Monday, February 21, 2011

We're in this Together...

I am a nurse by profession. I did not dream for years of becoming a nurse, in fact, I sort of just fell into it. The original plan was that I was going to enter medical school with the eventual plan to become a pediatrician. Never one to not have a back-up plan, instead of the typical Bachelor of Science in pre-med, I thought it would be a good idea to get my undergrad degree in nursing, a fail safe in case I didn't get into med school right away. Heh. Hello back-up plan.

Sure enough, I entered nursing and found a passion for what they were teaching us. Caring for people day in and day out, being there for them during their darkest and brightest hours, making a viable difference in people's lives? Count me in! It all sounded so amazing. Combine that with the fact that I was quickly beginning to realize that being a doctor was not as fascinating as it looked, and I figured that nursing was for me. During my four years of nursing school everyone who found out I was in nursing school looked at me with stars in their eyes. I was going to do something wonderful. For the first part of nursing school, I believed them. However the more I worked in the hospital the more the real world kicked in and my rose-coloured glasses were soon dark and dusty.

After school and senior practicum I was hired by the rural hospital that would be my home away from home for the next 14 months or so. I was excited to start "real" nursing, but I was shocked to find out how real it truly was. Nursing can be quite a gritty world. My first year of nursing was a "baptism by fire" of sorts where I learned the cold hard facts of understaffed hospitals, overworked nurses, far too sick patients and the dangerous combination of the three. This harsh realization, in combination with working with some world-weary older staff led to a personal crisis of sorts. What the heck was I doing in this world? Why on earth was I a nurse? But by the grace of God, and by the priceless support of my dear friends who were dealing with their own version of this personal crisis I made it through.

After a bit more journeying I have made it to the unit that I now call home. Moms and babies. At least it's mostly happy. The work is very different than what I started out doing, but for the most part I love it. I really do. And I really have to remind myself of that. A lot. I'm beginning to realize just how much nurses have to give of themselves every single day. When I started out I gave, but I didn't keep any of that love and care for myself. I didn't realize that I was allowed to. Now I realize that not only am I allowed to, but it's the only thing that will stop me from going crazy. Now I start with giving to myself. Not in a selfish way, but I'm learning that only by caring for myself can I give care to anybody else.

I worked this weekend. They were both bad days. Probably some of the worst days I've had in a long time. One of those kind of days where multiple nurses found themselves in tears multiple times throughout the day. It's not important why it was bad. I could place blame, point fingers (and frequently did this weekend) but in my heart I know that they were bad days for the same reason anything in this world is bad. Believe it or not, but the devil can sour even the beauty of moms and babies. That son of a bitch. Sunday night, while I eyed the clock desperately hoping that I had gotten everything done and that I could finish my charting and get home at a reasonable hour, a colleague came in the room. She had a much worse day than I had, and I had done everything reasonable that I could to help her. She wanted to thank me for what I had done for her and I brushed it off first with a joke about how I was just glad that MY patients had mostly behaved themselves that day (it hadn't been the case the day before) and said something to the effect that, "Well that's the only reason anybody survives this place, because we help each other out."

In an instant I realized just how true that was. Nursing is a hard, bitter career. It brings the worst and the best out of you. It attracts some of the most impressive women (and men!). People either idealize nurses, or (those who know them slightly better) view them as surprisingly cynical and bitter. Many ask "Why are you even IN that career if it's so bad?" I think this weekend I realized we don't always do it for the patients, we don't always do it for ourselves, but we will always do it for each other! While I sometimes hate my job, with a passion (and really, lets be honest...doesn't everybody hate their job sometimes?), I will always love nursing for providing me with another family of sorts. I have been blessed with some amazing colleagues that, when they are working, I know that no matter how rotten and miserable the day might get, it is already better for the simple fact that I am not going through it alone.


  1. Beautiful, honest post. From your post, I can tell that people helping people is what nursing is about. Never forget how meaningful that is.

  2. Really nice post Pam - just from knowing you for all these years there is no doubt in my mind that you are a wonderful nurse who cares and provides in whatever situation is at hand :)


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