Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

Dirty Little Secret

on March 24, 2015

Although I have a passion for my work, I still sometimes walk around feeling like I have a dirty little secret. And I want to let it out.

It took me almost twenty- five years to truly love my work.

Here’s the story.

When I applied to nursing school, I didn’t care how I was going to earn my future paycheck. I just wanted a grown up job, and three close friends were applying so I thought, Why not. I had no particular interest in studying health sciences, changing bloodied dressings, or holding an emesis basin under the chin of some puking patient. In the three months prior to turning in my transcripts, my only interest had been to land my back handspring on the balance beam. My dream had always been to keep tumbling, to let my feet fly up over my head and watch the world spin around. I was never happier then when tucked into a ball, rotating on my own axis, my focus on my core and nothing else. Gymnastics was my religion, the gym — my church.

Then graduation came, teenage love turned into marriage, and my “Why not” attitude turned into a carrousel ride on the local college’s nursing track program.

There were at least three occasions I thought about quitting. Microbiology was painstakingly boring. Krebs Cycle — don’t even ask me about it. (Go talk to Victo at https://doctorly.wordpress.com.) There is at least one nursing instructor that put such a fear in me that I will remember her name with I am ninety years old.  But I made it through.

Twenty-five years to love my job.

Half of my waking hours are spent at work. So, if I choose to, I could surmise that twenty-five percent of my cumulative consciousness has been time wasted — time — a commodity I find precious. At first, it saddens me to immortalize this fact by typing it on the page.  My only consolation is having pondered my career path from its inception and now understanding why it took so long to love what I do.

In the early years I was afraid — afraid the patients wouldn’t like me, the doctors would belittle me, and the seasoned nurses would find my mistakes before I could double back and check my work. I panicked when given a new task and turned the other way when I saw a doctor coming my way. Much time passed before I was confident of my skills. I maintained a cautious reserved attitude at work, only loosening up a little when I transferred to an OB position on the night shift. The one thing I never found any value in, even after a decade of nursing, was the patient “chat time”. Being pulled to the bedside to hear a story from years gone past was, in my opinion, minutes wasted. I didn’t know what to do with all the emotional purging that transpired each time I was at the patient’s bedside. Talking was time consuming. And when it was all done, I still had as much work to do.

I learned to listen when my daughter reached middle school and became socially active. Now, my hearing didn’t improve because she and I were becoming best buddies. That was hardly the case. I went into case management to accommodate her new schedule (and my additional responsibilities as a single parent). The job involved hours of telephonic work. Listening, patience, and asking the right questions accounted for fifty percent of the time.

My little princess, she grew up and I went back to clinical nursing.

Enough time had passed and with the changes in healthcare, I essentially had to start over. Relearn everything.  Yes, I was nervous at first, several years had passed. One thing is different. I am excited every day I go to work. Knowing I have an opportunity to listen, connect, and be there for someone else, it means everything to me. So in summary, this is what I think happened:

I fell in love with nursing when I was mature enough to love the profession like a woman loves a man, unconditionally, cherishing the moments of synchronicity and enduring the trials that test the relationship. Nursing is not a job for people that don’t want to grow up. Nor is it a job for those that might be considered heavy in the “self-focus” department.

The career crush happens when you can connect with your patients. The connection with the patients comes when you’ve experienced the same sense of vulnerability you see in the eyes of your patients, when you realize you are no different than them…when you know what it means to be human.


30 responses to “Dirty Little Secret

  1. DM says:

    Thank you for pulling back the curtain..also, what you’ve done here is help me recognize the great nurses and Dr’s I have in my life. I can tell everyone of them has that “spark” and they really do care.

    • Susan says:

      We nurses have moments when we shine in addition to moments we deserve a little pop upside the head. I like that “pulling back the curtain”. Reminds me of you telling me to ” unload” a little more in a response comment to your post on pretense 🙂

  2. Victo Dolore says:

    Don’t ask me about the Krebs Cycle. I think I hate it as much as you do! 😉

  3. I love your attitude and outlook. You see people at their most vulnerable and probably they are terribly scared. How a stay in the hospital, or outpatient clinic, is experienced depends on the front line worker. My wife got breast cancer last year and needed a mastectomy. In the big picture of hospitals and treatment this likely isn’t a huge deal but it was terrifying for us. Really scary. A bit of compassion went a long way. And we were really fortunate to have some excellent people that were kind, competent, and really decent. Nurses who are probably a lot like you.

    • Susan says:

      What a big big thing for the two of you to have gone through. I hope she has been getting good reports with her follow up treatment and visits.

      • Yes. It all went really, really, well. It was a shock though. Maureen was only 46. Didn’t drink, smoke, wasn’t even a little over weight, a lifetime swimmer. We have some amazing facilities here in Edmonton and the after care is fantastic. Her sister is an oncologist so that helps too. But my lord, we sure are eating healthy now.

  4. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    I LOVE me some “dirty little secrets!” -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here, please visit their blog.

  5. Bravo to you! I am having surgery next month. May my nurse(s) be like you…

  6. I love this post. Honest to the bone.

  7. Ellen Hawley says:

    I’ve never quite understood how nurses (and other medical people) carry the weight of responsibility that comes with the job. If you can do that and love it both, more power to you–however long it took you to get there.

  8. mscassiopeia says:

    I appreciate and sometimes hate the profession Nursing.
    It thought me a lot of things, including being more human, compassionate and considerate.
    I’m forever grateful, and even if I dream, want and love to be something else, I enjoyed the feeling of being able to help someone in several ways.

    I hate it when I can’t do what I love to do, and when people around me keep forcing me to work as a nurse. It’s torture.

    I don’t hate nursing, I just want to do what I love to do. I know I can help people in other ways without working as a nurse. As for me, I have yet to find clarity, freedom, and more prayers to say for people to understand that I don’t want to be a nurse.

    Reading your blog, I’m proud and happy for you.
    I have yet to find clarity, and peace to come up with what I need to do with my situation.

    • Susan says:

      You know, I was so discouraged with nursing at year five, I took speech therapy classes part time for two years and added a degree in Speech therapy to my belt. But without a MA, there were few jobs.
      Back to you, I encourage you to learn about different type of nursing. Floor nursing is exhausting. You might enjoy getting into a specialty like cardiac cath lab, endoscopy, outpatient surgery. There are lots of specialties that are Monday through Friday jobs – that, for starters , helps! You are home when everyone else is, you have your weekends … If I had known all the types of nursing there was out there, I might not have spent two extra years of my valuable personal time back in school for a degree that I , to this day , have not used! If you have your LPN, get your RN – it will increase your opportunities. If you have your RN, check out specialty jobs in the hospital. Find out what it takes to get those jobs. Every morning after my night job, I went to the Endoscopy department and ask for the Policy and Procedure book to read. I talked to the nurses there. A month later, I applied. I didn’t get it. A month passed and someone retired. I applied again. I got the job. I was so happy to have a day job.

      You can figure this out.
      My prayers go to you!

  9. Janice Wald says:

    Hi,
    I love the humanity of this post. It reminds me of a William hurt movie I once saw with the doctor did not understand he needed to have compassion but by the end of the movie he became the patient and did. My daughter Hayley is planning on becoming a nurse. I hope she is the compassionate kind like you.
    Congratulations on being Danny Ray’s featured blogger. I was his featured blogger also.
    Maybe you can check out my blog if you need a blogging tip or two. That’s what I write about. For example, I write about free tools and tips that can help bloggers.
    Janice

    • Janice Wald says:

      PS I like the way your blog name rhymes.

      • Susan says:

        “The Doctor” – it’s one of my favorite movies !
        It’s exciting to meet be people via WordPress and so flattering to be featured !
        I’m definitely down with getting tips on posting and writing in general! Thanks!

      • Janice Wald says:

        Thank you – – for your reply and your interest. I never saw the Doctor. I want to now though. I will look forward to your visit to my blog. I would love to have your readership.
        Janice

  10. Etoile 75007 says:

    What great post! I love Nursing, too. Like you it took me a while coz I have to deal with the business side of it instead of just caring for my patients. As a young nurse I had to reconcile why we had to deal with all those requirements in documentation just so we’ll get reimbursed instead of just focusing on the “nursing” part of my vocation. I was a frustrated young nurse for a while. lol

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