I gave a talk to The Nurse Leader's Association yesterday. This was my first time addressing nurses and I had been waiting to do so for a long time.
As usual, I wrote out my talk but wasn't happy with it. I always feel like it could be cleaner, more exciting...whatever. I've gotten used to that feeling!
In the 30 seconds I was being announced, I jotted down a few things that came to my mind. Namely, nurses throughout the years who have had a major impact on my life and my illness.
Between the prednisone (it makes it harder for me to actually cry) and the fact I've done a bunch of these types of talks, I don't know that I've ever cried during a presentation. Well, yesterday I did.
When I got to the part where I had jotted down a few notes about past nurses, I got so choked up. It all flooded back to me--my heroes. My saviors. My advocates.
Sure, I've had plenty of crappy, mean or irresponsible nurses. I don't need to tell those stories. We all know what those nurses are like. But, let me tell you about a few nurses who I will forever love...
When I was young and had CF lungs, I had a nurse named Steve. Steve had been working with CFers for decades (I don't know that he was that old--I'm just saying he had tons of experience!). There comes a time in every young CFer's life when they have to decide if they are going to get a port-a-cath-placed. I, as are many like me, was terrified of having this permanent IV access in my body. It seemed gross and painful and I had heard horror stories of infection and other complications. It was Steve who sat with me and told me about other patients with CF (no names, people) (besides, this was pre-HIPPA bullshit anyway) and how getting a port had worked out for them. In the end, the conclusion was that, yes, some people have problems but most people wish they had gotten one sooner! Thanks to Steve, I got a port, felt good about it, and it was one of the best choices I've ever made.
I have tons of stories like this...here is just a small sampling:
The nurse who walked me through my g-tube options when the stupid doctor wanted to leave me with a huge, unnecessary tube hanging out of my belly. (he said I could use a cumberbund to keep it in place--what year is this?)
The nurse who yelled at me and told me I needed to advocate for myself and gave me tips on how to do it. At that point, she was preaching to the choir but THANK GOD there are nurses out there doing that.
The nurse who held my hand and wiped my tears every time I came into get a PICC line. She sincerely cared (or appeared to) about how hard it was for me. Unlike the doctors, she had oodles of compassion (or appeared to).
The young nurses on the surgery step down units used to come into my room when they had some time and talk about life and boys. They liked me, I guess. What meant so much to me is that they saw me as a peer and a person, even with the millions of tubes sticking out of my body.
And then, of course, the grand nurse of them all--my beloved Becky. The one who saw through my anger and decided she wanted to find a way to get me a second transplant. The woman who saved my life. I can never say "thank you" enough to my beloved Becky.
Nurses are the backbone of our medical system. My care is usually as good as the one standing in front of me. They are like teachers in that they are underpaid, overworked and utterly invaluable. Nurses are on the frontlines and, when I have not been able to advocate for myself, it has usually been a nurse who steps in to do it. I love you, nurses. Thank you for all that you do. Please know that, when you are kind and courageous, your patients never forget you. Even if you never see your patient again, please know that they think of you and thank you in their heart.
Here is my Top Ten List of Why I Love Nurses!!!
1. A good nurse knows more than the doctor about pretty much everything.
2. A good nurse doesn't let it show on her/his face how grossed out she/he is by cleaning up your vomit, poo, pee, blood etc. etc...
3. A good nurse can do her/his job with the lights off and without making any noise.
4. A good nurse knows the buck stops with her/him.
5. A good nurse cares about the patient more than the rules.
6. A good nurse makes you feel like you've just made a new friend.
7. A good nurse can talk about all the embarrassing stuff (like frequency of bowel movements and if you’ve “filled the hat”) without making you feel self conscious.
8. A good nurse becomes your advocate when you are too sick or tired to stand up for yourself.
9. A good nurse understands that illness affects a patient emotionally as well as physically.