By Caitlin Brassington.
A few nights ago I arrived home from a busy shift at work, looking very ordinary in my scrubs.
That morning, I had left my three girls still asleep in their beds at 6:00am in the care of a babysitter to get them ready for school and child care, so I could go to work as a nurse.
I was tired, I hadn’t had lunch and I had been caring for some very sick babies.
I was also angry, very angry, and a little sad.
On the way home, I stopped at the shop for milk and saw an acquaintance.
She had never seen me in uniform before and said she didn’t realise I was “just a nurse”.
Wow! Just Wow!
Over my 18-year career, I have heard this phrase many, many times. But today it got to me.
Maybe it got to me because I am exhausted — emotionally and physically — from what is actually just a normal day at work for me.
Maybe it got to me because I have no understanding of how so many people open their mouths without thinking.
Perhaps it was “just a slip of the tongue” — but really, as a community, should we not be embracing everyone’s careers, and not be making assumptions of their worth or value based on their job title?
Would this lady have said “just a …” to me had I been wearing a suit and heels, instead of scrubs and my very unflattering but necessary nurses’ shoes?
In a world of screens and texting, do we actually just need a reminder of how to talk to people off-screen, how to show gratitude, and how to recognise the effect our words can have on others?
So, before I dashed out the door to do school pick-up, I wrote an open letter on Facebook.
I have helped babies into the world, many of whom needed assistance to take their first breath, and yet I am just a nurse.
I have held patients’ hands and ensured their dignity while they take their last breath, and yet I am just a nurse.
I have counselled grieving parents after the loss of a child, and yet I am just a nurse.
I have performed CPR on patients and brought them back to life, and yet I am just a nurse.
I am the medical officer’s eyes, ears and hands with the ability to assess, treat and manage your illness, and yet I am just a nurse.
I can auscultate every lung field on a newborn and assess which field may have a decreased air entry, and yet I am just a nurse.
I can educate patients, carers, junior nurses and junior doctors on disease states, prognoses and treatment plans, and yet I am just a nurse.
I have been a lecturer in a school of medicine, teaching medical students how to perform a systematic physical examination of a patient, and yet I am just a nurse.
I am my patients’ advocate in a health system that does not always put my patients’ best interest first, and yet I am just a nurse.
I will miss Christmas Days, my children’s birthdays and school musicals to come to work to care for your loved one, and yet I am just a nurse.
I can take blood, cannulate and suture a wound, and yet I am just a nurse.
I understand the anatomical, physiological, and psychological differences in every age group of children, and the relevance this has on how we care for them and treat them, and yet I am just a nurse.
I can manage a cardiac arrest in a newborn, a child or an adult, and yet I am just a nurse.
I can tell you the dosage of adrenaline or amiodarone based on weight that your child may need to bring them back to life, and yet I am just a nurse.
I provide comfort, compassion, emotional and social support to patients and their families in their darkest times, and yet I am just a nurse.
I have worked 12-hour shifts without a toilet break or a cup of coffee, to ensure that the best possible care is given to my patient, and yet I am just a nurse.
I have been screamed at, vomited on and urinated on, but I will still come to work and do my job, and yet I am just a nurse.
I have the experience, knowledge and competence that has saved and will continue to save people’s lives, and yet I am just a nurse.
So yes, lovely acquaintance in the corner store, if I am “just a nurse”, then I am ridiculously proud to be one!
Immediately after I posted this, I had to put my mum hat back on and do school pick-up and after-school sporting activities.
During the afternoon, the thought crossed my mind several times that I had been hasty in venting my thoughts on Facebook — something I have never done to such an extent.
But when I got home, I was absolutely overwhelmed to see the response.
The support, appreciation, recognition and love for nurses has been, and continues to be, truly humbling.