Happy National Nurse Week! Thank you for your work. Nurses do incredible work every day of the year, but May 6-12 is an extra special time to celebrate the hard work that nurses do.
On the train of celebration, let’s reflect on the highlights of being a nurse.
Nursing can be extremely difficult, but there are aspects of nursing that make it rewarding. I can speak from my own experience, but I also can add the voices of other nurses in my life who have shared their favorite aspects of nursing.
6 Highlights of Being a Nurse
Building trusting relationships with patients
The circumstances in which a nurse and patient meet is often less than ideal. The patient is usually feeling broken, vulnerable, or just exhausted from experiencing current or reoccurring health conditions. My patients are Type 1 diabetics, who have to constantly be checking blood sugars, counting carbs, and giving insulin (exhausting, to say the least). Patients in the hospital are bedridden or in need of life saving operations or recovering from surgeries. Nurses enter into patients’ lives at critical moments to offer support and care, comfort in pain. There is ample opportunity for nurses to form trusting relationships with the patients.
In my line of work, I will see research study participants on a regular basis. I get to check in every week, 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year. I spend hours doing visits with patients, getting to know not only their health battles but also their personality, their hobbies, their dislikes. I love when I can make young children with Type 1 feel like more than a diabetic: I want them to feel like a whole person. I love when I can be a hopeful presence as I do my part to find treatment and cures for Type 1 diabetes.
A Vocation of Service
I literally get paid to serve others. How cool is that? I have been trained to evaluate and meet the needs of patients. When I am at work, I am required to put other’s needs in front of my own. I feel like my work has meaning because I am focused on making others’ lives better. I get to empower patients every day to take their health into their own hands. I get to educate them, and let them take the reins. I get to serve them with respect and dignity, so that they leave just a little better than they came. I can see the fruit of my work, too, as I work at my position over time. I see the impact that my efforts are making on the patients that I work with.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a shortage of nurses. Always. Everywhere. It’s quite sad, really, because the shortage of nurses can usually be traced to burnout and compassion fatigue, but it also provides some sort of reassurance. If worse comes to worse, I would probably be able to find a nursing job wherever I might go. Yes, it might not be exactly what I wanted, but if the situation was dire, I could find a position. Nursing is an extremely practical career path if you are concerned about finding a job. You’ll always have benefits, decent (if not great) pay, and often a more flexible schedule than the traditional 9-5pm job.
Innumerable Career Paths
You never quite know where you will end up with nursing. When I was in school, my professors made it sound like the only option was to start on the night shift in the hospital, on a medical-surgical unit. In my experience, that is quite far from the truth. Today, nurses can go into the public health sector, any specialty in the hospital, graduate school for master’s or doctorate degrees, outpatient settings, missions, or research. There are so many options! At times, I’m overwhelmed with the sheer variety of directions I could go as a nurse. However, as I grow as a nurse and person, I find that I like the vast amount of choices available to me. Even a few years ago, I couldn’t have foreseen being a clinical research nurse, and I bet I can’t even imagine where I will be in 5 years.
Learning from Patients
I learn from my patients every. single. day. I see their struggles and the difficulties they face, and I am inspired. They are still hopeful and chasing their dreams, even in the midst of blood sugar highs and lows, failing pancreases, and long-term complications. When I see a mother get told that yet another one of her children has Type 1 diabetes, I am touched when she takes it in stride even though her life has just doubled in doctor’s visits and overnight awakenings to beeping blood sugar monitors. I work with six-year-olds who don’t mind doing finger pokes to check blood sugars because they know it’s how they stay healthy. My patients have extremely difficult lives, yet they face their situation head on and inspire me to also take what life throws at me with hope.
Perhaps not everyone has this, but I definitely find great joy in working with my nurse team. On the days when things aren’t all rosy and fine, my coworkers are who get me through. I can rely on them to start my IVs when I’m having an off day, to hold a kicking and screaming child while I attempt to do a blood draw, and to take over some patient tasks when I need to sit down for a short break. Sometimes, simply being a nurse allows you to understand other nurses on a level that someone who is not a nurse might not ever quite understand.
I truly hope every nurse got a shout out from someone this week. It’s a tough career, but upon reflection, the highlights of being a nurse might just be worth all the grit and grind. Happy nurse’s week!
And if you’re looking for a new nursing opportunity, reach out to my friends at myRN Staffing Solutions!