Coming out of nursing school I didn’t want to change the world. I didn’t have tearful visions of myself standing at a patients bedside clasping their hand lovingly as they took their last ragged breath. Sometimes I wish I could say It was, but being honest, its not. I wanted a well paying job that interested and challenged me.
Looking back at my early days as a nurse I was efficient, organized, and dedicated in my job but I lacked the things that made a great nurse. I stood by stoically as husband’s lost wives to slow, painful cancers; I stood by watching wives come to feed every meal to a husband that didn’t even recognize her due to Parkinson, Alzheimer’s, or dementia; I stood by and watched sons and daughters learning to accept their parent after a severe stroke, a parent that was once independent and took care of then, now reduced to a drooling shell that has become incontinent and can’t feed themselves; I stood by as people died alone because their life decisions had hurt and driven people in their lives away.
You’ll notice I said “I stood by” several times. Because that’s exactly what I did. Sure, I delivered medicine accurately and on time, I changed linens and clothes, I reviewed lab work, called doctors, took vital signs, assessed symptoms and bodies, and made appointments. Looking back, I’m ashamed I just stood by bearing witness to the pain around me with a stoic demeanor. Im ashamed of the nurse I was.
November 2009 I became a mom. I discovered a love so deep for another human, no other love could compare. I remember praying to god to put love and empathy in the hearts of my nurses, so that they would care for my baby as I would. I have tears sliding down my face as I write this. These were the moments I became aware of the nurse I wanted to be.
It made me realize a great nurse does their job with feeling. It made me realize the love I had witnessed, and the love I should have given in my role of nurse. The love that had been revealed to me as I watched the husband losing his greatest love to an ugly, painful, cancer ; the wife that fed a husband that didn’t know her because it was the greatest act of love she could give; I saw the love of the sons and daughters that fought for a full recovery of their parent after the tragedy of a stroke.
I’m proud of the nurse I am now. I still strive to be efficient, organized, and dedicated. But sometimes its more important to feel, to love, to be a better nurse.
I have a deep respect for the nurses that do their job with love. I hope to be this nurse every time I don my scrubs and stethoscope. I want to be the nurse that I wanted for my baby girl.