I’ve always been fond of saying that nurses wear many hats, and over the years I’ve worn some more than others. Some of those hats I’ve wanted to hang up, if you know what I mean. Some of the hats nurses wear feel like a dunce cap some days, and some feel like a crown on others. Maybe one more than the other. I’ve had days where I feel like I’m wearing a maid’s hat, and I’ve had others where I feel like I’m wearing one stamped “doormat.” It can be downright exhausting wearing all those hats! Especially the ones you didn’t plan on, like babysitter, drug dealer, or punching bag. It’s those hard-to-wear hats that bring us down, wear us thin, and push us away from the bedside.
It’s like one day you look up and you say, “this isn’t anything like I planned it to be. I didn’t sign up for this. Things have changed! I can’t do this anymore.”
Resigned to an unfair, rarely rewarding career, you trudge through each extremely long twelve hour shift with dread and dissatisfaction. You rack your brain for how to make a change. You may even feel trapped in a situation that no longer brings you joy. I mean, if Marie Kondo told you to hold up your job in one hand, you’d probably toss it. Am I right?
Perhaps you’ve just forgotten why you do what you do.
There’s a section of my blog analytics where I am shown Google searches that led to my posts, and I often find a reoccurring theme. Yesterday one read, “help me get away from bedside nursing,” and my heart broke a little bit. I had been there myself at one time, and my burn out almost pushed me away from nursing completely. I almost left something I love and something that I was called to become.
That’s the thing about hats. They’re like bad haircuts. You get a bad haircut or color and it transforms your whole look. You glance in the mirror and cringe. You get to where you don’t even want to look in the mirror until something is different. Nursing hats are like that.
If you have a shift where you wear a hat that makes you feel unappreciated, used, taken advantage of, or pushed beyond your limit, then you feel like a failure at what you do. It doesn’t bring happiness; it just brings frustration. Wear that hat enough days and you don’t even wanna look in the mirror. In fact, you forget what you ever looked like before. You forget the appeal and shine of your very best hat. You forget it even exists.
A few years ago my husband came home from work and told me something I’ll never forget. At the time my husband owned a small restaurant in our town. He had offered to feed for free the participants in a drug rehabilitation ministry. So naturally the minister overseeing the program wanted to meet this man who was offering pizza at no charge. Upon introductions the minister recognized my husband’s last name. He recognized it because of me.
As my husband retold the conversation to me, it seems that the minister had come across a past patient of mine in his work. The reformed addict had told him something that stuck with him. Something that made him remember my name.
The addict had said, “I went into the hospital tons of times with overdoses. And each time they treated me like a piece of garbage. They saw me as a lost cause! But then there was this one nurse. She made me feel like I was the CEO of the hospital. She made me feel like I was somebody special. She made me feel like I was worth something, like I could beat this thing. So I decided to do just that.”
Y’all. This story floored me. But it also reminded me of something that’s too easy to forget in nursing.
We make a difference in people’s lives.
Not always. Sometimes you don’t. But then sometimes you do. And those times? They’re special. They’re worth putting on a shelf and pulling out after a bad day. Cause you’re going to have bad days.
The thing you have to do with that is remember what hats are important, and forget what hats are not.
Some days you get treated like you’re a waitress. That’s okay. Because what really matters, I mean, what really, really counts is the truth of what you are. How you’re treated (sometimes) doesn’t define you. You are more than that.
Nurses have the opportunity to serve mankind at their worst! And yes, while it does feel that way sometimes, consider this. You have the chance to make a lasting impact. Nurses not only saves lives, but we also change lives. During a time when patients are their weakest, lowest, and most discouraged, we are allowed to enter their private moments and give them what they need the very most. We give oxygen to those that cannot breathe, but we also give laughter to the depressed. A song can brighten the day of a patient feeling down, and the right medication and therapeutic touch can lift them higher than you realize. A smile soothes the soul. As a nurse you have this power.
You’re not simply a pill pusher! You’re a hope dispenser!
You’re not “just a nurse.” You’re a life-changer.
You’re not just a servant! You get to be a servant. You are allowed the chance to serve mankind at its most difficult time, when ill, and your work makes them feel better. This isn’t just some little thing. It’s huge.
It’s easy to get so distracted by all the hats we wear (especially the hard hats) and forget that the most important hat we wear is Life Impactor. We impact lives, we change lives, we make lives better. We leave them better than we found them, and that’s worth celebrating. It’s a lofty calling. Is it always appreciated? Of course not. Little in life is. We ignore a beautiful sunset as easy as a buzzing fly. But many times you’re the light coming over the horizon, your patient notices, and they are better for it.
Now, it’s your job to be better for it. Realize the light you shine, understand the impact you make, and never forget that it’s the grandest hat you wear. And at the end of the day, it’s the only one that matters. It’s why we do what we do.