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Posts Tagged ‘nursing’

All nurses go to heaven

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~Maya Angelou

Somewhere up there, or wherever heaven may be, there is a special place for nurses. I would like to think it is a quiet, restful place, with unlimited backrubs for sore muscles and gentle hands to massage tired feet, but if I know nurses, they will probably still be caring for everyone else. Instead of having to eat cold hospital cafeteria meatloaf, though, there is hot food and time to finish a meal. There is chocolate, and plenty of it. Chocolate is medicinal, you know. Just ask a nurse. There are no answering machines or voice mails asking us…no, make that BEGGING us to come in to work because the hospital is once again short-staffed. There is no such thing as guilt in that special place. Guilt over ignoring the answering machine or caller ID because there is just not enough left in you to pull another shift. Guilt over leaving our families on holidays or not having the time to care for patients the way we would want to be cared for ourselves. There is coffee, and by coffee, I mean good, freshly made coffee, not the stuff that has been sitting in the bottom of the pot for the last six hours that we drank anyway because there was no time to make a fresh pot. Coffee is medicinal, also. The coffee can be consumed wherever we want to drink it, not where the hospital inspectors determine that coffee drinking is allowed, such as the nurses’ break room, which is a place that few nurses ever have the time to visit. There are no mandatory meetings scheduled for 9 a.m. when we just got off at 7 following three 12-hour night shifts. There are no call buttons. There are bathrooms, and time to use them. There is definitely no paperwork. There are no confused, combative, or drunk patients, and everyone says “thank you”. There are no relatives whose neighbor’s daughter is in nursing school and said it should be done this way. The front row seats in this heaven are reserved for the special nurses. They are the nurses who inspired and taught us. They are the nurses who made us laugh when all we wanted to do is cry. They are the nurses who hugged us when there was nothing to laugh about. They are the nurses who mentored and encouraged others to become nurses, so we might someday have someone to take care of us. The world lost one of those special nurses a few days ago. I hope it is a long, long time before any more of us get to that special place, but if you happen to get there before I do, you might find her front row, center. Then again, she will probably be around there somewhere, doing what she loved best, and doing what she was always meant to do.

In memory of Jeanne Gillson Steele, RN

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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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