Friday, May 11, 2012

What Do Nurses Do?

Photo Credit
This is National Nurses Week. My friend Sara -- the one who works in a psychiatric hospital in Michigan and collects shoes and clothes for the patients -- wrote a great blog post about nurses. I'm passing it on to you. Also, I spent some time this week with my friend Sal, who is also a nurse. She still works in the same hospital where my kids were born and she came on her break to meet them both.

To Sara and Sal and all the other men and women who combine their compassion and their training to serve others through nursing, thank you.

What Do Nurses Do?
So what exactly do nurses do?  Well, let me tell you!
Nurses are mysterious creatures.  We work independently, with other disciplines and under the direction of physicians.  Our scope has been described as 100 miles deep and 1,000 miles wide.  
We can do a little bit of everything everybody else can do and we know who can do what we can't.  We are the gatekeepers and the watchmen of your care and the only ones that will be at your side 24 hours a day.  We are the gatherers of your story and the ones who add the new chapters throughout your life.  
We are the ones who can read the notes of the doctors and tell your family what's going on when the docs have all gone home.  
We have super powers like knowing something is wrong by the look on your face as soon as we enter the room.  We can hear things from the hall way or through our stethoscopes and know exactly what's happening even though no text book can tell you how we do it. We can smell the status of your wound. Gross but true.
We can work today and come in tomorrow morning, call the doctor and say, "Something changed," and if your doctor's smart, he'll come running.
We know what labs will reveal your body's secrets and what tests are a waste of time and, usually, we are the ones who got them ordered or canceled. 
We remember you from your last admission and know that you want your daughter called even if you're too sick to tell us and we know where to find her phone number.  We know you like your medicine after breakfast and that your feet are always cold and if you give us a few minutes, we'll know where your grandmother was born and what your hobbies are.  If we get a coffee break or a lunch, we'll probably spend it tracking down the earrings you lost in the emergency room or in the gift shop getting you a magazine. 
We will yell at the nurse that worked the shift prior to us if your pain meds were due and you didn't get them and we'll be the nursing assistant's worst nightmare if your bed needs changing and it isn't done now.  NOW. 
We'll go toe to toe with the biggest baddest doctor in the hospital and take him into the back room and point our finger in his face and threaten to break his knee caps if he doesn't do something about your constipation. 
We are over weight and under nourished.  We are 4'11" and 6'4" and everything in between and we can run like an Olympian when we hear a Code Blue.  We will knock a co -worker on their butts to get to you if you need us. We can lift you with one arm from the toilet and tell you how pretty your eyes are in the process.
We will walk your wife to her car and hold her while she cries.
We drive through blizzards to get to you and work 16 hours even though we were scheduled for 8 because someones kid is sick and they didn't make it in.
We tell our spouses we can't talk about it when they ask how the day was because we will fall apart if we do. 
We will tell our families we're never going back and get up the next day and go back.

We will be chewed out by our managers because you complained that we took too long to answer your call light when you had a question about how to order dinner.  And we will apologize.  And you will never know that we were delayed because we were four doors down singing Amazing Grace to an old woman with Alzheimer's so she wouldn't have to be restrained.
We have survived on stale crackers we found in the pantry and carry in our pockets and we never pee because that is exactly when your blood pressure will bottom out.
Our job descriptions say, "Duties as assigned." 
If only it was that easy.  It's the unassigned stuff that makes us nurses. 
What do nurses do? 
It depends, what do you need?

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