Confessions of a PICU nurse
I am really nervous to write this, but being a writer somehow equates to vulnerability. And it seems that there’s always at least one person who’s life is touched by words of truth. I am afraid. Maybe because it is easier to let things collect under the carpet than speak about them.
I for sure will be the center of someone’s gossip. So here goes.
My relatives always made sure to tell me I would make a lot of money as nurse. I am not quite sure what they typed in their google search to find such pretentious information, that’s besides the point. Apart from a great salary, great benefits, and oh the luxury of only having to work 3 days a week, the stigma is so far from the truth. No one ever told them, that not only were these things a stretch from reality but nursing comes with a lot of emotional distress. No one ever mentions the brokenness you feel for your patients and their families. No one mentioned it was constant emotional turmoil. They also didn’t mention the rule of 3s, when one tragic things happens – it seems like 2 more tragic things follow just to make it “the rule of 3”. And don’t even get me started on what goes down when there’s a full moon.
I hate the negative stigma that therapists comes with. Yet, for the first time in my life I started seeing one in 2018. I am afraid of being judged by other Christians. I am afraid of being judged by my relatives. I was afraid of being judged by other nurses. I was ashamed to say anything. I was afraid of running into the therapist at the grocery store, I was afraid people would call me weak, I was doubtful that anyone would understand or even care about what was weighing my heart down. It’s painful to watch children die. They lay there helpless. You always wonder, could I have done something different, something better. I found that there some diagnoses that won’t change the outcome. I found out how much cancer sucks. Apart from seeing horrible things, our patients come to us with horrible stories that break our hearts into shredded pieces. I didn’t fully know how terrible the outside world was to humanity, to innocent children.
I found a therapist over 50 miles away to guard my fears. Yet, seeing a therapist wasn’t enough. I talked for hours about all I have seen and heard since the day I held my nursing license in my hand. People assume nursing leads to a luxurious lifestyle, one that is easy and lived well. No one mentions the ramifications of the things you cannot unsee, unhear.
Jesus never promised that a life of service would be easy or painless. But he promised a way through the tough days. Nursing isn’t a life for a plentiful bank account, it’s a profession filled with abundant memories.
•It’s moments of goofing off with your days shift girl on those 12 hour shifts that quickly turned into 20 hour shifts together •
•It’s karaoke 🎤 in my apartment, singing at the top of our lungs even though we may be incoherent after all that wine 🍷•
• It’s going for tacos at 1am with this crazy girl after a long day when our patient on the oscillator didn’t make it and then of course falling asleep mid taco in my mouth while she’s talking to me•
• It’s attending funerals together and ordering drinks just because it’s blue , it’s sitting in funeral homes and bars crying together over the lives that were lost•
•It’s the times this man brought me breakfast, lunch, dinner and coffee on all our shifts together so that I would never be hungry, even after I told him he looks like Mr. Rodgers from the neighborhood in this button up sweater•
•It’s those nurses who mentor you and those you get to mentor in return, the silliness of friendships, the laughing for no reason •
•It’s finding people your height who accept who you for who you, even though i have to urban dictionary half the things that come up in conversations •
•It’s the one that visits from St. Louis and brings you sour patch kids at midnight and sing to you •
•It’s celebrating birthdays and baby showers, despite being a newbie to the group or not having my own children. It’s this group of women who make me laugh and find a reason to keep laughing even when it’s hard to smile•
So there it is, this is my confession. I was seeing a therapist, a counselor, whatever you want to call it. I’m afraid of the stigma others will label me with. But I don’t care. Seeing a therapist however didn’t work for me. Talking about what happened doesn’t bring people back. Seeing a therapist doesn’t change how I feel or the circumstances. But that’s not to say it won’t work for others. There’s nothing shameful about talking about what we do, because we deal with some heavy heart stuff. Maybe it didn’t work for me because I’m not much of a talker. Therapy is finding what works well for you. Seeing all the good in the midst of all the bad lightened the weight I was carrying. It’s being with the people who know exactly how I am feeling, even if we don’t talk about it. Jesus never promised an occupation that serves others would be void of pain, but he promises to be there. And I have seen and felt Jesus in each one of these people.
Nursing is a profession of abundance. After all, my PICU people will always be my PICU people.