If you had asked me twelve years ago to give one word that best described being a nurse, my first thought would have likely been pride. I landed my first job, passed the NCLEX, and was ready for all the nursing world had to offer. Brand new Littman in hand, I walked through the door on my first day with years of theory crammed in my head and sheer enthusiasm to match. While I still feel pride to work in what Gallup Poll has ranked the most honest profession, my range of defining what it is to be a nurse has evolved.
If you are not an empathetic person, you have likely picked the wrong profession. I think most nurses, if asked, would list empathy as one of the most essential traits of a nurse. We imagine the frail little lady with dementia could be our own mother or grandmother or that little girl fighting cancer our daughter or niece. What about empathy for each other? Do you think we as nurses do a good job in supporting each other and try enough to understand one another?
It goes without saying that being kind to one’s patients and their family is a must, even if our kindness is not reciprocated. Sick people and their loved ones are not at their best. It is also important to be kind to and respect each other as coworkers.
This takes years and continues to evolve. In the beginning of one’s career the focus is on the skill of starting an IV, placing a Foley, calculating medications, knowing each medication’s side effects. As the years go on and experience and knowledge come with it, critical thinking skills evolve. One glance at a patient and your instincts tell you something is wrong.
When we clock in to work, we accept responsibility for whatever may come our way. It is a huge responsibility when caring for a sick person. Their well being depends on your eyes, ears, and instincts.
I have learned to be more open to change as medicine and policies are constantly changing. What may have been accepted practice last year is out this year. Working as a traveler gives the unique opportunity of learning many different ways to do the same thing.
Being humble. I learned this at a young age (thanks Mom & Nana), but I see a lack of it in medicine. There is an epidemic of inflated ego and over confidence in our profession that can lead to errors. It is important to admit when one does not know the answer and ask questions.
Still working on this one. Call me a work in progress. I will say this much; one is challenged with learning assertiveness in order to enjoy longevity in nursing. Assertiveness comes with practice.
I work in neonatal intensive care and have seen parents’ dreams shattered with the loss of a baby. It is hard to witness. It is a hard lesson to learn to separate what we witness at work from our life at home.
There still exists some archaic systems where hierarchies are alive and well and nurses are neither respected nor included in patient care planning. I have worked my share of under staffed shifts and have had to take on more responsibility than humanly and safely possible. In my experience I have found that the only way to encourage change is by coming together collectively and speaking up.
I have had my fair share of moments of doubt. Doubt if I did everything I could. Doubt if I am good enough. Doubt if I made the right career decision. It’s a normal feeling at one point or another in one’s career.
Another challenging one. As nurses, many of us want to be able to do everything ourselves. It’s just not possible. Again, for the sake of longevity, ask for help.
Being a nurse above all has given me the chance to appreciate that I am healthy and those I love and hold near and dear are as well. Life and health are delicate and impermanent. Being a nurse has taught me to try appreciate every moment I have been given.
When it’s all said and done, I still love what I do. The good, bad, and sometimes seemingly unacceptable are all part of the profession. I wonder what the near retirement me will have to say on many more years of reflection. What does being a nurse mean to you?