I am a nurse. I graduated with my BScN in 2004. As a fresh grad at the tender age of 22, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I’d like to say that it’s a consistently wonderful job. It’s not. I’d like to say it’s always a fun job. It’s not. It is an immensely physically and mentally exhausting job, but I don’t think I could do anything else.
Things people say when they hear I’m a nurse: “Wow, that’s amazing!” “Cool!” “I wish I could do that!”
Then they hear I work in the pediatric intensive care unit: “Oh, that’s so sad.” “What a sad and scary place.” “I could never do that, I would cry all the time.”
The truth is, I do cry. Not often, but it does happen. What usually happens is I smile. I laugh. I read stories. I give free hugs and snuggles. I care about these children like I would care for my own, or someone in my own family.
We see families at their worst. Their child is critically ill, and I work HARD to take care of their child. While I’m taking care of the child, I’m also taking care of the family. I’m explaining everything I do, every medication I give, all of the tests that are being done, all of the monitor dings, the pump beeps, the ventilator alarms. I do not have all of the answers, but I certainly do try. I hold hands, I give hugs, I give kleenex and a shoulder to cry on. I listen until there is nothing else left to say. I also refer parents to people who have more answers than me. I watch vital signs, I watch test results, I watch the patient. I watch for incredibly subtle changes. A little bit too awake vs a little bit too sleepy. Hungry vs tired vs withdrawl. I ask my colleagues for help. I keep the doctors constantly informed of the patient’s condition. I weigh diapers so see exactly how much urine the patient is producing because in/out balance is incredibly important, especially with the small babes. If you ever want someone to cheer for a poop, I’m your gal!
I have seen more horrible things in my nearly 10 years as a nurse than I care to think about. When I come home and tell my husband I’ve had a bad day, he knows what I mean. He never asks, just gives hugs. I rarely cry at work. I cry in my car after work and at home. One time I cried for three days solid about a little one. I still get teary thinking of some kids. There was a thing going around Facebook that as a nurse there’s always one patient you will remember forever. I think I’m up well beyond 10 special kids. Some kids just have a special connection with you. Sometimes it’s just little things. Some kids you wanted to take home for yourself. Some kids you wanted to hug and tell them everything will be alright, when you know it won’t.
There are many days where I think to myself why the hell am I working here? What hole did I dig myself into? Nurses have terrible senses of humour. We laugh about incredibly inappropriate things. We have to. We work in a high stress environment. When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. The people I work with are amazing. We are a giant family of at least 100 people. When something bad is happening, we band together. We support each other.
When I was in high school and I chose nursing as a career, I chose it because I wanted to help people. I do help people. Every day. I live for the day I get an honest thank you from a family instead of snide remarks about how useless I am or how awful the nurse before me was. I live for the smiles I get from my babes, the cuddles that I occasionally get to sneak in, the patients who tell me I’m awesome.
Being a nurse is definitely not what I thought it was back in the day. It is so much more.
This is my passion.
This is my life.
I am a nurse.