The Year of the Nurse: A Tribute

What can I say in honor of my fellow nurses that hasn’t already been said? I wrote this for my team in particular at our pediatric hospital, but without doubt the heart of this applies to nurses everywhere.

I wish I could tell you how they show up to work each day. They’re my friends, I know some of their personal burdens and stressors, but they show up ready to give the entire next 12 hours completely to the care of others – namely sick kids and their grieving families.

I wish I could tell you how they start their work day, wiping down their stations because they’re all too aware of the bacteria and viruses that have landed their patients critically ill in an ICU. They see the intubated, septic patient who succumbed to that virus and so they religiously wipe down every surface they’ll be touching as best as they can… so they don’t pick up that same virus themselves or take it home to their loved ones.

I wish I could tell you how they walk into their patient rooms, minds full of all the details that need to be tended to for patient care, all the specifics of how to administer meds safely, all the awareness of how that particular patient and family are struggling emotionally and psychologically. They walk into their patient rooms and know they have to be the therapeutic person of focus and calm, despite the storms going on in their minds.

I wish I could tell you how they walk back and forth on their feet, getting supplies, getting meds, running to codes, transporting patients and all their lines, tubes, cables and pumps to emergency MRIs, hoisting patients, turning patients, holding their breath in case their patient is too unstable to tolerate such movements.

I wish I could tell you how they come up with the most ridiculous songs, stories, innovations, costumes, and setups to bring some sense of normalcy to a child whose hospitalized life is anything but normal, to bring a sense of innocence and safety and joy to a child who has become terrified of nurses associated with scary masks, gowns and sometimes needles.

I wish I could tell you how they stand at the bedside of patients taking their last breath, watching the mysterious, sobering, sometimes horrifying ways life can exit from a person. I wish I could tell you what their hearts bear in those sacred moments, but how they defer their own gutwrenching grief because they know even then, it’s still not about them, it’s about keeping the parent from fainting and helping the parent transition to the final goodbye.

I wish I could tell you how they go home, weary and worn, minds and hearts and feet still swollen from the day’s work, the day’s care… 

only to know that tomorrow, they will come back and do it all over again. Whether it’s a coronavirus pandemic or not, they will come back and do it again.

Because this is what we do. We are nurses. It is National Nurses Week. It is Year of the Nurse.

Nurses Week blog post for American Journal of Nursing

Happy Nurses Week to all of my fellow nurses who give us, according to this year’s theme, “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate.”

If we’re honest though, we can at times struggle with our profession as much as (or sometimes more than) we feel we love and celebrate what we do.

In my Nurses Week blog post for American Journal of Nursing, I write about what I hear so many nurses say they long for. “We want to advocate for our patients’ rights, not violate them. We want to connect, and not just function. We want to heal, even at our patients’ end of life, and not harm.”

You can read the entire blog post here. I am longing for all of us both individually and collectively to find enduring meaning in this work we do.