Nursing 101

By Tye Murray, RN, Nurse Liaison

What makes you a nurse? In my career, I have come across so many individuals from different walks of life who have had the desire to become a nurse. But often times, they do not possess the caring node of the heart required to complete a single 12-hour shift. As a past preceptor to nursing students and new nurses, I have to say that the skills you can teach a new nurse are endless, but caring is not one of them. Anyone can teach the skill, but it’s the will you have to hold on your own.

In 17 years of nursing, I’ve had quite a few memorable shifts. One in particular comes to mind. During a shift in the ED, I overheard a new (and exasperated) RN state: “Answering the call light—this is why I went to nursing school?” In the same breath she asked me, “How much do you make?” It immediately struck a nerve with me, but at that instant I was preparing a room for a pediatric trauma that was en route. It was clear where my priorities needed to be: Trauma 4. I refused to allow my mind to travel down her path.

It was clear that she wasn’t ready to be a nurse and that she had missed the entire point of the nursing profession. I did not have a clear understanding of what exactly her idea of nursing was, but it was obvious that we didn’t share the same profession.

As a nurse, you are going to do things that you think are beneath you! You are going to answer that call light 15 times and respond to that patient 15 times, with empathy and a smile. At times, you will change urine drenched linens, you will get your own vital signs and you will empty rectal bags, all with a smile on your face. You will get your patient out of bed 10 times during your shift, all because they desire to keep their home routine because it makes them feel normal. You will not only clean the biggest “code brown” you have ever seen in your life, you will smile and be excited to be with the patient. You will understand that the struggle was real for them. You will shave an elderly woman’s legs and paint her nails if that is what makes her feel normal. You will not delegate every episodic, Exorcist-like vomiting cleanup to the housekeeper. You will not eat at noon or use the restroom when you need to because everything you are doing will need to be documented well. You will not document that you are unable to obtain an accurate medication list because there are roaches in the medicine bag.

You will make your family wait for dinner until you are sure that all of your patients are cared for. You will learn to deal with death and not discuss your day with your family because HIPAA will not allow you to. You will have to learn that “I” is not a letter in your “TEAM”! You are not superior to the rest. You will not walk away from someone that is depending on you and putting the life of their child in your hands. You will learn to listen, hug, encourage and LOVE that patient at their very worst. You will learn to make a difference!

So, yes, little RN in the pretty white uniform, it is your job to answer that call light. Today, I might save a child’s life. So how much do I make? All I know is: I make a difference!