It must be stressed from the beginning that I was not a born nurse. The entirety of how I fell into the fate of heroism is due to my mother’s imprint. She is a nurse, you see. A born one, who is to be envied. I cannot retrospect a time in our lives where we had been rushed to the E.R because of some queasiness. My mother knew exactly what has to be done, and unless your ailment is debilitating, no such hustling shall take place.
Perhaps I should start my story in my college days where nursing was viewed as a 7/11 store – convenient, available, and accomodating. At least that’s how I pictured it to be before I entered the gates of my university. Of the 181 students who graduated from my high school batch, more or less 50% had chosen the path of nursing. It took me an entire summer to finally come aboard with my fellow nursing compeers. Why? In the primal years of my existence, I knew I was the kind of person who takes the road less traveled. The person who leaps beyond what’s orthodox and doesn’t abide with whatever it is that’s conventional. I was my own person, until circumstances propelled me into a different wave.
The first-year of nursing is a mixture of adjustment and ambivalence. You’ll have your first taste of epic failure, and that leaves you thinking “Was I right in choosing this profession?” I lost count of the many times I’ve pondered on deviating to a more suitable career. Besides, it’s only the first year. It’s not yet too late to make life alterations. But second year, third year, fourth year had passed, and I still found myself on the same ground. What is it in this profession that had kept me unmoved? Perhaps it’s because I was meant to be here and not there. I refused to be beaten by failures in a few units. Besides, it’s good to fail once in a while. You get to learn what your weaknesses are, and once you’re ready, you pick a perfect time to fight back. And by the the perfect time, I meant the final exams. As what a mentor told me, we learn little from our triumphs and much from our defeat. I never forget.
I did not graduate as cum laude or with any distinction. I was not that smart, apparently. And as much as it pains me to admit this, I’m just like most people. Average. But I won’t bail out to my belief that there is something in me that others don’t have. Someday, when I discover what that is, I promise to write something about it.
Going back to the world of nursing, I’ve found that the people who are supposed to have your back are the ones that end up pulling you down. I had professors who never failed to include sarcasm in their encouragements, who belittle us in every way. A piece of advice: learn to teach your students without crushing their spirits. How would you help them build their confidence if you’re already doubting their ability from the start?
I also have senior nurses who often compare us to their dawning years, back when everything done is ideal. Newsflash: it’s already the 21st century. Gone are the days when sickness were as simple as cough and flu. If you want an ideal nursing care, then give us an ideal nurse-patient ratio. How else would we become effective at work if we’re handling 20 patients per nurse and only a pair of hands?
And to top it all off, I have a mom who is a nurse. Imagine the pressure.
Another thing I’ve uncovered when I started working as a professional is that, what they teach us in school is a far cry from what’s actually happening in the walls of the hospital. When I was a student, I would only be in charge of one patient…when in reality, you get to have ten or more. This is a true test of flexibility that I wished I’ve learnt from school, but didn’t. I may have heard a professor say,”As a nurse, you must be flexible,” or have read it in Kozier’s book or something, but never really got to experience it til now.
In school, they tell you to assume a great measure of emotional distance. Well that’s easy if you’ve only known the patient for a day or two (which is the typical duty days of a student per week), but what happens if you’ve cared for that patient long enough to call him by his first name? What happens if you have to do a post-mortem care to a child whose mother is weeping incessantly in front of you? Do you get to say “Excuse me,” or “Give me a minute..” You can’t. You’d think with all the tragedies we witness in the hospital, we’ve already mastered the art of apathy. Well I tell you this, if you’re a person who cannot connect with a suffering human being then there’s something wrong with you.
In school, they ask you to be nice to other nurses, to greet every doctor you meet in the hallway. But what happens when you don’t get back the respect you unquestionably deserve? For instance, when you call upon a doctor to report a 180/100mmHg blood pressure, you’d anticipate a “thank you for this referral” reply. But instead you’ll get “Go find doctor..this or that,” then they hang up without saying goodbye. You’re lucky enough if they answer the phone, or you’ll end up like a lost bird roaming the grounds of the hospital searching for Doctor Who. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that life in the hospital could get overwhelmingly stressful which does lead to situations such as this. I just hope I was primed for it.
When you’re a student nurse, the only thing you have to worry is to not be late for duty and to come with a complete paraphernalia. And if the gods of sky heard your plea, heavy rains have the power to cancel out your duty. In the real world, you have to attend to work no matter how atrocious the weather is. What kind of angel of the sickroom are you if you stayed home while everyone else is needing your heroic service? Shame on you.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, if you’re a nursing student or planning to be one, toughen up. I know a lot of people who had the intelligence to pass the board exam, but don’t have the guts to face the true challenge of hospital work. It’s an exhausting job that often requires us to work beyond our shift. We cannot leave the hospital until we drained the last drop of patient’s X catheter. We cannot undo what has been written in patient’s A chart because erasures are prohibited. You know for a fact that we leave no room for errors when we’re dealing with a human life.
Because of this, I am often visited by nursemares. At times I would be jolted at 2:00 am and call my co-worker who is on duty and ask, “Did I give patient X her medication?? Was I able to drain the fluid from patient A’s chest??” It’s a temporary madness that we nurses are very familiar with, because we know that one inadvertent error can spell the difference between life and death.
Have I mentioned how bummering a nurse’s schedule is? We rarely involve ourselves in social activities because A) We need sleep, B) our shift simply won’tt allow it and C) we need more sleep. There are times I don’t even know what day of the week it is. We nurses work weekends and holidays because people don’t just get sick Mondays through Fridays. This is not a protest for I fully understand the career I have employed myself into. This is simply a verbalization of what it’s really like to be a nurse.
But you have to know, though nursing is the most exhausting job I know, it’s also the most rewarding. It’s true you can get two or more patients for admission on your shift, but you also get to discharge a few whom you’ve helped in their remission. I know I’ve only been working in the hospital for ten months but I am proud of myself for weathering the storms. My principles may not always concede with the hospital’s and my beliefs may differ from my workmates, but at the end of the day, you are your own person. And in those ten months, I was able to deliver a baby into life, and grant a patient’s last wish which is a decent death. Now tell me, what’s more awesome than that?