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End of shift: After many years, wife finally joins husband in nursing


As I gather the mail from the mailbox, I can’t help but smile as I thumb through and see the nursing journals, this time addressed to me. My husband has been a nurse for more than 20 years, and I’ve always loved reading the journals. Now that it’s my name on the label, it’s even more special.

I had four children — and worked as a lunch room supervisor, in medical billing and as an office manager — before I finally made it down this road. Through it all, my husband was encouraging me toward the path that brought him the most happiness: nursing.

His passion for caring for patients has always been apparent, and now I can truly share in it. He became a nurse out of his love for the job and his desire to provide for our planned family. We always knew one day I would go back to school, and through his nursing career experience, I learned that was the field I wanted to pursue.

The road hasn’t always been smooth. If I close my eyes I can still picture myself sitting at the computer in our one-bedroom apartment with our first son, just a month old, in the bassinet at my side. I’m typing as my husband dictates his care plan for his nursing school assignment. We would take his nursing books with us to the laundromat. On long car rides I would quiz him while we tried to get the baby to sleep. We had three more children and moved twice; lost all four of our parents in a span of four years; and generally lived our busy life. Through it all, becoming nurses was our shared mission.

When I started nursing school, I had him cheering me and supporting me all the way. Our children were even old enough to help tutor their mom with some of the algebra and chemistry equations.

Married for 25 years, we shared so many life experiences, and now we add a new dimension to our relationship. You know how sometimes at the end of a challenging shift, only another nurse could truly understand and relate to you? Or know where your mind may be without saying a word? We have that in each other. We have learned when we need to just listen or when we need to offer ideas and perspectives to help ease the other’s mind.

One time our connection even proved beneficial to direct patient care. It was in my last semester of nursing school, and I was doing my clinical management rotation. I was at the same facility where my husband worked, I in acute care and he in the extended care/rehab area.

One of his patients ended up being transferred back to our unit for various complications. We were having trouble getting her to take her medications; she had dementia and didn’t trust any of the new faces caring for her. The manager on my unit suggested I contact the other unit for insight on getting her to take the medication.

Who was one of the nurses who cared for her? My husband! He told me: “Tell her Fred said to take the meds.” I went back into the room and said exactly that. Her face lit up like I could never have imagined. “You know Fred?!” She could remember him and trusted him, and once she knew that I knew him, things took a turn for the better. She started taking all her medications without a fuss. If she faltered, I would gently remind her that I knew Fred.

Of course, it’s not always picture-perfect. At times our nursing obligations stretch us to the limits, and we have to remind ourselves that our relationship comes first as a married couple. On the flip side, I believe the characteristics that bring all nurses to the profession (strength, caring, nurturing, giving, patience and selflessness) help us be better partners to each other. We have a new source of conversation to be explored as well.

We can do CE hours together, too. In fact, finding day seminars to attend is one of our new “date” ideas. •


About Author

Rosanne Bacaling, RN, is a wellness nurse at Sunrise Senior Living in Gurnee, Ill.

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