I still felt tired after a three day stretch of twelve hour shifts, but I smiled with anticipation for a day with family. It was an overcast Monday afternoon as we drove to the zoo, and I looked contentedly out the window as my husband drove. He was talking about the Old Testament and things he’d been reading there recently, and I listened lazily while watching the green fields and patches of crowded forests zip by my window. I smiled at his words, and I reflected on the day before when I had been working at the hospital bedside.
Nursing is an exhausting field. I don’t ever want to be one of those people who complains all the time, but it is. Sometimes I feel like more is expected of me than is humanly possible, as if I’m expected to be more super-human than not. In fact, on my drive home from work I had imagined this nursing post to be much different than what it’s become. Sunday night it was going to be titled, “Nurses are Super, But Not Super-Human.” I didn’t realize God would later whisper to me, but you are.
What I mean is that so often you feel like you are falling short at the bedside. You feel like there’s not enough time, that you’re missing something. When you’re rushed, maybe receiving too many admissions, too many discharges, and not enough space in between, you feel frazzled, like you’re coming undone. Nursing is one of those jobs where missing something can be detrimental, and mistakes can cost you more than pride. They can cost you a career, a life. These are things we don’t like to talk about. Much is expected of nurses, and it’s easy to keep piling it on their shoulders until something horrible happens.
I recently saw someone comment on a nursing page the phrase, “it is what it is” in response to someone’s concern over issues in the field. Reading their response made my feathers ruffle, and it brought to me the same anger as the phrase, “put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” As if nurses were just expected to swallow their medicine and ignore unfair work conditions. Sigh.
No one can deny that problems exist in healthcare staffing, and that the expectation of medical staff is unrealistic much of the time. These facts could often threaten to push you over the edge into burnout and job dissatisfaction. They certainly could make you forget that your job was more than you assumed it to be. I’ll admit, I forgot at times. But my husband’s words on this fuzzy Monday brought it back to the forefront for me. As he spoke about Old Testament laws and the Sabbath he proposed a thought.
He said, “nowadays people minister on the Sabbath. That’s what you do. Kinda like a pastor. You just minster a little bit different than a preacher is all. I think God smiles at that.”
I thought about the woman I took care of that weekend. She had seemed so downtrodden when I went in her room first thing on Sunday morning.
“You look like you’re just tired of all this,” I surmised.
She answered in agreement, “you don’t realize how long this has been going on!”
I had taken her hands and asked her if she was a praying woman. I like to watch people’s eyes when I ask this question. The majority of them will open their eyes wide, and with anticipation. They’ll answer eagerly and hungrily just like she did, “yes, I am!”
Then, with their approval and acceptance, I will pray with them. I will allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me the words they need to hear right at that moment. There’s usually tears, gratitude, and a much more cheerful day thereafter. It’s interesting to see their physical body respond positively as well. In this particular case the family had later thanked me profusely, and the patient had reiterated her own gratitude before I left at the end of my shift. I hadn’t done anything extraordinary, but I suppose to her, at the time, it was super.
I thought of the young man who held my hand tightly as I told him goodbye. He had looked me hard in the eyes as he said, “you’re the best ever!”
I had prayed for him before bed. I had prayed that he knew the Lord, and asked God to show me how to find out.
I had asked him on Sunday what kind of music he liked. When he answered “gospel,” I had laughed joyfully. I shared that I had prayed for him, and he had cried when I told him that.
I had not done anything out of the ordinary. I had not cured his ailment or taken his disease away. I had, though, treated him with kindness, love, and respect. Perhaps that was what he needed most. Perhaps, to him, that was super.
I thought of my patients, I contemplated my husband’s words, I looked out the window as small houses passed by, and I smiled. I guess I was a minister. I was a nurse, and I healed bodies. But I also healed hearts, minds, and spirits. I wasn’t super-human, yet the job I was privileged to serve in was super to the people I took care of day in and day out. This revelation didn’t make the problems go away, but it did lift me out of them long enough to see the amazing impact I could have on others in the midst of it all.