Just about everyone knows a nurse. The Nurse Friend is your buddy you can ask medical advice, even if they’re quick to say things like, “I can’t diagnose you.” Something about those scrubs are simply inviting. Heck, last night in line at Dollar General the cashier saw my ceil blue scrubs and started seeking my medical advice, listing her symptoms one by one. Point being, if you’re a nurse, your friends know it. They realize you know a thing or two about healthcare, and there’s usually no shame in asking your opinion.
Your friends and family will also know you’re the one to beware of at dinner parties. After all, not everyone appreciates the graphic or gross humor Nurses carry, and that’s okay. Most of my friends and family know there’s a chance I’m going to recount some crazy stories if the opportunity arises. And they also know watching a medical scene on television in my vicinity is an experience all it’s own. I just cannot keep my trap shut when the actors are tapping lightly on someone’s chest and calling it CPR. And don’t even get me started on why in the world they didn’t intubate Jack on This Is Us after all that smoke inhalation! My husband listened with a smirk as I yelled at the television because he gets me. He knows as a nurse I can’t not correct the TV. Most of my friends and family do too. But what’s something they easily forget?
I recently found myself in a situation that brought to mind a reality of my job that my friends and family can forget not being in the healthcare field. I didn’t fault them for it. It simply served as a reminder to me that I hold a job that’s outside of what’s considered normal in society. After all, isn’t it normal to seek safety in the face of calamity?
I’m currently working a contract as a travel nurse in South Carolina. I was blessed that my travels had brought me to the middle of the state rather than the coastline this time of year. As Hurricane Florence reared her ugly head it became apparent the area in which I was located would be under a State of Emergency. Immediately my friends and family began checking on me. I was so humbled and appreciative of their concerns for our safety, but as I spoke about staying I had a lot of people not understand my position.
“You need to leave!”
“Why aren’t you evacuating?”
“It’s not worth it to stay!”
These were the things I heard. And even as I explained that we were two hours from the coast, I still heard these comments. Again, I was honored my friends and family cared for my well-being, but I also had to remind them all of something they had forgotten about me.
I am a nurse.
Nurses don’t get to call into work when the weather is bad. Snow days don’t happen, and solely seeking shelter isn’t usually an option. Those situations that, thank God, don’t normally occur (such as natural disasters) actually require nurses to report to duty. Hospitals create call lists to bring in extra help in the case of emergency. So while your local bank may close, your hospital does not. That’s right. Schools let out early, stores shut their doors, and most businesses close down. Hospitals do not. When a storm hits, snow falls, or, Heaven forbid, a bomb goes off, people do not suddenly and miraculously heal. Doctors don’t declare, “you’re all better. Go home now.” And the ER doesn’t start sending people away. Business continues as normal. The business of being sick, and the business of being taken care of until you are better.
As a nurse I hold a job that I have to show up for. I can’t leave early and abandon my patients. I can’t not show up and expect no repercussions. Ethically I can’t not do my job just because the conditions are less than ideal. I’m not a hero! I get scared just like anybody else, and for the record, I hate driving on ice. I love my life and being present for my family just like anyone. Nurses just hold this peculiar position where we are held to a higher standard, we are expected to sacrifice for our patients, and yes, even in dangerous situations our bosses expect us to show up to work. It’s a tough spot we find ourselves in because we too want to do what’s best for us personally, but then we’re also bound by the profession we chose. Someone has to care for the sick. They don’t disappear when safe driving conditions do. As a nurse, your friends or family may forget that. And that’s okay. After all, nursing isn’t a conventional gig. Not every job entails holding hands, holding back hair to keep it out of vomit, holding wads of gauze firmly over a gushing artery, or holding medicines in your palm that can jumpstart a heart.
In my recent situation I never felt I was in any real danger. I won’t try and guess what my feelings or actions would have been if I had. My hospital offered overnight accommodations while working, and they even offered a place for my family while I wasn’t since we weren’t from the area. I was pleased with how they handled it, and as we received evacuees from the coast, I felt honored to be in the medical field. I felt then and feel now honored to be a nurse. Even if that means I have to make it to work no matter what.