As you go through nurse’s training — you’re a cocky little shit. You are certain you will be so very careful. YOU will never fuck up because you KNOW you hold Life And Death in your hands. You are not so burned out, careless, flat out stupid as The Other Nurses.
Guess what? You’re also so wrong.
The nurses who have been there — right there — standing in your brand, new, white shiny nurse’s shoes will tell you, “Honey, it’s a matter of When — Not If — you make a medication error. Or screw up an order or mess up some other thing.”
You will be writing incident reports — or whatever your particular risk management department calls them these days. You can make bank on it. Because shit happens.
Medicine — surgery — nursing — all these are referred to as ‘a practice’ because we can always be better at it. It is never 100% Perfect. EVER.
Any nurse who is honest with themselves knows this to be the truth.
The work we do — it’s done by Human Hands. Those Hands — well, they are attached to a Human Brain, and a Human Heart. Both of those parts of a nurse or physician can succumb to the wear and tear of The Work.
And yet — you cannot take The Humanity out of what we do.
It is Our Humanity which holds All. The. Things. together in Healthcare. This week I have spoken to more than one patient who has had their cancer recur and is facing another round of tests/surgeries/radiation/chemo — just when they thought they had It beat. I set up hospice for another patient who had enough and was tapping out of the high tech carousel — opting for quality vs quantity in His Life for the time which remained. I have talked several others (and their family members) off The Emotional Ledges just being diagnosed with cancer can lead them to — regardless of their prognosis.
I’m an Old Nurse. I lost my sense of invincibility decades ago. The bright and shiny is long gone from my nurse’s shoes — but I have learned this along the way.
Nurses, Physicians, Techs, Admin, All Of Us in the Healthcare Machine are Humans. And We, The Humans are what keeps The Machine from becoming even more of a Nightmare. It is Our Humanity — Our Fallible Humanity — which is the greatest resource we bring to the table for our patients.
Make no mistake — The Missteps are going to happen. Because of it.
But also, great amounts of Love, Compassion, Caring, Empathy, and Tenderness will pour out and cover patients who need those things as much, perhaps even more, than they need yet another procedure or medication.
The most important thing we do for our patients is to — Be Human.
Own it. Accept it. Know perfection is not an option. Embrace ‘Your Best’ — even when it falls short. Do not embrace The Missteps for all of your career. Sadly, those are what we always see and remember first and foremost.
Instead, embrace Your Humanity. The waves of Hope and Love you sent out with this same ‘flaw’ which caused you to miss someone’s 0900 colace dose likely had The Butterfly Effect in Their Life and The Lives of their loved ones. You will never know to a what extent you may have made a difference.
Just know that you do. We all do. Every day when we come to work and put on our less than shiny nurse’s shoes.