Unapologetically a Nurse
I’m No Angel
I sit here starting at a blank computer screen, filled with quiet concern. It’s simply that I have so many things to say to about the nineteen million and counting nurses across the planet, and not enough time in the world to say it. They are my team. They are my posse. They are my family — an utterly dysfunctional one, but family at that. I believe that few professions exist where colleagues can be grossly irritated by each other one moment, and cracking jokes in the next. It has been mentioned before that what we do every day makes us akin to the “Navy Seals” of the healthcare profession. That statement alone suggests that nurses work in some of the most stressful environments while enduring more intense circumstances daily than many face in a lifetime. What we do, every single day, is a labor of love. But we are all in on the real secret: nurses are not angels placed on earth to serve and lift. We are not diminutive and submissive and gentle souls that kiss boo-boos. We are not the starched white caps and perfectly polished shoes that history books portray. Nor are we fishnet stockings and naughty rendezvous in dark corners. We have been glamorized and fetishized and placed on a pedestal unlike any other profession, and yet the definition of what we are is only surpassed by the list of what we are not.
None of them are in on our secret. Patients and families; husbands and wives; parents and children and colleagues and friends: because while they try, they will never understand the depth and breadth of mind and body required of a nurse. Some might question that statement — how hard could it really be? Isn’t it only three shifts every week? Don’t you earn overtime and receive bonuses every year? It’s harder than they could ever imagine. It’s more raw and real than they could ever dream. Yet when something truly incredible happens, and we get to be a part of it, nursing becomes a drug unlike any other.
What a miracle! Families will shout.
The work of modern medicine! Physicians will declare.
And yet those who are in on the secret, or at least are suspicious of it, understand that it was no miracle that saved your loved one. Rather, it was the intent and vigilant care of a critically thinking, intuitive, and fiercely devoted nurse. Our secret is that we save more lives than we are willing to admit; we catch more errors than we hope to share; and we can sense subtle nuances that prevent a turn for the worse. The nursing profession is oft touted as a humble one — a life of service to others through altruistic compassion. Yet here we are, with our dirty little secret: our filthy mouths; our dark humor and sarcastic sensibilities; snarky and sassy and smart — can you sense that? Oh no, we are not all nuns in nurses’ clothing! We can be vicious. We can be vile. We can devour our young and destroy our reputations — we are not the perfect pictures you had envisioned – far from it.
It is not rational. It borders on crazy. We’re all a touch too neurotic; a smidgen too type-A; a little too caring and bit too self-invested. I walked away from a nine-to-five corporate career to pursue what was calling me. I ignored it, I fought it, but the nurse stirred from within and enveloped herself around me. And now? I will never be the same. I border on crazy. I’m slightly irrational. I’m absolutely neurotic. I’m completely invested. I’m a woman. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I’m a friend. But through it all, I am unapologetically a nurse.