Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nurses: A Cautionary Tale

 I am a nurse.

So what does that mean, exactly? It means I go to work every single shift with the sole intent of helping. It means that when I walk through the doors of my facility I am taking on the responsibility to care for other human beings regardless of my personal feelings, biases, emotional state, political leanings or religious beliefs. It means that when I step onto my unit in uniform I take my assignment with pride, with a positive attitude and grace.

I am a nurse. I am technical, I use computers to care for my patients, to keep them safe from medication errors and to comply with federal regulations. I am clinical, I start IV's, perform procedures, dispense medications orally, intravenously and by injection to ensure your pain and disease processes stay within normal limits or improve. I am nurturing, I hold your hand, your family's hand. I cry with you and for you. I call case management if your physical or emotional state is threatened and sometimes I call security for those same reasons.

When things are perfect, ideal. When the census and acuity are low and the nurse to patient ratio is safe, my job is difficult. When management is involved and aware and attentive to the needs of the staff, my job is difficult.

And I'm going to be egotistical here: Like most jobs it provides my family with income to buy food, pay our mortgage, give us health insurance It gives me a sense of self-worth and my kids a positive role model But it is unlike most jobs in that it has more intrinsic value. It is more important and life affecting. There is more risk, more opportunity for catastrophe and exultation. My job is more important than other jobs. Period.

The support staff we need, that we rely on is crucial to our survival and our ability, as nurses to perform at peak levels. Our housekeepers, surgical techs and nursing assistants are the safety net we couldn't fly without. Taking them for granted is a huge diss/piss/black mark on our karma and we know it.

Conversely, when management, leadership, administration takes us for granted, things fall apart.
Things rust. Things like morale. Things like the drive to do more, do better. These things rust and crack and stop working.

When nurses aren't supported by the people put in place to support them we have anxiety attacks in the parking garage. We don't sleep well at night. We are on edge. We don't eat well or take care of ourselves. When the structure loses its integrity, the human body that the nurse occupies breaks down and loses confidence.

We are the user interface that is backed up by the machine. If the machine fails, we fail. And if we fail, we fail our patients.

Very recently I resigned from a facility that is seemingly working very hard to be the defining example of what I've just described. I am lucky that I was able to find a new job at a facility that treats its nurses with respect and kindness; treats us like human beings.

This has to be the trend, this notion of giving to the nurse what the nurse is expected to give to their patients. Because if it isn't (and I'm afraid it isn't, I'm afraid I didn't get just a little lucky. I think I got a LOT lucky) the future is very bleak indeed.


peg delury said...

There it is...articulated with crystal clarity; thank you for saying it!

Terry said...

Doctors do the real work, nurses just follow orders