While I cannot speak for all the nurses out there, I know I can speak for myself and the nurses I work with every day. When you think of a pediatric nurse, what comes to mind?
You may have heard a nurse tell you that “they had a long day” or “had a difficult patient” but they don’t go into too much detail because of patient privacy. You, of course, say something such as, “I’m sorry” or “Let’s go do something to take your mind off of work.” They may agree and play along, seeming to forget about their work worries as the night or day (depending on their shift) goes on.
What you may not know is that they still worry. It may not be at the forefront of their minds but it’s still there. They worry about the little girl whose parents are worried sick about her because she’s sick and the doctors don’t know why. They worry about the little baby whose parents were just given a diagnosis that they have never once in a million years prepared for.
These nurses are more than just nurses. They wear many hats as the day goes on. They leave their families each day and go to work to serve others. During those long 12 hour shifts, they become a confidante, servant, counselor, priest, secretary, maintenance person, and family member all rolled into one. They go into patient rooms even when they feel like can’t do anything to make your child hurt less, or make the news you get less difficult to bear. These nurses put on a brave face for you at the bedside but then go around the corner to hide their tears.
Do you know how I know? I see it every day on the faces of my work family. This is me every day I work, as well. I go in to work each and every day hoping that it’ll be a good day but I am trained to be prepared for the worst day. That’s what nurses do.
They do all the good things and sometimes not so good things they need to do in order to make your child feel better. Sometimes they have to be the person that has to start an IV on a screaming toddler that’s begging for them to stop. Or they have to be in the room when the doctor gives you terrible, gut wrenching news. And sometimes they’re the apologetic face you see at 5 AM that tells you that the lab called and the blood that the nurse drew 30 minutes ago was clotted and so your child has to be poked…again.
But…that’s not all.
If all the things we as pediatric nurses witnessed were sad, then I would have a hard time staying in this profession. There are so many good times to balance out the sad. I love seeing a particular little bald child tearing down the hallway on her bike while her parents try so hard to keep up with her while dragging her IV pole. Monday’s are Dog Therapy Monday’s and your day gets infinitely better by those that walk on four legs. It’s also not uncommon to see Batman, Spider-Man or the whole cast of Star Wars visiting patients in their rooms. My favorite thing is when I get to work Christmas Eve/Day! The children go to bed sad that they are missing Santa Claus because they’re in the hospital. But little do they know that a band of merry “elves” sneak into their rooms and deliver presents in the middle of the night. Can you imagine their faces when they see stacks of presents waiting for them?
Sometimes, it’s your coworkers that help get you through the long days. There are some days where we feel like everything came together really well. There are, however, some shifts that make me question whether or not the full moon was out in the middle of the day. These are the days where our teamwork is tested and we have always come through. Those shifts are the ones that require a “post-shift debriefing” at the nearest place that sells tacos.
I have been a pediatric nurse for almost three years now. Three years ago today during Nurses’ Week, I took a few hours to shadow this pediatric unit without realizing that it would be my first home as a nurse. I have learned so much since graduating college and walking through the hospital doors as a graduate nurse. The NCLEX seems like a long-ago nightmare of frantic studying and bouts of anxiety. I won’t lie, those first 1-2 years were not easy. I slept fitfully and swore I heard beeping monitors in my sleep. I went home on some days wondering if this was what I really wanted to do with my life.
What keeps me going, is the coworkers and families that I interact with on a daily basis. It’s the patients whose names are forever in my head and in my heart that keep me moving forward. And sometimes, it is the memories of patients that have passed that inspire me to be better. To do better.
While I know that what I do makes an impact on the lives of children and their families, it’s the impact and the impression that each encounter leaves on me that makes me feel both humbled and empowered.
Becoming a pediatric nurse has been one of the most humbling things I have ever done in my life. I have laughed so hard my sides hurt. I have also cried until I had no tears left. This is what it means to be a pediatric nurse. It’s challenging, frustrating, tiring, humbling, and oh so satisfying.
Now I have a question for you: who takes care of the nurse when he or she comes home from a long and trying day? Hint: That’s you.
Thank a nurse. May you know one, may you raise one, may you be one. Happy Nurse Week!