The Real Nurse Jackie

If you know me, or you are new to the blog (wait a minute. everyone is “new to the blog” at this point. ha!) and you happened to read the ‘About Me’ section, you would know that I am a registered nurse. I work in an ICU at one of the major medical centers here in Boston. I often get the whole “You’re a nurse? Wow, that must be so rewarding!” spiel when I’m introduced to someone new. Most of the time I’ll play along, smile politely and give an enthusiastic, “It really is!” Ugh <eye roll>, because that is soooo not how I feel. And, depending on whether or not I’ve had a glass of wine or two, I might rattle off how very rewarding it feels to have your patient spit at you or to be unable to appropriately care for your patients due to unsafe staffing levels. But like I said, I usually only go there if I’ve had two three glasses of wine.

Clearly, I don’t consider myself to be the dedicated, Florence Nightingale, I’m-in-this-to-help-people kind of nurse. Ironically, my nursing practice somewhat resembles Jackie Peyton, the character portrayed in Showtime’s Nurse Jackie – ummm, minus the drug problem OBVIOUSLY! But, in all seriousness, Edie Falco’s portrayal of Nurse Jackie is so spot on. Jackie is always striving to give the best, most compassionate care possible while the health care system around her is essentially crumbling. She delivers her compassionate care with quick wit and a tell-it-like-it-is attitude. And that is right up my alley.

Now hear me out, and most definitely do not get the wrong idea. I am an incredible nurse and I know my co-workers, patients and my patient’s families will vouch for that. If you land in my ICU, on my assignment, I will nurse the shit out of you or your loved one. These days, however, my heart just isn’t in it like it used to be.

There are mornings I leave my unit feeling defeated, because despite my best efforts my patient didn’t make it. Other times, I leave work and I feel completely bored because my patient’s condition did not require me to use any of my critical thinking skills. In a profession that is so incredibly demanding – physically, mentally, emotionally and academically – it’s not hard to understand why there is such a thing as nursing ‘burn out’. However, I just didn’t think it would happen to me this soon.

In order to quell these uneasy feelings, I often contemplate changing ICUs to care for a different patient population, going back to school and becoming an NP, cutting my hours to 36, rotating onto the day shift, taking up travel nursing…and yet, I’ve done none of them. Yet.

Maybe it’s because there are those rare mornings I leave my unit feeling really rewarded. Maybe because I had an appreciative patient or family member. Maybe the work sucked, but my co-workers who were working with me made the night incredible. Maybe during my 12-hour shift, with the collaboration of physicians and respiratory therapists and my amazing nursing coworkers, maybe…just maybe…my patient actually got better. Those mornings are my favorite. And those are the mornings that keep me coming back for more.

Alright, maybe I do still have a little Florence Nightingale left in me…but don’t tell anyone.

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