I know a few things about nurses. I am one, after all, but my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, a number of cousins – all nurses, as well.
Can I chalk up my 25 plus years in nursing to genetics? Maybe, but the superhero cape swayed me more than anything, and then there’s the powers that come with it.
Oh, don’t kid yourself. Nurses definitely have superpowers. Although I’ve personally assisted in resuscitating patients in the hospital setting, as most of us have, I once watched my mother revive someone in public. Full on – CPR on the ground – at a public event, and it worked! I was 20-years old at the time, and the cape she’d apparently been wearing for years became magically visible to me in that moment. I loved the color of the thing and the way it flowed out behind her without needing even a hint of a breeze. I wanted it. Not hers, specifically. I wanted my own.
But the superpowers don’t stop there. It’s 12 hour shifts – day in and night out – on our feet, often without a break. It’s dealing with people who are vulnerable and expressing that vulnerability as anger. It’s putting up with – dare I say it – physician’s egos and screaming rants when things don’t go their way. It’s risking our own wellbeing and safety by handling volatile and abusive patients and family members. And it’s one shit load of loss.
Old, young, newborns. We’ve transported them all to the morgue and have had to wander back out into society at the end of our shift and function with some semblance of normalcy.
The average person has no earthly idea what it’s like in the trenches of a nursing career, regardless of how many medical dramas they watch on TV. Each real life drama touches our hearts and souls in ways that profoundly affect our lives until the end of time. And each of us carries a handful of patients with us wherever we go – the ones that touched us the deepest before they passed. They’re our constant companions. I have five. My mother had four.
So do nurses deserve a week? Hell, yes they do. They deserve a week of recognition and a lifetime of gratitude and respect.
I left the bedside seven years ago to work in healthcare leadership development, but I’m incapable of leaving those 20 years of active nursing behind me. At times the accumulation of witnessed loss can be suffocating, even to this day, but I have no regrets at having been part of such an immensely rewarding community of people.
Hug a nurse this week, and let them know that although you can’t fully comprehend what life is like in their shoes, you care. Caring, after all, is the very fabric of superhero capes. Expressing it will make one visible on you, too.
HAPPY NURSES WEEK to all of the fabulous men and women I’ve had the privilege of working with at the bedside. And HUGS to those who have cared for me and my loved ones throughout our lives and eventually through to death. Each act, whether profound or simple, has not gone unnoticed. Not in the least.