My patient’s family member asked me today why I drive all the way to Royal Oak to work – a 40 minute drive on a good day with little to no traffic. I laughed. “Mostly because that 40 minutes is very therapeutic!” I answered. But then after we both chuckled, I told her the real reason.
There are three large hospitals geographically much closer to my home. I could save a lot of time, wear and tear on my car, gas money, etc., if I worked there, but I don’t want to. “We have an amazing team, an incredible boss, and we are like family here.” She said she sensed that at every single shift change, and that she always felt comfortable leaving her loved one in our care. “I woke up in the corner one morning with a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush, and there was a blanket over me! – As if it were ME who was the patient!” she said.
“I’m not at all surprised,” I answered. The truth is – I have no idea which one of my co-workers did that because I can’t really think of one of them who wouldn’t!
I went to the desk for shift change and one of our newest co-workers who just finished her orientation had someone with her I didn’t know. “Who’s your friend?” several of us asked. Turns out – she likes our MICU family so much that she brought a friend to shadow her in hopes that she will eventually join us. If she’s anything like her friend, I certainly hope that she does!
After being a little disheartened today over some of the hurdles we’re facing while collectively trying to form a union at our hospital, this was sure a sweet way to end my shift.
On my way out, I spoke with another co-worker who supports the union effort, but has small children, a husband, and is in school full time. She feels bad that she cannot be more involved in our efforts to unionize. Oh honey….. Go home to your family. There are plenty of people in a season of life when they are able to do the grunt work! It’s what nurses do all day long – think of others before themselves. That’s what those on the front lines are doing. They are thinking of you.
As I drove home, I thought about the faces I’ve finally been able to put with names. Those on the very front lines of this effort, those sacrificing time with their families, and putting in an incredible amount of time in order to secure a better future for the careers of the generations of nurses behind them.
Walking through the halls at work, transporting patients to tests, sliding a patient from a stretcher onto a hospital bed, or simply riding on the elevator with fellow nurses I may never had otherwise had a conversation with, has recently turned into some of the most encouraging moments I’ve had at the hospital in 12+ years. Those of us in navy blue scrubs glance at one another’s Michigan Nurses Association badge pulls, smile slyly, and exchange a “Union Strong” high five, perhaps a few encouraging words, and then go on our way with a new breath of fresh air in our lungs. I have new friends – new friends in units I didn’t even know existed before this campaign! Heck! I’ve even been in the Chapel with some of them and heard many of them pray FOR those trying to stop us and our union organizing efforts!!
But on my really not-so-very-long 40 minute therapeutic drive home tonight, I thought about my colleagues. We’re really good at encouraging one another. It’s a nurse thing, you see. It’s just in us. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.
Before all these union efforts, I thought it was only MY unit that was so unique and special. I thought it was only MY unit that had nurses who stayed for decades, who helped people we worked alongside fight breast cancer, bury their babies, say goodbye to each other as they took their last breath, take collections for when times were really, really tough, walk through divorces and difficult circumstances, help bury their parents, and yes – even pitch in to pay for the hotel room of the family member of patient.
I did – I really did think it was just us! I thought it was only MY unit that functioned so much like a family!
But I was wrong. I was really, really wrong. There’s a whole lot more of us than I’d realized. And yes – far, far more than the 100 that newspaper would like you to believe 🙂
I think Merriam-Webster describes us the best –
UNION: “Something that is made one : something formed by a combining or coalition of parts or members.”
To my fellow organizers – I’m encouraged tonight. I so, so hope you are too.
“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there!” Theodore Roosevelt