An Open Letter To Nurses Everywhere

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You don’t hear it very often do you? Those two little words that are painfully inadequate at times yet unbelievably necessary most of the time. Two words that are neglected in stressful situations and shoved aside as fear takes over and rarely voiced when they should be. 

Yeah, you don’t hear “Thank You” very often, do you?

Like when you’re telling a 27 year old that she isn’t just pregnant, but pregnant with twins, and her response is a resounding “Fuck off.” You didn’t judge when she couldn’t believe you and it took a few comprehensive moments to understand and she had to hear it again once it all settled. You shared an unfathomable moment with her, laughing and smiling and assuring her she could do this amazingly difficult thing called motherhood. 

Or when you’re collecting her pee every time you see her. No really. Every. Single. Time. You don’t know her favorite food or her greatest fear but you are well versed in her height and weight and heart rate. You have no problem asking her about bowel movements or stool consistency or vomit contents, information her closest friends definitely don’t know. You know her inside and out. Literally.

You don’t hear it when you’re waking her up at 12:00 am then 3:00 am then 6:00 am when she’s in the hospital, checking vitals and changing medication and recording progress. She’s exhausted and kind of hates you but you’re quiet and caring and considerate, even though you’re probably seven cups of coffee deep and absolutely fatigued. 

Or when you’re asking the seemingly inconsequential questions in an attempt to keep her spirits up during a difficult time. Temperatures are high and heart rates are high and blood pressures are high but you remain calm, wanting to know about baby names and birth plans and family visits. You keep her mind on the controllable while the uncontrollable happens. 

You don’t hear it when you get a call for more ice chips or extra bottles of water or those addicting apple juice boxes she just absolutely has to have. It isn’t the exciting code you’ve trained for or the medical emergency you’re prepared to fight. No, it’s a glorified serving position, without tips or breaks or food someone would actually pay to eat. 

Or when you know her nickname and remember she prefers to look when you’re starting an IV and that if you say “hun” or “dear” she will smile at you. The doctor rarely stops by and she’s unsure as to what he/she even looks like but she knows you. She recognizes you and she remembers you and when things go wrong, she’ll focus on you. 

Or when she’s asking you the same questions over and over again. She knows you’re the nurse but, “what about this pain?” She’s sure she’s in labor but it’s really Braxton Hicks and something isn’t right but it’s really muscles stretching. You’re constantly talking a scared mother-to-be off the ledge, one ill-advised google search at a time. 

No one says it when you make sure she’s emotionally and spiritually and romantically ok. You ask about her mental state and if she’s sleeping regularly and how her and her better half are doing. You know the tubes and the IVs and the machines can’t calculate how strong her spirit is or how supportive her friends are, yet you’re all too aware of how important the non-medical factors will continue to be. You’re a psychiatrist and best friend and mother, if only during her stay. 

Or when you offer a sympathetic shoulder and a compassionate hand after the worst possible news is delivered. The doctor leaves and you’re left behind to answer the lingering questions and explain why these things happen and watch as her world crumbles around her. All your training and medical knowledge cannot help her but you stay. You stay and you endure the confusion and tears and offer relief any way you can. Even if, realistically, you can’t. 

You’re overlooked and under-appreciated yet absolutely necessary. You’re patient when it’s understandably impracticable to be and you’re kind when it’s physically impossible to be, all while blood and puke and ink spots from your overused pens decorate your scrubs. 

You’re who I see most often when visiting the hospital and who calms my unfortunately overzealous, definitely pessimistic, painfully imaginative, soon-to-be-mommy mind. 

And still, you don’t hear it very often do you? 

So, for all the moments those two words were painfully inadequate yet unbelievably necessary. For the moments they were neglected in stressful situations and shoved aside as fear takes over and rarely voiced when they should be. 

Thank you. TC mark

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