“There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't sit still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Their's is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.”
- Robert Service

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

13 Reasons "Nurses Are" Lists are Total Bull$#!t

With the constant barrage of "shared" articles on social media, and my rather large circle of friends who happen to be using social media constantly sharing these articles, I've developed a pet peeve. Well-meaninged people who want to promote their craft keep passing around lists extolling just how Fantastically Angelic all nurses are. I hate these articles.

Here are a few examples:

10 Reasons Why Nurses Are Amazing
7 Reasons Why Nurses Are Awesome
10 Reasons Why Nurses Are Awesome
10 (more) Reasons Why Nurses Are Awesome
27 Reasons Why Nurses Are Secretly Angels Living Among Us

Now, don't get me wrong, some of that stuff is within the realm of truth. The stuff about your poop and vomit - yeah, sure. I could easily eat my tuna sandwish for lunch after even the messiest of your "evacuations," but that doesn't excuse these articles from making me feel like I should be something that I really, really am not.

13 Reasons "Nurses Are" Lists are Total Bullshit 

1. There are approximately 170 million different types of nurses, none of which are ever represented in these articles. Whoever writes these seems to think that if you're a nurse, you must either work in the ER or in an adult Medical ward. So right away we're excluding pretty much everyone else in the profession. These articles can't even speak to a large percentage (like, probably 90%) of nurses they're even written about.

2. I eat. I don't always eat well, but I eat. If I didn't, you probably wouldn't think I was so nice. 

3. I pee. Sometimes I go for long periods without peeing on shift because I'm distracted, but if nature calls, I answer. My patients are the only ones allowed to pee on the floor, but even then -

4. Most of the time, I'm judging you. I'm judging your life choices, your parenting skills, your hygiene routines, why you waited so long before you came to hospital. It won't affect how I take care of you, but I don't - I can't - believe that all of my patients are all that great.

5. Sometimes, even though I care for you, I don't necessarily care about you. I have been randomly assigned to you and several other people in a given shift. Tomorrow, I likely won't remember your name because I've again been randomly assigned to several other different people. Sometimes, my goal is just to make sure you're still alive in 12 hours. Statistically, we won't be buddies, I won't ever see you again, and I don't have any emotional attachment to you. I won't be putting my life on the line for you. I'm not selfish - I'm at work. And that's if you're just an average Joe. If you're rude, demanding and "holier-than-thou," that's another story.

6.  If anything, Nurses are good people because we resist the urge to return the favour when we've been treated like garbage all day.

7. I don't always love my job. In fact, I probably love my job less often than when I think that Nursing is for crazy, self-loathing people. Nursing Burnout is real, and it pushes you into leaving nursing entirely after you've been trying to work past the emotional toll of remaining in a career that it more physically and mentally exhausting than you can cope with. But you keep doing it because people pat you on the back with these bullshit articles and tell you to "hang in there, you're doing a great job! You're special!"   

8. Nursing actually ruins your life. For those of you who work regular weekday jobs who keep thinking "Gee, I'd love to work a few long days in a row to get 5 days off in a row," you've got a wake-up call coming. For one, working 4 12-hour shifts in a row means that literally nothing gets done at home. My commute is only 12 minutes (by bike), but I still wake up for work at 6am, and I don't get back home until after 8pm. So now 14 hours of your day has been completely devoted to work. Did you pack three meals and snacks into your lunch pail? If not, you're now trying to make something for supper for yourself in that precious little time you have while awake at home, because it's back to bed by 10pm. So just pray you made sure to remember to do laundry and grocery shop before your workweek begins. For the other, I hope you didn't have any illusions about staying on that recreational soccer team, or going to those regularly-scheduled social activities. You'll get to go to, maybe 20% of those because you're either already at work or can't go because it's a worknight and it runs past your bedtime. So yay!

9. I don't always get along with my colleagues, and they're not always the support I need on a bad day at work. Working entirely with women can cause the types of drama that only Elizabeth Taylor could match. Cliques exist among fully grown women, and the saying that "nurses eat their young" (when more senior, burnt-out nurses bully newer, younger ones) is absolutely true. You can't always trust the nurses you work with when you need to decompress - some might see it as weakness and pounce. (See #4)

10. Nursing isn't necessarily our "calling." Many nurses choose the profession because it was the most financially responsible decision. It pays well. I have worked in communities where there weren't a lot of job opportunities close to home, but the local nursing home was the best employer in town. So the choice to work in health care didn't come about because you wanted to champion the rights and wellbeing of grandmas everywhere - you just wanted to make sure the mortgage was paid.

11. I haven't cared for a dying patient! I've never seen someone die. It's not something that happens where I've worked (see #1), so I'm not sure I'd even be any good at it. I'm guessing it'd be really awkward and involve me patting you or your loved one on the back, chiming "There, there." I don't have some sort of innate skill with this, and this is likely true for many other nurses. So please don't view me as some Mother Theresa figure who'd know how to sit at a bedside and comfort you in a way that would be smooth. 

12. I'm not even necessarily a good asset in an emergency. Yes, I have a lot of CPR training. But emergency first aid? Why? As a ward nurse, when I see my patients for the first time, they've already been through ER and have had all of the immediate problems dealt with. I don't splint broken bones. I don't stabilize and transport c-spine injuries. I don't deliver babies. I have all the diagnostic tools I need at my fingertips and there are rarely any real mysteries for me to deal with. Medical emergencies at the ball park or on an airplane would be a nightmare, and I have had other nurses tell me that if a general call-out was made for a Doctor or medical professional while in flight, they would duck their heads and hope nobody pointed them out. It's a huge liability and it could easily be something we're not equipped to take care of. I would help by calling 9-1-1 for you.

13. These articles generalize all nurses as having a set of traits that we simply cannot all have. We're not angels. We're people. We're people with our own issues, baggage and anxieties. We're not even all good people - just like the rest of you.  

 Author's Disclaimer: these are my own views and opinions, and may not represent the views of all nurses.