Next week across the country, will begin a week-long celebration of Registered Nurses.
What does this mean?
Well, where I am employed, it means that local colleges will set up attractive tables to recruit us to their institutions to further our education, handing out gifts of new ink pens, note pads, and cute little hand sanitizers for our purses. Posters highlighting different areas of nursing expertise will be showcased throughout hospitals. Crispy Kreme will have a sharp increase in sales, as hospital staff stops to pick up last-minute donuts for hungry, eating-on-the-go nurses. We will, no doubt, all be semi-comatose each day from a diet of excessive carbohydrates after the everyday gifts of bagels, donuts, and chocolate “nibbled on” throughout our shift. (Come on fellow nurses, am I right?)
God Bless that family member who sends us the healthy, Incredible Edible FRUIT!!!
I am not complaining – Truly, I’m not. I look forward to Nurse’s Week! But tonight, as I think about and pray for someone I used to work with, who remains a friend and is currently ill – I am moved to acknowledge, and yes, celebrate, those who stand, most often unnoticed, unacknowledged, unappreciated, and definitely uncelebrated………
Nursing Assistants! (And, um, this needs to change!)
You see, standing in the shadows of every nurse, is his or her assistant. They never receive “thank you” cards from family members who lost loved ones, though they very much fall in love with their patients and are ABSOLUTELY instrumental in their overall care.
They do not get a week-long celebration for their dedication and hard work, yet they are the ones with the (excuse the expression) “mad skills” that they often pass on to the NURSES!
When nurses may have 2 patients, assistants often have 10 to 20. That’s a LOT of turning, tucking, rolling, wiping, lifting, holding, WIPING, (wiping again), rearranging, lowering, (wiping again), highering, shifting, poking, measuring, and, you guessed it, wiping AGAIN!
That’s also 10 to 20 rooms’ worth of 10- to 15-pound laundry bags to carry down long hallways and LIFT into the laundry chute at the end of each shift. And I’ve YET to meet a nursing assistant without at LEAST one bulging disk!!
“Can you get a blood sugar? Can you go grab a travel monitor? Can you grab an “RP?” (inside joke) Can you run to Starbucks?
And yes, “Can you page me overhead, if I’m stuck in that room for too long?”
Nursing Assistants, literally, SAVE OUR BUTTS !!
They run to Starbucks and Papa Joe’s for that “I’ll buy, if you fly” bribe to get the “medicinal” gummy bears and kettle crack – the ONLY cure to a 12-hour nursing shift. Oh, and they KNOW how each of us takes our coffee; they need not ask.
They are our right hands, and often, our left hands as well. As I write this, I see each of their faces – Krista, Arvin, Jamie, Justin…….. and others. (You ALL rock!)
Oh, and they don’t just do the difficult physical work. They also do the VERY difficult emotional work alongside us – Bathing people while trying every trick they have to keep them comfortable despite wounds that are, literally, at times indescribable. When that curtain is closed, and your loved one is being cared for by a nursing assistant, the most tender moments in the day of a nursing assistant are going on. Hands are held, comforting words are shared, jokes are told, giggles are had, and encouragement is given.
The most tender moment I have ever had the privilege of sharing with a nursing assistant, was when she played “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong, and held the hands of a very elderly lady while she passed away – so that she would not be alone. I’ll never forget it. Afterwards, she wiped her own tears after saying goodbye, regained her composure, and went back to work – turning, lifting, checking blood sugars, bathing, wiping, and whatever she was asked to do.
Well, we COULD NOT DO OUR JOBS WITHOUT YOU! We couldn’t! You are more valuable than you are told, more appreciated than you hear about, more loved by your patients than you ever receive cards of thanks for, and though you may not have your very own “week of appreciation,” celebrated across the country, I know my fellow nurses feel exactly like I do, and we celebrate you!
And for those of you who are silent care givers, volunteering your time to play BINGO, have lunch, sing songs, or just sit quietly while episode after episode of “Mayberry” play for YOUR patient (and loved one), you too, deserve to be celebrated! People like you make the words of the song below so, so true! And lucky, lucky me – I get to know you 😉