A Calling

I wanted to share this article I received months ago. It’s an article written by Gina Bret, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It’s describes the response some nurses had when told ‘Patients aren’t always satisfied with how well nurses communicate, according to a recent Medicare survey.’

Here’s what they had to say:

Come walk in our shoes for a 12-hour shift. Come see the joy, the tragedy, the comedy, the 100 ways we are pulled and pushed, then rate my "pleasant greeting," "answers call light in timely fashion," "states name of patient."

Use the bathroom now, because you might not get the chance again until your shift ends. Wear comfortable shoes. Don’t worry if they’re clean. They’ll end up with blood and vomit on them.

We are the patient’s advocate, the doctor’s eyes and ears and everyone’s scapegoat. We can page your doctor, but we can’t make the doctors magically appear. We check your stitches, wipe your blood, drain your pus and empty your bedpan.

Nursing is a tough job, but we’re tougher. We’ve been yelled at by administrators, supervisors and doctors. We’ve been kicked, slapped, punched, spat on and sexually harassed by patients in various states of delirium, mental illness, arrogance and intoxication. We’ve even had chairs and food trays thrown at us.

We work mandatory overtime, weekends and holidays. We eat Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with co-workers.

We deal with families who ignore visiting hours, bring food to patients on restricted diets and insist on staying the night even though it’s not a private room. We deal with the Florida son who orders us around to show a parent he’s neglected for years that he cares.

We cannot be at your side every waking minute.

We have 10 other patients. We cannot answer five call lights at once. We can’t stop doing CPR on a patient because you ran out of tissues. We are not maids, beauticians or cocktail waitresses. We are professionals with college degrees.

We hate that we can’t spend more bedside time with you. Swearing at us will not make us move faster. Taking better care of your health would help. Quit smoking. Lose weight. Start exercising. Stop drinking.

How do we survive? We ignore the nasty comments, the demanding relatives, the crazy staffing grids. We count to 10 before speaking. We pray every morning for strength and wisdom, patience and empathy. We drive home tired and frustrated, telling ourselves over and over, "I’m not the nurse I want to be, but I’m the best nurse the hospital staffing allows me to be." We fall asleep praying for the ones who won’t survive the night.

There is no finish line, ever. Nursing is demanding and fulfilling, and we can’t imagine doing anything else. Nothing beats washing blood and glass off a car crash survivor, stabilizing a broken neck, saving a diabetic’s leg, keeping a cancer patient in remission. The day we send a patient home we relish the unbelievable resilience of the human body and spirit.

We did not become nurses for the hours, the salary or the glamour of it all. We became nurses to make a difference.

We don’t ask for much. One sincere thank you makes all the thankless hours worth it.

I think this wonderfully sums up A LOT about what we do, what we endure, and how we feel.

Have a great day.

Carpe Diem

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