Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts
~ Florence Nightingale.
A little more than twenty-five years ago this happened.
It’s true we actually shouted “SMEGMA” as the photographer got this shot. New grad nurses, actually nurses in general can be kind of gross, sick and twisty in our humor, especially when tired, hungry, frustrated, grossed out, ready to cry or just about to lose our shit. If I really, posed in proper, starched nursing whites under a 90 something degree hot sun we were just about to lose our shit as it seemed to take forever to get this shot of my graduating class. Kick-ass, rockstar nurses we were all destined to be; but being able to line up and pose together as a group….not so much. So when the photographer directed us to say “cheese“, “SMEGMA” it was.
Literally a week later, two fellow classmates and I entered the NICU as new grad registered nurses. Dressed in the NICU’s pink scrubs, we walked through the double doors shoulder to shoulder to shoulder scared and excited all at once. Our NICU nurse educator ran up to us exclaiming, “Oh good! You’re here. We’re admitting a 27 weaker right now. You need to come and see this.”
My first thought as she led the way was she seemed just a little too excited about admitting a baby born 13 weeks too soon. My second thought, as we approached the bedside and as the four caregivers stepped aside so that we could see was what in the world had I got myself into. That baby seemed to be no bigger than my hand. Her skin was translucent. I could see some of her blood vessels. She looked like a broken baby bird that had fallen from her nest.
Just a week later, I picked up her less than 2 pound body and flipped her from her tummy to her back, breathing tube, monitor wires and multiple IV lines all still attached to her impossibly tiny body. “You need to breath.”, my preceptor whispered into my ear…quite possibly the best advice I have ever received from an RN who helped to train and educate me; second only to always, always take a break when offered.
Twenty-five years ago, I received a card from that baby girl’s mama that she, Baby Bailey, was expecting her first child.
Yeah, that seals it. I’m one of the old nurses.
Twenty-five years of always doing what I love to do…taking care of the tiny humans and their mommies, daddies, brothers, sisters and grandparents. Lots of babies. So many babies. So much love. So much laughter. So many tears. Learning so much…always learning…always….as one does when one is practicing one of the finest of Fine Arts. Always appreciating the opportunity to do what I love…enjoying the grateful hugs from a mommy and daddy as we together pack up their baby to finally go home from the NICU after literally weeks and weeks and then only a few hours later hugging a tearful mama who is literally experiencing the worst day of her life as she hears that her baby is dying. Twenty five years. Some days are worse. Some days are better. Some days are frustrating and exhausting. But rewarding, exhilarating and wonderful all the same.
Some days are hard….horribly hard. But most days are good…the goodest of good which literally saves you from the most heartbreaking, pain-filled days. Then years later receiving a card like Bailey’s mama sent me reminds me again the good my practice has done because Bailey is soon going to be a mommy. That, my friends is indeed Fine Art, Fine Art that I can lay claim to as is each and every tiny, mighty human and their families I have had the privilege to lay hands upon for over the last twenty five years in the NICU. Here’s to many more years, for as long as my mind, my heart, my eyes and my body allows me to.