When thinking of nursing my thoughts were “I want to help people”, to be there to comfort them and to help them in a time when they feel at their lowest. When others hear that someone is a nurse they see $$$ and think that it’s all about the income, and that the nurse is rolling in the dough. When in nursing school they ground rules and regulations into our heads so that even now I’m afraid of having my nails past the end of my fingertips, a hair out of place, or not all 20 items of my ‘uniform’ in my pockets in fear of receiving a ‘gold ticket’. Gold in nursing school does not mean anything good, it’s actually a piece of paper that is placed in your permanent record and if you collect enough of them it could be terms of dismissal from the program…no one strives for the gold.
With all the TV series that are out about the medical field promotes the profession as something fun and exciting, you have a group of people who always work together and then go hang out and have a life. They don’t show all the documentation that you have to do. Who knew that part of the ‘glamor’ of nursing was going to be about describing a bowel movement, and being excited that your patient had one. Who knew that the glamor of nursing was going to be about keeping your patient that is waiting for the transit system to come pick them up at 2:00 am so they could go to Wal-Mart oriented to the fact that they are actually in the hospital and need to stay in bed. Or that having ears trained to the different sound of a bed alarm going off or the beep of an IV pole, both of which sends you down the hall at random times throughout the shift regardless of what is going on. No one tells you that the glamor of nursing includes mopping the floor after your patient disconnects the catheter bag from the catheter; or being there to coach your patient through a bowel movement so they don’t initiate a vagal maneuver and pass out. There is no training that prepares you for the horror of finding your patient sitting in a chair with all the lines (catheter and IV) pulled out from their trek across the floor without assistance because they were to confused to realize what they were doing, and the clean-up of the mess that is now in the room. Nor is there training on how to handle the situation of your patients’ demise, and the family and the process of knowing the patient is passing away and there is absolutely nothing else you can do; you are helpless…your job is to save people and make them better, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. The training doesn’t give bladder lessons on how to do a twelve hour shift with no bathroom break. Or how to practice working nights and being off schedule of everyone else in your life; when they are coming home and going to bed you’re going to work. How to get your body to accept the fact that though the sun is out, you NEED sleep in order to work through the night. This is the hidden glamor of nursing…things you do not see and are not trained on until you accept your first job.
There is glamor in nursing. It’s being the faceless person that comes in during the night and puts the blanket back on the patient to make them comfortable. It’s learning to be quiet and maneuvering in the dark around objects you did not know where there in order not to wake the patient. It’s being the touch of a hand and a soft spoken word that calms the patient during restless sleep. It’s being able to be the one that sees the cognition come at random times and knowing that the patient understands what is going on, and being able to tell the family that they were asked for at random times through the night. Being the one that gets to joke around and laugh with the patient, they say laughter is the best medicine after all. Being there for the family in a time that can be one of the most stressful times, and doing all that can be done to help them in the transition they are facing. Receiving that smile, handshake, or heartfelt ‘thank you’. Being the advocate for the patient, and getting treatments that help them. Having the information ready and available with the doctor comes through so they can know what is going on and get everything completed in as little time as possible.
The glamor in nursing comes from being able to help a patient out, doing the best you can do for them, and knowing that they are taken care of. The nurses name may not be up in lights, the income may not be what everyone on the outside thinks it is, and the patient may not even realize what is going on or who you are. But they know someone is there. It’s working with a team of individuals that you can rely on and who are willing to help one another out. Building friendships over situations that no one else in your life can understand. It may not be how TV portrays it, it may not be everything that I thought it was…because it’s so much more. Being able to be the one that is there for all the situations mentioned above that I was not trained for or told would happen. Being able to share in the pain, offering comfort and support. Being able to get a smile or a laugh, or offer a smile at the end of a twelve hour shift when you just want to be home in bed…but knowing that you did all you could and your patient says “I feel so much better”. There is so much I was not prepared for, that is not taught and you cannot really be trained for; but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I will never make it big, I will never have my name up in lights, I will never have a regular sleep or bathroom schedule. But I love my job and all that it entails…and I’m glad that I decided to join this profession and make it my own.