Thank you to the Nurse by Katie Barnack

 In my life and nursing career, I have crossed paths with hundreds of nurses in a wide range of settings. From family members in the nursing profession, to formal preceptors and informal mentors, all of these nurses have impacted my life and my nursing practice. This Nurses Week, I’d like to take a minute to thank some of those nurses. 

First of all, thank you to the nurses – my parents – who taught me what a nurse should look like. A nurse isn’t necessarily a woman in scrubs or a nurse’s uniform. Sometimes it’s a dad in a flight suit, getting home from his shift two hours late, because a helicopter transport call came in at 0615, and it was his to take. Sometimes it’s a mom, toting her kids with her to home health visits, because the patient with the wound dressing lives right next to the soccer field. Nursing became a part of my everyday life, and I thank you for that. Also, thank you to those nurses who taught me what truly constitutes an emergency. When I suffered a bad concussion, that was an emergency – you took me to the emergency department, but not before Dad stopped to change, because he had to work that night in the same ED. When I passed out from dehydration on a bike ride, that was not an emergency – you pulled me into the shade, gave me some water, and then reminded me that we still needed to ride the ten miles back to town.

Thank you to the nurse at my elementary school, who became more like a counselor to me for many years. Thanks for letting me come in after lunch every day, just to say hi and chat. Thanks for still being my friend on Facebook (20 years later!) and encouraging me in my career.

Thank you to the clinical instructor, who carefully explained to this terrified nursing student that no, the double shoulder dystocia and maternal hemorrhage I had just witnessed were not normal. You didn’t prepare me for that, and I think that was intentional? Thank you for capitalizing on the teaching opportunity.

Thank you to the nurse who guided me through my student internship in the emergency department. You taught me, the naïve student, how to use my “nurse voice” to collect a history from the disorderly drunk. On my first day, you made me start 20 IVs – thanks for that. You let me see everything, try everything, and sometimes fail – but you always checked in with me to make sure I was okay.

Thank you to the nurses I went to school with. Nursing school was rough, and we wouldn’t have gotten through it without each other. Special thanks to my roommate – we had more late-night/early morning study sessions and breakdowns than we’d like to count, but we made it!

Thank you to the nurse who was my first preceptor on my first night shift of my first real nursing job. You were mean, and you taught me how to never treat a student or new nurse. 

Thank you to the nurse that mentioned sometimes a warm blanket does more to calm down the sundowner than any medication. I’ll pile those on now, and you were right, it really does help.

Thank you to the ICU nurse who responded to my first code. I was the charge nurse with only 10 months nursing experience, and my first ever code happened at 0300, when things were “slow” on night shift. The code was messy, and we med-surg nurses didn’t know what to do. You helped me in the moment, and then you sat with me for an hour afterwards as I muddled through my notes to document. You came back to check on me the next night, and gave me encouragement when it was really needed.

Thank you to the nurse that showed me how to insert a rectal tube. For some reason, I didn’t learn that in nursing school, and it’s a skill that has saved me many times.

Thank you to my first emergency department preceptor, for exemplifying the compassion a nurse should have, even one who has been in the ED for 30 years. You never judged patients, always advocated, and saw past their struggles to their true humanity. I stood in awe listening to how you could talk to them, and tried to take many mental notes.

Thank you to the nurse that taught me that when a conscious patient goes into v-tach, it looks like a seizure. That’s good to know. Thank you to the nurse that pulled me to the rapid infuser during a trauma code, saying there was no better time to learn how to use it than right then. You were right. I’m still learning how to work in the ED, and I want to thank all the nurses for being patient with me, and sharing your wisdom freely.

Thank you to all the nurses who have been in the trenches beside me. Who have helped hold my patients when they need linen changes, or gotten to the screaming bed alarm first and saved my patient from a fall. Thank you to those who have gone in to care for my vomiting patient in exchange for literally whatever you want, because I still have a real hard time with that. Thank you for making that joke to lighten the mood, or for offering your shoulder to cry on when we can’t. Thank you for the shift swaps, the venting sessions, that knowing look (you know the look), the encouragement, and the support. Thank you to all of the nurses I have met through cyberspace! You teach me new things every day, make me laugh, brighten my day, and occasionally make me very thankful that I didn’t have your shift! 
There are many I have missed, but I hope you all know how much you are appreciated, by both your patients and your peers. We have a hard job, and we need to continue to encourage each other. Take a moment to thank someone who has been influential in your nursing career!