We all stood in a rough circle, listening to another briefing about safety policies and fluid plans going forward. I looked around at the nodding faces of my coworkers, asking important questions as needed, or giving suggestions to improve overall outcome. No one griped, guffawed, or rolled their eyes. We listened to conversations of personal protective equipment running low, and straightforward statements that a nursing shortage was on the horizon. Stoic, we stood tall, and not one person said, “that’s it. I’m outta here!”
That’s not what nurses did. When the going got tough, we got tougher. I was reminded of my time in the military. Serving during 9/11, I was active duty when the war in Iraq first began. I watched my spouse and 90% of my coworkers leave the hospital to deploy overseas. In their absence I worked 12 hours shifts, seven days a week, for thirty days straight until reservists arrived to help. And although I held honor, courage, and commitment at my core, let’s be honest; I didn’t have a choice. I belonged to the U.S. Government, and I worked in hard conditions because, “that’s what you told me to do, Lieutenant Dan.” But seriously, I did my duty without question. Civilian Nurses, they’re a little different.
I want you to understand something very important. All the things you’re feeling, you are not alone. Feeling scared? Overwhelmed? Worried for your family? Despite the frequent assumption otherwise, nurses are indeed human, with emotions and needs. We don’t want to become sick with COVID-19 anymore than the next person, and we don’t get jazzed about possibly taking it home to our young children, elderly parents, or immune comprised spouse. We get tired when we work extra, and we need to go grocery shopping too. Today, after my twelve hour shift, I stopped and picked through the scraps left at my local grocery store.
Your bedside nurse isn’t immune to deadly viruses, but they go to work each and every shift, fearless. We utilize our training and knowledge to stand on the frontline despite the fact that we have all the concerns you may be feeling right this very moment. Any nurse could call out sick, walk away, or refuse that request to work overtime, but we don’t. We face the music, no matter how screechy the melody, and we dance a graceful waltz through uncharted waters.
I guess it sounds like I’m tooting our own horn, or uninvitedly skywriting “Nurses Rock,” but doggone it, I can’t help it. I’m proud to be a nurse, and I’m proud to stand firm alongside some amazing men and women. They come in each shift, already, with sick children at home, a chronically ill, aging parent in their thoughts, or a relationship on the rocks thanks to long hours and less weekends off. Never mind showing up with a smile when a pandemic is on the rise.
Today was a crazy day at the hospital bedside. I saw more movement than we wanted, and I saw a team pick up the reigns. I heard a stray, “I’m tired,” or as 7pm neared a weary, “I’m ready to go home,” but I never heard a real complaint. I never saw a bad attitude today, and there was more than a few things that could make a person flip. I saw what I see most, every day. I saw nurses caring for their patients with compassion and skill. I saw my peers intervening to save lives, and advocating for the people in their care. In this regard, it wasn’t much different than any other day, other than all the masks, gowns, and protective eye wear. We still washed our hands, like we always do, and we used required precautions to prevent the spread of contagious disease. Again, like we always do.
I stood on the frontline today with a team that superbly carried out their duty, and despite the odds stacked against us, carried it out well. So, while a lot of things are uncertain and ever-changing in our world right now, one thing is the same. One thing is steady despite the storm, firmly rooted despite the slipping sand. It’s your bedside nurse. They are doing what they have always done. Excellent patient care with a smile. Your local Walmart may be out of toilet paper, and your child’s school may be closed, but your hospitals are still open, with all the amazing healthcare staff present and doing what they do best. In uncertain times, you can still count on that.
So, thank a nurse today! Thank the doctors, techs, therapists, and many other frontline staff. Show your gratitude to your police officers, and all the other people who go about their work just like any other day, with just a bit more stress in the mix. Wink, wink. I’m proud to stand in the ranks with so many who help keep this world going, even when life wants to shut it down.
This letter first appeared on BrieGowen.com
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