Some of you already know how I spend my evenings, but many don’t. For the latter, here is the reality. Each evening, while you and your friends are preparing to go out to dinner or attend the next big party, I am at home changing, getting ready for work. Pulling on my scrubs, grabbing the most unflattering but comfortable shoes I own, double and triple checking my personal equipment, then I am out the door. While you are stumbling home from a night of drinking, I am standing over the fifth college student to come it that night from a drug overdose, monitoring their levels, ready to administer another dose of Narcan. My life is different, it is hard and stressful, but it is beyond rewarding. When I get to tell a family that their child is stable and will make a full recovery, when I get to inform a daughter that her father will survive his third heart attack, those are the moments that make everything worth it. I am a nurse, and no matter how often I break down and say I want nothing more than to quit, I love my job. More importantly, I love my patients.
Now that you know a bit of what I do, I want you to understand something. I know I can come off as distant and uncaring at classes sometimes. It is nothing personal, I wish I could get to know each and every one of you. There are days however where talking just is not an option for me. If I talk, I will rant, cry, yell, breakdown. None of it would ever be aimed at you, but having to hold every personal emotion in for a minimum 12-hour shift is hard, it takes a toll on you in more ways than I can describe. What I wish each of you could understand though is how much I appreciate your insistence on including me.
I’m not always easy to be around, I understand this. When I walk into the classroom, you never know which version of me is going to show up. Am I going to be happy because one of my patients got news that she is cancer free after a two-year battle? Or am I going to be quiet, close to tears, because I lost a little girl the previous evening and feel responsible? I can never tell you which version you will get. No matter how I show up though, you ask how my day is going. You encourage me to participate in conversations, you comfort me by sitting there holding my hand as I try to not cry in front of the entire class. These are the moments you will never understand how grateful I am. It may seem like nothing to you, human nature, common curtsy, whatever you call it. To me though, those are the moments where I realize I can keep doing this each day. You give me the strength to keep going.
As a nurse, we don’t receive the same gratitude as doctors. We are the ones taking the blame when a patient is lost. We see pain and suffering each and every day, but we have to push through it with a smile on our face because, despite it all, we are supposed to be the rock. We are the ones that hold a husband who just lost his wife of fifty years as he crumbles, the ones who calm a mother who just lost her son as she yells in anger, we offer words of comfort and reassurance even though our hearts are breaking. We grow close to our patients, care for them, want nothing but the best. Often though, we cannot do enough for them. When that happens, we need support too, but rarely receive it at the hospital. Then you guys come back into my life each week, never pushing me to the side. Each of you allows me to just be me, no matter what mood I am.
Thank you, to the classmates who ask how I am doing and check on me even when I blew them off minutes before. Thank you to the ones who help me survive tests by putting aside their time to help me study after I miss another review session because I had to stay late at work again. You may not realize it, but each and every one of you makes this journey a little easier, and for that I am grateful. I might not show it, that’s only because I don’t know how, but I genuinely mean it when I say:
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.