What Keeps Me Coming Back

  1. 44

    In spite of the frustrations faced daily by most nurses, there are certain things that keep me coming back to my job day after day. This is about those things....

    I'm a mother/baby nurse and proud to be one. Compared to lots of units, we mother/baby folks might be considered lucky to have such 'cake' jobs, and some days I'd agree. Other days I leave work exhausted, with sore feet, sore back, dry mouth, empty stomach, and full bladder from running between one crisis and another. We do have our fair share of crises; when they are bad, they are really bad. But this isn't about those crises, nor about the frustrations we encounter as mother/baby nurses. This entry today is about the things that remind me why I do this job and why I love it. Please forgive the mixture of generalities and anecdotes; I hope you will find something in here that strikes a note of internal recognition for you.

    I love it when I take care of parents who are genuinely happy about their new baby. While I recognize that we all express emotion differently, it never fails to hit me right in the solar plexus when I see a daddy hold his baby for the first time and his eyes well up with tears. Or a grandma who stays up all night holding and soothing her laboring daughter, doing it as much to comfort her baby as she's doing it to be one of the first to welcome her new grandbaby.

    I love it when women's bodies do what they are sometimes told they can't do. I love it when someone comes in and delivers a breech baby vaginally too quickly for anyone to tell her she 'needs' to be in the OR, almost like her body is saying, "C-section? Pffft!!!" Or when a primipara delivers her 10-pound baby over an intact perineum (I've only seen it rarely, but I have seen it).

    I love it when patients refuse things we do in the hospital that aren't really as necessary as we are fond of making them out to be. I like being able to be the one who backs them up when they do this, too.

    Watching breastfeeding work is almost magical for me. More times than I can count I have a baby who would make a great breastfeeder (which is most of them) but mom doesn't want to, which is of course her decision to make. Or I have a mom who desperately wants to breastfeed but baby isn't very interested, or is in NICU and not stable enough to feed (in which case Mom pumps, but it's nowhere near the same thing). Or baby is a great nurser and mom is motivated, but there is some other issue - very sore nipples, or milk supply issues, or jaundice that necessitates a bilibed, which can take away from the closeness of the breast. What I love seeing happen is the combination made in heaven: a baby who wants to nurse, a mother who responds to that, and no complications in between. It's the way things are meant to work and for me, it is one of the things I wish I could put on display in a museum. (I'm not faulting people for having breastfeeding difficulties, please don't misunderstand. Sometimes things happen that aren't failure on anyone's part.)

    I've mentioned this elsewhere, but for whatever reason I bond well with young teen moms. Your guess as to why is as good as mine, but we tend to get along really well. A few years ago, I took care of a girl who was with us for about a week as an antepartum in preterm labor at 27ish weeks. After she delivered her baby a few days later, I took care of her postpartum as well. She amazed me in so many ways. She pumped every three hours while awake and insisted that I wake her every three hours to pump at night as well. She insisted on carrying the milk over to NICU herself just so she could say hi to her baby in the process. We talked about her life and her goals. She hadn't been dealt the best deck of cards to begin with, and hadn't really planned on having a baby before finishing high school. The baby's dad had long since dropped her. I had more free time than usual those couple nights and spent as much time talking with her as I could without her kicking me out of her room. I did my best to encourage her - her goals were worthy ones, and while she might have to rearrange her priorities to include her new son, she owed it to herself to not give up on those goals. Before I left that last morning, I went in one last time to check on her, and she was asleep, so I wrote a note on a paper towel letting her know I'd be thinking of her and her baby in the weeks/months to come, and signed my first name to it.

    Fast-forward several years. About six or eight months ago, I was working in the nursery and the phone rang. "Elvish, it's for you," called the tech. I answered and it was this former patient. Clearly she had kept the note and asked for me by name. "I just wanted you to know I remember what we talked about," she told me. She related how she graduated from high school, was currently studying to be a beautician, and that her premie son was now a healthy, well-adjusted four-year-old. "And I just wanted to let you know that we made it and we are okay." (As you can probably imagine, the tears turned on like the fanciest faucet; fortunately, the nursery wasn't busy at the time.)

    When I have an awful, frustrating day and swear I am going to quit my job, these are some of the things I try to remember. What about you? What inspires you about your job? What keeps you coming back?
    Last edit by Elvish on Jan 6, '11
    PedsRN9999, Kooky Korky, P_RN, and 41 others like this.

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    About Elvish

    Elvish has 'a few' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Community, OB, Nursery'. From 'Where the bluebirds sing...'; 35 Years Old; Joined Nov '06; Posts: 19,340; Likes: 19,271.

    Read more articles from Elvish

    16 Comments so far...

  3. 3
    Beautifully written, Elvish, and well worth reading, even for those of us who prefer to work with folks at the other end of the continuum of life. My eyes are running and my nose is wet.......yep, you made me cry. BRAVO!!
    havehope, VickyRN, and Elvish like this.
  4. 1
    You just explained all of the reasons I want to be a baby/momma nurse! Thank you.
    Elvish likes this.
  5. 1
    Thank you for that, although you did make cry. Kudos!!!!
    Elvish likes this.
  6. 1
    I am almost 30 and am drastically but unabashedly changing careers from accounting to maternity nursing. Taking my prerequisites now and "school/graduation/starting what I know I was meant to do" seems to far away. After reading your post here, I am in tears and even more sure that this new career and life for me will make me the happiest I've ever been, even on the days when bad is really bad in mother/baby nursing. Thank you so much Elvish for the encouragement, your outlook and experience is amazing and so inspiring.
    Elvish likes this.
  7. 3
    Wow what a great post. I am 38 weeks pregnant with my 3rd and I'd be so delighted to have a nurse like you in mother/baby! And by the way, I never thought it was a cake job. It seems quite busy to me

    I work on the cardiac stepdown at a children's hospital. We lost over 50 patients in cardiology last year, some of whom I was quite close to. Like you, I often leave exhausted, frustrated, and feeling unappreciated.

    I love to see a baby that spent months in the ICU with no real hope of recovery go home. Even more, I love seeing their photos and them as they defy all expectations and grow and thrive. Like you, my very favorite thing is when the parents have never yet held their 1 or 2 week old baby because he has been to sick and I get to be the first person to put him in their arms and watch them tear up with joy. I love taking care of the babies, period, because no one is a fighter like a baby can be. They are fresh in life, don't know that it should be better, and put up with hospitalization and pain better than any adult I've ever seen.

    I'm also so proud to know so many older children and teen congenital heart disease fighters who have been tough their whole life, and who have a great attitude and don't let a shortened life expectancy get them down. I will never forget the 8 year old boy who spent every day of his last two months hospitalized but bursting with joy (he used to use the IV pole with his drips as a skateboard and zip dangerously down the hall despite being told repeatedly not to) before we lost him suddenly one night on the floor. I like taking care of parents who arrive in shock with a new diagnosis, I don't really know why because it's awful but it's a time when I feel like I can really help them adjust.

    I like the way people you barely know, like maybe you oriented them to the room or took them to x ray or something simple, are the ones who send in letters. I always expect it will be the people who were there a long time or who I really felt like I worked extra hard for who will remember me, but it seems like it's the family you barely knew you felt impacted.

    Most of all I love when I notice subtle changes early enough, and am convincing enough to get the doc to listen, to intervene before a baby crashes. Those are the days when I really come home and think I made a difference.
    Lilnurse0803, Oknursinggirl, and Elvish like this.
  8. 3
    this is really inspiring... having a chance to welcome a new life everday. not everyone has a chance to do that. I myself who has been in the DR can relate to what you feel. I've even experience to have a patient who is 14 years old giving birth and she was crying to me beacause of the pain but she made it through and the baby was healthy... our job is really amazing.... they say that nurses touches lives but sometimes it's the other way around.
  9. 2
    I've been a nurse A LONG time. That's a beautifully written post and sums it up for me! I keep coming back because of the way pt's touch ME. All the while, they are saying I touched THEM. I just do the best I can for my pt's and advocate as if they are my own family. That's why I keep coming back.
    ocmama and Elvish like this.
  10. 3
    Its my dream to one day work in OB. Any area, I loved it all in clinical. (I know its two different boats)

    What keeps me coming back to LTC is my residents. I float around to different units frequently, and on each one there are a couple different residents who are always happy and glad to see me. I get asked everytime I work, "Are you my nurse tonight?" "When will you be my nurse next?" "I like you.. you are a nice nurse"

    The residents who aren't as alert(and the things they say) keep me coming back too. Its great to sit and talk with them sometimes. The other day I was sitting with a few of them while they were eating dinner. One little old lady wasn't eating much so I told her to eat the pudding. I said, "I made this pudding. I took me all day long". The resident sitting across from her, "It doesn't take all day to make pudding." So I said back, "Yes it did today, I had to shovel the snow to get to the cow, I had to milk the cow. And then I had to go back inside and make the pudding." She said, "Use MyTFine"
    RN0217, canoehead, and Elvish like this.
  11. 2
    The first two paragraphs are by Elvish.

    A few years ago, I took care of a girl who was with us for about a week as an antepartum in preterm labor at 27ish weeks. After she delivered her baby a few days later, I took care of her postpartum as well. She amazed me in so many ways. She pumped every three hours while awake and insisted that I wake her every three hours to pump at night as well. She insisted on carrying the milk over to NICU herself just so she could say hi to her baby in the process. We talked about her life and her goals. She hadn't been dealt the best deck of cards to begin with, and hadn't really planned on having a baby before finishing high school. The baby's dad had long since dropped her. I had more free time than usual those couple nights and spent as much time talking with her as I could without her kicking me out of her room. I did my best to encourage her - her goals were worthy ones, and while she might have to rearrange her priorities to include her new son, she owed it to herself to not give up on those goals. Before I left that last morning, I went in one last time to check on her, and she was asleep, so I wrote a note on a paper towel letting her know I'd be thinking of her and her baby in the weeks/months to come, and signed my first name to it.

    Fast-forward several years. About six or eight months ago, I was working in the nursery and the phone rang. "Elvish, it's for you," called the tech. I answered and it was this former patient. Clearly she had kept the note and asked for me by name. "I just wanted you to know I remember what we talked about," she told me. She related how she graduated from high school, was currently studying to be a beautician, and that her premie son was now a healthy, well-adjusted four-year-old. "And I just wanted to let you know that we made it and we are okay." (As you can probably imagine, the tears turned on like the fanciest faucet; fortunately, the nursery wasn't busy at the time.)

    Elvish, what a wonderful reward you received from this young, and very dedicated young single mom. She is more mature than many and I give her a lot of credit. You did well by her.

    Anyway, as much as I longed to, I was only able to nurse my oldest daughter 4 1/2 months. My mamary glands just refuses to produce any more milk. However, that same daughter gave birth at age 41 in October 2009 to her third daughter, and she is still nursing her. What a reward!!! She also nursed both of her other daughters as well for lengthy periods. Like Marla, your story made me feel like crying too. I loved it. Thank you so much.
    Last edit by FranEMTnurse on Jan 14, '11 : Reason: additional information
    Lilnurse0803 and Elvish like this.


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