We are nurses but...
We give you small, sometimes sad little smiles as you leave for the night, letting us know that your mom or dad or grandparent is ready for bed. We nod and smile then tell you that we'll be glad to help them back to bed. Once you're off the unit, we sigh gently and look at all the medications, wound dressings, orders and other tasks we need to perform on up to 6 (at least my workplace) patients for the 12 hour shift we're about to endure. Sometimes...we forget that we're doing these "tasks" on your mother, father, grand-parent. We're people too.
We have parents and grandparents too and for some of us, they are alive and well. They aren't a stroke patient who has left side paralysis and a PEG tube. They don't have delirium with a UTI requiring frequent doses of Haldol, a HiLo bed and q15 minutes checks. But we're people too.
We often get reminded that this is your mother, father or grandparent when they talk about you, or ask about you after you've left or even confuse us for you. We smile and inquire or reorient them to their surroundings. We help them get to bed, turn and prop them, make sure to float their heels and set the bed alarm after taking them to the bathroom one last time. We haven't peed or drank in hours, but we're nurses.
We smile at you in the morning as you come back to visit, with small tired smiles. You ask how the night went, we lie a little. We don't tell you how your mother, father or grandparent punched the nurse aide while trying to clean up their incontinence. We say, "Oh they didn't get much sleep but they weren't any trouble." We hurt, our backs hurt from turning and lifting, but we're nurses.
We sit in corners, talking to patients with addiction issues letting them know as much as they love heroin, it doesn't love them. It's okay to love yourself again. We smile and laugh with you, no matter the issues you have outside the doors of the hospital. We tell you things can get better and that we'll help you because we're nurses and we hope that we're right about it getting better, even if we see you again.
We write names on death certificates and listen for the absence of heart sounds. We look up at you with a little nod of the head to let you know your mother is gone. You're relieved that she's no longer in pain but your heart hurts. Ours does too, we're thinking about our mother because we're people too.
We drive home, perform some more homely tasks on auto-pilot and sometimes stop for groceries. Cashiers see our badges that we've forgotten to remove and say, "I could never do your job." or "So-and-so was in hospital last month and they fell." We smile and nod and shrug. "It's not so bad." We're tired and we want to go home, but we're nurses outside of work too.
We shower, crawl in bed and think about the man who cried to you after his daughters left because he found out he has bladder cancer and he hasn't told them yet. We think about how we made time to walk with him in the hall, watch the end of the baseball game with him and remind him he is NPO after midnight for his TURP in the morning. We stare at our ceilings, thinking how the procedure is going and we just can't sleep....
We care, because we're nurses but we're people too.