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. Love this. Been a manager of 10 Bay ED for 17 years. Have seen many incredible things and witnessed many amazing acts of kindness.

  2. those brief glimps of who we are and where we’ve been brings back memories and wonderment. when the nurse is ill and receiving the care, we know if we were to do it over again, no matter where we spend our nursing career the caring aura, and the human touch can make the different in the will to live. Thanks, you make a difference.

  3. Tears!!! Knowing that we have HELPED someone along the way. Comfort in knowing that GOD see it ALL.

  4. Beautifully written. I have been an ER nurse for more years than I care to admit and I love my job. My coworkers are my true friends. Thank you so much for thank you! Tara Linehan Ferrante RN

  5. Great “re-cap” on what we do…every shift. We are why people go home 🙂 Sometimes a thankless job…but ALWAYS a fulfilling job!

  6. A Beautiful truth, eloquently said. This May, I will hit year 40 of nursing! I too have witnessed everything you mentioned and didn’t mention, never to be unseen. Neonatal ICU, Peds ICU, CVICU, Heart and Lung transplant, Knife and Gun Club (AKA – ER), CCU, Case Management, and management. Extraordinary people doing extrordinary work, doing small acts of kindness with great love all under the guise of just “doing our job”. I cannot imagine doing anything else ! God gives each of us a talent, I am very thankful for the talents of all who work in the Medical field in the Hospital setting.

    1. What an amazing career! Those NICU babies leave me in awe. Such incredible fight and strength, the purest of the pure in such a tiny little package! Thank you for all you do!

  7. This was so well written and it is the reality of what is the truth that occurs in the ER my heart goes out for all you do:)

  8. Thank you for putting into words what we do everyday!! 😉 Love it!! I have been in emergency medicine for 20 + years and I can resinate with this!! Thank you!!!

  9. 36 years as an RN and I am still thankful for the privilege to serve. Looking back, I would not have chosen any other profession, any other job.

  10. I have been an ER nurse for more than 2 decades, you nailed it, my ER friends have been the most amazing people I have ever met, I love what I do & in the worst of situations felt I was suppose to be there, to comfort, to care, or to just listen. I am the nurse laughing at the nurses station, teasing who ever will let me, because I believe laughter is always the best medicine!! Thanks for the story!!! Loved it!

  11. As all of these experiences are indeed part of your job and daily life…from my personal experience they may indeed haunt some forever. I wish there were more outlets to identify post traumatic stress disorder. Sleepless nights, shots of whiskey before bed, the wind down after a shift. Who is there to listen to the stories,.. not your spouse, who is quietly sleeping, your friends do not want that harsh reality of the trauma witnessed or the road side carnage. There is a bitter side to this occupation, and not enough support for it. We are all supposed to be tough as nails and get through it. You don’t have to. Speak up, there will be someone to listen. You have a tough job. Thanks for all you do!

    1. Greg, I couldn’t agree more. Internalization is not always a good thing and I know that many suffer from PTSD. Thankfully our ED management is amazing and we have wonderful support for our staff, but it can still be tough to rationalize all that we see. Life can be cruel, but I try to find beauty or pure human strength in every situation I am in. If you look hard enough you can usually find it. It helps me get through.

  12. This is truly moving. I Co – oped on a terminally ill ward for 3 months. I was placed there by mistake (I had wanted to work in the blood lab) but I met some of the most interesting and strongest people I have ever met. I commonly just did the patients hair and talked with them, but a nurse once told me that I had the most important job “to make these people realize they aren’t alone”. And even though I watched a few pass, they will never be alone because I will never forget them or their stories ♡
    Nurses and doctors are true heroes. Keep up the good work, love.

  13. Awesome read. It fits perfectly with a theme in my Dissertation; “Stressors Experienced by Emergency Department Registered Nurses at the Bedside: A Phenomenological Study”

  14. Ash….great read…..I’m sooooo proud of you!!!!! You worked hard to be where you r today…..I personally know how hard you worked, as I was right there beside you! But more than your tireless work was your true compassion (we both know that’s a rare thing where we worked) you always were so focused, took extra care and time; and you ALWAYS helped me, especially when I wasn’t feeling well…..My you rise in your profession, and always have good heath, peace and happiness!!!!!! Eileen Daley

  15. I was an ER nurse ‘back in the day’ and my daughter is one now. One never forgets the experience. As a result, I never say goodbye to anyone I love without telling them I love them (never leave anything unsaid), I never take for granted the presence of loved ones, and I believe that family can, and should, witness codes performed on their loved ones (if they want to) – nothing is more impressive and nothing gives a family more comfort knowing everything was done. I’ve never seen a family stay who wasn’t grateful – and they seem to self-select out if it’s too much for them. Nursing is so much more technical than it was when I was at the bedside – Kudos to all who provide the complex care with the empathetic heart.

  16. As a “washed out” nurses aide from NSF, the “Forget Me Ward,” I can honestly say that every day since I left the medical profession, I thought of those who made it stick as a career, and always appreciated their hard work and dedication. So thank you all for being nurses. Because some of us just can’t.

  17. Melina, I am a 20 year firefighter/paramedic whom has also worked in the ED part-time for many years. I too have witnessed so many of the things you mention and felt so many of the same emotions, in both jobs. This was extraordinarily well written and I will be sharing it on my blog as well. Kudos.

    1. Chris, my husband is a firefighter/paramedic, so I know very well the things that you are all witness to. I have nothing but respect for your profession, and the incredible work you all do! I consider it an honor to work beside you guys!

  18. I feel like whoever wrote this is inside my own head and heart and works alongside the very same nurses and staff in our emergency department. And yes… Same patients! Thanks for saying this so eloquently.

    1. That’s because we are all together, fighting the good fight, and experience the same things, regardless of where we work. Happy to hear there are amazing nurses all over the world!

  19. Awesome letter, after being an RN in the ER department in the Netherlands for 25 years, It all sounds so familiar with the situation back home. Great job in writing it down this way. Big Thank You!!! ( in Canada since 2006)

  20. Sometimes the simplest acknowledgement is the thing that makes a person feel wanted. We are a people who need reassurance that things will be alright in time of an emergency. It takes a special and strong person to accomplish this task.

  21. Wow, I have so much respect for you and those in your profession. It truly takes a special soul to do your job! Much love to you<3

  22. This appeared in my reader feed and I was gripped from beginning to end; every word spoke to me and reinforced what I’ve been contemplating today. I suffer from mental health problems and often feel like throwing my life away because I can’t deal with it anymore; but then I think about all those who want to live but don’t have a choice; those that are given only months to live and then make each second of those moments count. It’s blogs like yours that really put that into perspective, into reality and I thank you for that. I’m going to follow your blog. Keep up the good work and you have my utmost respect and praise for the work you do.

  23. Melina,

    I found this beautiful. One of the best entries I read on Word Press, and mostly because it is about people who will never read this. So it’s written in true appreciation.

    And I have a family member in Health Care, but have been hospitalized and helpless myself, and lemme tell you it was appreciated and still is.

    Though there has been some controversies over the care of certain individuals I’ve known, I definitely think dedicated, hard-working, empathic, health care professionals are in the majority. And it’s pretty thankless and extraordinary, just like you say here, with numerous instances of nurses and medical assistants/technicians going way over the line of duty everyday.

    And even when they are not, just that job well done? Within the line of duty is pretty extraordinary compared to what is happening in the rest of the world. So God bless you and keep you for your appreciation of what you do and for where you circulate.

    We simply need more who realize, and dispense the respect well deserved.

  24. Crying like a baby… I’ve worked ER, ICU, now anesthesia and we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the work that we do! It takes such an emotional, physical, and mental toll every shift! Thank you for putting something we all feel into words.

  25. As a retired ER RN, I still get to share all the wonderful knowledge I learned in the ER . Still miss it !!!

  26. Thank you for writing how I see my coworkers. 5 yrs in an inner city ER and I go home every morning from my shift making sure I squeeze as much life and living into everyday of mine and my family’s life.

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