The Truth About Nursing

I am a night shift bedside nurse. This is my career. This is what I have chosen to do with my life. I love caring for people and making a difference in their lives. It’s what I was meant to do. In any given shift, I am happy, hopeful, frustrated and completely heartbroken by my patients. I work three days a week, yes ONLY three days a week. I frequently hear this from people, “Wow it must be nice to only work three days a week!” While I can’t disagree that working ONLY three days a week is nice, unless you are a nurse, you have absolutely no idea what goes on in those three 12 hour shifts. These 12 hour shifts frequently turn to 14. In these 12 hours, we will clean up the same incontinent patient more than 10 times. We will hold an emesis basis for you while you’re throwing up and ensure you don’t choke or aspirate. We will straight cath you to drain your bladder a few times a shift to give you relief when you can’t urinate on your own. We will place a nasogastric tube when you have a bowel obstruction and can’t stop vomiting. We will bathe you when you are unable to do it on your own. We will assist you out of bed after surgery and help you walk the halls to recover faster. We will pass what feels like hundreds of medications per night to help you feel better. We will closely monitor your vital signs, urine output and the more subtle clues that we come to know mean something isn’t quite right. We will call physicians in the middle of the night to ask for Tylenol for your excruciating headache, only to be reprimanded by them for waking them up at 2 AM. We will assess your heart, lungs, and bowel sounds for abnormalities, empty your drains, change your colostomies, monitor your chest tubes and make sure that you are comfortable and warm enough to hopefully get some rest during this difficult time in your life. We will communicate all through the night with your worried family members that call to check on you or stay at your bedside. We will run down the hall when we hear your bed alarm going off because we know this means you’re getting up on your own and you are likely to fall when doing so. We will gather 4 or 5 staff members to clean you up or turn you when you weigh over 500 pounds. We will reposition you in bed hundreds of times a night because your injured leg/arm hurts, you have slid down to far in the bed, or you need to be turned every couple of hours to prevent pressure ulcers or help them heal. We will provide comfort care at the end of your life and then when you pass away it breaks our hearts. However, we have to put our emotions aside and clean you up, remove your tubes/IVs, and make you presentable for your family to come say their goodbyes. We also get the gut wrenching job of calling your family to tell them you have left this world. We skip breaks and hold our bladders for hours because we know that you need our help. We put ourselves second; this is the nature of a nurse or any caregiver for that matter.
By the end of a shift, we are so physically and mentally exhausted that sometimes it’s difficult to go home and have anything left to give. A load of laundry, a sink of dishes, or even a conversation with someone you love seems like to much to handle. I absolutely love what I do, and yet bedside nursing is starting to feel almost impossible for me. While physically and mentally demanding, this isn’t the reason nursing is challenging. It’s nearly impossible because of the way we are treated by the patients we so painstakingly care for. We are verbally and sometimes even physically abused. I have been cussed out more times than I can count. I have been scratched, punched, bitten and had my hair pulled. Unfortunately, due to the fact I work nights, I frequently have to wake you up for medications and check on you throughout the night to make sure you are still breathing and feeling okay. I understand it’s frustrating to not be able to sleep through the night when you’re tired, but I am there to ensure you stay alive and get to return home to your family when you are discharged. I am writing this because it has been a rough couple months on my floor. All we want as caregivers is your respect, that’s it. It sounds very simple, but it is becoming more and more difficult to come by in today’s world. Bedside nurses are a necessity and more and more are deciding to leave the profession. We already have a critical shortage of nurses it seems on every floor and at every hospital. Please be kind to us. We want nothing more than to see you heal and go home to your families.
Thank you to all of my work family on 12 south. I promise you that I could not do my job without all of you amazing people and your love and support. πŸ’™πŸ™πŸ½πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€βš•οΈ