party like it’s nurses week

Actually it has been Nurses Week, all week long this week, May 6-12, with the added bonus of a waxing and waning full moon. It’s okay because I really do have the privilege to have the best job ever and with the best scrubs squad ever where we get to be the advocate of the adorable, the bundler of the babies and the healer of the helpless.

It’s the eve of Nurses’ Day, Florence Nightingale’s 197th birthday and I am going to put on my scrubs and party all night like I just drank and entire pot of coffee! Because I have and because I have so much love in the scrubs.

me reflecting on the art of practicing the finest of Fine Arts

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. The reality is 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 later, 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.

not even a wordless Wednesday: the nurses week edition

Yes, it’s that time of year again. It’s Nurses Week. Of course as a nurse I am celebrating and enjoying the well wishes from my co-workers and the parents of former patients and anyone else out there because it is kind of nice to have a week of recognition; which we share with teachers. The irony that two of the most thankless professions most days (as in if there is a problem it is, of course the teacher’s or nurse’s fault) share a week of national appreciation and recognition.

I took the time to send a note of thanks to Daniel’s teachers today. Actually I sent them a note and email about concerns about him not understanding the current chapter in his math class and his parents not understanding at all because what the hell is up with Common Core…and then I thanked them for all that they do to help support, encourage and teach Daniel…as I do every single time I send them a note, or email them, or talk to them on the phone, or face to face because Daniel has some pretty wonderful teachers and I can’t thank them enough.

Then I found some of my favorite nurses-related memes and cards that I pinned on Pinterest to remind me on the days when I am feeling especially tired, exhausted, thankless or covered in the most disgusting yuck that I am afraid to enter the Big Top for fear of spreading it. I laugh. I cry. I think. I give thanks. Then I am ready to put the scrubs on again and do what I do because I do love what I do. So in celebration of me, some of the smartest, funniest, loving, hard-working people I get to work with and who have literally saved the lives of some of my circus act, most recently the darling husband; I give you some laughter and some deep, heart-felt thoughts on what I do.

and one more because, yes, this has actually happened to me at least three times in my 25+ year career…true story.

Happy Nurses Week!

Thank a nurse. Hug a nurse. Buy a nurse a cup of coffee…a massage…lunch…maybe some sleep.

Bound by paperwork, short on hands, sleep, and energy … nurses are rarely short on caring.” — Sharon Hudacek

forever devoted to those committed to my care

While talking on the phone to a patient’s family, they tell me that it makes them so happy knowing that I am there taking care of their loved one.

And in that moment, I am reminded of just one of the eleventy million reasons why I am lucky to have the best job ever.

Eleventy million?

Yes, in spite of my suspect math skills I know that isn’t a real number. But it should be as it represents a virtually infinite number of reasons why I love what I do. Every day there is something to remind me like hearing a parent express to you their trust and their gratitude.

It’s what I do and I love that I get to do what I do. It’s what I pledged to always do almost 25 years ago when I received my nursing degree, as I recited the Nightingale Pledge.

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

Composed in 1893 by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, it was first used by its graduating class in the spring of 1893. It is an adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians. While the words are dated, the meaning rings true today as I put on those scrubs, pick up my patient assignment each night and spend the next often exhausting 12 hours caring for tiny humans and their families.

Coincidentally this past week in Michigan, the Michigan House of Representatives, led by Speaker Jase Bolger just passed the bill, HB5958, that would allow discrimination to become sanction by the state. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, akin to one that made nationwide headlines in Arizona but was vetoed, appears to merely force the government to step aside if a person’s “deeply-held religious beliefs” mandate they act, or not act, in a certain manner. Although subject to legal interpretation, under the Religious Freedom law, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor’s prescription for birth control, or HIV medication. An emergency room physician or EMT could refuse service to a gay person in need of immediate treatment. A school teacher could refuse to mentor the children of a same-sex couple, and a DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver’s license to a person who is divorced.

Personally I share the frustration and outrage expressed by friends who identify themselves as LGBT over this legislative action. I doubt seriously they will seek out a church who preaches hate from the pulpit to preside over their wedding vows, or a ultra-conservative Christian bakery to make their wedding cake or do any other business transactions with those that openly expresses such hate. But imagine an openly LGBT person seeking emergency care in a hospital. Can a healthcare worker really refuse to provide emergency, life-saving care to them because it goes against their deeply held religious beliefs? Would a god actually condemn someone who has studied and pledged to provide care for all individuals needing it?

In 1950, The American Nurses’ Association adopted a Code for Professional Nurses that applies to all nurses, including those involved in patient care, administration, education and research.

Provision 1:
The nurse, in all professional relationships, practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of health problems.

Provision 2:
The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.

Provision 3:
The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.

Provision 4:
The nurse is responsible and accountable for individual nursing practice and determines the appropriate delegation of tasks consistent with the nurse’s obligation to provide optimum patient care.

Provision 5:
The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.

Provision 6:
The nurse participates in establishing, maintaining, and improving healthcare environments and conditions of employment conducive to the provision of quality healthcare and consistent with the values of the profession through individual and collective action.

Provision 7:
The nurse participates in the advancement of the profession through contributions to practice, education administration and knowledge development.

Provision 8:
The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public in promoting community, national, and international efforts to meet health needs.

Provision 9:
The profession of nursing, as represented by associations and other members, is responsible for articulating nursing values, for maintaining the integrity of the profession and its practice, and for shaping social policy.

As an American, I am thankful for the First Amendment affording me and all American citizens the right to religious freedom…praise god for that! As a person who mostly identifies as a Christian, I am compelled to live by the Greatest Commandment especially in loving others as I (should) love myself. As a Registered Nurse, I am equally compelled my vocation, my pledge and my code to provide the best of care to each and every tiny human who passes through the NICU where I practice, regardless of who their parents are…whether they be straight, gay, married, single, under-age, US citizen, immigrant (legal or illegal), homeless, addict, mentally ill or convict. A life is a life and always precious and worth preserving to the best of my abilities as a nurse. Discrimination of any kind has no place anywhere in this day but especially in an acute care setting where I do what I do. Shame on Michigan House Speaker Jace Bolger and the Michigan legislature as well as anyone who cloaks themselves in such a ridiculous, hateful, discriminatory law in t6he name of whomever they choose to worship!

Let us be anxious to do well, not for selfish praise but to honor and advance the cause, the work we have taken up. Let us value our training not as it makes us cleverer or superior to others, but inasmuch as it enables us to be more useful and helpful to our fellow creatures, the sick, who most want our help. Let it be our ambition to be good nurses, and never let us be ashamed of the name of ‘nurse’.

~Florence Nightingale

I am a nurse and THIS is my week!

Dudes!

It is. This week is mine and every single nurse out there whom you have the pleasure to know…or perhaps the displeasure, because more often than not when you encounter a nurse, a REAL nurse, not a medical technician in your doctor’s office, you aren’t having much fun and likely not feeling well at all. You are probably scared and in a lot of pain and the last thing you feel like doing is making friends or making small talk with a total stranger wearing scrubs.

photo credit: Jackie Smith Barnard

It’s okay. We understand because, more often than not, we meet this way. You or your loved one is critically ill and we are busy saving you or your loved one’s life. We don’t judge. We do what we do because we care. We care a lot.

I imagine that most of you probably aren’t worrying too much about how we look. I mean you are probably scared and in a lot of pain; or you are stressed and worried about someone you love who is scared, stressed, doesn’t feel well and is in a lot of pain. So in spite of some conclusions drawn from March 2012 study of Patients’ Perception of Patient Care Providers with Tattoos and/or Body Piercings that surveyed only 150 patients in a rural Georgia hospital, you don’t doubt our caring, confidence, reliability, attentiveness, cooperativeness, professionalism, efficiency and approachability. No, I imagine that if you are like me as a patient or the loved one of the patient or like my patients’ families you just want the assurance that I am well trained, educated and good at what I do…being a nurse who does care, is confident, is reliable, is VERY attentive, cooperative, professional, efficient and approachable…in spite of a nurse’s tattoos or piercings or hair color that is not natural.

Yeah, I got a little distracted.

Sorry.

In all seriousness, it is indeed Nurses’ Week today through Florence Nightingale’s 193rd birthday…Yay, Flo!

The point of this week isn’t all about gifts of coffee mugs or badge holders or massages (seriously the BEST nurses’ week gift I ever received…ever!) or dollar store calculators or even free Cinnabons (at a participating Cinnabon near you…the key word is PARTICIPATING Cinnabon). No, it is about you and me taking the time to thank a nurse who might have saved our life or a loved one’s life or who put up with us at our very worst when we were sick or injured. This I try to do. They might not remember me or my family…or perhaps they have chosen to purposely forget me…but I send a simple card reminding them of my hospital visit or my loved one’s and then thanking them for taking such good care of me or my loved one.

Really, that is all most nurses want…just a thank you. Trust me we don’t go into this vocation because we like feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted most of the time or because we relish the long hours and holidays away from our families or because we LOVE bodily fluids that sometimes end up on our scrubs or our shoes and we definitely don’t do what we do for the Cinnabons or the cheap calculators or yet another coffee mug or badge holder or even for the massages…although the massages are super awesome and most definitely appreciated.

Just thank a nurse and tell them that they are awesome because they are!

Also be sure to check out Anna’s week long celebration of Nurses’ Week and for a good laugh, especially if you are a nurse, check out Nurse Eye Roll.

Note: if anyone would like to see the full text of the Journal of Nursing Administration article whose link I shared and not pay the $49 to see it like I had to email me privately.