2023 marks my sixteenth year in nursing, and my ninth year in outpatient mental health. My sixth year as a business owner and my fifth as a boss. My sons and I sent a thank-you card to their school nurse in recognition of nurse’s week. There was a lot of fuss at their school this week in honor of teachers, but they seem to have forgotten their school nurse also deserved recognition.
Their school nurse has a lot to contend with in a 50/50 divided town of extreme liberals and extreme conservatives. She’s been there through the pandemic and I’ve been on the phone with her as she is cleaning up children’s vomit while managing to calmly discuss a plan for my child who was sitting in her office with a fever.
My sons seem to know she’s a safe space at the school because especially one of them frequently visits her often just to say hi.
Nurses are everywhere. I sit with them at birthday parties and we trade stories about our specialties. I meet them sitting at soccer games. Most recently I was in line at the pharmacy and the woman in front of me introduced herself after saying my name…she and I went to high school together and she knew me immediately. I honestly would not have recognized her, but I was there with my kids and I was sick and it’s been over twenty years at this point in my defense.
We chatted and turns out she is a nurse anesthetist and I told her excitedly I am a mental health nurse practitioner. Which turned to talk of our specialties which opened a door about a discussion of post partum depression.
The core of nursing is connection. Building a fragile trust allows patients to be vulnerable. Every nurse in every setting builds a connection no matter how brief their nurse-patient interaction is. But nursing has also allowed me to connect with other nurses and healthcare professionals in ways professionally and personally that have shaped who I am and where I’m at in my life.
Nurses hands not only save lives but they give life, comfort, hope, peace, and even in the face of death nurses hands are there at the end. Every life transition from birth to death involves the hands of nurses.
The part about nurses week that I despise is that it should not be necessary. We should be treated with respect, paid what we are worth, and guaranteed safe work environments with safe patient ratios. We should not need an appreciation week because we should be appreciated year round every day because there is not a second of any minute that a nurse is not saving a life.
Think about that. There is truly not a minute that goes by that a nurse has not helped to save some one. Or helped some one pass peacefully. We should not have a week of pizza parties. We should have daily safety and security in our workplaces. Hospital corporations should be held accountable for their treatment of nurses. There should be no million dollar bonuses for CEO’s until nurses are paid what they are worth. Education should be free in order to ease the nursing shortage.
Nurses should not have known PTSD from working in critical care units due to the violence and the death. Nurses should have access to on site mental health treatment at all times free of charge and should receive long term support from these corporations who make millions off their blood sweat and tears.
I employ three nurse practitioners in addition to myself. It is important to me they feel safe, heard, valued, and when they ask for a change I do everything in my power to implement it. I take my responsibility to them very seriously and they know it, which is why they stay.
I think if one manager along the way had shown that level of commitment to their nurses I may still work at a hospital. But I never saw that, if anything I saw the opposite.
To all the nurses who have wiped away tears, bandaged wounds, pressed on ribs, cradled the dying, taken a punch or worse, given comfort, but most of all given pieces of yourself to this profession…I hope we will live in a world one day where you are seen not just by me and every other nurse who knows; but by all the people you have helped. I hope you are seen and heard and validated and supported and receive all the comfort that you’ve given to others, back; tenfold.
Until then, keep kicking ass, keep fighting the fight, keep demanding rights, safety, and pay. Because we are epic and don’t let anyone make you believe or feel otherwise.