Thick Skin, Strong Heart

A nurse’s schedule is deceiving. Only working three days a week. Granted, they are three 12-hour shifts, but still. Only three days.

A lot happens in those three days. Heck, a lot happens in twelve hours.

My last shift was emotionally draining. I experienced polar opposite patient encounters depending on which room I walked into. In one room, I couldn’t do anything right. Due to the patient’s withdrawing condition, there was agitation, unclear processing, and frustration. I was cursed at, hit and kicked, and accused of torture. I knew none of it was personal or spoken in their right mind, however, I was still subjected to it. I was experiencing a very real, very aggressive situation.

In another room, I had a patient in tears because of how grateful they were to have me as their nurse. They would reach out to hold and stroke my hand. Tell me I made this whole situation less scary for them. How I was wonderful, supportive, and kind. I sat with them, explaining the care plan best I could. Acknowledging their fears, but also their progress. Validating their concerns, but also emphasizing the solutions.

And throughout the day, I had to be both those people. I had to let every curse and accusation roll off my shoulder as I provided care. I had to restrain flailing limbs to ensure safety. I was the perceived “bad guy” when just doing my job. I was also the shoulder to cry on. The soft touch of a healing hand. I was a familiar face in the sea of doctors, fellows, and therapists all popping by for their 5-minute check-in.

For me, the latter comes easier. It is one of the reasons I went into nursing. To be that person for patients who don’t already have one. But, it will not always be the case. My patients and their families may not always be my #1 fans. And that is something I have to work on. Whether my patient is detoxing, delirious, or just plain upset, I have to grow a thicker skin and accept the situation for what it is. Find comfort and confidence in that I am only doing my job to help the patient and do what I can to keep them safe. As with much of nursing, it will come with time.

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