10 May 2013

A Few Words for Nurses Week

Sometimes, I think becoming a nurse is one of the best things to happen to me. Like mothering, it pushes me out of myself and smears me across the floor, taking to me to places I would never have gone. Making me better. I hate it sometimes, of course. Like this week: gray clouds and unending rain made me just want to stay in my bed. I felt tired of the routine and tired of working for a grant. I was just generally whiny. Driving through torrential rain to get to our satellite clinic where there is no case management on site and we face unique challenges, I thought: Why?

And then something will blindside me. I will guide a patient onto the scale and when I look down at the feet, I see 2 dirty, mismatched socks sticking out of some soccer slides. I see someone who doesn't have a washing machine. You jerk, I think to myself. I am continually reminded of how much I have. How lucky. I have written of this before, I know.

And I know some shitty nurses who don't give a shit. Maybe they got in it for the money, or maybe they have become burned out. I can see how that would happen. But most stay in it because they are caring. I work in a sub-specialty, where I care for the same 400 or so people regularly. That can be draining, but also powerful. Sometimes a patient calls me and I realize about 5 minutes into the conversation that they just want to talk. Some of them are isolated and lonely. So when I can, I hang out on the phone and listen, maybe tap at some other tasks while doing so. It's not much, but it's what I have to give. They sound lighter by the time we hang up.

I work with some people who have non-traditional behaviors and activities. I learn things every week. I learn not to be shocked; or at least, not not appear to be. And to love, without judgment. Do not judge someone who prostitutes to get by. You know nothing about who they are or what led them to that place. I take care of my patients' medical needs, I lend an ear and I love them. I endure smells and sights unpleasant, because everyone deserves love and care. This is what nurses do.

I got into nursing half-heartedly, with selfish goals in mind. And once again, I have been broken into pieces and those goals thwarted. And I am happy. Because I love caring for others. It is so humbling and such a privilege.  A lifetime ago, I helped babies come into the world, and that is pretty special. But what I do now is so deep and so wide that sometimes the view takes my breath away. I should thank them.

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