I swipe my badge through the time clock and trudge out to the car, pulling my coat tighter to block the chilly midnight breeze. As I start my car, I stare at the dash lights for a second and listen to the whir of the engine. “Sounds like the oil needs changed…” I muse. I pull my phone out and call Agnes; she’s just finishing her morning shift at the nursing home in Iceland. “Hey love! How’s your night been?” One of the residents is on comfort measures with only days to live, peacefully resting with friends and family around him. Next door, his wife, who is also a resident with Alzheimer’s, was feeling anxious. She asked the tech to call “the pretty young nurse who was down here earlier.” Agnes was sent for and in the midst of all she had to do, she took the time to sit and talk with her grieving patient. She didn't do much but the resident’s face was wreathed in smiles as she thanked her so much for letting her talk and listening to her. “I’m proud of you babe!” I said as she finished. In fact, I can't tell you how immeasurably proud I am of her, of the nurse she has become, and the story of Grace she is living out each day.
“Today was rough in the ER,” I continued. Earlier that day I was helping care for a gentleman who was laughing and joking with his family. Mid-sentence, his eyes rolled back and he went limp in the bed. We immediately began performing CPR and ran a code on him, but to no avail. The room had quickly filled with medical professionals trained to save lives, yet in a matter of minutes, the life we were feverishly working to prolong was gone. It was quiet in the room. Stuff was strewn everywhere; Tegaderm and lead stickers lay on the floor. My Ascom phone was first to startle the stillness and I stepped out of the room to take the call. It was a patient asking for some pain meds. I put a smile on my face and walked into their room. They had no clue.
A streetlight flickered, diverting my attention for a second. “I guess it was harder because it all happened so fast. We had already built a relationship with him. In short order death was wrapped in a body bag, the monitors were wiped, the bed was changed, and another life lay in the room.” I glance at the speedometer, making sure I stay at or below 30 mph. There’s an extremely accurate speed camera on this stretch. “I’m sorry babe, that’s rough!” she said.
“So the church has a little room to the side that you and your groomsmen can use before the wedding,” Agnes switches topics. “Oh perfect!” We continue discussing wedding plans, relating our busy days, and listening to matters of the heart. It’s always comforting listening to her voice after a long day at work. It’s as if all the drama happening around me during the day becomes a distant memory. People dying. Seven hour lobby waits. Screaming patients. Upset families. Never ending data to be processed, vital signs, orders, verbal cues, lab results.
Other nights, I drive home alone in silence. I rarely listen to the stereo. I don’t have Bluetooth and the radio becomes redundant after awhile. I have to unwind after twelve and a half, sometimes thirteen hours of nonstop giving. Nursing is hard. I had a patient the other day who retired from nursing in 2005. “Half the medical issues I’m dealing with right now probably wouldn’t be here if I’d quit nursing sooner. People don’t realize how stressful it is. But I couldn’t quit! I was having too much fun. People think nurses just flirt with the doctors but we do most of the hard work in the medical field.” I laughed with her and wholeheartedly agreed. If you’re a nurse, or personally know a nurse, you’ll know exactly what we mean. To all the nurses out there, keep it up! Even though it may seem like a never-ending duty, your service to humanity is noticed and appreciated. And for all the times a nurse has had my back, thank you. It truly is an honor to serve with you in the medical field!