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10 Things Nurses Can Be Thankful For

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m a sentimental sort, and never more than at this time of the year. So now that I’ve been doing this blog thing for awhile and my readers are probably expecting the annual essay on gratitude, far be it from me to disappoint…..even as I give you something a little new and different. 

Here, for your perusal, are ten things nurses can be thankful for:

1) Having an indoor job. 

I don’t care if it’s 300 degrees in the building all year ’round; I am hound-dog happy to be able to work inside on the raw fall and winter days that make me long to become a Bahamas beach-bum bag lady. (How’s that for alliteration?) Not being the hardy pioneer type, I find it rather pleasant indeed to watch snow falling from inside the blast-furnaces my residents call their rooms.

2) A colorful and varied vocabulary.

By colorful, I don’t necessarily mean turning the air blue with profanity when I knock over a urine sample I’m trying to dip-test. I’ve learned to describe various bodily emissions as “a consistency like unbaked brownie mix” and “gelatinous reddish-purple blobs”. And you know how the Eskimos are supposed to have so many different words for snow? Just ask a nurse how many ways there are to describe poop……only you won’t get an exact answer, because they haven’t all been invented yet.

3) The opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people.

This requires little or no explanation for the seasoned healthcare professional. My mother used to say, “It takes all kinds to make a world.” What I find myself asking sometimes is, “Why??”

4) Plenty of continuing education.

The end of nursing school is when the REAL edu-ma-cation begins. I can’t begin to count the number of in-services, meetings, seminars, webinars, conferences, and classes I’ve attended in the course of my career……and sooooo many of them repeated annually until I could recite them in my sleep. I’m telling you, I can quote my facility’s emergency management plan chapter and verse, including the parts about what to do if there is a terrorist attack (on an ALF in little ol’ Oregon??) or a volcanic eruption. And no, “run like a rabbit” isn’t among the recommended actions, even though that’s probably what I WOULD do if a pack of wild-eyed commandos invaded my building, or if Mount Something-or-Other suddenly arose from the bowels of the earth to spew its wrath all over the lobby.

5) Whatever else it is—good or bad—nursing is never boring.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old, but I’ve come to view boredom as a character defect rather than a condition; in other words, if I’m bored, it’s because I’ve become boring and I need to go learn something new, do something new, BE something new. And in nursing, boredom can literally kill—a nurse who can find nothing new or interesting about her assigned patients may miss some vital symptom, some subtle change of condition, because she’s “seen it all before”. Not so…..and any nurse who thinks s/he has seen everything there is to see in her/his field ought to think about switching specialties.

6) We have the privilege of collaborating with many other disciplines in meeting the needs of patients.

Refer to #3. 

Actually, this is not a bad thing. Some of the most valuable bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years have come from respiratory therapists, hospice social workers, and vascular surgeons. I appreciate the additional perspective that providers such as these can offer, especially in complex medical or psychosocial situations where I lack the expertise and the skill set required to manage challenging patients. 

7) No other profession gets to be so many things to so many people.

Let’s pat ourselves on the back here: Nurses ROCK. We pass meds, feed and bathe patients, deal with doctors, put up with families, draw labs, start IVs, insert catheters and other tubes into orifices where lesser mortals would never dare to go. But that’s only part of what we do. We also answer multi-line phones at least half the time without hanging up on more than one caller……turn into Joe The Plumber when the toilet backs up in the middle of the night…know how to jury-rig the bed when the electrical thingie goes kaput….program the elderly patients’ TV remotes……set up computers……perform search and rescue…….wait tables……clean up and sanitize patient care areas…..process other departments’ work……know where to find the napkins. In fact, nurses are qualified to do EVERYTHING. Tres cool, huh?

8) The pay ain’t half bad.

I still think becoming an RN was the smartest thing I ever did, at least financially, and that wasn’t even the reason I did it. My family went from near-starvation to solidly middle class within a year. How awesome is that? And really, how many other things can you do with a two-year degree that enable you to pay all your bills and eat in the same month? Yes, I know there are a lot of unemployed new grads; a lot of unemployed (and underemployed) “used” nurses too. But for those of us who have been able to ride out this recession while working in our chosen profession, I think it’s beneficial to remember that we’re doing better than a lot of folks these days, and to be grateful for what we have.

9) We’re still some of the most-trusted professionals in America.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me. As jaded as I’ve become in some ways, I still get a kick out of hearing people say, “You’re a nurse? Oh, that’s so wonderful….I could NEVER do what you do.” I like having a job that not every Tessa, Dee, or Mary could do. Hey, I could never drive a school bus for a living, but how many people (besides this mother of four) will tell a poll taker how much they admire bus drivers?

10) There is no substitute for human touch…..and there never will be.

Need I say more?

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