This morning when I woke I realized that I had been dreaming about work all night, and I already felt worn out about the idea of completing a thirteen hour shift at the hospital after nursing in my sleep for the past six. That’s the thing about being a nurse. It’s all consuming; it’s not just a job.
And it was this knowledge that persisted when my daughter said she wanted to be one too. She’s only four, mind you, but she’s started becoming interested in things that interest me, and I wasn’t very surprised when she cuddled up under my arm to watch a medical show with me this past week.
Mystery Diagnosis, one of my faves, played across the flat screen, and rather than the Disney movie that held her little sister’s interest, my almost-kindergartener wanted to watch along with me. I let her watch the less gruesome shows, and she actually seemed to like them.
“I love these medical shows, Mom.” She stated with glee. But then she caught me off guard by adding, “When I grow up I want to be a nurse like you!”
I was honored, for sure, yet I was also hesitant. But instead of sharing the multiple thoughts that bombarded me at the time, I just kept them to myself, and I said, “You can be anything you want to be, baby.”
See, the thing was I knew more than she did. Naturally. She was just four as previously stated, but it was more than that. I knew what being a nurse meant.
Being a nurse meant more than just a job. It was a lifestyle, a vocation, a calling, and one that once held turned the individual upside down.
As a nurse I was connected with my patients through my care. I knew them intimately, I cared for their physical and emotional, and even when I left the bedside they were still on my mind. There was no leaving your work at work. Not really. I had tried.
I understood that once you became a nurse the way you viewed life changed. You no longer took health for granted, you appreciated life, family, and time spent with those who made you smile. You had seen things you couldn’t unsee, horrors that changed your perspective.
You couldn’t look at bulging veins on a stranger’s arm and not imagine cannulating them anymore than you could ignore keeping an eye on your spouse’s blood pressure and cholesterol. You couldn’t drive by an accident without feeling like you should stop, and when children played haphazardly outside you stood ready to intervene if necessary. A nurse knows they’re never really off duty.
In nursing you dreamed about it, you worried about it. It wasn’t just something you did, but rather who you were.
My little girl saw cool gadgets and excitement on the television screen. I saw a mother crying in the background, not sure if her son would pull through the traumatic accident.
My daughter saw a job she respected, and I saw a profession I gave my heart and soul. She didn’t know I prayed for strength before each shift, or that I often cried in frustration over the parts of it that I was powerless to change.
I knew that being a nurse meant stretching yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to the point of breaking. And then stretching some more.
I knew the occupational hazards the field contained, the physical hardships it entailed, and the emotional stress that a nurse carried every day. I knew these things, and I worried for her. I wasn’t sure I wanted my baby to experience any of that!
Yesterday I was on the phone with a military bank I use that also specializes in assisting veterans. As I spoke to a woman and gave her some personal information, such as occupation, she interrupted me saying, “Thank you for your service. I mean, thanks for your past military service, but also thank you for what you do now. I know that’s a tough thing you do.”
I was honestly shocked silent by her words. I was humbled, but I was also reminded that nursing is something very special indeed.
Yes, it is difficult, and you betcha it’s frustrating, but it’s also a wonderful thing to be a part of. Words can’t express the satisfaction the field can bring to your spirit, or the fulfillment you have after being a part of something miraculous.
A newborn baby’s healthy cry, a tearful thank you from a grieving mother, or a strong, hearty handshake from a man you were certain wouldn’t pull through no matter how hard you all tried.
The camaraderie felt amongst a fluid team, that self-satisfaction when you achieve something you felt was unobtainable (even just a crazy-hard IV stick). Or the joy on someone’s face when they finally go home!
A stranger thanking you for your service in the field of nursing. That pride only a nurse can feel.
Maybe that was something I did want my daughter to experience, and at that thought I finally relaxed.
Now I knew how my own mother (a nurse) felt when I told her I wanted to go into the field. Now that distant look in her eyes at the time made perfect sense.
“You can be anything you want to be, baby. Anything at all.”