Nursing: To give oneself with no reward or appreciation.

Nursing is a bunch of things. But, it is never boring...even when it is. It is a way of being and working.


Nursing: To give oneself with no reward or appreciation.

"Oh, that hurts so much!" My grandma's eyes are screwed shut and her breath is coming short and quick. I am trying to peel back the tape holding the bloody gauze to her leg. The nurse that comes to her house twice a day to check on her and change the dressing was in a hurry and used a very sticky tape directly on my grandma's papery skin.

Rolls of bandages litter her bed; their plastic smells contrasting sharply with this dim room of my childhood. My grandma is crying now, trying to hide it from me.

I hear it in her damp breathing and see glassy tears at the corners of her eyes. She recently had surgery to remove a clot in her leg. There were complications.

This is the leg before me: Purple and yellow bruises from her hip to ankle and an angry, gaping slit at her groin.

As I ease the tape from her damaged skin, I try to soothe her. I feel strangely removed - Calm urgency moves my fingers and soft words come from an iron place. I gently dress her and reassure her, feeling fierce devotion and love in this most intimate moment.

Later, I am lying in the little bed down the hall. My grandma is crying a little in her sleep and I am not sleeping. Instead, I sob and pray and thrash - Unable to cope with the intensity of my feelings.

This woman was once a little girl, born by accident in an outhouse by a mother who didn't know she was pregnant. She was adored by her brothers and became the only girl from her tiny school in a rural farming community to go to college.

She worked all her life, from stuffing sausages to becoming one of the first computer programmers. She gave birth to six children and suffered through losing one. And she was at my birth, and has been there since: Cajoling and hugging, scolding and correcting - Always teaching. At this moment, I feel the weight of life.

This is what I want to feel. These are the moments that I want to ease. Everyone is that small and helpless baby, that vibrant young person, that worried adult and that dog-tired elder. Life is hard: We ache and hurt and cry and scream.

But, let's not forget about the tender parts: The soothing words and the good intentions - The ways that we can appreciate and love a person that we don't even know. We are here to help and treat with dignity and grace.

The good, the bad, the disgusting and the sad...

These are the moments where we can care, comfort and give. It is any one of us in that bed or on that table. What a difference it makes to feel competent hands and hear a friendly voice!

This is nursing:

To give completely of oneself with no immediate reward or appreciation. To work hard in a hard place. To find something to appreciate and love about the human experience even when it is rank and depressing. To keep going when we are so sad and depressed. What strength and courage! How amazing it is to see and feel the things that a nurse can.

So, Nursing is a bunch of things. But, it is never boring...even when it is. It is a way of being and working. It is a way of sensing and learning to live in a different way. I grow stronger knowing that there is a network of men and women that will always care about the most "insignificant" detail and help in the most intimate situations. Don't ever forget your worth. Every touch and move and word holds meaning for those who are hurting. Do good works.

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Specializes in Family Practice.

I remember being with my Grandma the week before she passed away from was about 9 months before I started nursing school. I remember stroking her hair and talking to her as she slept (she was on hospice at home) and wishing I was already a nurse so that I could participate in her care. You are lucky that you had the skills to be able to care for your grandmother.

Thanks for your post. :)


Specializes in gastroenterology, HIV, AIDS. Has 19 years experience.

Very well said. I constantly remind myself that when I go into work and nurse, each one of those souls I attend to remembers that interaction. It's amazing when you get a patient back into hospital that you've nursed, and maybe you have a vage memory of them, you walk into to their room and they smile saying " Hi (insert name) how's your (insert pet) I remember you making that first cup of tea for me, after being nil by mouth for 2 weeks, and how you made it in a china cup, not just one of the plastic hospital cups." Point is, like you said, our patients do remember the small things, and these small things count, some times more than the big ones. Thanks for your post.


22 Posts

Thanks for sharing the story.


21 Posts

As I wipe the tears from my eyes, This is what being a Nurse is all about the caring loving attitudes to all of our patients and family members. I walk into every room with the thought that if this were my oarents, siblings,ect how would I want them treated and do this. Even when you have ahd that one patient you thought you would lose your Lic over they have to be treated with respect.

Nursing is not only a job but for alot of us it's a way of life and I can proudly say one that I love having.


2 Posts

so well written-your empathy comes through loud and clear. It's a good reminder to all of us who have been nursing 'forever' to remember that the 'patient'(no matter how disagreeable or negative they may be),is a person with a story ,not just a number! We all deserve respect and caring.:yeah::nurse:


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Thank you all for your comments and support!