hand while they injected themselves with their very first insulin shot. Even just making a patient laugh or smile for that moment in time could mean the world to someone who hasn’t had a visitor since they’ve been in the hospital. One of my earliest memories as a new grad nurse, I remember sitting down with a 19-year-old patient and listening to her talk about her dreams of one day finishing school and becoming a nurse. I sat with her for a few minutes and tried my best to give her the encouragement she needed to take care of herself and to also dump her crazy boyfriend that kept making a scene, yelling at her while she was in the hospital, and making her already compromised heart rate go up. I firmly asked him to leave and it was then that she told me how much she wanted to be where I was, and I told her that she could. She totally could.
The thing about this unique profession is that no one will truly understand what a nurse’s job consists of on a day to day basis unless they have experienced it themselves. I was talking to one of my friends from nursing school, and we believed that we basically serve as a patient’s armor and shield. We take the blows from nearly every part of the healthcare team when something goes wrong. We are the sole link and bridge between patient and each member of their team: pharmacists, doctors, specialists, labs, procedure techs, case managers, everything. When there is a question regarding the patient’s condition or care, we are the voices on the other line because we know the patient best. And when our patient begins to deteriorate or become sicker in the middle of the night, it is the nurse you’ll see running to the phone to page a doctor and notify them right away of what they need. I know that I’m not an ICU nurse, or an ED nurse, and there is a lot that I still need to learn, but I firmly believe that each department of nurses carry their own set of challenges and can impact a patient’s life tremendously at any stage of the hospital course. I see it every single day that I’ve worked in the hospital. Nurses carrying their tired feet room to room when the call lights won’t stop, their stomachs grumbling because they didn’t take their lunch break, or taking turns with the CNA to clean an incontinent patient so they aren’t sitting in their own soil for long periods of time. I’ve seen a nurse rush to the bedside when her patient started seizing and handled it so quickly and efficiently as if it were second nature. It’s unbelievable how much we trade in to care for someone that isn’t even our own family, and yet, we try our best to treat every patient as if they were. And what many nurses may not tell you is that we do these things never really expecting a thank you. A lot of my job, unfortunately, is being a patient’s punching bag at their most vulnerable states, because not every person in the hospital will be the sweet, 85-year-old lady that wants to share her lunch tray with you. A lot of the challenges I faced as a new nurse is providing care to the patients and family members that made me feel pretty worthless, even when I was doing my absolute best to make sure they were comfortable, happy, and cared for. The hospital is an extremely stressful environment for any person, and as a nurse, we soak it all in for them, we give and we give without a thank you, without recognition, and sometimes with our faces saturated in tears at the end of the day because we can only do and take so much before it actually is too much. People often forget that nurses are human, too. But we suck it up, take a deep breath, wipe our tears in the bathroom, finish our shift strong, then go home and rest so we can do it all again the next day. And the next day. That’s why I think it takes a really special person to decide that they want to do this job. A person that is both assertive, but kind; encouraging and enduring; patient, but tough. And most of all, possess a great desire, need, and heart to want to see someone get better.
To all of my fellow nurses, thank you for all that you do and for continuing to do them even through the toughest shifts. You are all truly amazing people with some of the biggest dang hearts I’ve ever seen and inspire me so much to not only be a better nurse, but a better person. One of the greatest stories I’ve heard recently was about a nurse that I know, with no critical care background, that stopped a patient from being sent home because she had a feeling something was wrong. She called almost 5 physicians and specialists who all gave the OK to discharge the patient, but she refused to let him leave without more tests being done. After more aggressive phone calls, she finally got the orders to do more tests and this young patient was found to have blood clots scattered throughout his lungs. She told me that the next day, he shook her hand and told her, “You saved my life.”
Nurses, you make a difference, wherever you are. You are everyday heroes disguised in scrubs, and I have never been more grateful or proud to be something that matters so much.
(My literal first pictures as a new grad nurse before orientation, hehe)