When people describe the nursing profession, they often use words like altruistic, selfless or philanthropic, but I rarely hear nurses use these words to describe themselves or their work. To me those words seem so deep and powerful, it makes it sound as if we were called to do this work. I think that most of us just chose a job we thought we would like and we thought we would be good at. When I chose to become a nurse I thought it would be nice to help people and that I would really like the social interaction. It turns out that I do get to help people, and I enjoy it and really like the social interaction, but after you've been working as a nurse for a while something happens.
A lot of times it starts with a "thank you." A family member or patient will go out of their way to thank you. At first it catches you off guard, because you're not really sure what they are talking about. You wonder, why they are thanking me for doing my job? Slowly you start to realize the effect you can and often do have on people; not just your patients but their families and friends, too. You start to realize that these people are often going through the worst thing they have ever been through, and you were there all day or all night making sure they were safe and they had what they needed. It is just your job, but to them it was more than that. You helped them feel better, you helped them feel safe and you made it possible for their loved ones to take a break from caring for them.
Then, you start to get a better picture of what's going on. You see that people come back weeks, months and even years after they've been discharged. They bring in food, they bring in cards and sometimes they just come in to say hello, show you how well they are doing and give you a hug. Even if you don't remember them, they remember you. They remember your name, and if you told them about your wife and your kids or your favorite chewing gum, they remember that too. This is when you start to realize how profound and everlasting the effect you had on them was. This is when you start to get humbled, because you really were just doing your job. You didn't really mean to make such a deep impression on them but somehow you did and that is humbling.
That is why this profession is so great, because it will change you. It will give you perspective. These patients will make you appreciate your life and your family and your experiences and the world. Being a nurse will not make you a saint, but it will make you a little more grateful, a little kinder, and a little more understanding. So for me, even though I chose a profession I thought I would like, I really got a deal because I got a whole lot more than I thought I would.
Jonathan Henriquez Escobar, RN, ICU