What Makes You Great

Was recently chatting with a good friend. Like most of my friends, she is also a nurse. A long time ago in a land far away, we worked together on an inpatient step down unit. Laughs came so hard we both soon had tears streaming down our faces. Consider myself so fortunate that I have been lucky enough to work with such great nurses.

Of course, that got me wondering – what really is a great nurse? Do they walk right out of nursing school, brains filled with words like homeostasis, prepared to be movers and shakers of the hospital? Or, are they the scared newbies, frightened to volunteer the answer for fear they will sound unintelligent?

The secret is, there is no real magical formula. The making of a nurse isn’t found in a textbook or identified in evidence based research. It is something intangeable that lives far beneath the surface. Quantifying it isn’t possible.

A myth that needs to be extinguished is that a great nurse is one that is perfect. A great nurse is perfectly imperfect. Mistakes are many but lessons are far more. If you find me a nurse that has never made a mistake, I will also then show you my tiara as Miss America – in other words, neither exists.

Once, I hung 3mg on IV Unasyn instead of 1.5mg. In the era of paper charting and non scanning, I just saw the patient’s name and the medicine and up it went. When I realized my mistake, you would have thought I had singlehandedly ended someone’s life. I ugly cried. For a long time. Will never forget the older nurse who pulled me aside and reassured me that this mistake just made me a better nurse. So many years later, I cannot express how right she was.

We are human. We make mistakes. We never want to make them, but, they do. No nurse ever ever wants to harm a patient. There was a NICU RN who accidentally dropped a preemie, which resulted in terrible brain injuries. The knee jerk reaction is to judge her or him. Oh my God! How could that happen? The reality is, nursing doesn’t happen in a perfect world or NCLEX world, it happens in the real world. While my heart breaks for that family, knowing what I do about the overwhelming majority of nurses, I am just crushed on his/her behalf. The guilt. The regret. The endless reliving that moment over and over….

Would you like it if your whole career was boiled down to a few seconds and your life forever judged by them?

The truth is…. great nurses make mistakes

We sometimes forget to introduce ourselves

We sometimes are late giving you medications

We sometimes open a pill bottle and spill them.

We often cannot pronounce the names of medications.

We do not know all of the answers but are often scared to say we don’t know.

When we do say we don’t know, understand that it is a formidable act of courage

If we drop pills or get our gloves stuck to tape or stumble over words, we put our scrub pants on one leg at a time, so understand we are human also.

Nurses love what we do. Confidently, I can say that the overwhelming majority of us do not do this for a paycheck. We do it because it is our soul’s calling.

We put our hearts into nursing.

We put our souls into nursing.

We did this before the pandemic and before all of the hero talk. We will still be doing it long after the talk disappears.

Great nurses have failed out of nursing school
Great nurses have bombed the NCLEX
Great nurses have made a med error
Great nurses have said the wrong thing
Great nurses have dropped a cup of pills
Great nurses have forgotten to chart
Great nurses have taken a moment to collect themselves mid shift
Great nurses have squeaked out of nursing school.
Great nurses have asked endless questions
Great nurses don’t have all of the answers
Great nurses have their ADN
Great nurses have their LPN
Great nurses have their BSN
Great nurses have their MSN
Great nurses have had to retake certification exams
Great nurses have sobbed at the end of a shift

Great nurses have thought of quitting
Great nurses have questioned their roles

Nurses treat their fellow humans with kindness.

It’s time humans treated nurses with kindness.

In other words…..
Great nurses are HUMAN

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