‘Tis the season to recognize nurses!
Nurse's Week is the second week in May.
Take some time to thank these women (and yes - men!) who take on this "often dirty job that someone's gotta do!"
No Deposit, No Return
By John Hunt
Everyone warned me not to do it.
From my sister, to my neighbor, to total strangers, the message came across loud and clear: Don't become a nurse. And aside from the obvious gender stereotype, I myself could site several reasons for heeding their advice.
First, I discovered that part of a nurse’s responsibility involved giving injections. Go figure. With my fear of needles, this seemed to preclude me from the nursing field. But fortunately, I soon discovered that this fear only went so far as to when the needles were poked into me, and not into someone else.
Second, I planned on living a life of luxury, working minimal hours for the rest of my life. Well, since I have yet to suddenly come into a windfall of fortune, I've realized nursing is about as likely to bring me a life of luxury as my Ford spontaneously becoming a Porsche.
Lastly, there was one reason that would have easily dissuaded me from entering nursing school had I known beforehand; unfortunately, no one told me until it was too late.
Personally, I think everyone should spend a week doing civil service in a nursing home. The experience will open your eyes, if not forever change you, inspire you…or more likely, traumatize you.
I'll never forget my first clinical day at Mayer's Merry Manor. Twelve naïve nursing students and I arrived that morning, each with bright, white uniforms and shiny stethoscopes. To say we had no idea what we were getting into would be an understatement. The instructor paired us off, and we forged ahead, two by two, to do that nursing thing that nursing students do. In retrospect, our teacher probably paired us off so when one collapsed from shock, the other could run for help (but more likely would run to the emesis basin, or out the door to their car to drive off, never be seen again).
At this stage of our education, caring for patients mostly involved bathing them, charting, and buying donuts for the instructor (coffee too, if you're a real brown-noser). So, my partner, Sheila, and I entered our patient's room and politely announced we would help with her bath. The lady didn't say a word. In fact, she just sat there in a frog-like position, staring straight up at us. At this point, something told us we weren't in Kansas anymore.
Sheila and I began bathing the patient, despite her eerie unresponsiveness, only to discover she had left a rather large deposit in her – ahem – adult incontinency briefs. Now, I know what you're probably thinking, because we were thinking the same thing: "Ewwww!" Where I come from, red-blooded males don't come across this sort of surprise too often. Sheila looked up at me, and I looked at her, and we both knew what the other was thinking: "I'll race you to the door."
Remarkably, neither one of us chose to leave that day. From that point on, however, I immediately implemented a personal policy between my patients and me – "no deposit accepted at this location." Of course, not everyone willingly complies with this policy, but hope springs eternal.
We discovered a few more things during that first semester at the nursing home. First, we discovered that individuals in a persistent vegetative state obviously aren't (or cease to be), once you try to turn them. I have scars to prove it (by "vegetative state," I don't mean Indiana, Iowa, or Kansas). Next, we discovered that most patients don't know – or much less, care – what flavor their tube feeding is (think about it, it makes sense). And finally, we discovered there are living, breathing souls behind the anonymous names and numbers on the front of the medical charts.
Somehow, I muddled my way through my first semester of nursing school that year, albeit with a fair amount of trauma. I faced many more challenges during my years at college – tough exams, mind-numbing drug calculations, and psychotic instructors. Through it all, the memory of the frog lady stayed with me. I suppose knowing she once walked around like you and I still haunts me. Perhaps she went to church, sang in choir, and attended Sunday school. She undoubtedly played in the school yard as a child and caught fireflies in the summer. Her chart listed no next of kin, and she received no visitors during that semester – at least, none that I could tell. It may seem trite, but as we left that nursing home that day, I told her that God loves her. I don't know whether she understood what I said, but I do remember the expression on her face as she looked up at me.
Thirteen years have passed since I graduated nursing school. During that time, I've worked in many places – surgical wings, heart monitor floors, and intensive care units, just to name a few. Many experiences have colored my years, some humorous and some not so, and I can honestly say I've seen God's hand all along the way. For example, I once consoled a distraught woman whose husband had undergone radical neck surgery for cancer, having the opportunity to witness to her at the same time. Then came the time I held the hand of a dying man who had not a soul in this world to comfort him. Then there were the many times I saved someone whose life lied in the balance between here and eternity.
I presently work in a cardiac recovery unit at a hospital south of Chicago. It's a wonderful job, as far as working the midnight shift goes. Our hospital decided to dispense with celebrating Nurse's Week a few years ago by ubiquitously lumping it into "hospital week." I can't say I'm too disappointed. I don't have much use for another mug, candle, or keychain; although other departments still have their week in the limelight. Regardless, I don’t seek the recognition of others, but rather the approval of my Heavenly Father; and that’s recognition definitely worth working for.
So, an elderly patient of mine just returned from his diagnostic heart procedure. He told me he had to "go," meaning to relieve himself, but that he preferred to wait until his bed-rest is over. I could tell he wouldn’t make it the six hours required. At this, I politely informed him of my personal policy: no deposit accepted at this location.
Hope springs eternal.
John Hunt is a freelance writer who lives near Chicago, Illinois with his wife of ten years and three children. In his unspare time he works as a registered nurse in a cardiac unit of a south suburban Chicago hospital. You can write to John through the Letters page of this magazine.
Send this Page To a friend!