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Dear Nurses,

You are amazing individuals.  Each and every day you set out to take the lives of your patients and their families into the palms of you hands.  While so many in the world see nursing as a profession, I say it is a calling.  You have learned the ability to unconditionally care for those who are sick be it physical or cognitive, those who suffer with chronic or acute conditions, those who are addicted at various ages and those who may question your every move.  You have been loved and appreciated, but you have also been hit, spit on, bit, yelled at and  called names. You have helped bring life into this world and have helped with the transition to the next one.  You have held hands, laughed, cried, listened to and shared stories.  You have been there with thousands during their best and worst times of life.  And each day you get up and do it all over again.

No one said it would be easy.  Making it though your schooling should have prepared you for that.  For anyone who chose to be a nurse because it is a stable field with a good wage chose it for the wrong reasons.  The conditions in which we work have never been nor will they ever be perfect.  The business of people cannot be put into a formula for staffing ratios or productivity.  Afterall, we do not make widgets, we care for people.  No matter how many or few teammates you have on any given day, each day and each patient is different.  Our focus needs to be on being present, not perfect as seen here.

I have heard your frustrations.  Every day I can find articles and posts demanding better treatment and respect for nurses.  I am sorry to say that the focus has become so “me” centric that we have forgotten how to think outside the box.  Many are quick to blame and judge those in leadership and management when in reality, they are trying to find balance between regulation and being able to keep the doors open.

I can see it now, you’re shaking head,  tightened jaw and maybe an eye roll or two.  I get it.  I was once in that place too.  No one understands what we do.  They should come spend a day at the bedside.  However, do you ever stop and think if you understand what everyone else in your organization does to make sure a healthcare facility stays open so that you can keep working?  It is a tough balance and a tough business when there is a combination of caring for lives and making sure the business stays alive.

And so from the business side we do the best we can.  There are formulas for staffing and number crunching around case mix index, length of stay, readmissions, etc, etc.  While each day, all you want to do is care for the people who need you.

My dear nurses, I am not trying to scoff at burnout and I am not trying to say that we should work in unsafe conditions.  From the beginning nursing has  at the same time exhausted and rewarded those who put their heart and soul into it.  No matter in what generation or where we have practiced, from battlefields to makeshift hospitals in homes, from ghettos to fancy rich neighborhoods to the depths of the most  remote jungles and to the most state of the art hospitals, nurses have persevered to fulfill their calling.   The truth of the matter is, what is means to be a nurse has never changed.  The profession has evolved and  modernized, but the premise of what we do has always stayed the same.  In fact,  the working conditions and requirements of nurses were much more tenuous in the past.

So what constitutes a great nurse.  In my opinion it is this:  A great nurse is holistic.  A great nurse never judges for she knows that everyone, including herself, has a story.  A great nurse treats everyone she cares for with dignity and respect even when it is not reciprocated.  A great nurse is not afraid to feel emotion and let it show.  She knows how to meet a patient where they are at and truly listen with ears and with eyes.  A great nurse refrains from stereotyping patients and using terms like, “frequent flyer” and “jumper” and instead seeks to find out why the behaviors exist.  A great nurse understands that in order to have the resources needed to care for his patients, he needs to have some basic business sense.  A great nurse is someone who advocates not only for his patients, but also for the profession by getting involved in productive change. A great nurse is someone who is driven by passion and love.

My ask of you is this, if you find that all you can think about is how stressful and unfair your work environment is or how much documentation you have to accomplish or how many patients you have to care for, think about why you became a nurse.  Did you enter this field because you chose it, or because you were called to it?  Do you understand that all of the quality and patient experience regulation that is in place now, is what has always and will forever be inherent to excellent nursing care?

You are all appreciated for the work that you do.  Acknowledge why you do it and be proud that only you can do it.  That is a big burden to carry sometimes, but that is why we have each other.  If you are unhappy with the work environment, get involved together and change it.  Be the nurse that you would want caring for the person you love the most in this world.  Be the nurse you want to work alongside.

Kindest Regards,

Your fellow RN