I wrote this a few weeks ago, but I am publishing it now as there is a social media outcry currently.
On the American panel show, The View, the panellists commented on Miss Colorado, who was competing in Miss Universe. For the Talent section, Miss Colorado came out in her nursing scrubs and gave a monologue about one of her patients. The View panellists were dismissive and disrespectful. And the nursing and healthcare fraternity has spoken out.
This furor is timely and as such I have decided to publish this now, instead of later, when I have had time to further work on it.
I am a nurse. I work in a few different fields and am considered a specialist in primary health care and emergency nursing – were you aware of all the specialties that nurses could have?! – I have post graduate qualifications in one specialty and extensive experience in the other. I love both, even thought both are at different parts of the spectrum of nursing.
No matter though, they are all the same really – the field of supplying my most excellent level of healthcare to the individual in their unique circumstance.
I won’t lie and tell you that every patient touches me, or moves me, or I empathise wholly with.
That is a load of bullshit.
Most patients only want and/ or receive a certain level of interaction – whether that be that their ailment is minor and they want the quick fix, or they distrust authorities and view me as a threat that they must engage with to get what they deem is important, or because they are unable to engage with people or perhaps they are assholes, who view nurses as fully dressed prostitutes or handmaidens to the wizards that are doctors.
I will tell you that everyone I encounter receives the best care/ advice/ intervention that I can deliver to them in that situation.
That is because delivery of my best is more about me and the standards I want to meet than it does about anyone or anything else.
However, although everyone receives a minimum level of care (which a bloody high standard, I must say), knowledge and action, and most receive empathy and emotional engagement, every now and then one stops me in my tracks and if I am honest about it, they break my heart.
Generally they are doing their absolute best with the resources that they have and are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges yet they keep trudging along, often with grace and humour.
These people, these individuals, are the ones who sustain me.
They replenish my stamina, even when they deplete my empathy and suck a portion of emotions from me.
They leave me bleeding but supply me with hope.
Nursing a bitch of a job – and nobody, unless you are a nurse, will truly ‘get’ why we do what we do.
Sure there are duds out there, where it a task orientated role and they clock in and clock out of duty, doing the hours and task required and nothing more, but there are duds in every job.
The greater majority of nurses do it because they are advocates, and empathisers and fixers of problems and sustainers of hope. It is in their person/ their make up/ their intrinsic being to do right by others, even when it is not expected.
It does not make us angels. It is not some holier than though profession, where we are sinless and sanctimonious. We, like police officers, paramedics, fire and rescue officers, doctors, teachers and the like, just want to do something that benefits the society we live in.
Our compassion is often edged with ruthlessness – the ability to be ‘cruel’ to be ‘kind’.
Our compassion and ruthlessness is backed by a large array of technical skills and a deep scientific knowledge, assessment skills – both physical and situational, skills like critical analysis of data, the ability to balance risk and benefit, an understanding of pathophysiology/ pharmacokinetics/ anatomy/ child protection laws/ mechanics of trauma and injury. We understand health resources and limitations/ infection/ injury/ death and dying/ child hood/ immunisations/ human behaviour/ whatever our field encompasses to levels that you just don’t get in the media/ on Facebook pages/ from your neighbour.
We are more than ‘JUST’ a nurse and we are a completely different field to Doctors – the two fields compliment each other, but are not a superior/ inferior version of each other. We are two different fields, trained differently to come together for the optimal patient outcome.
I am not doctor, not because I am not smart enough or good enough, but because it is a different field to nursing and I am bloody awesome at delivering healthcare the way I want to – as a nurse.
One size does not fit all, even if you have exactly the same illness/ injury as last time or as your best friend. And we often have to walk out of one encounter where we were somehow supporting someone in a tragedy, into another situation where we are verbally assaulted for taking too long to get to them.
In between all of this are the ‘wins’ – the perfect combination of grace, skill and luck, where the best outcome for my patient has been reached. They buoy my energy and push me harder.
And every now and then is a patient that will stay with you forever. There inner peace and strength, their amazing story, their ability to give back to you, whilst needing you as well. They are the signposts of your professional career, the lights in the dark, the people who move you to tears, and break your heart, but inspire you and redefine your boundaries.
I had a patient recently, with a terminal condition. With a limited life expectancy. She was a nurse also, so I had the opportunity to discuss her condition with her in a more frank manner than normal. She was filled with calm acceptance of her fate, but with a strength, and inner resilience that powered her. She was seeing me for a quite minor ailment and was hoping it was a simple thing and not related to her condition – sadly it was not simple and I was unable to provide the ‘quick fix’ and had to refer her back to her specialist. The ‘simple thing’ was a progression of her terminal disease, and I was nt able to help her. She knew this meant her prognosis had just become worse.
Despite this, she was generous, tranquil and strong.
I have often had to deliver bad news. There is no easy way to do it really. And there is no way of doing it well that does not leave a bit of you behind. But that is part of the job. Just like shift working and smells and hand washing. And I cannot tell you exactly the toll it takes, but it is equally a privilege to be able to do it.