Posts Tagged ‘#NursesUnite’

Twenty-five years ago I moved to the nation’s oldest city and started working in the intensive care unit at a small hospital located at the water’s edge.  As a new employee, I was relegated to the night shift.  Every morning, we would stop what we were doing and watch the sunrise over the bayfront. Sometimes we would see the dolphins playing or a manatee’s humped back as she swam by, enjoying the morning’s sunrise as much as we did.   We would then turn back to our work, which most days wasn’t pretty.  Men and women who choose nursing as a career usually have more of a calling than a choice. We are called to take care of people, and in doing so, we  take care of not only patients but their families and friends. In doing this, we sometimes gave up time with our own families. People still get sick and need care on Christmas or Thanksgiving or when your baby is taking his first steps.  Disease and illness know no boundaries and are not prejudiced against race, wealth, or religion. Disease happens, and we took care of it. We fought it with every inch of our souls.  Nursing is not something easily turned off when you clock out at the end of your shift. All of us at one time or another had sleepless nights worrying about a patient or wondering if we had done everything we should have or could have done.  We often found humor in the strangest circumstances and we would laugh until we cried.  Sometimes we just cried.  We dealt with death and dying more than we wanted to.  Sometimes dying takes a long time and sometimes it comes much more quickly than anybody is ready for.  We were there for both.  We had a little superstition that was used long before any of us became  nurses.  When someone was in the dying process and nothing else could be done, we would quietly crack open the window to let the angels in.  Even those who didn’t quite believe in angels knew it couldn’t hurt.  ICU nursing was one of the hardest things I ever did, and it was also one of the best things I ever did.  We saved many more lives  than we lost, and we rejoiced in each one. We worked hard. We played hard. Sometimes we kept ourselves going with black coffee and saltines pilfered from the kitchen drawer. Sometimes we ate like gourmets. We were of many different ethnicities and would often have potluck dinners with a variety of foods from different countries. We would eat on the run, because each and every time we planned a party or a potluck dinner we would get a full-code from the ER or a drunk who wanted to pick a fight.  When we could sit down to eat, we would talk about things that would spoil the appetite of the most stoic stomach.  We learned to respect each other’s religion, ethnic background, and politics. We learned that despite the high-tech world of medicine, nothing works like good old-fashioned teamwork.  We learned that we may not get a day off  if help was needed.  We learned to rub each other’s shoulders on a busy day.  We learned that nursing and nursery rhymes have a lot in common:  When days are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad they are horrid.  We were there for one thing, and that was to take care of the health and well-being of our patients. Along the way, we learned to take care of each other. A new hospital was built, and we no longer had that lovely view. The city grew, the hospital grew, and we grew along with it by learning and changing as often as health care changes.  Some of us embraced change, some of us did not.  Last night, we had a reunion of these nurses, along with a few other members of the team.  We are older and different and yet so much the same. We laughed a lot. We ate. We hugged.  We remembered, together.  I would recognize them anywhere and in any circumstance.  I would trust each one of them with my life.  I think that somebody, somewhere must have opened a window last night, because for a few hours, I was surrounded by angels.

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