The other day my friend sent me a link to one of the best nursing related posts I have read in a while... "Just a Nurse" written by Kateri. It is a concept I know all too well. I am often compared to physicians and nursing is ranked below the practice of medicine too often. The tasks I do on a daily basis are drastically misunderstood by the average person. I think if any one of my friends or family were to shadow me on a typical day in the ICU they would be shocked and amazed to see just what my job entailed.
I don't just pass out medicine and give bed baths... I help maintain the hemodynamic status of my patients. I take care of patients who are on multiple vasoactive drips, ventilators and highly complex machines to keep their heart, kidneys, and lungs functioning properly. I collaborate with the physicians and surgeons of all services and I have a valued opinion in the healthcare team and knowledgeable input into the lives of my patients. There are even times when I am the one teaching residents about the management of ICU patients. It's a shame that the few nursing roles people identify with are the ones on shows like Grey's Anatomy and such... and more importantly the roles for physicians on those shows are grossly exaggerated. Not saying that physicians aren't obviously vital members of the health care field but lets get real... most doctors I know aren't in the room long enough to learn how to operate the IV pump. (In my unit they aren't even allowed to touch our IV pumps!) Nurses are the ones at the bedside minute by minute.
I have been the last comforting voice to numerous patients... the last person they see as they transition out of this life. I have held so many hands through panic attacks and given CPR to coding patients who were on the brink of death. I have come home with blood and vomit and urine on my clothes. I have been kicked, hit, spit on, pinched and cussed at too many times to count. I have been apologized to for those same things but not often enough. I have had some wonderful conversations about life in the military and life on the war front. History through the eyes of a veteran is an interesting, inspiring, and heartbreaking thing to see.
I have sat through slow shifts and had the opportunity to connect with my patients on a much deeper level than just their health. I have connected with the daughter of an alcoholic who had to grow up way too fast. A man who lost his entire family to freak accidents and murders. I have had insane shifts where I was so over it at the end that I went home and had wine for breakfast. I have been angry, frustrated, and am always exhausted at the end of the day.
I have had more than one friend and family member ask me why I stay. Why do I stay in such a difficult profession? Why do I stay in a hospital that pays the lowest salary in the area? Why do I stay in a hospital that has patients who suffer from PTSD and are combative and sometimes ungrateful.
Before I became a nurse I was planning on being a missionary in the middle east... specifically Afghanistan. Other than my family... everyone I knew thought it was incredibly noble and special. A calling so particular that despite the dangers and the difficulties of the task... it was a risk that was worth the sacrifice. A sacrifice that could have cost me my life.
But because I get paid to be a nurse I guess there is this sense that the sacrifice should not be so great? I consider this job my calling and in particular right now I consider veteran's to be the people I need to serve. I just wish people understood that just because my job is incredibly hard... doesn't mean I shouldn't be doing it. Cause seriously... if not me than who? If every singe nurse left because it was too hard or the sacrifice was too great we wouldn't have any left. Well... we might have the ones who only care about the paycheck left but what good does that do? No one really wins. This is why I chose to be a nurse and not a doctor or a missionary.
As a nurse I have this unique window into the lives of people who are incredibly vulnerable. I not only get to help save their lives by doing my job but I also get to be their comforter, healer, teacher, cheerleader, helper, advocate and voice. I love my job despite its constant sacrifice. The rewards are not always obvious but they are always great. And honestly... if you had a loved one in the hospital wouldn't you be glad to have a nurse who felt the same?
That is why I stay.