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The Heart of a Nurse

Photo credit: Johan Van Den Berg

Something was said to me on Christmas that has left me pondering just why being a nurse is so wonderful. The comment was, “She is such a smart girl. She shouldn’t be in the nursing program. She should be a doctor.”

Well…Hmmmmmmmm. I admire the intelligence of some very fine doctors I’ve worked with over the last 23 years and this posting is in NO way a slam to any of them. The person speaking holds himself in high regard in his own profession and I don’t think he even realized what he was saying or how it sounded to a NURSE!

I’m not going to rant about how smart nurses have to be because we all know how smart nurses are. We nurses know that on many an occasion we save the patient from the doctor and we save the doctor from him/herself! I’m not going to go into all the technical things we need to know and all the skills we have to perform on a daily basis. What I want to talk about is the heart of a nurse…what makes a nurse isn’t always their brain. Though of course that helps. It’s their heart. Nurses want to be nurses because of the human connection. We see more than a body part in despair…we see the whole person!

A scenario says it best:

I walked into the ER for my shift on Christmas. Just after entering the nurse’s station my heart began beating a little faster—something was wrong. I sensed sadness and grief. I looked into the eyes and faces of those at the station and immediately knew something terrible had happened. My fellow nurses, the ER techs, and our unit secretary looked at me with eyes of sadness. It took a few seconds before I heard what had occurred. A baby had come into the ER…the paramedics were already providing CPR to try to bring the baby back to life.

The ER team—doc, nurses, ER tech, respiratory therapist—went into action and took over the CPR, provided intubation and drugs to try and save this baby. Now I know from recent experience in this very scenario what this group was feeling—fear, sadness, anxiety, stress, shock, maybe a little panic. And I know from working with this amazing team of individuals for the last 4 years that they were on top of their game. They are intelligent, compassionate and extremely gifted people, ALL of them. If this child could have been saved, they could have done it.

Sadly this baby didn’t live and that crushed this team. The loss of this baby wounded everyone. I in no way know how the parents felt and I would never even try to guess. That grief is beyond anything I’ve known.

What I want to highlight here is the compassion of the team—doctor included! But, I want to show the difference between doctors and nurses. (And I know it’s not black and white.)

The parents of this baby had to be out of the room for a time and the mother was distraught to think her baby would be alone. One of our nurses promised to not leave that baby until the parents returned. She wrapped the child in a blanket and she held that baby for a very long time. She rocked the baby and touched it’s face, hands, feet and hair, allowing her spirit to bath that baby’s spirit in comfort. She gave that mother of gift of a little peace, a little comfort while she had to be out of the room. The rest of the nurses in the ER took over the job of the nurse that was with the baby, never grumbling or complaining about extra work. They wanted that nurse to be with the baby—for the mother! And when that mother returned that nurse came back to the team and they all hugged one another and cried for that baby and those parents, and then they went back to work. Compassion…understanding…human connection.

I work with amazing nurses. They are highly knowledgeable, skilled and beyond talented in what they do. I am proud to be a nurse because of the way we see people…the way we feel and provide care to people. It takes knowledge and skills to do our jobs—but it takes a bigger heart to do it well.

Bravo Maine General Thayer ER nurses! You make a difference with your knowledge, your skills and your heart!! I am proud to be a part of this team.

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