It is National Nurses Week. Although I try to make sure that my nurses know how much I appreciate them all the time, this week I make a concerted effort to show my caregivers what they mean to me. I am so fortunate to have an incredible team of nurses that frequently go above and beyond their job description to make my life better. I know that without the care and commitment of my caretakers over the years, that I would not be living the independent, successful life that I have created for myself. I would probably still be residing with my parents and living off of my Social Security Disability Benefits, which is not much of a quality of life for someone like me, if not for the help of these individuals. I have had so many nurses do things like go grocery shopping for me, drive my van to the mechanic, and run to the pharmacy to get my medications on their own time, just to make my life easier. There is nothing I could ever do to repay everything that these amazing, selfless individuals do for me, so instead I am going to share with you one example of their extreme dedication. I hope that this will help you understand how devoted these people are to improving the lives of their patients, and in turn help you to appreciate all nurses more.
About 3 years ago I got pretty sick. I had a lot of flu like symptoms like body aches, fever, headache, and nausea, and when you are as small and fragile as I am, it doesn’t take long to go from just a little sick to deathly ill. I knew that I should go to the emergency room to get IV fluids and antibiotics, but I knew that they would want to admit me, and I didn’t want to be in the hospital by myself. You see, if I am admitted my insurance will not pay for my homecare nurses, because they are already paying for my hospital staff. Even though this makes sense on paper, in practice it does not work for someone like me. It’s a little scary lying in a hospital bed all alone unable to use the call button to get the nurse, especially when you feel like crap and have been throwing up for 24 hours. I have no way to get help when I need it, and the hospital nurses on my floor try to check on me as often as they can, but they are over-worked already without keeping tabs on me. This makes for a rather unsafe and scary situation for someone who is as fragile as I am. Despite all of this, I was too sick to not go in, so my nurse called the ambulance, and we went to the ER.
As I had thought, after looking me over in the ER and getting me some fluids and such, they wanted to admit me to the hospital. I felt terrible by this point, so despite my fears of being helpless and alone, I agreed to get treatment. Since I figured this would be a stay of at least a few days in the hospital before they would send me home, I decided to do what any proud, mommy’s boy would do in my situation, I called my mother and asked her to come be with me. Being the incredible, loving woman she is, she immediately left home and began the 12 hour drive to Kansas to make me feel safer, but this still left a sizable chunk of time where I would be alone, while she travelled to be with me. My amazing nurse saw my anxiety about being alone though, and after she had gotten me up to my hospital room and was supposed to leave, she sat down. I asked her what she was doing, and she replied, “I don’t want you to lay there scared and alone after the day you have had. Your mom will be here soon, so I will just hang out for a while.” I never asked her to stay, or even really voiced my level of apprehension about being on my own, but she was in-tuned enough to my needs that she just knew. Even though she had just worked an 8 hour shift, and probably wanted nothing more than to go home and relax, here she sat with me on her own time, just so I would feel safe. Even though she had 3 kids and a husband at home who she wanted to be with, she still sat there next to my bed because I was her patient and needed her help. She was willing to sacrifice her time, her chance to be with her kids, and her time with her husband to take care of me.
This is just one of hundreds of times that my nurses have sacrificed their own time, money, or happiness to take care of me. In one of my Roll Models talks I discuss how in homecare there is a huge difference between caring for your patient and caring about your patient. The difference is in the human, personal connection between the nurse and patient. Without this human element the client can feel like they are just a paycheck, as the nurse robotically goes through their care. When the nurse takes the time to build this personal bond with their patient, it puts the humanity back into nursing, and helps the patient feel like the nurse wants to help them for more than the money. For these caregivers, nursing is not just a job, but a calling. These are the types of nurses that I have been lucky enough to have in my life over the years, and I am so grateful for it. The connections I have made with my caretakers have not just improved my life through the things they do for me, but also through the incredible friendships we have forged, and I hope they feel the same way. The good times we have had and the lessons we have learned together are something I cherish greatly. I hope that they value our relationship as much as I do. They have touched my life and improved my world in so many ways, and I think I changed their lives too.
I know that on my own I can never give back enough to my nurses to even out the things they have done for me. So I am writing this post not only to boast to the world what incredible caregivers I have, but also to ask you all, my readers and friends, for a favor. I ask you to take 5 minutes of your time today to out of the blue, randomly thank any nurse you know for doing what they do. Just send a brief email, shoot them a quick text, or give them a call to say, “Thank you.” If you don’t know any nurses, you can leave a comment here to my nurses, and I will make sure they get it. I know this may seem like a trivial, meaningless act, but I assure you to these awesome individuals who are underpaid, overworked, and spend their day wiping up snot, stool, and sputum, that your gesture of appreciation will not go unnoticed. You would be appalled at how infrequently the hard work and sacrifice of these caregivers, who spend their day taking care of people at their worst, is recognized, and I have spent enough time with nurses over the years to know how much a simple thank you can mean to them. Please join me today in telling these selfless, kind, dedicated men and women how much their work matters, and that we appreciate everything they sacrifice to better the lives of others.