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Friday, September 18, 2015

#NursesUnite

Unless you live under a rock, you have most likely heard about the recent issues surrounding nurses and some comments made by co-hosts of "The View".  Apparently, some things were said in a moment of ignorance, perhaps even disinterest.  It's caused quite the uproar.  And as a nurse myself, I have a reaction to this as well.

I'm actually grateful for the moment.  I think we all have periods of ignorance and we may have even made the mistake of voicing that publicly.  However, do any of us really know what other professions do with their day?  I have no idea what goes into a day in the life of a mechanic.  I couldn't pretend to understand the day to day goings on of a schoolteacher.  In fact, it would probably be rather enlightening to sit down with others from time to time just to catch a glimpse of who they are professionally.

And admittedly, I too felt that hair-raising sensation when I heard the pageant contestants scrubs referred to as a "nurse's costume" and her equipment called a "doctor's stethoscope". But, I think we have those kinds of reactions to things when we fear that there is an element of truth to how we're perceived.  As nurses, we do a lot of the grunt work.  We're also responsible for people's lives, their well-being, their overall health. And although all of that is obviously vitally important, we neglect to give ourselves and our co-workers the credit for our work.  We can be our own worst enemy at times.  I think we owe it to ourselves and our profession to take a look at why this outrage was felt on such a deep and personal level.  I believe we can do better, as a nursing community, to remind ourselves and our fellow co-workers, just how important our work has always been.

How do we do that?  We give credit where credit is due.  That means building each other up, and recognizing the hard work and compassion it takes to do this life-saving job.  And that means ALL of us, from the newest nursing student, to the chief nursing officer.  All of our jobs are vitally important.  I would encourage nurses to purposely engage in a conversation with a new nursing student.  They walk into a situation knowing very little about the day to day happenings, but are wide-eyed with desire to learn.  TEACH them.  Let's work hard to completely eradicate our self-inflicted "eat your young" mentality.  I don't know about you, but someday I'd like to be able to take a vacation.  And how does that happen?  Someone else is doing my job, while I take time off.  Part of being a good nurse means that we worry about our patients even when we're not clocked in for the day.  I personally want to know that if I do happen to take some time off, that my patients will be well taken care of by the new nurses coming to our units.  How do we do that?  We encourage one another.  We show them just what using a "doctor's stethoscope" means.  We ask them to be a part of our team.  We thank them for sharing our love of nursing, because let's face it, you can't do this job without passion.  The work is too hard to do simply to collect a paycheck.

Even the most cynical and negative person you work with is passionate about her job.  It may be habit for her to spout negativity, but as her co-worker, you see the compassion and care she gives to her patient at the bedside.  Remind her of that when you can.  And thank her for it.  It's also equally as important to build up the positive person.  She'll get wary after awhile, because the job is just hard.  It is. There are bad days, and we all know it.  Thank her for her contributions, for her positive attitude, and allow her a place to vent too.  And why not build up our administration?  Some of us can get awfully nit-picky about specific things happening within our workplace.  We do the "talk behind her back" grade school thing, and forget that at one time, that administrator was a new nurse.  She was wide-eyed and ignorant of the actual job, but filled with so much hope and compassion.  She has worked her way to a position that may have taken her from the bedside, but it didn't erase her compassion, or her ability to be a good nurse.  You may not always agree with the decision, but I guarantee that 99% of the time, the decision is made for the betterment of our jobs.

Conversely, administrative nurses must remember that feeling of fatigue after an extra shift.  They must remember what it's like to lose a patient and then try to work again the next day.  They must remember what it means to raise a family, while also providing excellent care to their patients while at work.  Build up your staff.  Let them know that you SEE them.  You recognize their fatigue and their hard work.  Hell, put on a pair of scrubs from time to time, and remember your roots, as they will reconnect you to your team.

So, what has a nurse done for me?  Oh, I could fill a book with that information.  When I had my first baby, it was a difficult and scary delivery.  Things were not going well at all.  It became a rather dire situation, in which a hysterectomy was possible.  I was 21 years old.  I was terrified. My family was terrified.  And do you know what I remember?  I remember Janeen.  I remember Sandy.  I remember their calm, compassionate faces.  I remember their quick thinking and excellent skill.  I remember getting to hold my baby for the first time, and because of their incredible knowledge and care, I would go on to experience that "first" three more times.  I thank Janeen and Sandy.

That delivery stunned my son, and resulted in him being quite ill for awhile.  But there were nurses there.  Nurses whose skills and knowledge eventually brought my son to my room and helped him to nurse for the first time.  A particular nurse was there to receive him and give him the necessary treatment he needed immediately after delivery.  Her name was Rose.  Thank you, Rose.

I had a miscarriage, and I was afraid and alone in the recovery room after surgery.  I remember opening my eyes and seeing a face I didn't recognize.  But it was a kind face.  Her name was Wendy, and she held my hand and with tears in her eyes, told me that she was sorry for the loss of my baby.  I thank Wendy.

And then of course there is my boy.  My sweet, precious Easton.  The nurses who made an impact on this child's life are immeasurable.  In our hometown hospital, I remember Carla, and Crystal and Libby.  We became repeat offenders to the pediatric unit, and seeing their faces always brought a sense of peace. I remember Becky.  My phone call to her would be the first of many.  Her continued excellence in the care of my son and my family is inspiring.  When we had to travel to St. Louis Children's hospital, I saw a level of nursing care that I never knew existed.  I continue to be in awe of the knowledge and skill level of these men and women.  I remember Danielle, Lindsey, and Maggie.  I remember Sarah and Ericka.  I recall countless other faces that brought such relief in the most horrific time of my life.  I watched as Lindsey administered pain medication at my request, as my son took his last breath in my arms.  How do you thank someone for that?  I'm not sure I'll ever know.  But, I thank you. All of you.

Nurses are integral parts of the healthcare system.  Without us, it would not survive.  Without our compassion, our dedication, our sore feet, our tired eyes, our constant worry for people we don't even know, it would cease to exist.  I encourage you to remind a nurse just what he/she means to you.  We love to hear that our work hasn't gone unnoticed.  And fellow nurses, instead of just anger at the ignorance, let's do what we do best.  Let's teach them.  Let's show them.  Let's strengthen our profession by empowering one another and educating the public about our work.  If that means using a "doctor's stethoscope", so be it. If it means donning our "nurse's costume", we can do that too.  But do it with the kindness and compassion that you were born to share. #NursesUnite