Have I told you how frickin’ proud of my 3 amazing children I am?
When I tell people, especially non-medical people, that I’m an RN in Pediatric Intensive Care, I get exactly the same response every single time.
“Oh my god. I don’t know how you do it”
And in those times, I wish I could divulge a whole bunch of confidential information to let them know what my job is really like. So here, maybe I can tell you guys.
1. I love kids, but I can tell you that Pediatric nursing has not one thing to do with snuggling cute babies. Some people think that’s what my job is, and it’s just not. And here’s why: A sick baby is cranky as fuh. and If they’re not cranky as fuh, they’re either ready to go home or you should be getting scared. And another reason: My job is to help them get better, which involves doing things/making them do things that they hate. Needles. Nebulizers. Dressing changes. Listening to/looking at/touching places that hurt. For the most part, the only times I get to hold a baby are when their mothers are so frazzled that they need. a. break. Toddlers/preschoolers are the worst, because they’re old enough to hold a grudge and yet too young to be reasoned with.
2. But you know what I do love? Families. I love moms and dads and grandparents, and I love to see them rising to challenges, doing their research, supporting each other. I love supporting THEM and working with them to overcome the problems associated with a hospitalized child. Kids in the hospital are surrounded by love (almost always, obviously with some sad exceptions made), and it’s such a contrast to the often abandoned-feeling adult and geriatric wards.
3. It’s a rewarding job. I have one or two patients most of the time. Nearly all get better and eventually go home. They often send pictures and cards once they’re better, or links to news articles they’ve been featured in.
4. It’s sometimes boring. Some of the work I do is simple monitoring of patients who are considered at-risk for developing life-threatening side effects, most of whom do not. ICU is a feast or famine type of place, and beds are sometimes empty. Sometimes for a long time, there are no truly critical patients.And sometimes the phone rings off the hook with desperate-sounding voices begging you to come in for overtime, when no breaks are had ever. Where you eat standing up and don’t have time to drink enough water.
5. Critical care, especially in Pediatrics, is one of those areas where you develop a cynical sense of humour and a distinct work-life barrier in order to cope. It’s not practical for me (or useful for families) to be weeping at the bedside of an ill child because it’s just so hard. I’m not that type of person anyway. I can empathize, but I can’t properly assess or respond to a patient’s needs if I’m blubbering about how horrible XYZ situation is. Privately, between nurses, the ways we cope are borderline inappropriate. “so-and-so is trying to die again,” we might say, while we ambu-bag a patient’s oxygen saturation from 40% back up to the levels of the living. It’s crude, but it allows us to dispel tension and keep calm in times when we really frickin’ need to have our wits about us.
6. I’m not sure there is any other profession that could make me feel as grateful for the healthy, strong, maddeningly adventurous child I do have. When I feel frustrated I tell myself I have no right to feel frustrated, which both is and is not true. He has made it this far into his life with no major accidents or deficits and, with luck, will make it all the way into and through adulthood and die an old, happy man. My job has, and probably will again, send me home to weep on the bedroom floor beside my son’s sleeping body, grateful and fearful.
7. It’s also taught me to relax, already. Ro’s bumps and bruises worry me not a whit, because I know what serious looks like. So sure, kid, go down that slide unattended. I can handle it. Some of the craziest accidents I’ve seen have happened to people who did everything right. You have no control. Admitting that and living life anyway feels pretty good.
8. Both back East and here at home, I have had the honour of working with amazing teams of nurses. They’re accountable and supportive. They anticipate your needs before you have to ask for help. They teach, they don’t diminish you for the gaps in your knowledge. I have never had to work in a famed toxic nursing environment, and Boy do I know how lucky I am for that.
You can read more of Anna’s blog at murphybaby.tumblr.com