A startling end to nurse turf wars

We fought. And we fought hard. We were smarter and quicker and we could multi-task, and critically think beyond any MD or NP or PA or beyond any cardiovascular ICU (CVICU) nurse.

We always thought we had the higher acuities. We had the critical patients. The multi-system failure patients. The hemodynamically unstable patients.

We had to figure out the lungs, the heart, the kidneys, the brain, the pancreas, the gallbladder, the liver.

And we had to do it fast, before the patient came crashing.

All CVICU had to worry about were their hearts. Open hearts, Code Stemi, myocardial infarctions, the “widow maker,” pacemakers, balloon pumps, EKOS and Impella.

We, the ICU, thought “they” were the princesses of the hospital. And we were the sacrificial lamb.

We fought with cruelness in our heart. We were relentless. We were the alpha dog.

No, you can’t have our extra nurse. No, you can’t have our CNA. Yes, we must take your balloon pump, your Code Cool. Because we do it all.

What we all forgot was what we were here for.

We weren’t here for a contest to win. We weren’t here to beat our chests and scream “we are better than you.” We weren’t here to prove to the MD’s that we were the preferred. We were the best.

We were here for the patient.

The very sick patient. The one that didn’t want to die. The one that was in shock over suddenly being stricken with a heart that didn’t want to work. Or kidneys that shut down. Or lungs gasping for oxygen while each lung filled up with cancer or emphysema. Gasping for air. Gasping for life.

And along comes Mary.

She was new to our hospital. No one knew her. Where she came from. But there she was. Crossing over to our side. Asking us if we were OK.

How was our staffing? How were our patients? How can we help you?

And her tender eyes burned a hole in our eyes. They were bold but sincere eyes.

She was from the other side. The coronary side. The side that had become our war zone.

And she came to visit us every day. Without fail. With her tender eyes and her tender heart.

And then she asked us ICU pros if we’d like to have a shared dinner at work. A kumbaya dinner. An Indian and Pilgrim feast. A virtual peace pipe.

And we took the bait.

A dinner was planned at work.

Heart meets lungs, kidneys, heart, brains, pancreas, liver, psychosis, cirrhosis.

And the magnificence was not only in the eternal spread of foods laid out on four tables, but behind that conference door was laughter and smiles and shaking hands and hugs.

And the bully culture, the Rambo, the “I’m better than you,” somehow disappeared.

We began caring again for one another. Are you OK? Can we help you? Hang in there; you’ll make it through.

And we remembered that dream we all once had long ago. Why we wanted to be a nurse.

That pledge to help the sick, to provide comfort and love and expertise and critical thinking along with holding the hand of a scared patient. That mother or father or son or daughter or grandmother or grandfather.
We were the servants of a career that is endless in giving. A career that doesn’t clock out. A career that never sleeps. A career that makes you laugh and cry and gets you angry and outraged and brings you down on your knees.

We can do two things.

We can help each other to make our patients better and stronger or ease comfortably into the hereafter.

Or we can spend negative energy to win that trophy.

Be that Mary that comes from somewhere. And open your heart up and be that nurse that you always dreamed of being.

Take the high road.

Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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