by Alexandra Scheinfeld
1. We cry at home for you.
Nurses might seem like we have it all together while we are working hard to take care of you, but the truth is that sometimes after a particularly heavy shift, we cry our freaking eyes out over your/your families pain. Sometimes the stress of taking care of you while you are very critically ill is not only mentally, but also physically exhausting. We spend twelve hours at a time running around to get all of the supplies we need for your various tests, procedures, medications, and therapies, but really wish we could spend more time just holding your hand. Lots of people tell us “We don’t know how you can be a nurse! I could never do what you do.” Well, the thing is, we have all those same feelings too. The emotions that we have from watching a mother pass away from a trauma after we code them for hours, or diagnosing a child with new onset cancer, or even just knowing that you’re stuck in the hospital on a major holiday don’t just dissolve when we clock out at 7:30. They stay with us at home, and sometimes we cry when we leave because we just need to let it all out.
2. We are happy to be your shoulder to cry on, but not your punching bag.
We work our asses off to ensure safe and effective care to you as well as our other patients. We understand you are in terrible pain, and the last thing we want is for you to wait for medicine and relief. But what you don’t know is that when you pressed the call bell for us 20 minutes ago, we were actually elbow deep in helping the bedridden patient who just soiled himself. When we finally arrive to your bedside with the long awaited med, your angry jabs at our competency as a nurse or your insistence that we don’t care about you are totally inaccurate. Refer to the part in number 1 where I said I wish we could spend more time just holding your hand, but can’t because we are busy providing as much medical care as we can to as many patients as we can as quickly as we can.
3. Nobody wants to get the IV right on the first try more than us.
Trust me, when I have an order to place an IV on a six day old neonate, there is never some malicious plan in my mind to stab your infant a half dozen times in order to get the lab work that will give us a clue as to the status of their condition. I go in there praying that I can quickly, and as painlessly as possible, get the procedure done so that we can both move on to the next task in healing your baby. When we miss the vein and have to try again, no one takes it harder than we do. Our confidence is shot, and we feel defeated. When we get it on the first try, avoiding additional pain for you is our triumph.
4. We sacrifice for you.
We hold our bladders for hours at a time to make sure the charting on you is an accurate record of your care. We skip lunch breaks to make sure that your IV tubing is freshly changed so that it won’t cause you a blood stream infection. We kiss our children goodbye and assure them that Santa will still find them at grandma’s house on Christmas Eve, because mommy has to work night shift tonight. We do all this, and more, happily, because…
5. We love you.
Yes, we love you, the patient and the family. You might be a royal pain in our asses sometimes, but when we get to be the ones that take care of you during the hardest times in your lives, we do it out of pure love. No amount of money could make this heart breaking work worth it, but the satisfaction we get from watching you walk out the door healthy and happy on discharge day makes us feel like we won the lottery. We see our grandmother in the combative woman with dementia, we see our friends in the middle-aged man with degenerative nerve disease, we see ourselves in the woman bravely battling cancer. We love you. And that’s the push we need to make it through our shift each day.