I apologize in advance because the following post digresses yet again from wedding planning, but in light of the recent nursing related comments in the media I felt like sharing my insight. Read or don’t read, I just thought I’d share my thoughts. 🙂
As many of you have most likely heard or at least read about on social media, there are some pretty upset nurses about the comments made by The View’s Joy Behar. On Sunday night’s Miss America pageant, Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson recited an original monologue for the talent portion of the competition. This monologue was about how Kelley changed a patient’s life, but also how he changed hers by helping her realize she is not “just a nurse”. While some critics say this isn’t a talent, sure it’s definitely not the traditional, I agree with that. I guarantee it’s hard to get up and speak confidently in front of a crowd while competing for something you’ve dreamed of your whole life, but this isn’t the talent Kelley was trying to show. Unlike singing a song or performing a dance routine like most others, Kelley’s talent is caring for strangers and saving lives, something that cannot be easily shown on stage. This is most likely why she chose the route of a monologue, to explain to the best of her ability a talent that cannot be easily portrayed without actually following Kelley around at her work for 12+ hours. We all know the judges wouldn’t go for that. She walked out on that stage owning her scrubs proudly with a stethoscope hung around her neck. Not only did I appreciate the originality of her performance, but I also related to it on a personal level. It was refreshing to see one of these beautiful, confident girls share a part of her life that is so meaningful to her and that is so real. Major props to Miss Colorado!
Next is where the ladies of The View come in. Remember the stethoscope Miss Colorado was wearing around her neck. Ms. Behar referred to this as a “doctor’s stethoscope” after Michelle Collins mocked the couragous performance. Next comes the wrath of thousands of nurses across the country that found these comments to be both rude and offensive. While Doug and I are both nurses, we discussed our opinion on the matter. We both agreed that while these comments are unacceptable, what do we care about what Joy Behar has to say of the job we do. I’m definitely not defending her and her colleagues ignorant comments, but her opinion on my profession doesn’t make me any less proud of it. It makes me, and I believe many others as exemplified by the #nursesunite responses, more proud to be a nurse.
While we’ve all seen and some have read the nurse stories and articles that go viral on Facebook of nurses recounting their experiences, I’ll share with you a little bit of mine. Today I came into my current assignment at Denver Children’s Hospital to work a night shift. For those of you that may not know I am a cardiac intensive care unit nurse and absolutely love the little hearts I get to take care of. Tonight my unit census was pretty low, so I got floated over to the pediatric intensive care unit to give them a little extra help. I walked into the unit and found it in complete chaos and distress, as a patient was struggling to hang onto their young life. There was a buzz of people in the hallway, doctors, surgeons, respiratory therapists, nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing assistants, all hoping to help in anyway they could. Sadly, this patient did not make it, but the physician recognized after calling off their efforts the hard work of the whole team and thanked everyone for trying as they did. Although this was not my patient, nor had I even seen this child’s face, it’s impossible to be next door to death and not feel it. A mother and father walking in to see their lifeless child, these are sounds and images you can’t ever erase from your mind. As a nurse, these are the things you try to avoid. You are hyper-alert to every detail of your patient’s assessment using that handy-dandy stethoscope amongst other tools, and you relay the slightest change to your physician in hopes that things never progress into a larger and potentially unfixable problem. You are the physician’s senses. 24/7 nurses look, listen, feel, sometimes smell, and thank goodness there’s no need for tasting, so the physician can juggle multiple patients. The nurse really focuses on one or two (more if you’re not in the ICU) patients at a time. Aside from parents, we learn and come to know this child better than anyone else. We care, we play, we sing, we dance, we laugh, we cuddle (a personal favorite), and we cry along with our patients and their loved ones. We wear multiple hats to fulfill whatever role is needed by our patients and their families, we are never just a nurse.
I’ll never be able forget my first dying patient in orientation, I remember walking out of the room after holding in my emotions talking to the family and then letting them all flood out in the med room while being hugged by one of the most inspirational and knowledgeable nurses I know, Ms. Julie Fugazzi. Or my first planned withdraw patient, I could still tell you her name, her diagnosis, the dates of her surgeries, her birthday, the day she died, and her parents and siblings names. I spent all weekend with a family who knew their baby was going to die on Monday morning and allowed them to hold her and bathe her and cherish their last moments as a whole family. Being their nurse through this time was more than just physically taking care of their daughter, it was emotionally and spiritually supporting them all. It was making her hand molds and prints of her little hands and feet. It was giving her the medication that took her pain away. It was finding a pretty blanket to wrap her in and to carry her downstairs to the morgue. I’ll never forget the harsh reality of the world keeps turning when I came back upstairs and her room was already being cleaned for the next patient. It’s (probably inappropriately) driving 2 hours to her visitation, not only for her family, but for my own peace. It’s (again, inappropriately) stalking her parents Facebook page to see how they are doing. It’s being the last person to be doing compressions on an infant when the family decides it’s time to stop and having to let go knowing what that means. It’s taking care of the same baby for a month straight and then holding her lifeless body in your arms to say goodbye the night she passes away. But it’s also caring for a patient for months on end and seeing them progress and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. It’s getting to know their family and to form a relationship built on respect, trust and genuine love for the same little person. It’s rejoicing when your patient gets a new heart and when they finally get to break free from the hospital. It’s living a constant rollercoaster ride full of major ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get to leave work every day knowing I made an impact on someone no matter how big or small. I love my talent, I’m proud of my talent, and I am blessed to be able to share my talent.
I’m not the only one with these or similar experiences, every nurse has things that impact their lives. I want to thank Kelley Johnson for sharing her special moment with the world, and for bringing recognition to our noble profession. I’m intrigued to see how the ladies of The View respond to the uprising they caused in the world of nursing yesterday. I’m sure they’ll apologize and find some creative way to spin their comments. Their view of nursing is definitely skewed. Heaven forbid one day they find themselves in a situation where one of us will be caring for them, but if they are, I’m sure they’ll be eating their words when they finally understand what being a nurse is all about.
God bless all my fellow nurses and the lives they touch.