I just finished a stretch of 4 shifts in a row that have left me exhausted. When I chose the condo that I am currently in, I knew that it was 54 miles from the facility. To some people that may sound like a long commute, but I made that decision based on travel conditions in Texas. It doesn’t take very long to get somewhere when the speed limit is 75mph, but it looks totally different at 45mph. This means that on the days that I work I am awake for 18 hours. Line that up for 4 days straight and it equals exhaustion.
Being back in a direct patient care role has brought back a perspective that I haven’t felt/seen in a long time. The mental and physical challenges of nursing, even under normal conditions, are exceptional. We work long hours doing physically demanding work, all while maintaining constant vigilance in making decisions and performing duties with potentially life-or-death consequences. We are surrounded by sickness and death while we provide care not only for patients but also for patients’ families, giving comfort and encouragement to those who are often experiencing fear, anger, or grief. Every single patient needs and deserves our undivided attention, yet that is humanly impossible.
On average, I care for 15 patients/day, each of them have individual needs and are experiencing some type of life changing experience amidst their health crisis. Their burdens become mine as I try to find the best ways to push each of them through their challenges, as well as advocate for them and help them achieve optimal health. What I forgot was how difficult this can be when trying to manage your own personal stressors and battles. Right now I am plagued by the new car that sits in my garage and doesn’t run, home sick missing my family, and experiencing a renewed sense of grief over the loss of my twin sister as the anniversary of her death approaches. These feelings/issues all have to be checked at the door when I enter the hospital in order to devote my full attention to patient care (because not only do I need to be available for their emotional needs, I can’t afford to make a medical mistake due to distraction).
I read a book once, but I can’t remember the title or author. I think about it every once in a while. The storyline had something to do with a person who had died. After death, they entered a room that was filled with pictures on the wall. I know that sounds morbid, but it was actually beautiful because upon closer look, the person was able to see that it was pictures of all of the people that he/she had met and positively impacted during their life time. I don’t remember anything else about the storyline or ending, but that part stayed with me. I can only imagine the joy I would feel at seeing the sweet faces that I have encountered over the years.
To all of my fellow nurses/aides/caregivers out there: I hear you and I see you. You are rare and special. Stay strong. The world needs more of you. You are more than just a week-long celebration every year. What you do every single day matters. Don’t ever underestimate the impact that you have on your patients and their families. Someone out there will never forget the care that you provided to them or their loved one, and they thank God for you every day. It is all worth it.