I am a Registered Nurse. Throughout my career, I have been asked how I made this decision and why. The answer was simple for me, I wanted to care for people. Sounds cliche I know, but that is the truth, plain and simple. When I was a child, I cared for my dolls and stuffed animals as if they were real. They all had names and birthdays and provided me a little family of my own at a very young age. I would play for hours feeding, bathing, nurturing and of course caring for their illnesses. I had a doll named Marybelle who came complete with crutches, casts, Measles and Chicken Pox stickers and enough gauze to treat any possible injury she may encounter. As I got a little older, I would play outside and drag home any small animal I found in any kind of distress. My mom, who was always there, would help me nurse these little creatures, even though sometimes they were already dead. I know this sounds bizarre, but it is a fact. I think I got this quality from my mom, who until she died seven years ago, was constantly caring for someone else.
Now first I’m sure you are asking “what cap is she referring to?” In the years past, when you went to Nursing School, your rite of passage was earning your cap. Each Nursing School had their own distinct cap design and after you graduated your cap defined you as a graduate of that Nursing program. It was an honor back then to wear the cap and pin of your school, and you wore it with great pride. This, of course, accompanied the white uniforms of that time and again, it was prestigious to don that crisp white uniform, freshly polished white Nursing shoes and the cap and pin of your school. Now I know I’m showing my age, but I am proud to be a descendant of these times, because along with that look came great respect from your patients and their families. When you entered a room, they could not get out of your way fast enough. They knew you were there to care for their loved one and they did not want to be in the way or impede your care. If a doctor or nurse walked in, the visitor would immediately rise to their feet and excuse themselves. Now you may think this is wrong today, but in those days it was a gesture of respect. I believe the way we carried ourselves back then also commanded respect. I remember a patient told me that when I entered his room everyday, he felt I looked like an angel and was there to make him better. I’ll never forget him or how he made me feel. I think I got more from him than he got from me.
Things are very different today. There are no caps, scrubs are the uniform, and freshly polished shoes would be from the dinosaur age.
Today, nurses wear scrubs and the most comfortable shoes they can find. They work long shifts, days, nights, holidays, special events and trudge their way through bad weather. All of this to care for your loved ones, mother, father, grandparents, sibling, or friend, whoever needs them. They leave their family behind to help in crisis situations like the one we are experiencing. They, along with first responders, doctors, pharmacists, lab workers, clerks, nursing assistants, and everyone that makes the Healthcare systems run, heed the call.
To be a nurse is to be everything to everybody. As a nurse you provide comfort, physical, emotional, and sometimes spiritual. You serve as a teacher, preacher, counselor, friend, substitute family member, along with nutritionist, mechanic, secretary, housekeeper, security and on and on. You have the ability to affect this patients entire experience. That is a lot to carry some days.
So you ask, how do they balance this load and how can they be everything to everybody? You must accomplish certain tasks each shift, you must document everything you do, you must be accountable and keep your patients safe and you must be your patients advocate. Wow that is a lot of responsibility. Yes, it is, but you were led to this profession for a reason. I’m sure it wasn’t the great hours, easy money or perfect working conditions. What I am sure of is it was for the patients and the ability to help them when they needed it the most.
In the current climate, healthcare professionals are putting themselves at risk merely by going to work everyday, but they are going. They are wearing masks, face shields, gowns, gloves and yes, even trash bags to give someone else’s family a chance. They are working extra shifts and sleeping onsite. They are leaving their family at home to care for others and some are even giving the ultimate sacrifice, their life.
Everyone is affected by the “monster” and everyone will come out different on the other side. People will need to go out to eat, to a movie, take vacation or travel. Economy will get better because we will be excited again and with that excitement will come relief. I believe we will be better people when this is over, a softer, kinder, more tolerant nation. Sometimes when fire scorches the land and only blackness remains, it seems bleak, then the tiniest sprout emerges and we become hopeful again that beauty will return. I believe we will win this war if we keep these things in the forefront, Faith, Hope, and Love. We have faith that this is bigger than us and if you pray, I suggest you pray a lot. I Hope that we will be stronger when this is over. Love shown to each other, to perfect strangers, to other countries will help us prevail. We are stronger than the “monster”.
Please, as you walk the maze of uncertainty, think of your healthcare team, your military, your patients in nursing homes and hospitals, your neighbors and your friends, Stay at home so someday they will be able to go home too.
If you are a nurse, that is special, and what comes from the heart is what is under the cap.