Hey you…nurse…the one with the tuft of hair fallen into her eyes while trying to secure a new line. Hey you…the one with the dirty Danskos on, clap-clap-clapping throughout the halls because you need just one more life-saving ice chip for the anxious pre-op patient in your care. Hey you…the one with the very tool draped around your neck that allows you to admire what another human being sounds like from the inside. Hey you…nurse…the one who is constantly observing and assessing and obsessing over a scenario that hasn’t quite crossed over from intuition to condition yet…but it will. It always does. And you know this, sometimes without rhyme or reason or rationale, because it’s just what you do.
You help sick hearts rest and dizzy minds settle. You bid one farewell only to welcome another almost instantly into the spot, empty only long enough for you to prepare for your next scared or anxious; confused or conflicted; intubated or sedated case to unfold. You put on a smile when you can and show stoicism when you must and bite your tongue to keep yourself from saying something you wouldn’t want stated to a loved one of your own. Sometimes you know the answers to their questions. Sometimes you have an opinion of your own. Sometimes you feel strongly about how you feel, but you chop those emotions up – you let them melt away – and you reshape pain or frustration or judgment into advocacy. You convert sympathy to empathy. You find a way to walk a mile in your patient’s shoes without ever leaving your own – and you do this every single day.
Hey you…nurse…the one pushing another round of drugs during that futile code. Hey you…the one taking a tongue-lashing from the spouse of a critically ill man. Hey you…the one coming back for another shift the next day, and learning that your patient did not…thank you.
Thank you for the Vicks rub you place under your nose, so that you can treat someone during a sensitive moment with the dignity they deserve.
Thank you for the days and the nights; the weekends and the holidays; the off shifts and the swing shifts; the long days and the longer ones.
Thank you for knowing that laughter isn’t just the best medicine; it should be taken daily like a vitamin.
Thank you for knowing when to turn it all off.
Thank you for knowing when to save the wins for a rainy day.
Thank you for knowing that we all have no goddamned clue what we’re doing, but if you fake it enough, you might just survive a shift or two.
Thank you for graciously accepting the compliment, “I could never do what you do.”
Hey you…nurse…the one who needs that spark ignited every now and then, because your job is harder than most will ever know: thank you for lighting my fire.
Thank you for crawling in these deep, dirty trenches with me. Thank you for the blood, sweat, and coffee. Thank you for the exasperated sighs and the belly laughs and the silent tears and the fact that you just get it – like art meets science meets telepathy, you simply understand. Thank you for understanding that you’re worth more than a free penlight during one measly week out of an entire year, but for humbly accepting the acts of kindness anyway. After all…you, nurse…have a certain way of balancing your class with sass.
Hey you…nurse…the one who, perhaps, hears it but doesn’t quite believe it: you are the foundation of the workplace. You are the steel beams while others are but a shiny exterior. You hold up the walls. You secure the wires. You, dear nurse…well, you keep it all together. Thank you for carrying the weight of the world on your strong, metallic shoulders. I know you must be tired…I am. So rest. Reflect. Disconnect. Repent. Release yourself of your duties…leave the nurse in your locker with your shoes and your scope. You, nurse, have lots to do when you finally return: bearing the weight of it all is awfully heavy work.
But you do it…and you do it damn well. Thank you, nurse, from one of your own.