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A nurse’s response to the “Hardcore Nurse”

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

The fine folks here at Scrubs directed me to an essay by Ian Miller on NursePath and asked me what I thought. Do we as nurses whine too much? Do we socialize too much at work? Are we guilty of 17 other minor and major offenses against the profession, some of which Miller alludes to and some of which he states outright?

Those questions, to me, kind of miss the point of the essay. Miller’s requirements for being hardcore at nursing aren’t unreasonable. They’re the sort of standards that all of us hope to meet every day. They’re less a critique of nursing and nurses and more of a rallying cry for us.

Nursing is, as he says, hard–like a birth, not hard like a wall. Sometimes we come up against situations that seem impossible to resolve. Sometimes we have days that we replay in nightmares for years to come. And sometimes the ebb and flow of the job syncs up just right with our brains, or the phase of the moon, and we have the time to sit and listen and reflect.

The question, then, for me, is not “Am I a hardcore nurse?” It’s “How can I live up to that standard every day I practice?”

First, I can be where I am when I’m there. There’s a lot to be said for leaving your life at the door to the hospital and leaving your work at the same door when you leave. There are times when you can’t put aside what’s happening to you, of course–but the best practice is to show up at work as a blank slate, without worries and outside drama. Drama can wait. Bleeding can’t.

Second, I can socialize. I’m not at work just for that, but let’s be honest: I spend more time with the people I work with than I do with my own family. Catching up with Lisa, whose son just got deployed, is important. So is supporting a coworker who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. So is celebrating all the milestones and joys and holidays we celebrate. We depend on each other not just as nurses, but as people. I can recognize that and facilitate those relationships, not just to further my professional goals, but to further my goals as a decent person.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I can whine. I can whinge, to use Mr. Miller’s term; I can bitch, gripe, grouse, and complain–about things that matter. Working conditions are important: nobody does their best work when they’re understaffed and unsafe. Legislation regarding practice can be good or bad; it’s vital that I, as a practicing nurse, exercise my right to holler if I see something I either love or disagree with. The public perception of nurses is often really weird; it helps when I’m willing to speak up and defend the profession and show that not all nurses are ministering angels. Some of us are funny, smart, kick-ass snarkers with a mean right hook.

Nursing is hard, like a birth. Sometimes it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall. If you’re going to be really hardcore, though, you’re going to learn to scale those walls and continue to provide the best, most ethical, most professional care you can. You’re going to push yourself just a little bit harder on days you feel like crap, and lend a shoulder to your colleagues on the days you feel like you could do anything. And you’re going to continue to Be Where You Are When You Are Where You’re At, Socialize Productively, and Whine Influentially. I am.

Stick with me, Ian. You and me? We’ll go places–and drag the rest of the world along, whether or not they like it.

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