Nursing is methodical and precise, like military special ops

Another crazy three days at work and I begin to think about the similarities of Seal Team 6 and nurses. Methodical. Precise.

Nursing is not a glorious profession. Even though my father thinks I sit at the bedside of the sick and dying and hold their hands all day, the fact of the matter is, I simply do not have the time. We run around attempting to tread water with the amount of things we need to do, and often we find ourselves drowning. We hope we can make it through but as we walk the hospital halls we hear the chanting: “Nurse Sarah Beth, KIA.” But take heart, 12 hours later we leave, and at the end of the day you can’t help but think: mission accomplished.

Nursing’s version of training time in Dam Neck is in the day to day activities around the hospital. We learn to juggle the needs of patients, the doctors, the pharmacists, the technicians … should I go on? We perfect our skills on these “normal” days. We become quick at what we do for we know a time will come when our refined skills will be desperately needed.

Then that day comes. The day when you have two patients crashing at the same time. The patient is vomiting blood when you need to push fluids. But you need a better IV line first. You get the 18 gauge needle in while the patient is retching in pain. You need the blood for the transfusion, but you can’t go to the blood bank to get it because the patient next door is becoming hemodynamically unstable. You grab help from your team and send someone to the blood bank while you rush in to the room and try to figure out what is going on. You quickly assess the situation and make a game time decision to call for back up. Then the bedside heart monitor malfunctions. No matter. (Don’t) Burn it and call for the extra around the corner on the code cart. (I’m going to stop now with the graphic details because I know you are all starring at your computers like you are in the situation room.)

The most elite seal team amazes me in their ability to perfect their craft and execute their mission with perfect precision.

Elite nurses do the same thing. No, we don’t take down most wanted terrorists, but we do bring precision to the craft of saving a life.

Sarah Beth Cowherd is a nurse who blogs at

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  • GPZ

    Nurses do a tough, and sometimes thankless, job. Doctors definitely appreciate good nurses because we could not do our jobs without them. Period. 

  • Anne Butler

    As a nurse practitioner, who specializes in Hospice and Palliative Care, I do believe that their is significant value added in sitting at the bedside of the dying patient and listening deeply to what is being said and what often cannot be put into words! For 27 years, it has truly been a glorious profession filled with wonder and mystery and such potential for personal and professional transformation. Being highly skilled clinicians that respond in haste to all types of human suffering is essential however if we do not “take and make the time” to pause and reverence the person within the patient that we are serving, we will not be able to save their life nor our own! Perhaps, your father’s insight and wisdom is worth integrating into your next “crazy three days at work” so that together your mission will truly be accomplished for yourself and for the patients who are entrusted to your precise and excellent care delivery~.

  • Kilgore

    Not just special ops.

    There’s a few physical terrorists on the floor too.

    My father-in-law had a few who made him walk after his gallbladder surgery.

    He said they had a cattle prod, but I don’t believe him………..

  • Anonymous

    i agree anne butler. were you ever in overlook hospital, nj? if so , iwas a med student and i was with a surg team. i agree that patients are looking for TLC!!! you said 27 years in the business? me too. i made it and now i teach nurses in allied health. i teach surgery in rome,italy. i am a trauma surgeon now and best of all—–i was 20 years doctors/without borders.also a marine and still am. if it is you—they called me jackie. were you charge nurse?
    if so, you were the best!!!! (does eileen and gayle ring a bell)?
    PS–to the writer—seals and marines do not work 12 hour shifts and some of us never make it home alive!

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