Anyone who has ever been a patient (myself included) has experienced a 45 minute wait and thought, exasperated, “Where is the nurse and what are they really doing?” Unfortunately, nurses sometimes have to spend more time on clerical tasks such as double checking orders to catch any errors than actually doing patient care. This creates opportunities for patients to mistakenly think that because the nurse isn’t physically at the bedside, that he or she simply doesn’t care about them. This way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth; here are 5 things nurses wish they were allowed to tell their patients:
1. We cry at home for you.
Nurses might seem like we have it all together while we are working hard to take care of you. Really the truth is, sometimes after a particularly heavy shift we cry our eyes out over your and your family’s pain. Sometimes the stress of taking care of you while you are critically ill is not only mentally, but also physically exhausting. We spend 12 hours at a time running around to get all the supplies we need for your various tests, procedures, medications, and therapies. Deep down, we all really wish we could spend more time just holding your hand.
Lots of people tell us “we don’t know how you can be a nurse! I could never do what you do.” Well, the thing is, we have all those same feelings too. The emotion that we have from watching a mother pass away after we attempt to resuscitate them for hours, or diagnosing a child with new onset cancer, or even just knowing that you’re stuck in the hospital on a major holiday doesn’t just dissolve when we clock out at 7:30. These feelings follow us home and sometimes we cry when we leave because we just need to let it all out.
2. We are not your punching bag.
We work our asses off to ensure safe and effective care to you, as well as our other patients. We understand you are in terrible pain, and the last thing we want is for you to wait for medicine and relief. But what you don’t know is that when you pressed the call bell for us 20 minutes ago, we were actually elbow deep in helping the bedridden patient who just soiled himself. When we finally arrive to your bedside with the long-awaited med, your angry jabs at our competency as a nurse or your insistence that we don’t care about you are totally inaccurate. Refer to the part in number 1 where I said I wish we could spend more time just holding your hand, but can’t because we are busy providing as much safe medical care as we can to as many patients as we can.
3. No one wants us to make an IV on the first shot more than us.
Trust me, when I have an order to place an IV on a six-day old newborn, there is never some malicious plan in my mind to stab your infant a half-dozen times. I want to get it right the first time. I go in there praying that I can quickly and as painlessly as possible, get the procedure done so that we can both move on to the next task in healing your baby. When we miss the vein and have to try again, no one takes it harder than we do. Our confidence is shot, and we feel defeated. When we get it on the first try, avoiding additional pain for you is our triumph.
4. We sacrifice for you.
We hold our bladders for hours at a time to make sure the documentation on you is an accurate record of your care. We skip lunch breaks to make sure that your IV tubing is freshly changed so that it won’t cause you a bloodstream infection. We kiss our children goodbye and assure them that Santa will still find them at grandma’s house on Christmas Eve, because mommy has to work night shift tonight. We do all this, and more, happily, because…
5. We love you.
Yes, we love you, the patient and the family. You might be a royal pain in our ass sometimes, but when we get to be the ones that take care of you during the hardest times in your lives, we do it out of pure love. No amount of money could make this heart-breaking work worth it, but the satisfaction we get from watching you walk out the door healthy and happy on discharge day makes us feel like we won the lottery. We see our grandmother in the combative woman with dementia, we see our friends in the middle-aged man with degenerative nerve disease, we see ourselves in the woman bravely battling cancer. We love you. And that’s the push we need to make it through our shift each day.
So, next time you find yourself as a patient please know that your nurse does care about you, more than you know, but just might not be able to show it right at that moment. When you have patience as a patient (pun intended), you have no idea how much it means to a nurse who is trying to give you the best care possible. Nurses have a job where any delay doesn’t mean a work deadline moving back, it means a sick patient waits even longer for quality care. This is on our minds every moment of every shift, and every moment off the clock too.
Featured Image via screengrab of Grey’s Anatomy.