Thursday, April 9, 2009


A friend sent this to me. I'm not sure who wrote/compiled it, but in any case, I decided I needed to post it here because it is startlingly accurate:

Patients aren't always satisfied with how well nurses communicate, a recent Medicare survey revealed. Well, nurses had no trouble communicating with me after I defended them (last) Sunday. Nurses from recovery rooms, coronary care, pediatrics, geriatrics, ER and Trauma units e-mailed me across the country. Here's what they had to say:

Come walk in our shoes for a 12-hour shift. Come see the joy, the tragedy, the comedy, the 100 ways we are pulled and pushed, then rate my "pleasant greeting", "answers call light in timely fashion", "states name of patient."

Use the bathroom now, because you might not get the chance again until your shift ends.

Wear comfortable shoes. Don't worry if they're clean. They'll end up with blood and vomit on them.

We are the patient's advocate, the doctors' eyes and ears, and everyone's scapegoat.

We can page your doctor but we can't make that doctor magically appear.

We check your stitches, wipe your blood, drain your pus and empty your bedpan.

Nursing is a tough job, but we're tougher. We've been yelled at by administrators, supervisors and doctors. We've been kicked, slapped, punched, spat on, and sexually harassed by patients in various states of delirium, mental illness, arrogance, and intoxication. We've even had chairs and food trays thrown at us.

We work mandatory overtime, weekends and holidays.

We eat Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with coworkers.

We deal with families who ignore visiting hours, bring food to patients on restricted diets, and insist on staying the night even though it's not a private room.

We deal with the Florida son who orders us around to show a parent he's neglected for years that he cares.

We cannot be at your side every waking minute. We have 10 other patients.

We cannot answer 5 call lights at once.

We can't stop doing CPR on a patient because you ran out of tissues.

We are not maids, beauticians, or cocktail waitresses. We are professionals with college degrees.

We hate that we can't spend more bedside time with you.

Swearing at us will not make us move faster.

Taking better care of your health would help. Quit smoking. Lose weight. Start exercising. Stop drinking.

How do we survive? We ignore the nasty comments, the demanding relatives, the crazy staffing grids. We count to 10 before speaking. We pray every morning for strength and wisdom, patience and empathy. We drive home tired and frustrated, telling ourselves over and over , "I'm not the nurse I want to be, but I'm the best nurse the hospital staffing allows me to be." We fall asleep praying for the ones who won't survive the night.

There is no finish line, ever. Nursing is demanding, fulfilling, and we can't imagine doing anything else. Nothing beats washing blood and glass off a car crash survivor , stabilizing a broken neck, saving a diabetic's leg, keeping a cancer patient in remission. The day we send a patient home we relish the unbelievable resilience of the human body and spirit.

We did not become nurses for the hours, the salary, or the glamour of it all. We became nurses to make a difference.

We don't ask for much. One sincere "thank you" makes all the thankless hours worth it.

In all honesty, I wish I could say I agreed with the last part. How admirable it would be to say that all of that is worth it to me. The truth is, I didn't become a nurse because I wanted to be a nurse all my life. I became a nurse because I wanted to meet a guy in college and get married and be a stay-at-home wife, and nursing seemed like good preparation. Of course, I don't ever walk into a patient's room with the attitude, "Yeah, yeah, this is just my temporary gig until my dream comes along. What do you want?" My circumstances are NOT their fault and I try as hard as I can to never let my personal woes affect how I view someone in need. If I'm frustrated and burned out, it's because of everything you read above.

Sometimes I come home from work and tell my husband that I wish he could follow me around with his camera during a shift, then air it as a documentary on PBS or something. If people could only see how what they think is important (running out of tissues) compares to what else is going on that I can't mention (the lady down the hall who could code any minute), I really think things would be different.

Well, there it is, I guess.

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