When we tell our nursing story, where do we begin?
Do we start with the many lives we’ve touched, the heartache we experienced, the tears we shed, the laughter, or the intimacy we’ve felt during a person’s most vulnerable moments? These experiences and feelings are what separates nursing from other professions, and they are the foundation for my nursing story.
Frustration at Every Turn
From my 46 years of nursing, I still recall the frustration I felt when there weren’t enough hands to go around to take care of our patients. The question, “What could I have done differently for a better outcome?” constantly floated through my mind.
I felt like a set of spinning wheels trying to get my job done. It felt like a part of myself was lost, and I questioned why I went into this profession in the first place. It seemed paperwork and documentation became more important than sitting with patients who needed TLC and emotional support — someone just to listen.
Most days involved not being able to eat or go to the bathroom, so every minute could be spent on taking care of others. Eight-hour shifts turned into 12-hour shifts because the workload was impossible, and I felt like dumping it on the next shift just wasn’t fair.
There were many days of crying in the car on my way home from sheer exhaustion and then yelling at my spouse or kids because I held it all in on the job. I reviewed the day in my head over and over again on the drive home and woke in the middle of the night wondering if something was forgotten during such a crazy day.
Focusing on the Positive
Now, let me flip the coin on my nursing story and talk about the teamwork, the camaraderie, the love, the support, the sharing of knowledge, and especially the mantra, “We can get this done together.” After all, if we can persevere on the front lines of a pandemic, we can get through anything.
As in every profession, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but in nursing, we can call upon each other during times of need. Like working together to wash, dress, and turn patients and showing each other love and support, celebrating what we were able to accomplish in spite of it all.
As I look back on all my years as a nurse, I have been inspired by so many people, (thank you to each and every one of you!), and that includes patients. I think about the compliments from patients and their families and the call I received from a patient who lived out of state. She had gotten sick while visiting Long Island and wound up with a colostomy. We taught her how to do her own colostomy care with a mirror, while also helping with her distorted body image. She called to say thank you and, “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
I have always said to students and new nurses that I mentored, “If you are coming into the profession for the money, get out now. It is not about the money. It is about the rewards of the heart. Also, never forget where you started. Take new nurses under your wings and help them to fly.” Mentoring can be a fulfilling chapter in your nursing story too.
In this profession, nobody is better than anyone else. You can’t expect anyone to do something you are not willing or capable of doing yourself.
In order to succeed as a nurse you must stand together with your coworkers in all departments, no matter what their role is. We must lift each other up every day in order to tend to the sick. That should be part of all our nursing stories.
Share your nurse stories with us!