You walk across the stage with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing. More like skip across the stage because you can’t believe you actually made it through your self-imposed hell. Or some may have crawled across the stage from the sheer exhaustion. Either way, you are relieved that that season of life is over…until you walk into the hospital on your first day. Stethoscope around your neck. New badge on your collar stating RN. Crisp, CLEAN uniform. Shiny new, again CLEAN shoes. Big smile on your face. You even earn the name “Precious” in the first 5 minutes on the floor (true story, happened to me).
you leave work from your first day and you think….
WHAT HAVE I DONE AND WHEN DID I LOSE MY MIND? I CHOSE THE WRONG FIELD. I HAVE GONE CRAZY. I’M WILL KILL SOMEBODY. I CAN’T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM DOING. HAVE I PEED TODAY? DID I EAT ANYTHING? I CAN’T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHER LIVES. I AM CRAZY. AND I HAVE TO PEE AND I AM STARVING. BUT I REALLY NEED A SHOWER. CAN I DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS IN THE SHOWER WHILE SLEEPING?
you walk back onto your unit the next day for another endless shift and put that same awesome smile back on your face because you realized at some point in your tossing and turning the night before that you are living your calling.
Nurses are called to do what they do. There is no other explanation.
We love on you and every other person “assigned” to us as if they were a family member because…they are a family member to someone. We do fret over you…we call the doctor multiple times a day on your behalf. We don’t hold medications because we can…it’s because the MD ordered it so…or didn’t order it and we have to call to get the order. We cry with your family and we cry with you sometimes. We laugh when the call light has rung 157 times and there are 47 other things to be done at the same time. We lose it when things can’t be done as soon as needed for you. We are your advocates. There is actually a lot more “care” being provided outside the room that you can’t see. Ask any unit secretary (by the way, they have one of the hardest jobs on the floor…at least my floor).
If it seems that we are understaffed and way too busy…we probably are. Budget cuts and satisfaction surveys don’t allow for the appropriate funds to fully staff any hospital. So, each time your nurse walks in your room with a warm smile on her face…remember, she is walking into your room from chaos…but she smiles. (Side note, I have several men that work on my floor…so I am not being gender sexist or trying to exclude the male nurses…think of this as me talking in 3rd person).
Oh yes…remember I said, I get distracted. Back to the first year…where every day, you question your life decision to become a nurse. I know I did. Occasionally, still do.
Little by little, you realize that God called you to this occupation. You will not know why until you get that Patient that asks for you by name, the next time they are admitted. Or, the family member that hugs you and says thank you for caring for Granny like she was your own, or that (very rare) thank you card mailed in that says you provided the best care they had ever received. Notice, that all of these acts were free…they weren’t monetary gifts. They were simple recognitions. That’s what nurses work for. (Some nurses may make “bank” but for those of us that don’t…).
My family was actually the deciding factor in my career choice. Everyone said that you thrive when you are caring for others…that is your calling. I finally decided to put that into action and make it my career.
The first year of nursing was one of the hardest years I have lived through. Because you realize that even after all of your “schooling”, you still don’t know anything. Experience is what makes a great nurse. And a strong bladder and a tiny stomach.
Also, it only takes about a week to realize that you have to invest in the best shoes possible. Compression socks. And whoever thought white was a great color for the nursing profession…obviously, wasn’t a nurse.
The first day you come home with someone else’s blood on your shoes…you learn to park your shoes at the front door and never let them enter the rest of your house.
The first day you have to change into hospital issued scrubs because you are wearing someone else’s body fluids…well…that’s when you have to decide this is my calling…if not, get out while you still can…because when the code brown hits the next time…you still have to put that smile on your face…for the Patient’s sake.
My first scrub change was my fault. I was emptying a beside commode bucket from a Patient on lasix aka “water pill” aka “gotta pee a lot”…and just as I stood up to carry it to the bathroom, I lost my grip and dropped the bucket. Yes, I dropped the bucket and the contents defied gravity and flew up in the air. It was awesome. I’ll never forget it. I am also being sarcastic. Thank goodness it wasn’t an isolation room.
The second time (there have been more…it’s just part of the hazards of the job), I was irrigating a catheter line full of blood clots. Yes, thick, bright red blood clots. I had been working at irrigating this line for 30 minutes already (imagine trying to start a “string pull” lawnmower over and over and over). Also, I was 7 months pregnant. So, let’s sum up. White uniform. RN 7 months pregnant. Continuously doing the action of “trying to pull start a lawnmower” line attached to a persons groin when all of a sudden, the line bursts free and sprays EVERY THING in the room. Including: the RN (in white scrubs), the Patient (bless her heart), AND the ceiling. THE CEILING. That was a hand irrigation for the record books. Just as politely as the little old lady could muster, she reaches towards her tissue box and asks me to pass her a tissue and then proceeds to gently pat her face dry…as I stand stunned, splattered with irrigation fluid and blood clots, I look up at the ceiling and start laughing. I can’t react any other way than to laugh. I’m standing there with my big belly, sweating, and laughing and the sweet dear lady is tickled as well. These are the days of my life.
Then there are THE CODES….
One I will never get out of my mind, I earned a name from…are you catching on that I make an impression….I am not saying positive or negative…just that I leave an impression on things that I do. This day, I became a temporary legend. I straddled a man. I straddled a man while doing chest compressions. You see, the only way I could accurately perform compressions on this Patient was to full on jump on top of this person. Of course, I was holding my own weight but…it was quite the sight for the Code team to rush into the room around 1 am and find this “small” nurse on top of this “large” man doing continuous compressions without missing a beat. I will never forget that night because I stared into the eyes of a man that I couldn’t save. We couldn’t save him. He was gone before we came into the room but we tried for a long time to bring him back. I will never forget that night. Nurses go to sleep at night…or try to sleep…and we think about and/or dream about all the things that went right and all the things that went wrong.
We care. We are called.
Be kind and gentle to first year nurses. They are still discovering their calling. But..they will be great. Experiences will make them great.
Nursing school…the first day of clinicals.