Current tunes: Oh Honey, Be Okay
February 6 is here people. Probably my favorite personal holiday. Okay it’s my only personal holiday other than my birthday because I made it up…but today marks the day I received my NCLEX results that officially allowed me to add two little letters to my name- RN. I call it my nursiversary. Sounds cheesy, I know, and it hasn’t made its way into Urban Dictionary yet but I have high hopes (although I did Google it and found a few things about breastfeeding…which is not really the type of celebration I am going for…) My nursiversary is significant because each year I think about how my life has changed for the better because of my career. Because of this change I have been blessed with the means to visit seven different countries and live in three different cities over the last two years. Because of this change I have touched more bodily fluids, wiped more tears, and have seen more hurt than most 25 years olds living in modern America. And because of this change I have learned that health and wellness is probably one of our most abused gifts and that mortality is so painstakingly real.
With all that being said, there have been days I get home from a shift and think, “Why the heck do I put myself through this?” I’ll often get a text from a friend asking about my work day. Hmmm…how do you say my patient was leaking blood from his rectum all day and eventually had to change scrubs because as his nurse you cannot avoid the Splash Zone? Or that I had to call a man to say your loved one probably has a few hours left so come quick and then later place that said loved one in a plastic bag for the morgue? Or that you feared for your life as you called security and had to physically tie a human being to a bed while they screamed, kicked, and called you unmentionable names because their drug and alcohol withdrawals were so intense? Okay so this stuff doesn’t happen every day, but any ICU nurse has experienced these said events (and multiple times as well I am sure). If I just scared some pre-nursing majors away from pursuing the field, I probably should say I am sorry but I will not. Instead I say you’re welcome. Maybe I just saved you from entering a role that not every one wants. That is the stuff they do not teach you or prepare you for in nursing school.
So yea, it is not a glamorous job and I would be lying if I said I was going to do bedside nursing forever. We all get burnt out. But as for now, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Each day I get to be somebody’s person…and maybe it’s partly selfish but that makes me feel like I have purpose. My first nursiversary was celebrated with a solo adventure to New Zealand and last year my best nursing friend and I had a bed and breakfast weekend in Santa Barbara. And because I am somewhat limited to San Francisco with work at the moment, in celebration of my third nursiversary, I give you this list: Five Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself Before I Became A Nurse (and anyone in nursing school or those considering nursing). This will also give insight to some readers who maybe have no real idea as to what registered nurses actually do.
Five Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself Before I Became A Nurse:
1) You will see more junk and boobs than you ever wanted to. If nakedness bothers you, get over it. Or learn how to master what I call the face of indifference. Not every patient will be asleep or unconscious and the person lying in front of you is already sick and has been literally stripped from all independence so the last thing they need is you criticizing their family jewels. It takes practice but soon enough you’ll be numb to it.
2) Stop studying for the wrong reasons. Lighten up a bit Miriam. Spending your Friday night at Denny’s and coffee shops to do 20 page care plans will not make you a better nurse. You are not studying for the test. You are studying for that moment when you may be the difference between a patient’s next year of life and a coffin. Sounds dramatic but seriously, learn for your patients and your integrity as a well informed, safe-practicing nurse.
3) Prepare to become the most insensitive yet most caring person you have ever been. It is true that nursing provides so many experiences to be empathetic. But there will be times when you might crack a joke during a code blue as you’re doing CPR, when you find humor in someone’s newly amputated limb, or when you giggle about the patient that can’t stop sharting every five seconds because of the antibiotics and tube feeding they are receiving. But it’s not because you’ve turned into a bad person. It’s because you will come to realize that if you do not inject humor into this profession, you may feel like slitting your wrists every time you go home.
4) You will make mistakes no matter how careful you are. When you work for 12 hours at a time, you will get tired no matter how many coffees and Red Bulls you consume. But please do follow your gut. Ask questions. If a doctor orders something that sounds a bit off or smells fishy, clarify it. Or if you remember some random fact in the back of your head about a medicine causing a certain side effect in patients similar to yours, look it up. You could save yourself some peace of mind and not to mention, some one’s life.
5) Never feel inferior to doctors and respond to a question you may not know with “I’m just the nurse.” Because guess what- we are never just nurses. To some degree, we are also therapists, janitors, babysitters, pharmacists, and scientists. It is a big job and you will not always be able to answer every question but nurses are resourceful and do not ever apologize for not having all the knowledge just because you are not the primary care provider.
Well there ya have it. I definitely think knowing some of these things would have better prepared me for what I think has been the wildest ride I have ever taken.
My last piece of news is about where I am headed next…or I should say where I am staying. That’s right, after much deliberation, my travel partner Kaitlin and I have decided to turn down our Portland opportunity and stay in San Francisco until June. I’ll be honest, a week ago I was so ready to leave The City and was looking forward to getting away from the crowdedness of SF. But doors kept opening and signs kept popping up that made us feel like we were meant to stay. Between getting offered an extension by our current workplace, family members getting sick, our apartment being available until June, weddings and babies being born…it just all started to fall into place. I will say, even after all of that I was still resistant to staying here longer. Of the two of us, I definitely have had a harder time adjusting and I miss San Diego SO much (Kaitlin calls me a “sun baby” and I think I was made for SD). I also worked all the winter holidays and Karl the Fog has been giving me seasonal depression which added to my anti-SF platform.
Buuuut after a weekend of exploring SF solo, a few heart to hearts, and some prayer time, it became clear that staying in California a bit longer just makes the most sense for me right now. And I must say over this last week of debating and trying to decide, something clicked and I do feel like San Francisco is growing on me. Plus while it took two months, I finally feel comfortable going into work here and leave each shift without wanting to cry. Getting reoriented to new hospitals every three months is really not the business. It’s my LEAST favorite part of travel nursing. And lastly, I just have so much left to eat in this city! Kaitlin and I actually have a list of restaurants and sight seeing that we want to accomplish before June. Yes, most of it is food related but whatever. The only good thing about the cold here is the puffy jackets and leggings that I wear on the regular.
We did cross off one of the big ones last weekend and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge. We rented from a local shop near Fisherman’s Wharf, went over the bridge, made our way to Sausalito, chowed on some seafood, took the ferry back to SF, and ended with some hot Irish coffees at the famous Irish Pub, Buena Vista. It was a blast and I highly recommend it to tourists and locals alike.
Well here’s to four more months in The City. Friends and family, come visit me!
Cheers and keep on wishin’!