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Things to remember about nursing

This summer, I came away from my MICU contract with a renewed understanding of why I have this love-hate relationship with nursing. And I’ve summed it up in 6 simple points so when I’m ready to pick up another contract I can remember what to expect, even if months and months of super intense child rearing washes it all out of my head.

So here goes. The love part…

  1. It’s the feeling you get after the shift that is so great. You made it. You got through this grueling, back breaking, nerve wracking day. It’s a feeling of accomplishment.
  2. It’s the social interaction. The camaraderie. There is definitely a bond there among nurses. No matter how different a fellow nurse is from you they know exactly what it is that you go through. And for many of us, you can’t say the same thing about your family, your spouse, or your best friend.
  3. Then there’s just the joy of knowing a difficult job really, really well. Being able to field any curve ball that comes your way in an extremely fast paced environment. Not to mention the fact that people could die if you don’t do the right thing. While that may sound like an enormous amount of pressure, it’s also a great source of pride to know that you can handle that.

And the hate part…

  1. Night shift – Love, love, love the people who work night shift. But I hate the fact that switching from days to nights makes me feel like a human slug.
  2. Lower back pain. No need to elaborate here.
  3. Cleaning up stool. Sorry. it sucks no matter how you slice it. Some will say “Oh it doesn’t bother me at all! You get used to it.” Bullshit. You have 2 ICU patients, each stooling 3-4 times during the night in a 12 hour shift. You do the math. That means you are potentially up to your elbows in shit Q 2 hrs. AND trying to get the rest of your work done.

I like to help people. So sue me.

You are a nurse. You are out in public, going about your business and you see a person in distress, or a situation where someone has been harmed or injured in some way.

What would you do?

I had a conversation with some fellow nurses yesterday that I found kind of surprising. Someone was cursing their husband for telling her son’s little league team that she was an ER nurse. Now the coach wanted her to volunteer to run the first aid station at some of the games.

“I never tell anyone I’m a nurse,” she says.

The other nurse agreed and said that she never wears her scrubs home when taking the subway, because she would be expected to help if something went wrong.

Now, I understand where this mentality comes form. Everyone’s afraid of liability. Everyone’s afraid of losing their license if something goes wrong.

Call me naive and idealistic, but if I saw someone in distress, or someone who had been harmed, it would take wild hungry pit bulls to keep me from helping them. You see, it’s kind of why I became a nurse in the first place. Not only is there something so infinitely rewarding about being able to help someone in a crisis situation, I also consider it to be my duty. And I may not have the type of first-line emergency skills that many ER nurses and EMTs have but I’ll tell you what I can do. I can hold pressure to stop someone from bleeding. I know BLS and if there’s an AED around I can set it up, calmly and quickly. I can hold someone’s hand, talk them through the situation and try to keep the scene calm until the EMTs get there.

And if you’re still afraid, well, there is something to protect you. It’s called The Good Samaritan Law.

I’m proud to be a nurse. Sure I may do my share of complaining about all the menial stuff, but in the end, I have pride in who I am. This is going to sound incredibly corny but when I wear my scrubs out in public, stopping to get coffee before work, or stopping at the grocery store after my shift, I hold my head up a little higher. The funny thing is that people seem to treat me with slightly more reverence when I’m in my scrubs. And I don’t mind that at all.

Am I Contributing to the Nursing Shortage?

I got this comment the other day from Trish, and I really have mixed feelings about it:

I just wanted to let you know I like your blog and you have impacted someone’s life (mine), in an unexpected way.

I’m starting college this fall after being out of school many years. I was planning on going into nursing. Deep down I suspected I would suck at being a nurse, especially when I found myself gagging while washing out my pottytraining toddler’s poopy underpants. Your blog, and this post, has pretty much confirmed my suspicions and I’m planning on doing something else now. Thanks for opening my eyes!

On the one hand, I feel bad. We need nurses and I hate to think that I’ve influenced someone to not be a nurse.

On the other hand, everything I write here is my honest and open opinion about the profession, and I write about what being a nurse really entails. And unfortunately, the further I get in this profession, the more I want out of it.

Despite that, I have no regrets as far as choosing this path, and spending the last three years (5 if you include school) being a nurse. It’s been a mind-blowing experience, one in which I’ve learned a lot about life and a lot about my self, and what I’m capable of doing.

To Trish I would say this: Do a little more thinking about what drove you to consider nursing in the first place, because there are many types of nurses that rarely come into contact with poop. (Isn’t it crazy that I’m writing a serious post about poop?) Psych nurses, community health nurses, and case managers are a few types that come to mind. And you can always try being a NICU nurse, because as @thatguynamedtom said, “the poop is so much smaller there.”

One final thought: I used to be a person who was afraid of blood, and for years I wouldn’t even dream of becoming a nurse, for fear of having to actually draw someone’s blood. I later came to find out, however, that this was simply a matter of my own vasovagal response to giving blood. Years later I found myself up to my elbows in blood amongst the GI bleeders in the MICU, and I was as far from syncope as you can get. Instead I found myself pumped up with adrenaline and exhilaration at the chance to be saving someone’s life.

Now there’s a good reason to become a nurse.