Life has been a lot of sunny skies lately. Sunny skies make for happiness and fun and biking and tiny shorts. But not a lot of focus.
Writing was so daily last month, and now that Nurses Week is over, I find myself wondering at its absence in my days. It’s true, I have more time for things like texting and Instagram-ing, and spontaneity, oh, and studying, but the words that flowed from my brain to my fingers to the screen for thirty days straight really took up a lot of presence in those hours. The words remain, hiding behind the curtain of my subconscious, the pile of need-to-do tasks on my plate, and the temptation of warm weather. It now just takes a little fight to get to them.
Work yesterday mimicked the sun in its loveliness. It was Florence Nightingale’s birthday, after all.
I was lucky enough to sneak off the unit to a honorary nursing tea that my wonderful hospital threw for those of us working at the bedside. During it, the newly-appointed, president of the hospital (an ICU nurse herself), said a few words.
What she said wasn’t especially profound or even original, but her particular way of exposing the weight of our vocation struck me in a light that I hadn’t considered in a while.
She called nursing a trifecta – intellectual, physical, emotional. Nurses cannot perform their care without an investment into each aspect of this trifecta; a commitment that most people are not asked to give to their careers.
People are constantly reacting to my career declaration with awe, but I often brush off their, “Oh, wow,” and “That’s amazing,” forgetting that this trifecta of care really is quite profound. Many of my friends work jobs in creative venues, or business or education, but when I think of their investment now, I’m quite certain few of them can describe their jobs with the trifecta that mine so aptly fills.
Back at the bedside, I enjoyed a light physical day, one heavy with emotional involvement with my patients. But yesterday wasn’t a taxing emotional day, like the shift before it, where all I could manage to scribble was a heart-heavy poem in tribute to my patient’s family. Yesterday was a joy.
I brushed and braided one patient’s hair, leaning on the radiator next to a cracked window letting in a sunny breeze. She spoke with nostalgia in her glassy blue eyes, of her past travels, trips to Miami Beach on a dime, her family, her mother who had recently passed. Later, my second patient told me funny stories of growing up with a rabbi father in Brooklyn, and stubbornly shoved a crumpled ten dollar bill in my hand, insisting I buy coffee for the unit staff on her expense.
These people, both at the threshold of devastating illness, gave me so much happiness and pleasure. Their physical features forever caricatured in my mental museum of patients, their life stories added to my treasure chest of acquaintances. I love to collect lives, and I’ve found throughout the years that people love to be collected. Telling stories – personal narratives – brings joy and companionship to those undergoing the pain and stress of hospitalization.
Maybe, to recognize a patient as a human with a story, separate from their diagnosis, is, perhaps, an extra piece to the nursing trifecta. Yes, we must give our emotional support, we must strenusously exercise our intellect on behalf of our patient, and we must often lend our bodies to their safety and betterment, but we are not truly nursing if we are not supercedeing all of these things, and giving our humanity to theirs.
These days give me good nursing energy. Relating as one human to another in the path of sunny windows makes me feel a little bit like I’ve got the best gig in the world; one worth celebrating every day of the year.