This goes to all my friends that I have spent most of my life around! You deserve more than a week actually! I admire, respect and appreciate the friendships that have cultivated over the years. I applaud your daily courage!
Many of you know I was actually a nurse at age 4. We lived on a farm and all of the animals were my “patients.” When my dad was sick with flu, pneumonia, arthritis, etc., he would call me “little nurse”! His only other term of endearment was “little Jesus.” I would like to give credit to my dad who spoke those things into existence in my life! I vividly remember telling puppies and dogs, “this will only hurt a tiny bit” as I gave them a “shot” with a sewing pin. If you ever asked me what I was going to be when I grew up….the answer was ultimately…”a nurse”!
When I graduated high school, I was married, pregnant and starting a young life. I worked for a while at the state school for retarded children. I watched the nurses then and realized I had to pursue my dream career. I secured JTPA funds and a state stipend to attend. I graduated 2nd. in my class only losing by 6/10’s of a point. I made only 99% & 100% on all but one of my tests as I wanted to accomplish something extraordinary for my parents. I felt like I failed them by becoming pregnant, having to get married!
During nursing school my marriage went sour. I felt the pains of infidelity and learned how to become a visitor in the bar scenes. The one & only test I failed was the reproductive system. Why? Well the Sunday prior I spent the entire evening in the Emergency Room puking b/c I had swallowed a 500 count bottle of Bayer Aspirin. Yeah….ace nursing student right? Well….after spending the evening telling the doctor what signs and symptoms to look for….I realized how stupid it was. You have to know that if someone is really serious about committing suicide…they aren’t going to swallow the bottle of pills and then show you what they took!! Anyway…..from that day forward I learned no person or situation is worth taking a human life.
I graduated and immediately went to work at a Charity hospital. I floated daily, not literally, but I came to work, reported to the nursing supervisor, and got my assignment. I quickly learned every part of the hospital. I worked with every resident that rotated in and out. I was one of the only nurses that loved going to “Big Charity” in New Orleans on ambulance runs. This caused me to have a very broad knowledge of many things. Many! I left there and went to a private hospital where I was “the strong night nurse” working alongside newer grads.
Years passed, I remarried and was able to be a stay at home mom for a while and then……I entered the work scene again. You have been told never say never. When my grandmother was sick, I vowed never to step foot in a nursing home again. In my child eyes, they killed her! Well….God has a way of humbling us and bringing us to where he wants us. I worked nights at a nursing home and fell in love with the geriatric culture. My dad was very old when I was born so I grew up with his generation. Soon there was a bond formed with the staff and we would host bible studies, pray with patients, and there was revival there. Friendships formed, miracles happened, patients accepted Christ before dying and it was grand. Of course….staffing challenges were enormous. When it was suggested for us to begin wearing gloves, they bought us food service gloves instead of real ones. Now you know some of the challenges we faced! I will not go off on that tangent! Profit was more important than patient care and employee retention so….I left.
I did a short tour at the local Veterans Hospital. This assignmen was only for me! I realized at that time I developed a love, respect and admiration for our veterans that I had never realized. My position was short-term as a replacement for someone who had left to serve in Dessert Storm.
This brings me to date with the most incredible years of my nursing career. From 1991-2004 I spent at a private hospital. I worked primarily geriatric & floated pediatrics. I got bored, & went to work in critical care. That was my pulse! I found my niche. Adrenaline rushes, trauma, 14 drips (anytime I exaggerate I use #14), tubes from every orafice, second to second changes in status, several doctors assigned to care for 1 patient….etc. I got on first name basis with the same doctors I used to bug at night when I worked in the nursing home. I also noticed the level of respect changed from when I was just a “floor” nurse to becoming a critical care nurse. I worked in the per diem or float pool– again!! I truly believe we were the elitist of the hospital. We had to be smart / skilled enough to work in any area, be flexible and work whenever they needed us, sometimes in 4 hr. shifts, even being switched several times per 12 hr. shift. We had the greatest group ever!
The relationships that formed during that 13 yr. stent were amazing. I went through many life events with them. 2nd. Divorce (now you know why after 16 yrs. I am still single!), sale of homes, death of my mom, near death of Bryce due to asthma, Summer’s car wreck, graduation as valedictorian, her marriage, birth of my g-daughter, Lillianna, my graduation from bible college with a degree in Theology, having my purse stolen at Christmas, my internet scam, bankruptcy, and etc. Together we survived multiple hospital remodeling stages, raises & no raises, bonuses & no bonuses, paper charting to computer charting, & the dreaded full moons because, yes….people really do go loony!
There is something about working in life and death situations that forces you form bonds with people. I worked very hard to develop trust, respect and conduct myself in a spirit of excellence. My patients loved me. I learned so much over the years there and valued those relationships. I also worked at 2 other hospitals sometimes 3. I traveled on agency strike assignments & 13 week assignments in other states. I loved people, learned from them and never left without them wanting me to stay on longer. Not to toot my horn, but I carried experience & excellence wherever I went. I believe I learned from the best and brightest nurses and doctors ever. I intentionally represented them well wherever I was.
Many changes occurred in my nursing career. The sickness industry has evolved quite well. I graduated having to wear the starch caps and sterile whites to relaxed scrubs and tennis. I don’t have the time to go into all the medicine breakthroughs. I remember the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. It was probably the scariest time of all. I fell in love with an AIDS pt. and the saddest thing I have ever done was to tell him goodbye. We spoiled him so that if he wasn’t assigned to our floor, we would visit him elsewhere in the hospital. As his condition worsened, I was the one that had to call his partner for a DNR status. I also prayed with him before leaving one night to accept Jesus. He died the next day.
I then took care of a pastor that had contracted HIV and was so bitter no one wanted to take care of him. Sad, but we had to rotate around him preventing a nurse from being assigned to him more than one day in a row. We did this to diffuse the situation on all sides. His mom never left his side. Never. We were very concerned for her well-being. I somehow never took care of him when he was on my floor, but… when he moved to the Skilled Nursing Facility floor around the corner…I did. I floated remember! There was a rift immediately b/c I still wore protective clothing. This offended them both, but I held my ground. Neither mom nor patient cared for me and it was apparent. Then…..it happened. He needed an IV started. I was one of the best in the hospital, (not bragging, but I LOVED phlebotomy & made it my quest to be the best!) so I was confident I could start it. During the course of the process he yelled at his mom and was very disrespectful. That did it! I stopped and looked him in the eyes, and told him, “You will never do that to her again in my presence. How dare you? This woman, your mother, for months, has never left your side, not even to eat sometimes. How could you even think you could talk to her like that?” I informed him he would tell her he was sorry, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. (I didn’t even know the 5 love languages of apology existed, but I covered most of them!) He began to weep and so did mom. Through tears and sobs, he admitted his torment & anguish, guilt & fear. He said all the things I requested, mom gave me a hug, and from that moment on, we were one big happy family. She even left to go home for a day or two!
You see…..you form relationships not only with the people you work with. I took care of patients sometimes up to a year. I learned to read lips b/c of needing to communicate with ventilator patients. You had those that came in and out of the hospital due to disease processes and you knew them well. I was the “pillow & blanket nurse” in ER. If I didn’t have pillows, I would go to the laundry, wash them and bring them to my area. I was the “best bed bath giver” in ICU. Now picture being assigned in ER, and have one of your recent ICU patients to yell that out her door to you! You laughed, you cried, but most importantly…..you cared!
There were trials with physicians who had “God” syndromes, “short man” syndromes, and just syndromes. I stood with them all. I had my favorites and they all thought they were!
Seriously this blog is not about me. It is all about the profession that is beyond description. People will comment all the time, “I could never be a nurse”, or “It takes a special person to be a nurse.” They are exactly right. Not everyone can be, nor should they even entertain the notion. Many times, things nurses do for patients, go unmentioned. Sometimes in a generic survey someone will be kind enough to mention their experience. Maybe they will even remember to comment about their nurse. This profession is sincerely for men & women who choose to dedicate their lives literally being responsible for the lives of others. My memories are many as I have an “elephant” memory. My joys are stacked higher than the sorrows. I applaud each and every nurse I have ever had the pleasure of working beside. I can’t imagine what challenges you will face in the coming years with the new healthcare changes. All I know is, that you will face them with courage, and one day look back with stories! Please do me a favor…..record them so others will know they existed! You are a part of history through the evolution of modern medicine. Remember….the rule of thumb for charting….if you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen. Your life work deserves to be validated!
I love you! I miss you! I wish you blessings!
(p.s. Why did I leave nursing…..I read a book & learned how to get off the left side of the quadrant! I found out there is more to life than 3 jobs, 12-16 hr. shifts, multiple hospitals, & more!)