We Ask, You Answer: How important is it that those closest to us understand what we do?

Nurses
As healthcare professionals, it can sometimes feel like our professional lives and personal lives are mutually exclusive. We’re obviously bound by HIPAA, but beyond that there is a sheer inability to explain exactly what it is we do and experience on a regular basis. Those closest to us don’t have true context for any of our clinical experiences. Whether it’s due to not wanting to ‘bring work home’ or because it’s TMI for most, we don’t include those closest to us in the conversations about work. So they never ‘learn the language’ and only see work as the other part of our lives, rather than as a vital and integrated part of it. I often feel like my patients and their families understand my job and role far better than my husband does. Forget the ones even further removed – the ones that don’t hear my stories or haven’t experienced nights and days in a hospital room.
But being able to relate with your family and friends when you have a really great shift or being able to vent and seek comfort when a shift or two goes badly — can only help the two aspects of our lives come together. So where do we start? And how much do those closest to us understand what it is we do? We got curious – and asked!
Did your idea and understanding of a nurse change?

“Absolutely. I think it is unfortunate that most of the US thinks of nurses as not critical to healthcare delivery.  My appreciation for their place in healthcare delivery world has grown massively after understanding what a nurse does day in and day out for their patients.  Nurses make the most important decisions regularly, and far and away more hands-on than doctors are.”

“Being a nurse seems way more complex than what I had envisioned growing up. You have to go through a lot of shit (literally) to get to a point where you can gain more control of your schedule, solidify a position, pick and choose which fields/departments to work in, and have more independence or say in where you work.”

“I imagine a nurse with a stethoscope around their neck, smiling,  and tending to their patients’ needs. I’ve learned patients aren’t always nice and communication within care teams is not always strong. A nurse needs to do a lot more than use all the textbook knowledge they learned in school, they need to constantly be on their toes and critically thinking.”

“It certainly did! The way nurses not only manage their patients and roller coaster of problems they face day in and day out, but also how they manage their entire life schedule is amazing. Also…they’re on their feet allllll day!”

“I always imagined that nurses provided more of a support role to the doctors, but I never understood that nurses provide the vast majority of all care that is administered in a healthcare setting.”

“Nursing goes far beyond assisting doctors in treating patients—if anything it’s the other way around.”

“While the doctor may make the diagnosis and write the prescription, nurses schedule the visit, triage incoming requests, build rapport with the patient and family, conduct testing for conditions, document test results, mix and prepare the medications, administer the treatment, and so much more.  There is no shortage of preparation to run a successful healthcare clinic, and the nurses and support staff handle all of it. Nursing goes far beyond assisting doctors in treating patients—if anything it’s the other way around.”

What grosses you out the most?

“The thought of the pain that comes with the treatment. It is cringeworthy and I hate to hear the details…”

“Needles. Needles. Needles. I’ve hated them since I was a kid. I can’t stand looking at them, thinking about them, or seeing them enter my skin. They give me the shivers, and are one of the most powerful and healing tools for a nurse.”

What’s your least favorite part of the nursing lifestyle?

“The nurse work-life balance lifestyle is amazing and I wish more jobs had it. If I had to think of something it would be that getting home at 8pm during the week after shifts is pretty late and doesn’t allow for doing much that night.”

“The early morning hours! I was always so impressed by how they can  get up so early and then go, go, go all day!”

“I don’t know how nurses are able to cope with serving and helping an endless number of people who are sick. Nurses are the light and hope for patients’, families and friends everyday. I could never handle that kind of responsibility. They are part time therapists.”

“Weekend and late-night shifts are never fun, but can be a real part of the nursing lifestyle. Depending on the role, some nurses might work the night shift, the weekend shift, or very early mornings. These shifts can mess up a sleep schedule and eat into personal time.”

“Working holidays (or very close to them) also seems to be a theme in healthcare. Except in the school district where holidays are closed for business, a lot of outpatient clinics have their busiest times while other industries are vacationing.  This can make planning for travel around the holidays difficult, as Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, and the Friday after Thanksgiving all seem to be busy. It all requires a lot of planning and collaboration with colleagues several months in advance.”

What’s your favorite?

“By far the flexibility of when they can schedule their shifts.  Working 7am-7pm is a long day, but to be able to work 3-12 hours shifts and then have 4 days off, and decide when those days are, is pretty incredible.”

“Work hard, play hard. Nurses can adjust to anything she sets her mind to, and also adds a positive vibe to every circumstance. She makes time to take care of herself, so she can take good care of others, her patients! Nurses are extremely thoughtful, and are emotionally intelligent – they need to keep others in check, but realize that they need to be in tip top shape in order to give patients the attention and time they need. Nurses have incredible energy!! They are fun, and know how to truly live in the present. Nurses are exposed to life-threatening situations, sad and sometimes hopeless patients, and heart-wrenching cases – yet, they know how to bounce back and enjoy the beauty of life, all while making a difference in others’ lives!”

“The amount of care they put into each and every patient. From every story I would hear, no matter if it was a patient that gave her a hard time that day or her “favorite patient of the day”, she always expressed so much care and concern for everyone which is what makes her such a great nurse.”

“Hearing all the success stories! Hearing about how they helped a certain patience and their family. I also love hearing about the bonds they create with everyone in the hospital. From patiences, families, friends, and fellow nurses!”

“Some careers (like mine) have “take home” work—things that can and should be completed outside the office.  In my role, I have work that can be done at all hours of the day, when on vacation, with family, and the weekday evenings when we’re at the gym.  It’s a constant juggling of priorities to keep myself from not becoming a workaholic, and Annie keeps me honest about how much time I’m putting into my job outside normal hours.”

“While the flexibility of a job that includes take-home work is nice, this kind of career can cause a lot of stress and weigh heavily on the work-life balance.  The term “sleepless nights” comes to mind, as there’s always something that I could be doing to make my business more successful—no matter what time of day it is.  I love the nursing lifestyle, because the vast majority of the work is done in the clinic during work hours. There are no emails on your personal device, phone calls with colleagues at 7pm, or work meetings done outside of the clinic.  It makes weekends, vacations, and evenings a lot more relaxing. Instead of trying to cram in the last couple emails or meetings during off hours, a nurse can relax, unwind, and have a healthy balance of non-work-related activities.”

Would you recommend nursing to someone else?

“Yes, it is a great career and extremely rewarding.  I would caveat that with asking them why they want go into nursing, because if they truly do not have a passion for healthcare, then it can becoming monotonous.”

“Definitely. I have always looked up to every single nurse I’ve met.  After being able to see all the hard work they put in during school first hand, to knowing all the sh*t they have to put up with even though they are often the ones that are the glue holding everything together and making sure everything goes smoothly, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is up for a challenge but loves a rewarding profession. Nurses are the best, the healthcare team wouldn’t survive without them!!”

“Yes, if he or she is passionate about nursing, likes varying schedules, taking care of others, and has thick skin!”

“Yes, it is a profession they can use in all aspects of their life, forever.”

“I’d only recommend nursing to a very specific person. The large majority of people (myself included) could not handle the life of a nurse. They have to have an amazing combination of compassion/strength (physical and mental!)/intellect/toughness.”

“Absolutely. It’s amazing to see the happiness and confidence nursing can bring. I would recommend nursing as a career path for anyone who likes helping people solve problems, maintaining an extraordinary level of detail-orientation, teamwork and collaboration, and keeping themselves and others organized (how does your medicine cabinet look?). 

What do you think you have the hardest time relating to?

“Understanding the details about why someone is ill.  I was never good at bio, and I think my squeamishness stopped me from listening to the specifics and thus never learned, nor do I really want to :)”

“Having to deal with life or death situations on a daily basis! I sell cheese…and I think THAT’S stressful….lol.”

“The impact nurses have on so many lives/the amount of lives they touch every single day. Puts a lot of things in perspective!”

“The stresses of the job involve other peoples health and wellbeing.  As an account executive in a software company, the only REAL stresses of my job involve enterprise customers buying software and planning a strategy to see a return on their investment.  If the strategy doesn’t work, or we don’t execute properly, the customer churns and our business suffers. It is a horrible feeling to churn a customer and not deliver on the business venture, but it’s all relative—nobody is getting hurt, and nobody’s lives are in my hands.  There’s a bit of over-simplification here—obviously software sales and delivery is a bit more complex than just ROI, but that’s an aside from the point.”

“Nurses are responsible for the health of every patient in the clinic, they have to manage and lead other medical staff to deliver a certain quality of care, and they have to be interpersonal enough to deliver sensitive news to family members of the patients.  There’s a required level of competency in healthcare that goes far beyond what’s necessitated in the software industry. Our lives are in their hands—I cannot relate to that!”

What surprised you most about living with a nurse?

“How flexible they have to be! Whether it’s working day shifts, night shifts, picking up shifts, staying late, nurses have to bounce all over the place. Nurses clearly have to be able to bend backwards with their schedule, and be comfortable with last minute changes.”

“I got an inside look at all the intense studying nurses do. I will always remember all of the nursing students at South Carolina in their study groups before exams and how much unadvertised time and effort they invested during their time in school. Not to mention, all of the work they put in for their clinical hours during nursing school.”

“One thing that surprises me the most about a nurse is their ability to normalize some of the most strange situations/circumstances! There are very few things that rattle a nurse.”

Do you think you could be a nurse? Why or why not?

“No, I could not be, and I am OK with that.  Making critical decisions about someone else’s health, especially if it could be critical, is an intimidating requirement for a job.  I have the utmost respect for nurses, and the lifestyle and benefits are incredible, but I could definitely not be one. Plus dealing with all the bodily fluids is a turn off.”

“I like to think I could be a nurse!! I love dealing with people, being on the move, taking care and helping others, and having a different day every single day. However, there’s an emotionally draining side of the job that I probably wouldn’t be able to handle – not to mention the poop and guts.”

“Never! I could not be more certain that I wouldn’t last 10 minutes as a nurse given that fact that I faint at the site of blood. I’d be lucky to make it 15 steps before going down.”

“I don’t think I could ever get over the whole “needles” thing.  I have hated needles as long as I can remember. I know it’s a rewarding career with great pay, a good work-life balance, and rewarding experiences, but I cannot fathom putting needles into other people.  This is probably just scratching the surface, as there are many other procedures that I would have a lot of trouble stomaching, but it’s a decent litmus test in my opinion.”