Nursing There to Here...

May 6th is Nurses Day, and I have made it my mission to recognize nurses for who they are and what they do. The first piece was written not long after I graduated from nursing school. It is entitled "Nursing There to Here" and the closing piece, "I Want A Nurse", was penned not long ago, in the autumn of my career.


Nursing There to Here...

Everyone on the planet either knows a nurse, loves a nurse or is a nurse. Doctors can't function in most capacities without nurses and hospitals could not exist without them. Still, after all this time, nurses are often portrayed in stereotypical scenarios involving pornography or stern dowdy taskmasters. I, for one, am sick of it.

Nurses are intelligent, skilled and hardworking people simply trying to forge ahead in a not so lucrative career. It isn't an easy profession, and whatever giant steps forward are often beaten back by short staffing, benefit cuts and increased patient loads. Let's face it, the medical field is pulling out all the stops to cut costs, and the troops at the forefront, namely, nurses, are all too often the first casualties.

May 6th is nurse's day. Every year I personally try to do something special for the nurses I work with. That might mean something as simple as an acknowledgement of their importance as friends and co workers. It could be a flower from the garden, or some trinket I saw. Once I spent most of one day looking for those little angels with names on them and added "rn" in calligraphy to each. When I couldn't locate some unusual names, I penned them in black on angels with blank slates just so everyone on every shift had some idea of their importance as nurses. Nurses aren't accustomed to being recognized simply for being who they are, and I have made it my mission to remind the public that fact is just plain wrong.

Ever been hospitalized? If you think back, you most likely gauged your stay or the treatment your loved ones received based on the impression of whatever nurse was assigned to care for you or your family member. Fair enough, I suppose, but usually, if a less than amazing rapport was established, your impression of the experience was less than stellar throughout your stay. Conversely, if your excursion into the precarious world of health care was positive, or even amazing, it was most likely your nurse who colored that impression.

Did you know that lawsuits are often not filed, or dismissed because the patient considered the nursing care excellent, despite a less than perfect outcome?

I've been a registered nurse since 1981 and in that time I have learned more from my patients than I ever could have gleaned from nursing school. Each person is a documentary. Each case is more interesting than the next. Every single moment of every single day I have been a nurse, I have learned something new. How absolutely amazing is that?

So, because I am a nurse who has been a patient and because I am also among the most prevalent age group of nurses, those who are closer to retirement than the start of our careers, I 'd like to share some of my observations both as nurse and potential patient, so the public might understand that "their" nurse is not just some scantily clad model or unattractive, emotionless shell. "we" are genuine people, with families, frailties and faults just like the people we care for; just like you. We are moms and dads, artists, teachers,therapists,comedians and everyday people who, by the very nature of our profession, are intelligent and skilled people who work, rarely tirelessly, to promote and encourage health and happiness for those around us, often at the expense of ourselves.

So, if you know a nurse, love a nurse, need a nurse or are a nurse, know that on may sixth and every day, you are most sincerely appreciated and admired for all you do for so many others. Here are a couple of pieces I would like to share, and as one patient recently said to me at the end of a day when I wondered if I had made even an iota of difference, "thank you for being my nurse." that is all I really need to hear to keep me coming back.

Nursing there to here

I arrived in the world of nursing with visions of florence nightingale and healing the world. Pregnant with idealism and brimming with hope, I departed nursing school convinced my knowledge and talent would make a difference in the manner a child is positive he or she is the primary conduit to existence. In the spectrum of life, I discovered no such thing. I was humbled pretty much from the beginning if my journey and nothing but the true and real world of nursing could have possibly prepared me for such a magnificent ride. In the roller coasteresque arena of nursing, nothing but the actual travel complete with the highest of hills and most desolate of valleys, could ever grace any nurse with the realistic experience which is our profession.

At the start of my quest I was a fresh faced embryo nurse, full of hope and heart. I left school remembering a thousand faces...Diseased bodies, worried minds, tired hearts, leaps of faith and so much more. Through this I learned to care...

Sitting after clinical with a dying father of four as he memorized the faces of his children and their squeals of innocent laughter, I learned how to cry without shame.

I watched a mother kiss the miracle of her newborn baby and I grasped joy in a manner not even I understood at the time. Conversely, I shared a broken heart with parents not yet destined to be greeted with a child full of life, praying for their angel and sending silent hugs. I learned that in silence there are sometimes so many more important messages that can be conveyed. Now I know that silence absolutely does speak volumes. I understand that touch and wordless interaction places a nurse into the caregiver role in ways more powerful that any spoken word ever could...

I stood with an elderly gentleman sans visitors as he stared sadly at the brilliant christmas footprint less snow, and for the first time was struck by the malignant fury of stark loneliness... Being parted from my family during the holiday became strikingly insignificant that day...

I ran at breakneck speed beside young parents racing in with their sick little son and in their eyes I saw and owned the heart wrenching sickening fear of a parent terrified to lose a child..As I joined them in prayer, I was able to marry the feeling of helplessness with hope and was reminded, as I would be again and again until this very moment, that with god there is always hope. With a belief in a personal higher power, that hope and faith can and does move mountains...

The world no longer revolves around me. I revolve around the world, the world of those needing help and hope. It has been the greatest of all gifts to have been graced with the opportunity to play such an extraordinary part..

Birth, death and the interim; the precious pulse of life... I am a nurse and I am the lucky one...

Written by : martha crowninshield o'brien r.N.

Copyright 1981

I want a nurse.....

Getting older in nursing is just like getting older in real life. Sometimes it's worse. I say that because not only is the nurse charged with the caring of older people and their physical, emotional and psychological changes, he or she is tasked with dealing with some of the same issues while caring for others. We all have those moments when we forget what we were looking for on the trip form the patient room to the supply cart, or when we search for words or thoughts teetering on the tip of our tongues. Those of us working twelve hour night shifts with chronic sleep deprivation also factor into the equation.

I am thinking specifically of how frustrating and terrifying it must be to be chronically confused or aphasic. Those "forgetful" senior moments that covertly affect us as nurses may very well affect us as patients someday. Here are some of the qualities I am listing for my future nursing care. Some nurses reading this may already be smiling and nodding at the recognition of those momentary "senior" moments. Others may not yet have experienced them but someday, we will all need a nurse. We will all have to depend upon a nurse to deliver what we hope is skillful, qualified and compassionate care. Here are my personal wishes for nursing care based on what I know and what I fear.

I want a nurse to care for me who sees me for who I am, even if I am confused.

I want a nurse who makes me laugh by laughing at him or herself.

I want a nurse who establishes a rapport with me and my family and involves them positively in my care.

Ii want a nurse who isn't afraid or reluctant to call a doctor and be my advocate.

I want a nurse who treats me equally whether I own the mansion or serve within it.

I want a nurse who holds my hands when he or she talks with me, or if I cannot reply, to me.

I want a nurse who searches for whatever sparkle I might have left and nurtures it as far as it can go.

I want someone who won't laugh at my confusion or condescend.

I want a nurse who won't ignore me in the hallway in the geri chair because I am annoying him or her.

I want a nurse who on the busiest of shifts tries to remember that I would not be screaming or soiling myself if I had any control over that.

I want a nurse who is aware that could I do so and they were in a similar position, I would care tenderly and fiercely for them.

I want a nurse who recognizes that I love hugs, and who is willing to give one.

I want a nurse who tells me over and over again that I am safe and not snarl at me or resent that I am causing a scene.

If I am doing that it is because I can't help it.

Whatever is happening in my mind is all too real to me.

If I am angry and not confused, or somewhat confused, I want a nurse who will limit set appropriately and not worry about his or her job when they do.

Listen to me!

I want someone to talk to me and not over me if I am in a comatose or vegetative state. Make the effort to find out from my family that I love poetry and art. Read to me.

Call me by name.

Call me by my name.

Be respectful.

I want nurses who will talk to each other while they are tending to me but tell me so and in that way include me if I can't respond.

I can hear you.

I want a nurse who respects and works with my family and understands that I am not just a patient to them.

I am (or was) their life.

I am (or was) their mother, wife sister or friend.

I am (or was) a person just like them, and just like you.

I want a nurse who understands that I may be in pain even if I can't talk or ask for pain medication.

I want a nurse who can see pain in my face or in my actions and doesn't leave me without pain medication because I can't ask for analgesia.

I want a nurse who can see if I am cold and cover me.

I want a nurse who does his or her very best to maintain my dignity.

I want a nurse to pay attention to subtle nuance.

I want a nurse who doesn't dismiss me or my importance in the world simply because I can't talk, see, relate or care for myself.

I want a nurse who will wonder and honor who I am and who I used to be.

I want a nurse who will constantly search for signs that my mind is functioning even if and when my body is not.

I want a nurse who will advocate for me and my family.

I want a nurse who is not afraid to touch me.

I want a nurse who has the courage to disagree with a doctor if it is the right thing to do.

I want a nurse who is not afraid or ashamed to cry.

I want a nurse who is special.

In other words, I want to be cared for the way I try to care for others.

There are so many other things I want. There are so many other things I need. I could tell you what they are, but I forget.....

Written by: martha j. Crowninshield o'brien r.N.

Copyright 2009

Dedicated to nurses everywhere and the patients we've cared for, care for now, and will continue to care for as long as we possibly can...

Thank you for your service, skill, compassion and care...

Graduate of New England Deaconess School of Nursing 1981 Currently working in OB Formerly employed in Cardiac Care, Chronic ped, Med Surg and Diabetic Teaching Wife to retired USCG Mom of 4, ages 10-28 Proud Nurse Former Member names Mother/Baby RN and MermaidPoet

1 Article   1 Post

Share this post

Share on other sites


1,246 Posts

Has 36 years experience.

Thank you for your post.


21 Posts

Specializes in Women's Health, currently mother/infant,.

At a time when I often feel more like a waitress and maid, it is good to be reminded of our larger role. Thank you for the lovely post.


4 Posts

Specializes in corrections.

thank you for that a time where some nurses feel some of these tasks are below them, this is a reminder that a nurse is only as good as the care she gives!!


23 Posts

I will be starting nursing school in August and this really helped me to see the kind of nurse I want to strive to be. Thank you.