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What does it take to be a nurse? Words of wisdom from seasoned (incredible) coworkers

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Often I wonder what sets nurses aside from other careers? I am blessed beyond reason to have met, and have witnessed incredible nurses and coworkers along side me. Here's what I've learned, and what being an a nurse can mean, emotionally sometimes, and it's not easy or pretty, but it's what I choose as my career and I wouldn't change it for the world.

What does it take to be a nurse? Words of wisdom from seasoned (incredible) coworkers

Often times I catch myself wondering the struggles that other nurses on my unit go through; we all have lives, kids, children, husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends in general...and we take on some heavy cases. What in particular attaches a person to a case? Or not? - They all affect us, even subconsciously.

I had one of my ICU nurse friends, whom has been there for about 30 years tell me, "it doesn't take strength, it take character and compassion to do this job..." Before coming to this unit, I wanted to just sneak by, get my two years in and move onto whatever goal I had in mind... Much to my surprise I couldn't; I've made very real attachments, not only to patients, but very strong attachments to my co-workers.

We are all in this little boat, floating along in life. At any moment we would go overboard, any one of us; what a skewed perception of reality... right? You see, we develop these perceptions working in a place like this. Everyone's sick and everyone's dying; the only certainty we do know about life is it will end one day.

We all struggle, but often hide it, we don't bring it to our jobs. What I've realized is my struggle, my issues, have no comparison to what is going on in these people, these "patients" lives. When I step back I realize these are very real people, with families and lives... We go through the routine of patient care, but each person and each case is very different, and each one has very different issues, meanings, and lasting effect. I am taught by each new assignment that I take on.

I remember very vividly what it was like the first time I helped take a patient off of life support; I cried...I cried and I hid it in the nourishment room. I was ashamed I felt incapable, not strong to do this job...but I put on my big girl panties, came back to work the next day and did it all over again.

Later, I asked that very same nurse; "Do you cry?". After 30 years of her doing this job, her response, "I cry with patients' families, and I go home and cry alone. I cried yesterday hugging a girl whose grandma was getting CPR...painful". My point being, she was not one bit ashamed; why should she be? We all cry, the stuff we see is painful! And sad, and often times unfair. That doesn't make us not "strong enough" to do this job. It makes us compassionate, which helps us to be better at this job.

I am so thankful for this nurse's responses to me and my questions. You are a wealth of knowledge, you are compassion, and you are powerful beyond your means. We are all people, we all hurt. This job is humbling in the fact that I see people in their most vulnerable moments, and that, in return, is very humbling. To this day, I think death is beautiful, a privilege as beautiful to be a part of as birth. That is the one thing that sets our job in the medical field apart from other jobs: the privilege to witness these life beauties, and be a part of them.

It took courage for me to jump from my job working with healthy average people to go to the sickest hospital in our state, to the sickest unit in that hospital, and continue my nursing career. I didn't realize it then, but I realize it now, and I can only be forever grateful for the people that I have met, coworkers, patients and their family; for each have taught me value, beauty, and true strength.

An ICU nurse in a very large hospital that treats the sickest patients in our state and the surrounding area

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4 Comment(s)

3ringnursing, BSN

Specializes in ICU; Telephone Triage Nurse. Has 25 years experience.

Nice article. I think sometimes we forget the little things in life we are blessed with in the fast pace blur of day to day life - that is until something makes us remember them.

There are some awful aspects of nursing, but then again there the amazing things too that no other profession is fortunate enough to witness either.

We should take a moment to be thankful for our coworkers too - we often spend more of our waking hours with them then our own family, and they support us while we return the favor. I am so blessed to work with some of the most amazing, wonderful and intelligent nurses I know. Thank you for helping me to remember to be thankful for that.

I am glad it could remind you of what a wonder profession we are lucky enough to share with incredible people!


Has 45+ years experience.

Excellent article + well said; beyond the management issues of low staffing and budgeting, burnouts, and cries of leaving the profession from young nurses, there is a bright Light. This blog has reminded us all that this Light is what lead us to be a nurse in the first place. After 45+ years in nursing and recently retired, I realize the nursing friendships I've made, and true meaning of Life itself, has been created for me by being a nurse all these years.

Mas Catoer

Specializes in General. Has 30 years experience.

Well said.

It's been 36 years for me but still have to gain some insight from every given situation. My shortest words to be a great nurse is, it takes only a willingness, willingness to share whatever is good in self. Without it, being a nurse is an endless misery.