And no, it’s not that you’ll get alarm fatigue quicker than you expect (although this is very true). It’s also not that you’ll get called into your supervisor’s office for giving a Xanax 17 minutes after pulling it out- instead of within 15 minutes (really???). While I’ve only been a nurse for 11 months (it’s almost my anniversary!), I have learned two very important lessons in this short but crazy journey.
Let me start with a little background for those of you who are new here. I work on a cardiac step down unit/telemetry unit. Our first 18 beds are progressive care beds (sicker patients that are monitored more closely), and the remaining 30 are telemetry beds. When I’m working on the step-down side, the nurse-to-patient ratio is typically 3:1. When I’m on the telemetry side, it can go as high as 7:1. Every single shift is different, and you really never know what to expect.
The first lesson I’ve learned is to be compassionate. It’s very difficult to lose your sense of compassion in this profession, especially when you’re overworked and not getting the help you need. I’m not saying this is an everyday problem- but it happens. We tend to get frustrated at the lack of help, and that can sometimes drive us to close ourselves off and just “do our job.” Realistically speaking, nursing isn’t a career that you just “do.” Being a compassionate person is what makes you stand out in the profession, and what makes the patients, even the difficult ones, appreciate your care a little bit more.
I’ve always been extremely caring towards the people I love
So it was cool to see how I transitioned that into my career- caring for very sick strangers. I think what helps me keep my sense of compassion is remembering that some of these people are at the most vulnerable points of their lives. Even if they’re being difficult, I try to imagine how I would want a family member to be treated if they were in the same position. A patient once told me to never lose my sense of compassion, and it really donned on me that a lot of nurses do lose it- just because of their work environment or because they get burnt out. Although I’ve only been a nurse for a short while, I try to remind myself at the beginning of each shift to stay true to my values and be as caring as I can to my patients. Compassion is key.
The second thing I’ve learned is to have gratitude. I take care of extremely sick patients every single time I go to work. A lot of them are in their final weeks- or days- of life. Some of them ended up there due to lifestyle choices, and others are there for reasons we’ll never understand. It’s easy to take your health for granted- especially when it’s never been a problem. I grew up in and out of hospitals with my mom, my sister, my cousin, and my aunt. Thankfully, they’re otherwise healthy besides their congenital heart disease. A hospital room was something I was always so familiar with- but it’s different on the caregiver side. As a nurse, I see the behind the scenes to the care taking process, and I actually get to help some of these people get better. As a family member, I’ve gotten to experience the difference of a great nurse- which is what inspired me to join the profession. I’ll save that story for another time.
We often get caught up with our day to day living, and we forget to stop and be grateful for our health- something so simple, yet so important. Being healthy is a blessing. That’s something I learned growing up with sick family members- and something that nursing has reinforced. Each shift I work reminds me to be grateful for life’s simple blessings, including my health.
Compassion. Gratitude. Two lessons I’ve come to learn in my short time as a nurse. Maybe I have my parents to thank for teaching me a strong base of these values, or maybe I have my very sick patients to thank. Maybe it’s a combination of both. One thing I know for sure is that the high acuity of my unit has taught me to be a more compassionate nurse, and reminds me every day to stay grateful.
Thanks for reading my long post. I’ll let you get back to your Sunday Funday now!