“To do what nobody else will do, a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through; that is to be a nurse.” – Rawsi Williams, BSN, RN
Below is a little note I wrote one day, a year or 2 ago, when someone asked me why nurses asked seemed so stand offish on their way into work.
You know that moment, when you see a nurse on their way into work? How they may seem a bit withdrawn? Well in those few minutes before they clock in, they are prepping themselves. Some do this by listening to music/an audiobook, some by drinking a cup of coffee, and yet others may do it by lightly socializing with their coworkers before the shift gets truly underway. Some nurses prefer time for silent reflection or time just surfing social media and the web on their phones.
Why do we do this? We do this to brace our minds and bodies for whatever may come during our 8 or 12 hours at work. This can regularly include dealing with being significantly short staffed, multiple patients drawing closer to death, or a family member screaming for answers..... It can include being drenched with others bodily fluids, welcoming new life, and dodging fists and kicks.
You see that time, just before our shift, is the time that a transformation takes place. We take off the role of being a normal human being and put on the armor that protects us in nursing. The armor that helps us move on to the next patient after another has just died next door, minutes before. This armor allows us to care without our minds and hearts becoming overly burdened. This is the armor that seemingly helps us transcend to be superhuman, if only for a few hours. Because the truth is, no matter how resilient, ethereal, or superhuman we may seem to some, we remain very much human inside This armor helps us meet the incredible task of juggling our own personal struggles while simultaneously sharing in shouldering the burdens of others for 12 hours.
Not all Nurses gain this armor at the same time. It's both a right of passage and not. It's a defense and coping mechanism against the crap we deal with, whether we enjoy our jobs or not.
So the next time you're at a health care institution, and you see a nurse (or any other clinician works in direct patient care) and they are peacefully bobbing their head to the music coming out of their headphones, seemingly ignorant of the world around them, remember what they are doing. Remember that a metamorphosis is taking place and armor is being donned for battle.
Patrick McMurray, BSN, RN