Yes, I’m aware that it sounds like I’m writing my fourth grade “Who’s Your Hero?” essay. But honestly, my best friend is a nurse, and she is my absolute hero.
My best friend, let’s call her Clara — I know, what an original pseudonym for a nurse — has been a nurse for nearly a decade now. In that time, she’s worked in so many departments I’ve lost track, including OR, ER, psych and geriatrics.
Thanks to her years of experience and bottomless well of, shall we say, unique stories, I’ve learned to ban shop talk during meals. Or snacks. Or when I’m at risk of a spit take. She’s the reason I know that truth is much, much stranger than fiction.
Clara’s also how I know that truth is much more difficult than fiction. It doesn’t matter how many heart-wrenching episodes of “ER,” “Grey’s Anatomy” or “House, M.D.” I watch and cry over, none of them hold a candle to the stories she tells me, the tears she cries, and the determination with which she carries on, day after day.
So consider the above the prologue to my grown-up essay about why my best friend is my freakin’ hero. Here are the nitty-gritty reasons why:
Because Nursing Is Gross
If I have learned nothing else from Clara’s stories, it’s that nursing is gross. Like, super gross. As in, I’m not sure how it is possible to eat anything as a nurse and keep it down. Okay, maybe I’m a bit squeamish, but the point still stands!
Clara started out in geriatrics. Which, you may have guessed it, is not a land ripe with love triangles and supply-room makeouts a la “Grey’s.”
No, geriatrics is a land of catheters, bed pans and sponge baths. It’s getting a little too up-close-and-personal with the downtown parts of people who either no longer can or no longer feel the need to censor anything they say or do.
I honestly can’t bring myself to type out some of the worst stories. Let’s just say some of the examples in this list sounded eerily familiar.
Because Nursing Is Dangerous
I may have lost my appetite during Clara’s stint in geriatrics, but I didn’t start to lose my mind until she transferred to psych. That’s when I started to get a picture of how dangerous nursing can be.
A typical day in psych usually involved a patient or two, or three, spitting on her. Actually, that was a good day. The not-so-great days involved unimaginable verbal abuse. The worst days were when patients tried and/or succeeded to punch, slap, kick or scratch her.
I thought she was insane to go back. I feared for her safety. But my hero, Clara, told me the very incidents that scared me were the very reason for her to be there. Her patients were sick. The spittle, slurs and slaps were symptoms of their sickness. And she was there to help them get better.
With an attitude like that, is there any doubt why she’s my hero? Clara’s noble attitude aside, I was overjoyed when she was transferred to the OR. Surely she would be safer there!
Except, no, she wasn’t. It seems like nursing always has its dangers. And in the OR, it’s a carcinogenic smoke emitted from the electrosurgical units. And as for the ER, well, I’d rather not relive Clara’s more harrowing overnight shifts, please and thank you.
Because Nursing Is Demanding
Did you know there’s a nursing shortage? Whether you blame boomers retiring, a lack of teachers or another variable of your choice, the fact is, there aren’t enough nurses to go around, which means Clara spends most of her days trying to do the work of two or three people.
It’s not just the sheer volume of patients that makes Clara’s job so demanding. It’s the staggering amount of patients who are arrogant, entitled and unwilling to consider the situation from her perspective. To them, they’re waiting because she’s incompetent or because she’s just not giving them the respect they deserve.
The fact that many medical facilities are perpetually understaffed, that patients routinely forget about or refuse to give a complete medical history, and that life-and-death emergencies don’t follow an appointment schedule doesn’t factor into it for many of her patients. So although she’s working as best and as fast as she can, demanding patients are constantly telling her what a bad job she’s doing.
Because Nursing Is Depressing
Nurses can’t save everyone, and Clara’s seen her fair share of death. Whether it’s an elderly woman who has lived a long, fulfilling life before dying quietly in her bed or a young boy who died in the ER after a hit-and-run, it never seems to get any easier for Clara.
She’s learned coping mechanisms and developed her own rituals to help her deal with death on a daily basis. Self-care habits and talking with friends like me or coworkers helps, but there are times when she just has to cry and grieve.
Clara knows she can’t save everyone. She knows death is a part of life and oftentimes there’s no one to blame and nothing she could have done. That doesn’t mean it makes it any easier.
Because She’s STILL the Most Positive Person I Know
In spite of erupting bodily fluids, dangerous situations, arrogant jerks and witnessing far too many deaths, Clara is still the most positive person I know.
She loves being a nurse. She knows she’s found her calling. And no amount of depressing or dangerous incidents can shake her positive attitude and happy spirit.
So yeah, I can’t really think of a better way to put it. My best friend is a nurse, and she’s my hero.