Nurses need nurses. Back when I started nursing, I was so burned out on the whole "talk about nursing all day/dream about it all night" thing that I'd done in school that I made friends who weren't nurses, on purpose. Then, about two years into the deal--about the time I started the blog, not coincidentally--I realized that there was a shortage of people I could talk to who would really understand what I did for a living. In one sense, it's like being a veteran or having lived through a natural disaster: explaining the backstory for everything that happens would take too long for a civilian audience, and dilute the power of the stories.
Once you've had somebody die with your hands on them, or brought somebody back to life with a combination of chest compressions and epinephrine, your life changes. Your worldview is never quite the same, and you never have a truly bad day again. After all, you're vertical, right? And you're not in the bed. And there are no tubes in your bladder or throat, so it's all good.
There are very few people who really *get* that. Most of 'em are other nurses, or nursing students who have seen a few things.
Abilene Rob has a brilliant description up on his blog just now about what it's like to watch a heart bloom in the cath lab, once the dye is injected and goes through the heart. Watching a brain bloom like that is what made me first believe seriously in God. (Sometimes that belief gets tested, as in cases of GVHD, but that's another post for another time.) He and I have had some nice chats about watching doctors tear open an incision line with their hands in order to evacuate clots that were cutting off important avenues for blood and air, or folks with such serious jaundice that they're dark orange.
Other nurses have consoled me when they've sensed that I've been less-than-myself. They've sent emails, or funny e-cards, or just let me know that they're thinking about me after I've, say, lost a patient in a particularly brutal way.
Sometimes I get an email from a civilian who says, "My mom was a nurse, and what you talk about is what she talked about at dinner when I was a kid. It makes me feel closer to her to read about what you do. Thanks for doing it." That helps immensely, knowing there are non-nurses out there who really get it.
We need to take care of each other. We need to take care of the students who depend on us to learn not to kill people. I'm incredibly fortunate to work in a place where nurses don't eat their young, but those places still exist. Cannabalistic nurses need to be called on their behavior and told it's not acceptable; new nurses need to be nurtured and toughened up and cut some slack. Students need to be shown all the cool shit we do, and how vital even the most boring stuff is, even at the same time they're shown why we still smile after years when we say "I'm a nurse."
Never say "I'm just a nurse." What we do is trench work: difficult, dirty, sometimes heartbreaking, occasionally dangerous. It requires skill and brains and an ability to deal with people that is tested every damn day on the job. We--you--are not "just" anything.
Be careful out there. Watch each others' backs. And pat your own for the job you do. I'm proud to call you a colleague.