There are no training wheels in nursing. There is no easing into the deep, deep waters of responsibility when it comes to caring for another human being. I can no longer rely on my standby phrase: “I’m a student, but if you can wait a moment, I will ask your nurse.”
I am the nurse. I am uncomfortable with the authority that comes with that role. Is this how it feels when one becomes a parent? Like, “whoa, who died and put me in charge!?”
I am getting to do all sorts of things that I have only been allowed to observe previously. I have access to people’s most intimate secrets about their health, their mind, their body.
On my very first shift, I witnessed the amazing, intricate choreography that comes together when you think you are losing a patient. And, then, I have witnessed the stunned silence that creeps in among doctors and nurses when that same patient returns from the liminal space between life and death.
On my second shift, I learned just how labile human emotions can be when a patient is under extreme duress. It is not entirely uncommon to go from being someone’s “angel” to their most hated adversary in a matter of hours. It is an exhausting roller coaster ride that you are forced to endure with them. Over and over again.
I felt beaten up by the time Friday rolled around, but I am going to do it all over again come Monday because there will always be those bright, shiny moments when someone says “thank you” or you receive some much needed affirmation from your preceptor or the patient that has been hospitalized for many weeks tells you to have a good day that ultimately remind me that there is beauty in what I am able to do for others in these critical moments.