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

198 thoughts on “Extraordinary

  1. That my friend is the best way to describe our brothers and sisters who work tirelessly to help others and give of themselves so others may be comforted in a stressful day.

  2. You sound poetic but yet that is the reality. I once in a while do rescues and get to see what you guys see on a daily basis-which is your real LIFE. Be blessed as you serve-even NOW. Francis from Uganda victim of Terrorism in July 11th, 2010 during the final world cup.

  3. So beautifully said and true. Thanks for sharing the joys and heartbreaks under the internal and external stressors we nurses experience. It’s a calling, not a job. Those who connect emotionally to your post have been called as you have been. Thanks again

  4. Thank you! This was so well thought out and well spoken. I am an experienced ED nurse, and have never read anything that so well, describes our profession and passion as well as you have narrorated it. Thank you..,,

    1. Thank you! The things I see everyday are so incredible, it’s just hard to slow down and take the time to see. I love my job and the opportunity I have to be part of others lives.

  5. AWESOME!!!! Thank You!!! After 50 years, most in the ED, this is one of the most “real”, from the heart, and TRUE revelations of our day~~~ May those who continue on be BLESSED!!!

  6. Thank you, we are still human under the front we have to display to the world. It’s to guard our hearts 😦

  7. Thank You all so much for lifting our spirits and giving us the strength to continue on when it may be so very difficult. Your kindness and compassion are truly what keeps us going. God Bless You Always. You hold our hearts in the palm of your hands.

  8. Thanks for this post. As a fellow ER nurse, it resonates and hits close to home. Funny, I’ve always told friends and family the same thing when they say that the “ER _______ didn’t cry when _____ died.” If we break down, who is going to save the next dying patient flying through the door?

    again, so well written, and so much appreciated. =)

    1. Exactly, although sometimes we are dying inside we stay strong for the next person who rolls through the door, because that person deserves our strength and compassion as well. Thanks for all you do!

  9. Wow, thank you. Your words spoke to me directly and left me in tears. I am a Critical Care nurse and I can also relate to your ups and downs. So thankful to be one in this profession alongside some of the most beautiful people.

  10. I retired from that amazing profession approximately 6 months ago. You speak to the heart of an ER nurse. After more than two decades of ER nursing, I can not imagine ever doing anything else. Thank you.

    1. Ken, my husband is a firefighter/paramedic and I have nothing but respect for your awesome profession. You guys see the worst of the worst and deal with a whole different set of stressors that we don’t have in the ED. Thanks for all you do!

  11. We r blessed to have people like you , who truly care and do their job without a “Thank You”……..there r many people out there who never hear a thank you , but continue to care. And pray for those who are in need……prayers of thanks go to the nursing staff where ever They may be. Luv m

  12. This was beautiful. It made me think of my older sister Betty who worked as an ER RN, We lost her almost four years ago to lung cancer and up until her death she was a very caring nurse, but had that front that she put up to shield herself from what she saw on a daily bases,

  13. From the first day I have you in class, I knew you would be an inspiration to the nursing profession. Even then you were encouraging your fellow students and sharing why you wanted to be a nurse. You have found your calling and I am very proud to have been able to have helped you to have achieved it. You have expressed beautifully what nursing is all about.

  14. This is true not only of ER nurses but us floor nurses as well. We have to go from room to room with a patient load of as many as eight or nine with various acuity levels where you may have anything from an active MI you are trying to get off the floor to the cath lab to a “confused” little granny you just want to keep from hurting themselves. You go home beyond exhausted, but still love doing the job you do.

    1. I agree! Floor nurses have heavy loads and deal with lots of stressors that we don’t have in the ED. I am so happy that there are many amazing nurses working outside of the ED that have care and compassion for their patients. I have nothing but respect for you all! We are all on the same team, working together for the best patient outcome, that’s what its all about!

  15. Beautiful Joe. I feel very privileged to have worked beside you in the ED and witness the “heart of a nurse” that you have. God bless you as you have blessed us!!

  16. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel. I have been feeling down about being an ER nurse but having read this just renewed me. Thank you again.

    1. Jutine, it makes me happy to hear that this left you feeling renewed. I have been there, down, tired, burnt out…and just needed something to help me up. You are not alone! Thanks for sticking it out! You are doing amazing work!

  17. Thank you for sharing this. It is what we do just an ordinary shift… is “extraordinary” when you know you’ve given your all.

  18. I am so proud of the calling and privilege to be an ER nurse and you really hit the heart of what we do daily. Thank you for putting to words so beautifully what we call another day at work. After a long shift, I remember now the lives I touched today.

  19. I was so moved that tears came down my face. I’m not a nurse, but I worked in Montefiore ER for ten years. I saw the amazing dedication. I thank you. Thank you for sharing an insight to the everyday life in the ER.

  20. Beautiful words of our everyday lives. This brought years to my eyes. It is so true that we internalize so much. Thank you for this! So proud to be an ED nurse.

  21. So perfectly written. I have been in every one of this situations both as doing and as observer. Emergency medicine is like no other job. I have been blessed to do this job for 22 years. The people I work with from housekeeping to doctors make it worth every minute. Thank you for writing this and thank you to all who are part of this amazing vocation we have been called to do.

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