"I am not a robot!"

  1. A glimpse into the inner dialogue and emotions of an RN processing personal grief while also performing as the triage nurse in a busy emergency department.

    "I am not a robot!"

    On Monday, July 8, 2018, the staff members of the emergency department in which I work were given devastating news. Our beloved coworker, a well-respected RN, adored by all who knew her, was involved in a major motor vehicle accident the night prior. She, together with two of her children, did not survive. I wrote this piece just two days after I heard the news, which was also my first day back at work since hearing the news.

    On this particular day, I was assigned to triage. As the first face the patients and visitors would see coming in to the E.D., I felt especially vulnerable and on display. I was barely holding it together and wanted to write a piece that captured and explained my feelings, not only to help with my own process of healing from grief but hopefully help others too.

    As nurses, we often build up an inner fortress. In order to function in our roles, there is implicit and explicit pressure to remain strong for everyone else. Sometimes, inevitably, the fortress is breached and starts to crumble. We are then reminded in the harshest way possible that we are only human.

    I call this piece "I am not a robot!" It was written straight from my heart, the heart of a grieving E.D. nurse and is dedicated to the memory of Rebecca Bachman, BSN, RN.

    I lost it yesterday. Not once, but three times. I am an ugly crier. "There's no crying in triage!" I hear Tom Hanks's voice say in my head. I try to be kind to myself and utter again and again the phrase that appears before you submit an online form by ReCAPTCHA,® "I am not a robot!" "What a stupid mantra." Is it? I try and fail to keep myself from doing the inventory of loss but it's no use, here it goes again, the recap, no....! My aunt (mom's sister) in October, my dog two days after Thanksgiving, my grandfather (dad's father) on Christmas day, my cousin on Super Bowl Sunday. Each time the scab barely bubbles and hardens before it's ripped open again. Now Becky, God no, not Becky...and her two oldest children.

    I did not know Becky well outside of work but what I did know about her I found absolutely remarkable. As the youngins say, she was "Hashtag Goals." She was always polished in appearance, her hair was fabulous, she knew how to put an outfit together, she was doing the same job as me plus raising three kids and going to nurse practitioner school at the same time. I used to imitate Wayne and Garth and do the "[I'm] not worthy, [I'm]not worthy" thing when we worked together and she would laugh in that infectious Michigan accent. We were never worthy of her.

    I clutch the triage radio in my pocket and think that her angelic voice broadcast through it barely over a week ago. I grit my teeth and force my shoulders down and back for the millionth time. It works, thank God. I've managed to slam the floodgate just in time and hold back what I know will barrel through as soon as I'm home, the body-shaking sobs. I am not a robot.

    When I've been at work dealing with loss in my own family, there have been times when I've been tearful but thankfully away from most prying eyes. The med room, the staff bathroom, my boss's office. I've been able to have the non-robot moment and come back to my reality. The dry eyes of my coworkers pulling me back to the task at hand. This time it's different. All of us have lost the same family member, there are no dry eyes to look into right now.

    Yesterday as my coworkers came in at various hours for their shifts or meetings they were attending, they would stop at triage and we'd share a silent hug. "Lord, make us a suspension bridge!" "What!?" My inner dialogue chides me. "Why are you so weird?" Let me explain. Though we sway, eventually the tensile force finds its way up and through us, dissipating our collective sadness back into the Earth allowing us to stand with our strength. The strength to support our own massiveness as well as the weight of everyone else too. We are not there yet. It's going to take a very long time. We are not robots but we are a bridge in progress.
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jul 23
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  2. Visit Adriane82 profile page

    About Adriane82, MSN, RN

    My name is Adriane Ware. I was born in Illinois but raised in Georgia. I have been an RN since January 2012. The majority of my nursing experience is in emergency department settings.

    Joined: Apr '10; Posts: 28; Likes: 36

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    15 Comments

  3. by   ponymom
    Peace and resilience to you and your coworker family.
  4. by   Onegrumpyrn95
    Adriane...I love this!!!! Thank you for writing this. I am not a robot ...Kim
  5. by   attilamom
    This is beautifully written. My heart goes out to you and everyone who has lost someone they care about and love. You are an incredible person, friend, and nurse. I love you dearly! Knowing you has made me better!
  6. by   Have Nurse
    Adriane,

    Am tearing up as I read this. How awful for her family and for you and those with whom she worked. Will be lifting all of you up in prayer today....

    Lord, you saw what happened. They weren't alone. But those left behind feel alone, sad and drained. Please comfort them, give them strength and healing. It will take time of course, but let them feel your presence and comfort.

    Let the angels fold their wings around them.....

    In Jesus name,

    Amen.
  7. by   angienicholson18
    Adriene, God bless you, her family and your coworkers we Nurses forget were not made out of steel we become family by working together and its perfectly acceptable for Nurses to cry I do all the time.
  8. by   Medic/Nurse
    Your "tribute" is beautifully written. No, we are definitely not robots.

    It is a terrible loss. I hope that the near future brings healing, grace and peace. Perhaps there will be some way staff can memorialize this nurse, she sounds like she was amazing.



    Grief has no rules. Grief does not discriminate.

    Tragedy can and does happen in our own "families". Too often.

    Life is fragile and precious and there are no guarantees of tomorrow.

    We can choose how we live, what we value. How we spend our time.

    Let's remember to treat one another kindly, generously and with respect. We really are all in this together.

    *** Life is short, even in its longest days ***


  9. by   Kallie3006
    May the void in your heart one day be filled not with sadness and loss, but with memories filled with laughter, tears formed from exultation, and a sense of peace envelopes you in the days ahead.
  10. by   iluvivt
    Quote from Have Nurse
    Adriane,

    Am tearing up as I read this. How awful for her family and for you and those with whom she worked. Will be lifting all of you up in prayer today....

    Lord, you saw what happened. They weren't alone. But those left behind feel alone, sad and drained. Please comfort them, give them strength and healing. It will take time of course, but let them feel your presence and comfort.

    Let the angels fold their wings around them.....

    In Jesus name,

    Amen.
    That was from the beautiful heart of a nurse!
  11. by   Adriane82
    A heartfelt thank you for your comments and prayers. -Adriane
    Last edit by Adriane82 on Jul 25 : Reason: grammar error
  12. by   lizr0822
    This is so true. You have put this beautifully. I know we will all heal in time. Hugs
  13. by   gonzo1
    There are no words, but here's a hug. So glad you work with such supportive people. The suspension bridge analogy will live in my mind forever.
  14. by   Spiker
    My heart goes out to you & your co-workers. I know your pain: we lost a fellow RN who fell asleep at the wheel driving back to the hospital on a 48-hour OR call weekend. Sadly, that's what it took for the hospital to change our call shifts to 24 hours after that, so we prayed Sue somehow would know this. We all had very subdued days in the OR, & hugged/cried often. The hospital Chaplain made frequent visits to us at all times of day. The break room had lots of tissue boxes those days. I hope you & your colleagues have some professional post-incident counseling. I found it to be VERY helpful, especially when I was also a Medic & had a terribly traumatic call (like 5 little kids killed in a fire). Please take time for your grief & healing - we"re Nurses, but we're also Human! Kubler-Ross comes to mind. Don't be afraid to let your tears & emotions show. 40 years ago as a GN, I tried not to cry when I lost my 1st patient - an 18 year old girl - to cancer. I apologized to her family for crying with them. The Mom told me never to apologize for having emotions; it shows you're human, too. This is my advice to you as well. God bless you.
    Last edit by Spiker on Jul 25 : Reason: Spelling

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