So it’s Nurse’s Week. Every year, this comes around each May, and you usually get a free bag or mug from work as some sort of an appreciation gift for what we do. Aside from the fact that we’ve received like, 5 lunch bags from work already, I think we as nurses do recognize and take pride in our job more than ever this week. It’s a week that reminds us about how our job really is awesome, and that we truly do make a difference in people’s lives every time we clock in.
When I was on my medical leave, I realized that a lot of people outside of the medical field really don’t understand what nurses do during their 12 hour shift. I was non-weight bearing on one leg, using a walker to help me get around, and I had several people ask me if I had returned back to work. It was so hard to simply not laugh in their face like…do you really not know what nurses do?? And so, I figured for Nurse’s Week, I could write about some of the amazing things we do at work. Because to me, nurses really are incredible, and we deserve this week of celebration.
Before our shift even begins, we have responsibility to our patients. We need to be well rested to last through a 12 hour shift. This means not being able to go out at night and not just “struggle through the next day.” Or if you’re on nightshift like me, saying no to events/errands you need to run during the day because you have to sleep. We have people’s lives in our hands every day, and we can’t forget any minor detail because we’re tired.
In the ICU, we are responsible for managing multiple life-sustaining machines in one room. We must understand ventilator settings, interpret blood gas results, and perform oral care on our patients. We have knowledge of every medication drip infusing, and know how to titrate those medications to the perfect dosage. Because if we’re off by a couple of mLs, we could lose someone’s airway or tank their blood pressure. We know how to manage a dialysis machine, and WE decide how much fluid to pull off each hour, while maintaining an adequate blood pressure. We cleanse and change your wound dressings, and we don’t judge if you’ve had an accident in bed. We know how to keep you stable through therapeutic hypothermia, after open heart surgery, and even after you’ve delivered your baby.
As ICU nurses, we can modify external pacemaker settings, recognize brain swelling and herniation quickly, and help you get out of bed for the first time after a major surgery. We are there for you with medication when you’re in pain, when you’re nauseous, or when you’re anxious. We are there for you when you’re scared or when your family doesn’t understand what is happening. We will take the time to explain things to you in simple terms and comfort you the best that we can. We will answer the phone and give you an update on your family member – even when you call at shift change.
Nurses are the ones to recognize and call a code blue when your heart stops, and we are skilled enough to do everything possible to restart it. On some days, we hold our bladders for 12 hours, and miss our ONE break because we have been so busy keeping you alive. And even when we have 1000 tasks to do throughout our shift, we will still find the time to slow down, bathe you, and change your sheets and gown. We are there when a patient dies to comfort a tearful family, and must compose ourselves when walking into our other patient’s room next door.
It does not matter to us what race you are, your religion, or your life choices. It does not matter if you’re wealthy or homeless, have health insurance or don’t. It does not matter if you’re an alcoholic, a drug user, a gang member, or a gunman that just shot and killed multiple people. We will still take care of you.
This week, I want you to know that we are honored to take care of you and your family. That we thrive on continuing our education and implementing evidence-based practice to better improve YOUR health. That the constant stress of our job is worth it, to see you leave the hospital better than when you came in. Happy Nurses Week to all the incredible nurses and nursing students out there. Our calling is not just a job, but a privilege and a way of life.