Nurses are Crazy Here’s why.
In late 1999, my friend and I backpacked across Costa Rica for ten days. We had very little with us, we slept in Hostels and crappy hotels, the most expensive of which was $3 per night. When we had the opportunity to shower, the water was cold and likely not very clean. We saw monkeys in the wild, sloths, sea turtles. It was amazing. Have you ever travelled outside of the country for a period of a week or more? When you come back to the United States, everything gets on your nerves. You suddenly realize that all of the crap we have is totally unnecessary, that you really can survive on the bare minimum. Traveling has a way of putting things in perspective for you, especially if you are in a country that seems to thrive on less. It takes a minute to assimilate back into our culture.
I have spent the last three nights away from my family, in a world that not many people would want to experience. Surviving on maybe five hours of restless sleep each day, going into work to fight mother nature for twelve hours, only to drive home to pass out. Eating crappy food and drinking tons of coffee. Repeat again the next night. And the next. I have not slept in bed with my husband in four nights. I have not spent more than an hour with my kids each day. I have had very little physical contact with another human save for my contact with my patients.
When I woke up today around 1 pm, it occurred to me that I was expected to rejoin the living. To rejoin my family. To rejoin healthy people who are not trying to die. It was a little startling. It took me a while to decompress and snap out of the fighting mindset. For twelve hours each night for the last three nights, I have fought to keep two patients alive. Every time I tried to sit down to chart the crappy vital sign & what I did to fix it, another machine would alarm, so I would have to get up and fix whatever new thing was going batshit crazy. All night long. And none of the people in my living room could possibly understand what that does to a person. And I hope they never do.
I love it. I love every second of it. I love taking care of those patients that ICU nurses refer to as, “Sick as Shit”. It is what I was born to do and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. I think all ICU nurses feel this way.
One thing we are not good at is switching back. We suck at it. We are not good at communication. We feel the way we feel, we are tough, we don’t need to explain it.
I think we are short changing ourselves. ICU nurses do amazing work. We steel ourselves against the horrors with which we are faced quite often, and we make jokes about them. We do not feel the need to debrief. I am guilty of this. I would love to see us be a little more honest with ourselves, and with our feelings. It would be nice if, at the end of every shift, we would sit, talk and reflect on what went right, what went wrong, what we could have done better, and how all of that makes us feel.
I know I sound like Oprah here (not gonna lie, not a big fan). But hey, I’m a crazy nurse so I get to say crazy things.