Nurses do amazing work every minute of every day and a lot of the time that can get forgotten or unrecognised for a combination of different reasons.
May 12th is International Nurses Day, the one day every year when all around the world we mark the contributions that our nurses make to society. Nurses don’t just work in hospitals, they do work in the community, in your own home, in residential care, in a hospice and much more. At some point in your life you will meet a nurse, whether she is caring for you or your loved one you will meet someone. They may be rushed off their feet at times and look like they are trying to juggle a hundred and one things at once and trust me they are! But they care about you, about their patients and I’ve had the privilege to have met some truly amazing nurses who have gone above and beyond for their patients, for me and I will never forget that.
In my life nurses have played a massive role, especially the last three years. In total I’ve spent 22 months in hospital over a course of different admissions and just writing that reminds me how long that time was. Spent in one room, one bay and 90% of the time bed bound I relied on the nursing team a lot. From personal care, to medicine and treatments, to being there at doctors round, speaking up on my behalf and keeping me calm when I was scared. My nurse was there. When I have care from nurses at home they are the same, doing their job, the treatment or medicine they came to give they do but at the same time they talk to me, see how I’m really doing. Not all doctors but with a busy NHS and hospitals the holistic approach and emotional support of patients can be put on the side line a bit more than it should and so in that busy environment doctors can miss the that small but significant factor in someone’s care. That’s where nurses come in. So many nurses I have met have not only supported my failing body and organs but supported my emotional needs too which are incredibly precious and an important factor when fighting chronic illness.
When I had no strength left I tried hard to hold in my tears as my nurse came to do the usual tea time observations and drugs round. As she put the monitoring back on me she saw the tears in my eyes and said ‘is it all getting a bit much?’ Yeah, yeah it is. She stopped for a moment and gave me a hug as I burst into tears. Whilst doing the drugs (which take quite a while as there is a lot) she actively listened as I talked through how I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed and struggling to take in what had been happening to me.
In one of my longer ICU admissions I was getting to the end of my second week in there and although I was now awake I was still not strong or well enough to be on the ward. Problem with being more alert is you can hear, see and recognise a lot more of what’s actually happening around you. You can’t help but take it in and for me, a girl who’s been in ICU far too many times my PTSD was coming out strong and out of control. It was a night shift and Alex was on, in intensive care it is all 1-1 care as all the patients are critically unwell whether fully alert, sedated, ventilated or a mix of all three, your patient needs you. Getting towards midnight a new patient was admitted next to me very, very unwell and as I heard the handover it was not far off where I had been not too long ago. Serious respiratory acidosis, CO2 rising and poisoning the lungs and much more. I was starting to panic, to remember when that was me, feeling the suction in my throat, the noise of the breathing machines, the tubes, the drains, the lines. The feeling of waking up to being bagged, my last crash, so many memories; it was getting too much. My head couldn’t cope. Then there’s a crisis next door with a patient bleeding out, five people holding him down and the consultant on the bed holding the patient’s stomach, literally holding the bleed and keeping him alive until the surgeons arrived. I was not coping. All the noise, the talk, the knowledge that I was hearing that I really didn’t want to take in. Then Alex steps in, pulls his computer closer right next to the bed and holds my hand. He makes me look at him and we slowly focus on something else, he tells me about where he grew up and shows me on the computer his favourite places he’s travelled. We talk for ages and he doesn’t leave my bedside (I mean in intensive care they don’t anyway, but he did even more that night). He didn’t have to sit and talk to me, he was there to care for my physical needs and battling illness and he did that very well but he went above and beyond to care for my mental health too. He took the time to research my complex conditions he hadn’t heard of and when I talked about PTSD he understood instantly and told me I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t have got through that night without him. He cared for me 1-1 24/7 but alongside that the whole team of nurses that night worked together to save a man bleeding to death and supported all the families that needed a hug, a moment to talk and support too. Including my mum and family and for that I am always so grateful.
From that, to the wards, to the community, to on call, to hospices, to residential homes and to medivac nurses they are all fantastic and deserve to know that. They are every single day but today (or May 12th) we celebrate it!
I believe it’s all about the holistic approach and I tell every student nurse who works with me that and they have all agreed it is such a vital part of the work of a nurse. There is so much strain on the NHS as a whole at the moment. Not only on nurses but the whole medical community but we should be so thankful as nurses have your backs, not just physically but emotionally and mentally too, if you need an advocate, they are there.
We appreciate you and thank you, thank you for never giving up on me and reminding me to keep fighting and smile through the tears.