- We’re Okay with it All – I mean this literally. I have had many patients who profusely apologize for having to walk them to the bathroom, or give them medications for embarrassing symptoms, or because I have to clean up their accidental episode of incontinence. Patients should know their nurse does not mind doing what may be gross or embarrassing because it’s what we signed up for when becoming nurses. I always tell my patients, verbatim, to “not be silly and that’s what I’m here for.” We do these things to make sure they are safe, well and cared for. Personally, I feel like these every day doings are the epitome of nursing.
- We’re the Eyes, Ears and Voice – I feel like this is a norm of nursing that has been widely adopted and understood. Even patients have assumed a greater appreciation for their nurses but for those that haven’t, I wish they knew we’re so much more than medication givers and pooper scoopers. There’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to taking care of them. Most of it happens when we are outside of their room — we are the ones who vouch for them when we see something transpiring; we make sure they have food to eat long after the kitchen staff has left; we are the ones who usually end up giving a more understood & reassuring update to their family. I’ve found that at the end of the day, most patients are aware of who we are and ALL of what we do, and it’s always fulfilling when they realize that.
- We’re Constantly Putting Them First – This one goes in hand with number two, but there’s more to be said about the selfless heart we put into being a nurse. For example, many nurses are having other people watch and help raise their children so they can work multiple 12-hour shifts. Many nurses go without a lunch or a bathroom break in a timely manner due to all the tasking; and how about those nurses who end up clocking an extra hour because they made sure their patient had everything they needed before they went to go take care of their family. A lot of the time, we’re in the middle of lunch and have no choice but to go and help clean up a patient; we take away a lot of our well-deserved personal time for our patients, not only because we have to, but because it’s who we are. Our selfless skill is always reinforced when those patients who do understand these things make it known and are forever grateful to us (my most memorable keepsakes are letters from patients ☺︎).
- We’re Doing the Best We Can – At times, patients may seem like they have no patience themselves (pun intended). Classic situation being, they’re constantly on the call light every three minutes because you didn’t come back with Tylenol for their headache, which to them is the BIGGEST deal and in their world, it is. When patients are in the hospital, they are at their most vulnerable. I know textbook world makes it seem like everything gets done as soon as it’s needed, but that’s far from the reality of nursing. Depending on the floor & the patient acuity, tasks add up and even the simplest things take longer than we envision (I can’t tell you how many times a “simple” med pass has taken me almost an hour to do because my patient’s IV blew). As much as it’s frustrating to us they don’t see our extensive to-do list, it’s far more frustrating when it takes longer for us to return with their dire need. Every one of our patients has a right to be taken care of in a timely manner, so it should be a daily priority to reassure your patients that you’re truly doing the best you can to attend to their every need (within reason ☺︎).
- This is Far from the Easiest Job, but the Most Rewarding – Since most of you reading this haven’t experienced the aforementioned yet, know there are a gazillion more reasons in addition to the above which factor into why being a nurse is far from easy, so I’ll cut to the chase. We do and see gross things, we watch people take their last breath & families grieve, we use our every last breath to save their life, but the nurses who are in this profession for the right reasons don’t mind at all. For all the downs/stress/angst/etc, there is always more good. Although cliché, there is a mutual reciprocity in terms of touching someone’s life: our patients make just as much a difference in their nurse’s life as we do in theirs. In another life, I would choose being a nurse over and over again. For patients to know this about their nurse it should be exceptionally comforting.
Sydney Adelstein is a 2016 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Nursing.