A letter written by my friend and colleague, Lisa Rinehart, RN, BSN, JD
Nurses Week 2020– A Perspective in a Unique Time
As Nurses’ Week is celebrated this year, I have no doubt that we will continue to hear about the wonderful accolades and sincere gratitude that we have seen attributed to all nurses during the pandemic that has settled over our world. They are all well-deserved and so appreciated. Each vision of a nurse (or any health care provider) working with a patient in gowns, masks, gloves and all types of PPE, can’t help but stir our emotions and remind us why nurses are so integral to all of our health and well-being. But particularly, in such scary times, these scenes may also raise the question: ‘WHY do they do it?” Well, I’ll tell you my version…
I am a nurse. I started nursing over thirty years ago. Who knew that my chosen career would be both a noun and verb at the same time! Perhaps, this exemplifies the often ‘schizophrenic’ nature of my professional days – the mixed bag of easy and hard, happy and sad, win and lose. Each day is a new surprise, and a new challenge to which I can bring what I learned yesterday. But as I reflect on my experiences, I must admit that the overriding emotion is JOY. Being a nurse gives me the ever-amazing ability to be on the “inside” of so many life events. Watching a newborn as he takes his first breath, holding the hand of a cancer patient as she says good-bye to her children, and doing the “baby dance” with a fertility patient who is finally pregnant – and it’s a good one! These shared moments are precious. Not everyone gets accepted into a patient’s “inner circle” as readily as their nurse. And not everyone gets the honor of participating in a patient’s life events – to help them cope, heal, decide, accept or just be. So, while there is a certain amount of excitement at getting that IV stick on the first try (seriously, it can be fun!), the real kick for me is knowing that my presence – by providing a skill, an ear, or information – helped someone. Making a patient feel that they matter, makes me feel like I matter.
More recently, my joy in nursing embraces my colleagues and community. Many of my special nursing moments now include mentoring and encouraging others to enter the nursing profession. What a thrill to have a great med tech get her nursing degree or have a niece graduate with her BSN and “love” ER nursing (even during a pandemic!) or a nephew text you that he “got in” to the nursing program of his choice. I cannot help but let my pride in my chosen career spill over to others. Why wouldn’t I want to share this rewarding, crazy, hard, but joyful career.
So, as I add my good wishes, love and encouragement to all nurses during Nurses’ Week 2020, I ask that we continue to thank the nurses and nurse extenders who give so much of themselves in so many areas of patients’ lives. I also hope that we will take the time to encourage others to join the nursing profession. I won’t sugar-coat it: the road can be really hard, but the pay-off of being let into a patient’s life is so worth it!