Extraordinary

emergency_room

As I sit and reflect on my life, I find myself humbled. Humbled by the business that takes place all around me, the real fight for life and struggle against death, the palpable emotions of situations I often find myself in, and the incredible strength of those whom I work alongside. It’s the stuff movies are made of and it is truly amazing to watch.

Working in an Emergency Department creates such an interesting outlook on life. One that knows and understands all to well the fragility of every single breath and the vital importance of embracing all aspects of living, even the scary ones. We are the truest definition of realism. Would I like to wrap my kids in bubble wrap and never let them out? Yes. Do I? No. Instead they can be found jumping on the bed, because let’s face it, it’s awesome. Riding their bikes outside, because nothing is better than the wind on your face, and occasionally, get ready for it…eating cupcakes for breakfast (I know, I’m out of control.) Simply because life is often cut way to short, enjoying the little things is what matters, and in the end all of these things are little.

I think about my day, nothing out of the ordinary happened, nothing note worthy, nothing that any of us will probably ever remember. Just a typical shift at work. It was the normalcy of this day that in the end took me by surprise. You know, we all feel accomplished when we give TPA and watch as stroke symptoms improve before our eyes, when we catch sepsis early knowing that a mother will now one day leave the hospital and return home to her children, or we save a precious life after restarting a tiny beating heart. Everyone knows the importance of that work, it can be seen and felt by anyone around. It’s everything else that most often goes unnoticed. The real behind the scenes work that happens every minute. The little old lady with dementia who is fighting like hell, the intoxicated man in the hall who shouts obscenities at anyone who passes, the appendicitis, bowel obstructions, broken arms/legs, screaming babies, the dysfunction and frustration of the psychiatric service system, the list goes on and on. This is the bulk of what we do. These people are scared, sometimes we are too, and they come to us for some sort of relief.

Sometimes I like to just watch , like a fly on the wall, as my co-workers buzz around tirelessly caring for others. Crying, laughing, talking, singing, telling stories, sharing our lives with these people, these people who are in crisis, doing anything to ease their pain or their mind, whichever is in need. I was walking through our department yesterday and noticed a nurse standing at the bedside of a critically ill man. He was alone, intubated and sedated, but yet there she stood, just holding his hand. Reassuring him quietly that we were going to take good care of him and that his family was on the way. No one was there to praise her, the patient most certainly will not remember this gesture, but she was still there in that moment of need. Amazing. These fragile yet resilient people who are all around me.

For those of you who don’t do what we do, who haven’t seen things that can not be unseen, be thankful. Be thankful that you don’t have to know what we know, and that you live in a world where there are people who are able to internalize all of this. People who can go to work and do things that most simply can not fathom; and for those of you who find themselves beside me in the trenches, thank you. Thank you for being selfless, for giving and giving when I know sometimes you feel like there is nothing left to give. Thank you for doing what is right, even when no one is watching. I saw you rock that crying baby to sleep. I saw you walk that little old lady to the bathroom after you clocked out because she seemed unsteady on her feet. I saw you buy that man whose wife was dying a cup of “good” coffee from the cafeteria, out of your own pocket, because after today, he just deserved it. I saw you silently shed a tear as you left the room of a pediatric cardiac arrest, then go call and check on your own little ones at home because the pain was too much to bear. I heard you clapping and cheering with the family of a patient who just found out that there was no brain tumor after all.

I know sometimes you laugh when something is going wrong, and people think you are crazy, but the only other option is crying and if you start you may never stop. I know you’re tired, I know you hurt, and I know you love your job so much that you can’t imagine doing anything else. I am so proud to be a part of this with you, you all amaze me, and even the days that don’t seem extraordinary, are.

~Melina, ED RN

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198 thoughts on “Extraordinary

  1. Reblogged this on Temp Chicks and commented:
    This nurse is exactly the type of nurss we want to have as part of the 1st Choice Team any day. The author illustrates how often times there are so many aspects of caring for patients that go unseen and unrecognnized everyday. We would all be blessed if we had the opportunity to be cared for by a nurse who cared for us the way this nurse seems to care for the patients she is responsible for daily.

  2. I do not work with you unfortunately but have had cause to visit my local ED recently and watched in amazement and ore as people showed the utmost compasion, care and professionalism not to mention patience. Thank you i think your words should be put up in every ED waiting room for us to read

  3. Beautifully said… I know how it feels… Most of the extraordinary work go unnoticed. And most of the time we also get to be badly criticized by people who know nothing about our work… I’m happy to hear you are still proud of our work despite the challenges and sacrifices. I am proud to hear all of this from you…

  4. Accurate and inspiring, humbling and true….puts life and all it throws at us into perspective! Wonderfully written.

  5. I work in a Peds Ed. I feel the gallows humor, the shared experiences with death, bring people together. We form a family and often substitute this work family for a blood family because we understand each other in a way that other people cannot if they have not been in such close proximity to death and suffering. As Nurses, as healers, we are equipped with something that allows us to touch suffering and transform it. I think this family s one tool that allows that transformation. Because of our understanding of ourselves and of each other. Thanks for your writing.

  6. Reblogged this on bishan's world and commented:
    As I struggle to come down from the night shift “high” or is the the energy depleted low – this was a soothing article that captures the essence of what makes working in this environment special

  7. We are an amazing group of specialized people . The average person has no idea of the miraculous work we do guided, I believe, by the grace of God. I’m thankful for the 30 years that left me in blood, made me sweat and left the tears to be wiped away so that none could see that I was moved by the last person in my care. I am an anesthetist (CRNA) and many times no one knew who that was that made the pain go away……even for a little while…..

  8. As a patient I would like to say thank you. Some of the nurses involved in my care have done amazing things for me and I would not be here today without the nursing care I have received. You held my hand, wiped away my tears, bathed me, comforted me with words, shown me compassion and respect, you have been hard on me when I wanted to give up, you have been my teacher in a new world I have entered, shown me how to get myself out of hospital and read the signs for when I need to return,you have stood by my side when I was unable to stand up on my own, you have gone into battle with me and for me, you have corrected a mistake in my medication, you have come to help me at the press of a buzzer when you have needed the toilet you have given me pain relief and you have supported my family when I could not. Thank you from the bottom of my heart

    1. What a fantastic article! My husband had passed away , just 2 months after his birthday. So on that day a nurse a nurse, backed a cake with whisky, as a run cake would not,work as he had always had an attitude adjustment time in the evening made with a shot of whiskey! So instead of a rum cake, she used whiskey. I was never so touched as I was finding out through my granddaughter who is a nurse. They ate it saying cheers to Bart! They are angels , and gave him that special toast!
      I will never forget!

  9. Thank you for this. I’m an ER doc who works way too much overtime in a cramped, crazy, inner-city ED. Sometimes I just want to quit. You remind me why it is that I don’t.

  10. Such a true story. I lived it for almost 18 yrs. the things I’ve seen, heard, done would send most with their heads spinning. But yet I loved every min of it… With that being said it also took me to some of my darkest day of my life. The endless stress, the fatigue, and the lack of outside support from my ex. Caused me to seek alternative ways to cope ( not good ways, either ) and eventually caused me to suspend my RN license. My heart couldn’t take it any longer.
    Today I find my salvation in my horses. I work a insignificant job, and have the most amazing husband ( Scott Irvin ) ( FF/medic) in the world. I couldn’t ask for more. I miss being a RN but I had to stop and take care of me. A very hard decision to make. I gave up what I loved doing in order to love myself…

  11. So eloquently delivered….this invaluable message of front-line caring and compassion in the midst of chaos. Our therapeutic gift of self to serving others during such times of need should be documented more frequently in the media. A beautiful reflection on caring. Increased knowledge of compassion fatigue and education/tools for prevention is so critical to sustaining valued care providers (in many service sectors) in healthcare today. Thank you for brightening my day with this commentary and for ‘all you do’ in a day’s work. I believe it is difficult for others to begin to imagine what healthcare providers bear witness to on a daily basis.

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