I’m a Nurse

I’m a nurse.
I have seen many people die.
I have watched husbands lose wives and wives lose husbands.
I have watched children lose parents and, even worse, I have watched parents lose children.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
I have stood by while doctors gave a first time diagnosis of cancer, and I’ve seen the fear in the eyes of the patient and family.
I have watched while a patient suffering a stroke cried with frustration at their inability to speak or move.
I’ve held the hand of a woman with a badly broken arm as she cried, concerned that it would look deformed after it healed and she might no longer be attractive to her husband.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
I once had 3 patients die in 4 hours.
I’ve watched a patient WALK into MY room in the ER, talking to me, and leave in a BODYBAG.
I have worked on the parents, aunts and uncles of MY team members and was there as our efforts failed and their loved one died.
I have even worked on and watched a team member die.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
At the same time I have been there at the birth of a baby.
I have watched people walk out of the hospital just days after I was certain they would die.
I have talked to a young mom and wife who I had cared for just a few years before after she had taken an overdose trying to kill herself. I listened and cried while she spoke of the difference I made in her life and how her little family would not even be possible if I hadn’t taken the time to not only care for her physical and medical needs but for her emotional  and spiritual ones as well.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
In the midst of all of this:
We are asked to remain calm, caring and to offer superior customer service to people that used to be called patients, not customers.
We are expected to calmly endure emotional, verbal and sometimes even physical abuse while the institutions we work for seem to care little about these attacks and many times even apologize to the very people that are attacking us.
We are repeatedly pushed to say the right things, to do things that may not agree with our ethics and to ensure the safety of our patients. All this by the same institutions that say the wrong things to us, ignore our personal ethics, and ignore our safety.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
In the midst of all this:
We are told that we can not talk about personal matters while in patient care areas.
We can not talk about the great vacation we just took.
I can not talk about the great date that I just went on with my 7 year old daughter.
I can not talk about my amazing son who is about to start high school and got accepted into the International Baccalaureate program. Or how proud I am of him.
I can not talk about my amazing wife who took a day off work just so that she and I could spend the day together while the kids were in school.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like, now. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
If we can not talk about the very things that MAKE US HUMAN, how can we be expected to remain human?
Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like if we actually did this.
Imagine, for a moment, if my interactions with my team members were always only about work.
Imagine, for a moment, if after enduring all the things that I’ve mentioned, I could not turn my mind to positive things by discussing the things that are good in my life.
Imagine, for a moment, what that environment would be like.
Imagine for a moment what my team members and I would be like.
Imagine the terrible things that I have seen and how much of that I would be forced to take home with me if I couldn’t turn my mind to more positive things while still at work.
Imagine how hard it would be for me to come back after having 3 patients die in 4 hours if I knew that there would be nothing pleasant about coming to work.
Imagine how hard it would be to work with a team member whose father or aunt you were unable to save if you could not talk about good times that you have had together or about other good things in your life or theirs.
In the midst of all of this nurses give passionate care, even to the people that treat us poorly.
In the midst of all this nurses manage to love and care for their families, somehow leaving behind the stressors of the day.
In the midst of all this nurses manage to return to work, day after day, knowing the potential for horrible things to happen, and never forgetting the horrible things that have happened before.
So, in the midst of all of this, what DOES keep us human?
It is not our professional interactions with team members.
It is not another message from administration telling us the proper way to talk to and care for patients.
It is  not another email from our “leadership” TALKING about how important our safety is to them, while little action is taken.
and, it is CERTAINLY not the color of my scrubs.
So, in the midst of all of this, what keeps us human?
It is our PERSONAL interactions with team members.
It is the stories we share about our days off.
It is the memories we share about fun times we’ve had together.
It is even the practice jokes that may, on occasion, get out of hand.
If these are the things that keep us human, why do the institutions we work for constantly try to kill these things?
Do they not want us to be human?
Do they not think that our patients deserve to have humans care for them?
Do they not want humans to care for them when THEY need to be cared for?
Do they not want us to be good wives, good husbands, good mothers and good fathers, when we leave work?
If these are the things that keep us human, why do the institutions we work for constantly try to kill these things?
Do they not realize that there is no way I could have spent nearly two decades working in the ER, or even as a nurse without these things?
Do they not realize that if I am unable to unload the weight that comes with being a nurse while I am at work, then I will carry it home and be less of a husband and father?
Do they not realize that nursing is hard and often thankless and some days this is the only thing that keeps us going?
Do they not realize? Do they not care?
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like.
Matt Norman

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