I often joke that my marriage was arranged. My mother, a registered nurse, introduced me to my wife, also an RN. The introduction happened at an early morning breakfast, immediately after one of their night shifts ended. My future wife ate pancakes, and then we went to a 24-hour bar. Naturally, I was hooked.
It took me a while to appreciate the finer connection—that the things I valued in my mother were the same things I would value in my wife—and that these things are what make them great nurses and great people. In short, they share a sense of duty to their work, an overwhelming degree of compassion and a streak of selflessness that allows them to work under grueling conditions always focused on their patients’ most urgent needs.
Of course, not all nurses are alike. But after spending nearly 40 years around the great nursing profession, I’m certain it takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. Becoming a nurse is a calling. They hold our hands when we’re in pain or depressed. They wipe the sweat off our brows and the tears from our faces. And they smile at us when we’re at the lowest points of our lives.
They tolerate strange hours, a stressful work atmosphere and all the messiness that attends sick people. They love all this even on the worst of days—when a patient can’t be saved, when a family yells at them because they don’t understand their nurse is just doing her job, when a doctor blames them for a mistake he made. And then they get up and do it again the next day.
My wife worked on the pulmonary unit of a Children’s Hospital for eight years. She became close with her cystic fibrosis patients who were frequent visitors to the unit. She brought origami paper to one of them, a kid named Michael, and Michael made her wonderful paper flowers. His mother knitted a winter scarf for our infant daughter. The three of them formed a tight, in-hospital family. They even celebrated Michael’s birthdays together.
When Michael succumbed to his disease, my wife managed a few hours off to attend the funeral. Then she went back to her floor to care for other patients. Add courage to the list of things that make nurses amazing.
My wife is human away from the hospital. When one of our kids gets hurt or has a medical emergency, she doesn’t always think clearly, and I have to think for us. But once she’s in scrubs, she’s seems more than human, capable of dealing with things that the rest of us mortals slogging along in our business suits and sitting in cubicles can’t imagine.
When I tell people my wife is a pediatric nurse at a children’s hospital, they talk about how great she is for doing the work she does. I nod and smile. I know how amazing she is. She’s a nurse.
This week is National Nurses Week. There are nearly 3.5 million licensed or registered nurses in the U.S. Chances are you know one. Thank them for the work they do.
Do you have a great story about a nurse who took care of you? Share below in our comments.
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