Each work day, my alarm goes off anywhere between 4:45 am and 5:15 am depending on which hat I am wearing. I am not dressing in designer clothes, I am wearing $15 scrub pants from Walmart and a t-shirt I got for free with my hospital's logo. I don't have a stylist. I get dressed in my bedroom, not a dressing room. If my co-workers are lucky, I take the extra 10 minutes to do my hair and put on make up, but that is rare. I don't have a hairdresser or make up artist at the ready. I throw some yogurt, a frozen breakfast sandwich, a microwavable lunch, and some snacks in my lunch bag. I put on the most expensive shoes that I own, a pair of $165 Dansko's. I don't own designer shoes. I get in my car and drive 35 minutes to work to get there at 6 AM or 7 AM depending on what my job duties are for the day. I don't have a driver with a fancy car to bring me to work. I drive myself. Because, you know, I am just a nurse.
I spend most of my morning bouncing from one room to the next, hanging IV medications, taking vital signs, talking to doctors, social workers, case managers, child life specialists, pharmacists, physical therapists, assessing patients, talking to patients and families. If I am lucky, by 11:30, I will be eating my breakfast sandwich and yogurt and charting while sipping on cold coffee that I had all intentions of drinking earlier in my shift. I don't have a spread of food in a "Green Room" or an assistant to get me some crazy soy, mocha, half-skim, with a twist of caramel latte thing. I work 14 hours a day and drive myself back home because I did not magically get a driver while I was being just a nurse. I sometimes miss my own child's bedtime. My dad has to put him to bed because I don't have a nanny or au pair. When I get home, I might eat dinner, but I am mostly too tired. I don't have a personal chef or reservations at a 5 star restaurant. But what would you expect? I am just a nurse.
Much of my time is spent listening to a parent tell me her fears because her preschooler was just diagnosed with diabetes and she is not sure how she is going to poke her child's finger multiple times a day and give her insulin injections all by herself at home. I call the doctor and advocate for a patient because of the subtle changes in her condition are starting to add up to something bigger. I comfort the baby who is crying because he is alone in his room without any parents there and he is tired and scared. I sing The Wheels on the Bus to a toddler as I insert a new NG tube into her nose so she can get the nutrition she needs to live. I talk to the teenager who has a chronic illness and is tired of being different and just wants to fit in with her friends so she stops doing her life saving treatments. I write memories and well wishes in the book of one of my patients who is transitioning to adult care and alleviate her fears of having a new doctor and new nurses. I cry with my co-workers when a patient dies. I hug the family members who come back to see us after their beloved child dies from a nasty disease. I get tears of joy in my eyes when I see babies thriving when, just a year ago, they were struggling to breathe. I have worked holidays away from my family so I can take care of someone's child. I put on a happy face because I get to go home to my child. They want to be there even less than I do. It's just a job, though, because I am just a nurse.
It was just 10 short months ago that a nurse put her arm around my shoulders to comfort me when my husband had to be intubated and my family had not gotten there yet. It was nurses who stood and prayed with me when I felt alone. It was nurses who used to take care of my husband who took up a collection of grocery store gift cards to help me through the holidays. It was a nurse who listened to me talk for hours about my husband when he was in the ICU. It was a nurse who held my hand and cried with me and told me it was ok to let him go, to talk to him, that he could hear me. It was just a nurse who rubbed my back 9 months ago as I heard the doctor say, &I am sorry for your loss& when I became a widow at 35. It was my husband's nurses who came to the funeral home and the church to say goodbye to the love of my life. But, they are just nurses.
I lay in bed at nite and think about the patient who was one treatment away from going to the PICU. I get teary eyed thinking about the patient who was there because they were mistreated by someone they trusted. I wonder if the parent who was scared about a new diagnosis is sleeping well. I hope the toddler that was a difficult stick got the IV put in on the first try.
It is what I do. After all, I am Just a Nurse.