When I got married, I was in nursing school. Things were hard—we were both students, neither of us had any time, and neither of us ever had any money. But we never argued. I cooked, I (kind of) cleaned, and we took care of our daughter together. Fast forward a few years and nursing school was now behind us. We still never have any time, I still (sometimes) cook, and I still (kind of) clean. We take care of our daughter and our son together. But now, we do argue sometimes. What changed? I became a nurse.
When I started working as a bedside nurse, it didn’t take me long to come home feeling completely shattered. There was just an endless list of things I needed to do. The provider didn’t like new nurses, so I carefully weighed the importance of what I needed to say before calling them. One nurse told me “don’t call them until the baby is crowning.” Another nurse told me “if the baby starts acting up, do your interventions first, and then call them after the baby recovers, or else she’ll be an automatic c-section.” I tried to remember every tip that every nurse tried to give me, but it all jumbled up in my head. When the baby had a couple of variables, I intervened and then immediately called the provider. And my coworker was right, the provider sectioned that patient straight-away. I felt like I had completely messed everything up. To top it off, it was right at shift change, so I ended up in the OR an hour after my shift was supposed to have ended. I was so tired, I had so much charting to do, and now the mom was having trouble managing her pain after her cesarean birth and didn’t want to breastfeed. I felt like I had failed everyone…my patient, her baby, the doctor, all of my colleagues, and myself.
I work hard. My scrubs are faded from so many hot washes. The seam in the back of my pants looks like it may give at any minute, especially if I gain even one more pound. The fabric on the inside of my thighs is rubbing itself away. My shoes look like my feet feel…worn out and tired. Something weird happens when a nurse puts on their scrubs. All of a sudden, it’s demanded that we master the art of multi-tasking with a smile on our face and an empathetic touch to our hands. It doesn’t matter if we like who we are taking care of, although that’s always a bonus. It doesn’t matter if our patients are nice or mean or horrible or dumb or if they made every bad decision in the book. We want to take care of them. We want to help them get better, to feel better, to see them hit any milestone they can in our little twelve-hour shift. There is always something for us to do for them. We’re part mother, part maid, part pharmacist, part lawyer—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But it puts us in a constant struggle at work. As labor nurses, we struggle to ensure women are having a healthy labor. We stuggle for our patient’s to have a safe delivery. If we don’t agree with the plan of care, we struggle with how to approach the provider, if we should approach the provider, and when to approach the provider. We weigh the risks and benefits of every action we perform. We dance around and dodge around every different personality at work. We struggle to keep our patient’s pain under control (and they’re in labor). We struggle to make sure our patients and their families are happy. We sometimes struggle to prioritize our tasks. We massage a back during labor, and then we massage a fundus after delivery. We bend, we pull, and we lift. We constantly educate. We provide comfort here, provide pain relief there, we assess and reassess, and then repeat, in a never-ending loop. And we’re so good at what we do, our hard work and efforts usually pay off.
So the truth is, nursing is demanding. It’s so emotionally and physically draining, it’s hard to go home and to want to keep taking care of more people. It takes a physical toll on your body and an emotional toll on your mind. When we come home, there are still a thousand things we have to do for our own family, but by that time, we’re exhausted. And that’s if we had a good day at work. Sometimes our patients yell at us. Sometimes providers yell at us. Our bosses are auditing everything we do. There’s always something else to chart. We frequently work understaffed and every week we’re tasked with doing more and more things. Those are the days that we just want to take a bath and go to bed.
I understand that nurses struggle at home. Know that you aren’t alone. We’re called to nursing because we want to care for people, but what do we do when we’re tired of caring for the people we love the most? Step back and breathe. We have to remind ourselves and we have to remind each other that we’re all doing the best we can. Even when we’re exhausted and short-staffed and we’re all waiting for the census to drop, remember the beauty of the work we do. Look around you and speak kindly of your coworkers. Spread positivity at work, because we all know what it’s like to go home completely shattered. We have to make work as easy for each other as possible, because the work doesn’t end when we go home. We have to find the magic in the work that we do, because it is undoubtedly wonderful work. And tomorrow is a new day. Don’t give up, don’t give in, and we all have to help each other keep moving forward.
Until my next delivery ❤
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