Not everyone can be a nurse


Thanks to all the nurses who take care of my patients and every other patient. I may be a doctor, but you are the ones who deliver the care. You give the medications and hang the IV fluids. You wash the patients and turn them. You check their vitals and listen for bowel sounds. You walk with them. You talk with them. You fulfill their needs. And you provide comfort to them and their families.

You have seemingly limitless patience and endurance. You have heightened senses, for when you tell me you smell C. diff, I believe you. Your nose has probably smelled enough stool for 37 lifetimes.

Even if you work 3 or 4 days a week, and there are jokes are aplenty of how easy that must be, I know the shifts are anything but. You are constantly running around attending to patients and answering bells and whistles. Listening to patients. Taking orders from doctors. Getting yelled at by patients. Getting yelled at by doctors. And there are the days when there’s no time to eat, no time to drink, and surely, no time to pee.

And let’s not forget about all the charting. And the policies. And the limitations. And the regulations. And the frustration at not being able to do what you want for the patient, what is right for the patient.

The work can be vastly rewarding, but it can break you. The sickness, the death, the stress, the mistakes, the berating, and the insult when someone refers to you as “just a nurse.”

Do they not realize that when physicians are nothing more than baby interns learning to crawl, they rely on nurses for guidance? For education? For support? Or that when the resident is an attending, that the nurse can be a confidant? No, maybe they don’t realize that. They don’t know how many times a nurse catches a potentially lethal mistake from a doctor, because it’s all behind the scenes. As are the sacrifices a nurse makes to take care of a patient, a total stranger.

No, you’re not just a nurse, because not everyone can be a nurse.

I know I can’t. So thank you. Happy Nurses Week.

Gian-Paul Vidal is a surgery resident.

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