The Grateful Nurse Speaks
Yet another perspective on nursing from the author of "The Cynical Nurse Speaks" and "The Political Nurse Speaks". Here are a few of the aspects of our chosen profession that we seldom have the luxury of considering in the rush of tasks and documentation that must be completed before the end of our day.
Alhough I have yet to make any solid plans for life after nursing, I have to be honest here: Nursing has become a lot leaner and a lot meaner since I got my start in school back in the fall of 1995, and I wonder sometimes how much longer I'm going to last. There's no question that things have been tough at work lately, what with my facility's unexpectedly poor showing during our recent state survey and my job essentially on the line. I'm chronically stressed, usually behind, and often overwhelmed with all the new documentation requirements imposed in response to the survey results......which take me even further away from the bedside than I already was.
Yet I know what awaits me out there in the "real" world, where people who are smarter and have more education than I are battling to survive on a sales associate's wages, and older women like me are all but invisible. And as much as I complain, whine, gripe, and otherwise kvetch about nursing, both as a profession and as a job, it's brought me blessings I never would have thought possible.
Like the parents of an infant I took care of one rainy night some years ago. Their little one was sick with RSV and not doing well, despite oxygen and other supportive care, and it was looking like he might have to be intubated and Life Flighted to another hospital. Needless to say, his young mom and dad were terrified. It dawned on me that this might be the reason why I'd gone through an eerily similar (and frightening) situation with my own baby son years before---so I could give someone else the strength to get through it. Drawing on this experience, somehow I was able to help this couple stay calm and focus on keeping the baby calm as well, so his medications could do their work.
Fast-forward ten years or so. I recently bumped into the couple at church one morning; they'd moved away for a few years, then returned at the end of the summer and began attending the 11 AM Mass. They recognized me right away and gave me bear hugs---literally in front of God and everyone. Then they introduced their sturdy fifth-grader to "the nurse that saved your life". Which I didn't, of course.....but to be remembered as such, a full decade after a single eight-hour night shift spent with this family, is an honor for which I'll always be grateful.
Another great thing about what nurses do for a living is what I call the "a-HA!" solution---when we get to play detective and figure out what's bothering a patient, recommend a course of treatment to the physician, and it WORKS. I love it when these things happen! One of my favorite success stories is that of an elderly woman who had suffered daily episodes of blinding pain along the side of her face for twenty-three years; she'd been misdiagnosed with post-herpetic neuralgia and given narcotics for most of that time with little relief. It just so happened that my sister's best friend had just been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, and she experienced all of the same symptoms; however, once she started on gabapentin, she'd received a new lease on life. So I approached the woman's doctor with my suspicions, asked him to try her on the medication........and voila! Blinding pain completely gone within 48 hours, and the last time I saw her, it hadn't returned.
Now, what other job gives one such an awesome opportunity to "make it all better"---and change a life for the better in the bargain?
Then there are the economic benefits: most of us make better-than-average money, considering the median hourly wage in the U.S. these days hovers somewhere around $13-15 per hour. Trust me, I've been poor and not-so-poor, and not-so-poor is better. I'm proud that even with a two-year degree, I'm able to earn a solidly middle-class salary all by myself, and have been able to provide my family with a few of life's little niceties. We will never be wealthy, and even on my current income it's a struggle to keep our heads above water; but in this economy I'm very, very thankful that we've survived as well as we have.
I think of it this way: if I were working as a department manager at Wally World, I wouldn't be any happier or less stressed than I am right now, and I wouldn't have the opportunities that nursing offers to make a difference every single day. And as corny as that sounds, it's what keeps me going long after every other reason to stay has crumbled into dust and blown away.Last edit by Joe V on Oct 30, '12
About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN Guide
Joined: Sep '02; Posts: 26,805; Likes: 43,945
RN and blogger extraordinaire; from OR , US
Specialty: 20 year(s) of experience in LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psychOct 30, '12Thank you for another wonderfully-written and enlightening article, VivaLasViejas.
Even when the sky appears to be falling, we have so much for which to be thankful.Oct 30, '12Once I was working as a temp at a community hospital where I had been ICU/CCU/Stepdown charge before I went to grad school. Had a young man who was in awful heart failure-- I pushed the furosemide into his antecubital IV and I swear it took about half an hour to even get to his kidneys, and didn't work much even then. We were eight miles from a nationally-recognized heart transplant center, so I put a note in his chart (in the DOCTORS PROGRESS NOTES section...pretending I didn't know they didn't integrate all disciplines' notes like every real hospital in town, hehehe) outlining my assessment and mentioning that they could consider referring him for an eval for transplant. Caught **** for it...but the next time I was in the ICU at the university hospital, there he was...and diuresing and mentating much better now that he had an actual cardiac output from an actually functioning heart. Those are the moments we live for. Thanks, Viva, for reminding me.Last edit by dianah on Oct 30, '12 : Reason: Terms of ServiceOct 30, '12I really enjoyed reading your article. I can so relate with you for I have been a nurse for 26 years and have seen many changes along the way. I absolutely love my job and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Thank you for your inspiring words!Oct 30, '12I'm just getting started with nursing and it's a rocky start at that. I enjoyed your article. I have these kind of memories from the life I have led up to this point (nursing is my second career). Now my memories aren't all life saving (one is, though) but still I cherish the times that my life has made a difference to someone else.
The Wally World jobs...my husband has been a retail manager now for 26 years. And, it's a tough profession as well. But, I remind him when we compare job stress that if he doesn't make the sale, no one dies! In nursing, if we screw up, the effect can be disasterous! I'm still coming to grips with the gravity of the nursing profession. I'm not sure I want to take on this level of responsibility at an age when I should be coming down the hill, so to speak.
Still working that one out!Oct 30, '12As always, thanks for reminding us of the reasons why we do this job. It is so intense, stressful, thankless, exhausting, painful...yet it is all worth it for the good that we can do.Oct 30, '12Thanks, y'all. After the duck-nibbling kind of day I had today, I needed to return here and remind myself---again---that I really DO love my job. LOLOct 30, '12Uplifting article to remember we make a difference when we are in the trenches. Hope everything works out for you with your job!Oct 30, '12I think you have missed you calling as an author,nursing needs talented writers to represent us nurses.
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