Found this blog post and thought it was worth posting. I love my jobs in both the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Paediatric Intensive Care Unit but sometimes it’s difficult to describe how my day was. So here’s some insight for those who don’t know:
I wish that when asked how my day was, I knew how to give a truthful answer. I wish I could really express what a shift is like, and know I would be understood.
If I really answered truthfully, I might start off with how many times I saw a child smile. I might tell you about the tears I wiped. I could tell stories about the kids I made laugh. I could tell you about the kids I made cry.
I might tell you about the parents I consoled, reassured, encouraged.
I might tell you about the family that thanked me, and the family that pushed me away.
I might tell you how many times I grew frustrated. Or how many times I felt annoyed. I might tell you about how many times I thought my headache couldn’t get any worse.
I might tell you how I taught a new nurse, and how I learned from an old colleague.
Maybe I would tell you about the stickers I stuck, the pages I coloured, and the teddy bears I tucked into bed.
I could tell you about the call bells that rang; the IV pumps that beeped; the monitors that alarmed.
I could tell you all about the blood product reactions, the worrisome fluid balances, or the child who was fine, and then suddenly, wasn’t.
I could tell you how many gloves I put on, basins I emptied, and faces I wiped.
I could tell you about the tricks I use to sneak in an assessment on a three-year-old; the games we play so they will take their meds; and how in order to auscultate a five-year-old’s chest, I have to pretend I’m listening for monsters.
If I were to tell you what my day was like, I might tell you that my hands will always feel sticky from hand sanitizer, and no matter how much I wash, “that smell” won’t seem to go away.
I could tell you how funny it is to hear a two-year-old say “stethoscope,” and how heart breaking it is to hear a child whisper, “I just want to go home.”
I might tell you that today I heard a child’s first word. Or saw his first steps. Or watched a premie finish her first whole bottle. I might tell you about the father who fed her, who took this small victory as a sign of hope.
I might tell you how the bravest person I know is an eight-year-old. Or the happiest person I know is a two-year-old with a medical history as old as she is.
I might tell you about a moment of joy, shared with a family, a patient, a colleague.
I might tell you how many times I felt my heart break.
I can tell you about the steps I walked; the hands I held; the songs I sang to put them to sleep.
If I could really talk about how my day was, I might tell you about the decisions I made. The priorities I set. Or about my “nurse’s intuition” that told me when I should start being concerned.
I could tell you about the orders I questioned. The orders I should have questioned. The split second decision I made. The carefully calculated words I chose.
I could tell you how I fought for my patient. I could tell you how my patient fought me.
I could talk about how I taught a parent to be the nurse to their child that they never wanted to have to be.
I could tell you how that parent taught me about hope.
I could tell you about the moments of panic. The moments of empowered confidence. How smoothly our team functioned. How resourceful we can be.
I’d want to tell you about the breaths we gave; the lives we saved; the lives we couldn’t save.
I might share with you those moments when I just didn’t know what to say. Or the times I realized there was nothing I could say.
I could tell you how often we see a child and family suffering and think that maybe enough is enough. I could tell you about all the times we think that everything will never be enough. I would struggle to tell you how hard it is to say goodbye; I’d have a harder time telling you how sometimes saying goodbye can be a relief.
I might tell you how many times I thought, “This isn’t easy.”
I could tell you about the times I feared that when I decide to have children, that they might not be healthy. I could tell you about how every time I have that thought, I wonder how my husband and I would cope – would we be like the families I meet here every day? How would we make it through?
I could tell you how hard it is to be a paediatric nurse. I could tell you how rewarding it is. I could tell you how I know I probably won’t spend my career at the bedside, but how much I know I’ll miss the bedside when I finally walk away.
I could talk about these things, if I thought I might be understood. Instead, I’ll say, “It was good,” with a smile; “I’m tired,” with a yawn.
At the end of the day, being a nurse is one of the hardest things I’ve ever chosen to do. It challenges me. It inspires me. It exhausts me. It empowers me. I love it.
So it may sound cliché, but when I’m tired and worn, I try to remember these things. And I try to gather the strength and bravery of that eight-year-old, and the happiness of that two-year-old; and maybe next time, when someone asks, “How was your day?” – I’ll smile, and yawn, and say, “It was… Indescribable.”
Written by Jaqueline Hanley (RN)