What is a Nurse, Exactly?

What is a Nurse, Exactly?

I remember my last code.
You know how it goes: it was 7:00 a.m., and I was charting as if my own life depended on it. The gray light of early morning oozed through the curtained windows. All was quiet, except for the clacking of the keys. My mouth tasted of too strong coffee, yet my eyelids dropped. It was almost time to go.

That was when I heard the snoring. It was a sound I hadn’t heard before. The sound has a rolling, gagging quality to it. I jumped to my sore feet and listened like a hunting dog for where the sound originated.

There it was. There!

I ran into the patient’s room, took one look from the doorway and knew he was dying. His mouth hung open in a large “O,” and his tongue spilled out of his powdered blue mouth. I yelled for help and plunged into the job of securing the airway.

It was just like any other code, really. I’m not sure when I started to feel uncomfortable. My hands shook, and something deep inside me trembled. I had told myself since my last dance with my mental illness that I wouldn’t get myself into stressful situations—something absolutely impossible for a floor nurse.

The charge nurse was there, and I felt the patient was safe with her. Clearly, he wasn’t safe with me. I told her that I couldn’t be in there anymore, and I left.

My manager approached me not unkindly and told me to go back in. I told her I couldn’t. I honestly would have stood like a statue had I tried.

It was a matter of a few weeks before they fired me, and with good reason considering how I acted. Did I even deserve to be called nurse after all that happened in my struggle to be a good nurse?

In other words, who am I now?

I honestly didn’t grow up wanting to be a nurse. I wanted to be a writer, but I was told that wasn’t a path that would lead to a good life. So, I abandoned it. Instead of facing my passion for writing, I furtively scratched out short stories in the far reaches of my room. All I ever wanted to do was write.

Life twisted. It turned tortuously, and I found myself needing a job. I liked medicine. In fact, that was what my mother wanted me to pursue—and what she had wished she had pursued. Nursing seemed like an obvious path for me. I love helping people. I am fascinated by the human body. I was smart enough for the curriculum. I liked it but didn’t love it like some of my classmates.

I will brag and say I graduated second in my class. Through nursing school, I did develop a love for it. I could help people so much more with the knowledge I had gained. I knew things and had seen things that made me powerful. Medical knowledge is immensely powerful.

I was proud to say that I was a nurse. I felt a fellowship with the hardworking men and women around me. I was amazed at how good they were, how it felt to work as a team. I loved helping out with codes and being on the frontlines. I grew to love being a nurse, and I took part of my identity from this fact.

So, what went wrong?

On some deep level, I knew my emotions were not in my control all the time. I would have racing thoughts about the simplest things. I would worry that something terrible would happen. Very often, I could not manage the strength to get out of bed and to be a part of life. I had known this since I was a teenager, but I didn’t want anyone to call me crazy.

I still functioned well as a nurse: respected, well liked with a great reputation. My feelings only got worse as I continued to work, though. The stress of nursing weighed down on me, the struggle to get through a shift. I took a leave, and I was finally diagnosed—and treated for—bipolar disorder.

It seemed liked a downward spiral, though. I would get better only when I didn’t work. And I wanted to work!  I had worked so hard and given up so much for the privilege to call myself nurse.

It all went away, and that made me incredibly sad. In that state and in that situation, I was not safe for patients. I understand that and thank those who removed me.

I work as a practice administrator in a psychiatrist’s office now. My struggles with mental illness allow me to help those who are suffering or maybe are at a part of the journey that I recognize. I write, too, as you may have noticed. Since I lost my job, I’ve been using my skills in both nursing and writing to make a way for myself and my family.

But I don’t feel like a nurse anymore. I don’t feel a part of that fellowship. I don’t remember drug names, and I can’t tell you what lab values mean. I worked so hard for entry into this club, and I feel on the outs. I feel disconnected with an identity I once held dear.

I told my mother-in-law about missing nursing. She’s a positive woman, always upbeat. Certainly not like me!  Her words were simple, though I doubt she understood the complexity of the situation.

“Lynda,” she said, “you are more than a nurse now. Other people are just nurses.”

I will admit that it still stings, despite my mother-in-law’s wisdom. On my journey, I became a nurse, but as that journey continued, I found that I could be so much more, all the parts of me. And maybe, through that journey to becoming a nurse, I can help someone in their journey—whatever it maybe.

To me, that’s all that ever really mattered.

Nursing with Diabetes: Tips for Coping on the Unit

Nursing with Diabetes: Tips for Coping on the Unit

“Diabetes is so prevalent in our society, and I feel as though I have a better understanding of my own patients with diabetes,” says Heather Weber, an RN who works in a busy outpatient GI department. She has type 1 diabetes, and she has experienced what it is like working as a nurse with diabetes. “I recently had a GI sickness at work, and as a result, my blood sugar dropped rather quickly after lunch,” she relates. “My coworkers noticed that I was diaphoretic and quickly sat me down, giving me some apple juice to drink. I ended up going home since I was sick with a GI bug, but only once my blood sugar was stable enough to drive. I was grateful for my coworkers’ assistance.”

Since diabetes is such a major problem amongst the population, it only stands to reason that nurses can have diabetes, as well. According to the American Diabetes Association, 30.3 million people in America have diabetes. In addition, 1.25 million adults and children have type 1 diabetes. How can nurses manage their condition? Nurses have a difficult time eating a balanced diet due to skipping meals. They are also on their feet most of the time, putting them at risk for complications of the foot, such as ulcers.

Fortunately, many nurses want to share their experiences to help others navigate the challenge of balancing diabetes and providing excellent patient care. Diabetes educators strive to help all people who have diabetes, and they are an excellent resource for nurses who want to manage their diabetes.

Nurses generally know how to handle their condition. They know diabetes front and back through the job, and they are intelligent professionals who know how to adapt those ideas for themselves.

“I can usually slip away for a few minutes or have a coworker cover for me so that I can test and/or eat a snack,” explains Weber. “When I worked as an ICU nurse doing twelve-hour shifts, I would typically eat snacks to prevent low blood sugars as I did my charting at the nurses’ station.”

Tips like this are invaluable because they are grounded in the actual experience of being a nurse with diabetes.

Fran Damian, MS, RN, NEA-BC, works at Boston Children’s Hospital and is a staff member at Diabetes Training Camp. She has tricks that she uses, as well. “Managing well with diabetes requires good planning and being well prepared with extra supplies all the time,” she says. “I live a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. That includes regular exercise and a well-balanced diet. I feel best when I eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, and I drink a lot of water …. [I] always have glucose tablets on me in case I start feeling low.”

“Our unit was pretty good if we were slammed and did not get lunch,” says Danielle Kreais, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC. She got her diagnosis and learned to cope, all while working a busy OB unit on nights. “The manager ordered lunch meat sandwiches and chips for us. There was another diabetic I worked with and the advice she gave me was to make sure I always had one of those Nature Valley bars in my work bag, in the glove box of my car, and my locker. The peanut butter ones have protein and they are a carb, so it was a great combo if lunch was missed.”

She continues: “She told me for lows to keep those peppermint striped candies [in your pocket] that are soft, and you can chew them. They are enough to bring your sugars up, plus they don’t melt.”

Nurses newly diagnosed with diabetes would do well to carry glucose tablets at all times to prevent low blood sugar. Be sure to tell your manager and your coworkers what’s going on so that they can help you when needed. Snacks and water are essential to good blood sugar control. Don’t forget to use your resources, such as endocrinologists, dieticians, and diabetes educators to plan the right meals and strategies for you to use on the job.

Although tips from nurses can be invaluable, they are nothing like the kind of focused information that can come from a certified diabetes educator (CDE). These are medical professionals who are responsible for teaching all people with diabetes in all situations how to manage their lives and prevent complications.

One such expert is Lucille Hughes, DNP, MSN/Ed, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE, director of diabetes education at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York, and treasurer of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Considering some of the challenges nurses can face when dealing with diabetes on the job, she had tips for some of the most common ones.

Nurses often don’t get the chance to eat during a shift, and this can severely impact blood sugar levels. “When nurses with diabetes find themselves in this situation, planning and being prepared is the best medicine,” says Hughes. “Keeping snacks on hand that are a blend of carbohydrates, protein, and fats can be a tremendous help in these situations.”

“Meal planning is the secret to living with diabetes and being a healthy person,” Hughes continues. “Investing in a good lunch bag (or two) will allow you to plan and pack all the essentials to eating and snacking healthy. Being unprepared and finding yourself at the mercy of a vending machine is not a good situation to be in. It is very unlikely you are going to find a ‘healthy’ lunch or snack option.”

In addition to poor nutrition, nurses also face significant impact to their feet, and this can cause foot related complications for nurses who have diabetes. “First and foremost, investing in a good pair of comfortable shoes is essential for anyone who spends most of their day on their feet,” says Hughes. “Calluses and skin evulsions due to rubbing of a shoe on a toe, heel, or ankle area can be dangerous and yet avoidable.”

Here are six tips that Hughes has on how to find shoes that fit and how to determine if they are a healthy choice:

  1. When trying on a shoe in the store, make sure it feels comfortable. If it isn’t comfortable, don’t buy it.
  2. Many think that new shoes require a bit of breaking in and you must endure the associated pain. This is not true. If new shoes start to hurt, immediately remove them and don’t use them again.
  3. Don’t think that the only shoes you can wear as a nurse with diabetes are unfashionable ones. There are many options for shoes that fit, so do your due diligence and find shoes that will protect your feet.
  4. In addition to finding the right shoes, foot inspection is vital in protecting your feet. Check them every day. Use a mirror to see the bottoms and sides of your feet. If you notice any redness, cuts, or blisters, see your podiatrist immediately. Take care of small changes immediately before they expand into something unmanageable.
  5. Podiatrist. Yearly, no exceptions. More often if necessary.
  6. Finally, any time you see a medical professional, ask them if they will take a look at your feet at your office visit. This could be your primary care doctor, your endocrinologist, or any other specialist you may see—within reason, of course. Many dentists would have trouble with this request. Seriously, though, any professional who looks at your feet could possibly see a problem early enough to stop it. Use these resources.

Nurses spend so much time taking care of others that the self is often forgotten and ignored. Unfortunately, this is unhealthy for any nurse, but particularly troublesome for a nurse with diabetes. Yet, these challenges are not insurmountable, although they may take a little work. Planning your diets and meals are key to ensuring that you will have food on hand for sudden lows. Meal planning can also help you keep your high blood sugar under control. For your feet, planning is again essential. You must find shoes that are comfortable—no questions asked.

Following these steps, nurses with diabetes should be able to function well as nurses—and many are! If you find yourself troubled by mixing diabetes and nursing, let your doctor know. They may be able to refer you to any number of professionals who can help. The most important item, though, is to catch things early and always plan how to confront any challenges.

The True Nursing Epidemic: Getting Nurses to Stay at the Bedside

The True Nursing Epidemic: Getting Nurses to Stay at the Bedside

Kyana Brathwaite, founder and CEO of KB CALS- Caring Advocacy & Liaison Services, worked as a critical care nurse when she hurt her shoulder during a patient transfer.

“Our patient population is getting heavier [and] it is not always realistic to pull colleagues from different areas/departments to help. My true issue was not with the injury—although unfortunate, they do happen—my issue was with how my particular situation was handled after the injury by both management and the entity I worked for,” she explains.

For these reasons, the pain of her injury and the lack of support by management, Brathwaite chose not to stay at the bedside. Would she have stayed had circumstances been different?“Prior to the injury, I was considering staying at the bedside for at least five more years to give me time to plan the direction in which I wanted to take my nursing career.”Although she did plan to continue her career eventually, she would have given solid years to suffering bedside nursing specialties.

In fact, many nurses run from the bedside as soon as possible because conditions are so deplorable. They look for jobs in advanced practice, teaching, and other non-bedside related areas of nursing, while the number of nurses taking care of the most critical patients continues to dwindle.

Here are four reasons nurses leave the bedside and some ideas as to how to make them stay.

1. New Grad Education

New grads can go into a bedside job and not know exactly what they are in for. In nursing school, clinicals usually don’t go beyond two to three patients per student so they are not exactly exposed to the real-life rigors and stresses that come with the life of a bedside life—and cultural shock is a very real phenomenon.

“Nursing students are constantly told by faculty, peers, mentors, and experienced nurses what bedside nursing is ‘really like,’ says Greg ­Eagerton, DNP, RN, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing. “However, it is like the first time we ride the bike by ourselves…The same is true for new nurses; their hands are held throughout their training and then the day comes when they are ‘alone’ and it’s a little frightening. They now have the sole responsibility for their patient’s care, their patient’s life—and that can be daunting. It’s also the reason we always encourage team support from their mentors, their more experienced peers, and from all members of the health care team, including physicians, therapists, support staff, etc.”

Although this is true, new grads often express intense dislike of their new role as a bedside nurse, and they immediately want to move to another branch of the profession. Is it that the nurse is not prepared or that the job is simply too difficult? It certainly sounds like management is trying to accommodate new nurses, but a quick search of internet nurse boards will reveal new nurses in despair. Perhaps more intensive job shadowing will allow new grads to see what bedside nurses do. Perhaps more realistic teaching would also go a long way toward helping them. Whatever the answer, new grads are a special population that needs attention—though it already gets quite a bit—to keep them safe and happy at the bedside.

2. Staffing Ratios

Another issue that chases nurses from the bedside is poor staffing ratios. It can be overwhelming for one nurse to have eight to ten patients to themselves. Not only is it unsafe, it is also stressful, and many nurses would rather find a new job than to put their licenses and their mental health on the line like that. For this reason, staffing ratios are important to consider when examining the loss of bedside nurses.

“I do not feel staffing ratios is the main driving factor,” argues Ken Shanahan, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, clinical nursing director at Tufts Medical Center. “One of the main reasons I feel this way is because the only state with staffing ratios is California and yet they have the most nurse strikes. These strikes are actually increasing dramatically and are something we will need to address as a profession. The work environment is the most important factor and number of nurses or ratios is only a component of the working environment. There are many other components that we are not hitting the mark on that would help create a healthy work environment.”

Although a large portion of nurses would disagree with Shanahan’s opinion on the importance of staffing ratios, he does have a point: they are not all that is involved here. Getting the floors better staffed is only one part of the puzzle, but addressing pressing issues such as horizontal violence is needed, too. Everyone knows about staffing ratios, but few realize they are only one prop to hold up a very large house meant to keep nurses at the bedside.

3. Compassion Fatigue and Burnout

Compassion fatigue and burnout are the psychological components that keep nurses from staying at the bedside. The two are closely related but are not the same. Burnout, in short, is frustration with the situation and is typified by anger. Compassion fatigue is an exhaustion of the ability to extend oneself emotionally anymore and is typified by depression. Please note, these are very simple definitions and they are not exhaustive. Both of these conditions can occur together, and neither is pleasant. Nurses have had their lives broken over these issues, and no one wants to go through that. How, then, do we solve this problem?

“Burnout and compassion fatigue are concerns for direct care providers in all professions,” explains Eagerton. He suggests the following measures to help support staff:

  • Leaders should be visible and approachable.
  • Work schedules should allow adequate time off between shifts.
  • Adequate breaks should be provided during the work shift so that staff have down time.
  • Schedule time for staff to have discussions about what stressors they are experiencing that may lead to burnout and fatigue.
  • Create opportunities for staff to be involved in activities that allow them to do things that are not direct patient care but have meaning to them, such as committee membership, attending professional conferences, and so on.
  • Have resources available for nursing staff in addition to their managers to discuss their stressors, such as chaplains, mental health professionals, and counselors.
  • Have dedicated space(s) on or near the units where they work where they can have some quiet time or time to eat their meal or have their break without interruption.

With these ideas in place, nurses can have a better shot at overcoming compassion fatigue and burnout. When these are not a factor or are a mitigated factor, the more a nurse can feel happier staying at the bedside.

4. Injuries

Nursing is definitely a contact sport, as stories like Brathwaite’s prove. Transferring ­patients is getting more and more difficult with increased body weights. In addition, various specialties are more susceptible to transfer related injury. For instance, operating room nurses are at great risk because they must move patients who are unconscious and essentially dead weight. However, that doesn’t make your typical bedside nurse any less at risk. Moving and lifting are just as much a part of the job, and mechanical equipment is usually not available to help.

“There is only one of you, [and] there will always be more patients,” says Nick ­Angelis, CRNA, MSN, author of How to Succeed in ­Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School) and cofounder of BEHAVE Wellness.“If no one is available to perform a task safely with you, don’t do it. Hospitals always push putting the patients first, but you’re a danger to patients if you give and give until your weekly schedule must also include time for massage and chiropractor appointments. Flu vaccines, unsafe equipment, dangerous staff ratios, risk of physical harm from unruly patients because hospital security resembles nursing home patients—these all require putting yourself first.”

It really does come down to this: Nurses need to learn how to put themselves first. If you can’t lift that 300-pound patient, then don’t even try, no matter how much it needs to be done. Similarly, hospitals need to make allowances for nurse injuries. ­Providing mechanical lifts, better security, and education about safety could go a long way towards protecting nurses and keeping them at the ­bedside.

In the end, the question of keeping nurses at the bedside is definitely multifactorial—and controversial. Patients have been cared for all this time with the methods we’ve been using, so why change? The reason to change is that the nursing shortage is real, and it isn’t what you think. It isn’t a lack of trained nurses. It is a lack of trained nurses willing to work. If we can make the bedside more appealing to these nurses who have run for cover, perhaps the nursing shortage wouldn’t really exist at all.

Why Nursing School Grades Don’t Matter

Why Nursing School Grades Don’t Matter

We all sat around in my living room, friends in the fight against those nursing school teachers who seemed hell-bent on making our lives miserable. There were about ten of us crammed into my small living room for this Saturday study group, and I was the de facto leader. I didn’t need to be there. I didn’t need much more than to glance through the notes to get good grades, but I wanted to help these on-the-bubble students pass. I taught what I knew. Everyone wanted to study with me because, well, test scores speak for themselves in nursing school.

Yes, I was one of those, and I always have been. Give me a book, and I can ace a test. It isn’t really genius. It’s just that I know how to take a test. Of course, I was immensely proud of my 4.0. I didn’t lord it over people, but I did feel rather smug I guess, rather superior. I felt this meant the nursing world was my oyster. I was cocky that I would breeze through orientation, but I certainly didn’t feel I knew it all. I also didn’t put my fellow students down. In fact, I enjoyed helping them, fighting the good fight to get them to pass.

One day, my teacher said something that made the bottom drop out of my stomach: “The best nurses are usually those in the middle of the pack. Those who score high tend to not do so well.”

Was she talking to me? She said it to the class, but was she talking to me?

Maybe I was paranoid, but it turns out that there was a kernel of truth in what she said.

When I interviewed out of nursing school, no one cared that I graduated at the top of my class, although I told them repeatedly. They were more interested in how I would handle a crisis and what sort of person I was and whether or not I would fit in with this culture. Despite my obvious hubris, I am actually someone who can work well with others, can care for patients, and can be a part of the team. The only thing is that my work in school didn’t matter a damn to them.

What really opened my eyes was orientation. I was lost. Everything I had learned was so much chaff. It came into play from time to time, but it really and truly did not matter.

I remember the first time I had four patients. It was a juggling act. The fact that I knew all the bones of the hand by heart was completely irrelevant. I needed to look at vital signs and know what they meant. I needed to know when to pass meds and when to chart. Most importantly, I needed to know when I didn’t know something, and I needed to ask for help.

Fortunately, questions have never been a problem for me, and I was able to become a safe nurse because of that. This 4.0 student spent more time with her preceptor or charge nurse than she did with her patients in the first year of nursing.

And still, all that book learning I had was merely peripheral. Sometimes, it came into play. I would know obscure things about electrolyte imbalances, for instance. I was also considered one of the go-to nurses with problems in my later years.

But my knowledge is not what makes me a good nurse.

I found that my personal sense of patient safety was the most important. My ability to handle more and more stress became the calling card of my practice. My life was about looking at a situation and making a decision. Do I call a doctor about this, or do I have the means to fix it myself? Do I delegate this responsibility, or do I do it myself? Should I ask for help, or do I know enough?

My mentors—my preceptor, my manager, the various charge nurses, and the more experienced nurses—made me into a nurse. It wasn’t that huge book I lugged around for so many years. It takes a village to raise a nurse. Not a textbook.

These are skills that are not measured by GPA. These are skills that I have but don’t come as easily to me as multiple-choice questions. The point is that if you are a 2.5 student, don’t worry. Your ability to pass tests and get good grades has nothing to do with real world nursing. Trust me. I’ve been there. I am a good nurse. I worked hard to become one, but it didn’t have anything to do with what I did in school. It was about a fabulous preceptor, a supportive group of experienced nurses, and hard work on my part.

Not graduating at the top of your class? You may just be the best nurse yet. If you are someone who can manage your time well, you will make a good nurse. If you are someone who can stare down a stressful situation and make decisions, you will be a good nurse.

Most importantly, if you can and will ask questions when you don’t know the answers—and accept that you know very few of the answers—you will be well on your way to becoming a fantastic nurse. If you just eked by in nursing school, don’t let it bother you. Take it from someone who has been there: It doesn’t matter at all.

The Worst Trauma I Experienced as a Nurse

The Worst Trauma I Experienced as a Nurse

She didn’t know her words would haunt me for years to come. It was a night like any other night. I stood at the bedside of a relatively stable patient, and I was dutifully giving him his meds. The floor was quiet, patients and nurses preparing for the night shift a few hours away.

Like a fire klaxon, a voice cut through the relative peace of the hospital floor. “My husband is dying! My husband is dying!”

Instinctively, I dropped the medicines and darted out of the room. In the middle of the hall, a middle-aged woman ran toward me, screaming about her husband in the room across the hall. “He’s dying,” she yelled into my face.

Mouth dry, heart pounding, I pushed past her and entered the patient’s room. Of course, he was unconscious, blue, and not breathing. I started CPR, but the craziness was not over.

I wasn’t exactly a new nurse. I had been through a few codes, and they all went rather smoothly. I never experienced the stomach-churning nausea of having a family member witness their loved one dying.

The patient wasn’t mine, but I knew about him. He had recently had coronary artery bypass grafting surgery and was due to be transferred to the ICU any minute because his heart rate and rhythm were abnormal. His doctor was on the floor, writing the paperwork for the transfer.

Others had heard the wife call out in anguish, and everyone came running, including the doctor. He burst into the room, shouting, “I need an intubation kit! Get me an intubation kit!”

I could hear the rumble of the crash cart coming down the hall, but it hadn’t quite reached the room yet. The doctor continued to yell at me, to point, to spit. His hands shook, but I had been here before. I yelled back, “Hold on a second! It’s coming!”

I realized then that the doctor was more afraid than I was. The cart arrived, the patient continued to code, and the doctor got his intubation equipment. Although we managed to get a sustainable rhythm on the patient, he soon died in the ICU.

Of all the codes I experienced over my years as a nurse, this one sticks out as the most horrible. When codes start, nurses become the ultimate professionals. No one runs. No one yells. Everyone works as a team.

As a relatively new nurse, I never experienced the terror that “normal” people experience when someone starts to die. For me, I knew how to handle it. A patient going south deserves my close care, but the emotion is usually not high during care involving advanced cardiovascular life support. Afterward, I would cry and shake, but not when I needed my faculties about me to do everything I could to save a life.

This code was different. In fact, I can live it over and over in my mind, and I still feel as scared now as I did then. The wife and the doctor were breaking the rules. They didn’t know how to deal with death, and I don’t really blame them. I just know their actions scarred me deeply.

Trauma is a real problem in nursing, and situations like these can cause a nurse to relive moments that didn’t go well. This is especially true of new nurses. New nurses make mistakes, and they haven’t developed the ability to be the calm professional yet. This means that the trauma of extraordinary events can stay with them forever.

I never dreamed that I would face a family member who was screaming that her husband was dying. I can only imagine the torment she was going through, the heartbreak of knowing that her loved one was slipping away before her eyes. She reached out for the only help she could.

And that help was me.

Her terror has stayed with me all of these years. In that moment, I became her. I empathized with her, as any good nurse will do. I felt her sorrow, and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t save her husband. I find myself imagining how she felt when he actually passed away.

I will admit that this situation scared me, and I have dwelt on it more than I should. Nurses, especially new nurses, have to develop a sense of detachment from the patient and family. But what about the human side of the equation? Too much distance leads to too little caring.

I am happy to say that I took part in codes after this one, and I did the best job I could. In fact, I was praised for my work in situations where a life was on the line. But I never forgot the distraught woman in the hallway, or the surreal feeling of dread that her words—”He’s dying!”—caused in me.

It remains a trauma that has impacted my life forever. Nurses need to realize that they experience traumas, too, and that it is okay to talk about them. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to reflect on the situation and examine the emotions the trauma awakens. Without this reflection, the emotions become buried. Ignored emotions manifest as substance abuse, out-of-control feelings, and hatred of the job.

My trauma is just one example. Almost every nurse has a story of when she or he was scared and traumatized. Talk about it. Don’t pretend to be so strong that you don’t need to ask for help.

I wish I could have saved that man. I wish I could have wrapped that wife up in my arms and made it easier for her. I couldn’t, but it will stay with me forever as the trauma in my career that haunts me, because I couldn’t hide behind the façade of the calm professional.

I am the calm professional, but I am human, too.

You have Successfully Subscribed!