I was just about to begin my shift one morning when it happened. A weary-eyed night-shift friend of mine came up to me and said, “Debi, I need you to go home tonight and write something that’ll make me want to come back and do this again.”
I knew she was half-kidding, but she looked so tired. I looked around and saw that EVERYBODY just looked so tired. Incoming AND outgoing nurses. We were all just droopy and dragging. Discouraged. Weighed-down.
How incredibly sad.
It’s a really tough time to be a nurse – for several different reasons. For one thing, people are just sicker than they used to be – their care is incredibly complex. It’s a rare thing to have a patient who’s simply got the flu. Many are uncontrolled diabetics with COPD who are on dialysis with ridiculously high blood pressures and they’re also in heart failure. And a-fib. WITH the flu.
So not only are we trying to care for them as the virus runs its course, we’re also carefully balancing their fluid and electrolyte levels because their kidney function is in the tank, we’re ordering respiratory treatments because they’re O2 levels are just darned scary, we’re trying to get their blood sugar near some semi-acceptable range of normal so they can heal, plus we’re constantly monitoring their heart rhythms and blood pressures so they don’t have a stroke. Or worse.
All this while we’re passing meds, answering our phones, rounding with doctors, updating families, admitting, discharging, drawing labs, and running from call-light to call-light. And you can multiply all this times 5 very unique patients at-a-time each and every shift. Are you dizzy yet? My head is swimming just thinking about it.
Another of the challenges we face is the constant change that modern “healthcare” keeps bringing to the practice of nursing. Each and every day new responsibilities are being laid squarely on the shoulders of the nurses. Yet none are being lifted to balance it out. The weight and pressure of all of this is not only absolutely overwhelming, it tends to cloud the very reason we all chose this profession in the first place.
We just wanted to take care of people. We just wanted to help heal.
As I looked around the nurses’ station that morning, I thought, “No wonder everybody looks so tired – we’ve become war-torn.” This made me even more determined to think about what my friend asked me to do.
So as my day got started, my phone started ringing. Incessantly. The whole time I’m on one call, I’m hearing the beep of another one waiting for me to hang up. Each call is giving me something else to do. And whatever it is, it’ll need to be done now. Right now.
But my patients are waiting for me. My people. It’s time to sit and connect with them. We need to connect. We do. That’s why I do this – to connect. To help. Plus it’s time for their meds. They need their meds. But the phone keeps ringing, interrupting us. Interrupting everything.
The hours fly by, the tension mounts. The phone doesn’t stop. I think about my friend – what she asked me to write. All I can think at that moment is that “I’ve got nothing. I’ve literally got nothing to say.”
This is crazy. This whole day is just crazy. The expectations are simply impossible. How can I give her a reason to come back when at this moment I can’t think of a single one myself?
Then I walked out of a room feeling totally defeated and there she stood.
A well-dressed, middle-aged woman was in the hallway looking at me, grinning from ear-to-ear. She said to me, “You were my nurse a few years ago and I still remember how much you helped me. You made me feel normal – like I wasn’t as sick as I really was. That was so important to me. Thank you so much for that.”
The funny thing is, because of the high volume of patients we see come and go, I really have no memory of ever treating this lady, but I hugged her tight and I thanked her. And then I thanked her again because she really had no idea just how badly I had needed to hear that right at that moment. Her words had broken through my fog of pressure. Her words had cleared my head and lifted my eyes.
And her words had finally given me something to say.
As nurses, we have no way to measure the impact of what we do. But this lady reminded me that every, single thing we do is important. We’re helping someone. What could be more important? Really. What higher honor is there? I can’t think of one. And no matter how we help them. It all matters. It does. Even when we don’t remember doing it.
Because what’s important is that SHE remembered. That’s really all that matters.
The thing is that we get bogged down by all the peripheral chaos. How can we not? It chases us around all day, not giving us a moment’s peace. All the expectations, the ringing phones, all the plates we have to keep spinning. They’re necessary – we can’t ignore them – but they’re distracting. Draining. Discouraging.
But we can’t let them be. We have to control their effect on us. We HAVE to. Because, if we don’t, we become jaded and dark. Burnt like toast.
So, just like my friend – I was in a place where I needed to be reminded why I do this. And why I should KEEP doing this. I can’t speak for her, but I know that I personally need this reminder over and over again. And it seems to be with increasing frequency. Things have been just that tough lately. And they’re not going to get any easier any time soon.
So I make myself stop and remember how I got here. God called me to nursing. I know this without a shadow of a doubt. I put on my scrubs every, single day in His name. But that doesn’t mean He’ll make it easy for me. Or any of us.
One thing I’ve learned through my Lupus-tangled journey, is that His lessons are painful and exhausting. God doesn’t teach and grow us by wrapping us up in a soft, cozy blanket. He refines us with fire. And He keeps turning up the heat until He rids us of all our junk – all that stuff that’s weighing down our hearts, sapping our strength, and shifting our eyes off of Him.
Finally … what He sees when He looks at us is a reflection of His face, not ours. His humility, not our pride. His mercy, not our impatience. His strength, not our self-centered weariness.
He called me here to Nursing – there’s absolutely no way to fail. He won’t allow it. There’s no way to burn out. It can’t happen. No way to remain wrapped up in my weakened achiness. Not if I’m trusting Him for my strength and vision.
He provides exactly what we need to accomplish His purpose. No matter what that is in our lives. His purpose cannot be defeated. Even when we allow the distractions of the periphery to cloud us with doubt. Even when we shift our focus off of Him. Even when we think we’re too tired to go back and do it again.
He will grab hold of us, give us His kiss of strength, and draw us right back to where we need to be. Where He called us to be. Where He created us to be. And sometimes He’ll even use the beautiful smile of a patient we can’t seem to remember to get us there.
Thanks for growing with me.
“This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver, I will test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say ’They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:9)