As a little girl, my very favorite person in the world was my Nana. She was brave and beautiful and bold, and she made me feel special every time I saw her. She let me wear her make up and ride around the house in her wheelchair, and she gave me my first nursing job. My Nana was paraplegic, and I have vivid memories of being unnaturally eager to empty her catheter, or set up her transfer board, or push her wheelchair… and she patiently allowed it.
At the age of 7 or 8 I knew…I wanted to be a nurse, just like my mom. When I was a little older I found out about all the gross stuff nurses did and changed my career goals very quickly, until it started to sound like a pretty secure option again around high school. I wanted to work with children and go on missions trips and save the world. My picture of nursing was giving shots in a tent somewhere scorchingly hot or applying tourniquets to bloody limbs and saving people who were incessantly grateful…. Because people love people who save lives, right? People love nurses… right? So now I am 26 years old, and I have been an ICU nurse for five years, and I guess I’m a little more….aware. There are a million tiny pieces of nursing that no one warns you about. A million tiny facets that medical shows can’t portray. A million unspoken truths that the non-nurses of the world can’t possibly understand. And suddenly, I’m not the little girl emptying my grandmother’s catheter anymore, I’m the scared new nurse who has to start an IV, and the patient is disappointed and angry that I had to stick him twice. I’m not the eager nursing student spending an hour with the sweet old lady who needs help eating, I’m the by default “seasoned” nurse, doing strange and extraordinary things to keep people alive…or kind of alive, I’m not really sure…And most of the people I care for aren’t incessantly grateful. In fact, they’re upset and they’re hurting, and they need someone to blame, and their family members don’t understand why after all these extraordinary things I’ve done…they aren’t better. The million tiny pieces like this are the majority, hurting people and sad outcomes and misplaced blame.
Every so often, there are pieces that are precious and good and reminiscent of all the reasons people become nurses, whether it’s the family member that thanks you for helping their loved one die without pain, or the patient being kept alive by ten machines who walks up to the ICU months later to express their gratitude…but these tiny pieces are rare in comparison.
And then…there are the tiny pieces that are my favorite… and they sustain me…
I never realized these tiny pieces came with nursing, and I never dreamed they would be the most rewarding part…
I’m talking about the other nurses. The nurses that become your greatest friends and inspirations, the role models and the teachers, and the ones who hold your hand through the weird, crazy, jagged, uncomfortable, beautiful insanity that is nursing. Without the family of nurses that forms around you, you are nothing. So thank you fellow nurses. You all are the best part of my profession. You all are the anchor that keeps healthcare human, and you all create meaning during the chaos of protocols and policies and government reimbursements. You all continue to give care that is driven by compassion rather than money, and you all continue to give healing in a place that is broken.
So here’s to my Nana for teaching me my first nursing skills, and to my mom for inspiring me and making this profession her life, so that my brothers and I could experience ours. Here’s to all the other incredible nurses along the way who make this career rewarding and meaningful. You are the best tiny pieces of nursing! Happy nurses week!!!!