The Next Shift is a new series of stories inspired by nurses and presented by The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future. Share your story at Nurse.com/Next-Shift.
Several months ago, my husband and I were invited to a large fundraiser at a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel as guests of one of his clients. We were running late, as I had just finished a grueling 12-hour shift in the ED and had to run home to change. When we arrived, the hall was packed with many influential people all dressed in their finest, socializing and preparing to proceed into the dining area.
As we walked in, our host saw us and stood up carefully as he was having back problems. He walked over to greet me, taking me by the arm. I apologized for being late and he said something to me that I still carry in my heart. He said, Oh, no. Dont apologize. You are the most important person in this room. You are a nurse. You are willing to carry other peoples problems. I have the greatest respect for you.
With that, he guided me into the room, escorted me to my seat and introduced me to everyone as if I was indeed the most important person in the room. I am a nurse and that made me special in his eyes. It was an amazing feeling.
How often do we carry our patients problems? When I consider his statement, I think of the sound of a mothers cry when she hears that her child did not survive the trauma of an accident and she holds onto me for support as her world falls apart. I think of that mother for days after and keep her in my prayers. I think of the homeless patient who told me his family didnt care about him. I remember the smile he gave me after we treated the infection in his hand. Was he going to follow up as instructed? I wondered where he would get his next meal, so I put a sandwich and an apple in his backpack.
The stress of witnessing some of lifes toughest moments and even life-changing events can be almost overwhelming. We all go home with some of the days memories hanging on as we try to get back to normal.
The night of the fundraiser, I stopped to think about how lucky I am to be able to do this work. How many people get to make a real difference every day? Yet after working more than 19 years in the ED, there are times when I go home wondering how much longer I can do it. I remember all the times during nursing school I became discouraged and called my mother. She would listen and encourage me to continue. She always said, Youll thank me one day for not letting you quit. I have thanked her many times since.
I thought of my mom that night and how proud she would be. I needed to hear the hosts compliments and knew that was why I was there.
If you get discouraged and feel your job is getting too hard, remember this: You are a nurse. You are willing to carry other peoples problems. That makes you very special. Youll thank me one day.