Nurses can often be labeled as cold, unempathetic, and jaded. But if I were to fall apart for every patient who rates their pain 10/10, or every patient who shares with me how their mother, sister, grandfather died of the same disease we are getting ready to test them for today, then I wouldn’t be able to ease the anxiety of my next terrified patient in pre-op by making him laugh, or have the presence of mind to comfort the patient after him in recovery, who will look up at me with tears in her eyes and tell me how she nursingworldnigeria dreamt of her deceased husband while under anesthesia. So when I come to your bedside to start your IV, after having just assisted in a code blue (that you will never know occurred), forgive me if I don’t immediately relate with your disapproval that we don’t use “tiny butterfly needles”.
And some non-nurses may ask why? Why is it that I can’t bear the pain of one person, while simultaneously sharing in the joys of the next?
Isn’t that my job?
Isn’t that what I’m trained to do?
But their isn’t a course in nursing school (or on this planet) that teaches us how to do this.
What I am trained to do, is to keep my patients safe by checking and rechecking their physicians orders to ensure they’re administered correctly. To be their advocate. To manage my time so that every single patient I come into contact with receives my very best. To be clear in my instructions. To keep current with new developments and advancements in my clinical area.
All the while hoping that a few weeks from now, my manager won’t pull me aside to discuss a patient satisfaction survey that says the patient felt rushed, or felt unimportant because I mispronounced his/her name. Or worse, to have one of the physicians I work with complain to my manager that their patient wasn’t admitted quickly enough.
Working in high volume outpatient surgery, I often times touch over 50 patients a day, 5-6 days a week, year after year. The only way I can continue to do it, and do it well, is to guard myself from feeling every single emotion my patient’s are feeling. If their current emotional state weighs so heavily for one single patient to bear, imagine how much it might weigh on me alone, 250 times a week, or 1300 time per year. Year after year.
I love what I do. And I do it with guarded heart. Knowing that the very best I can do for all my patients, is to simultaneously protect myself.
Yesterday, today, and again tomorrow.
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