8 things I’ve learned as the daughter of a nurse

Digital Vision | Soul
Digital Vision | Soul

Editor’s note: The following post is written by Loren Lankford, a Scrubs contributor.

As previously noted right here on Scrubs, my mom, Cathy, is both a cancer survivor and an RN of nearly 35 years. And as the child of any nurse will tell you, growing up with a nurse for a mom is both a blessing and a curse…but mostly a blessing!

Today, I live across the country and three time zones behind my hard working momma. We don’t get to see each other much (twice a year, if we’re lucky), but I’m blessed to have absorbed some of her sage wisdom in my childhood and feel better equipped than many of my friends to tackle life’s little medical emergencies.

When I was growing up, my mom shared my school’s 7 AM – 3 PM schedule, so I got to spend a lot of time with her and hear her stories. I also spent plenty of time at her hospital, visiting her for lunch and hanging out with her fellow nurses, many of whom I still consider family today. I wouldn’t have it any other way! Nurses are loving and loyal in a very rare way.

I learned a lot from being the daughter of a nurse, and today, in honor of both Mother’s Day, I will dispense eight of my favorite bon mots.

1. I drink a ton of water. Like, TONS. This number goes up if I’m feeling achey or hungry. When I have a headache, I alway drink a full glass of water and wait 30 minutes before taking Advil. I learned from my mom that many of your body’s little ailments can simply point to dehydration.

2. I get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours a night) and eat regularly – usually every three hours. You’re probably thinking, “How did a nurse teach you this; they’re never able to follow this regiment?!” Well, exactly. Sometimes you learn from example, and sometimes you learn how not to do something by example. I’m lucky enough to have a job and lifestyle that allows for this schedule, and I take full advantage of it.

3. When I get a cold, I rest for a few days and then force myself to get out of bed. While I know the importance of getting plenty of fluids, rest and sleep when you’re sick, I also know that just getting out of the house and taking a walk in the sunshine can help you feel a bit better. My mom was rarely able to take sick days or lounge around, even when she wasn’t feeling well. I’m not advocating for never allowing yourself two seconds of peace, but my mom’s energy and zest for life rubbed off on me.

4. Very little grosses me out. Everybody poops, right!? Sorry. I talked to my mom about everything growing up, and I still do. I’ll refrain from sharing the gory details, but let’s just say that I have no shame when it comes to talking to my friends about aches and pains they’re having. I call my mom about any concerns I have and have confided in her my whole life about a range of medical topics. Not being scared to talk to someone, especially your mom, about what’s going on with your body is a huge deal no matter your age, but it was especially amazing when I was younger. She saved me a lot of grief and doctors visits.

5. How to handle crisis situations. I’ve been to the ER a few times myself and have been with friends a couple of times when they needed to go. Some incidents were mild and others were terribly scary. Either way, I have a great poker face and am able to remain calm and get us to where we need to be. I know the best hospitals in my area and how to get to them, and I can tell you roughly how much different things will cost, especially if you’re paying out of pocket. I also know that whenever I’m in a hospital, it’s the nurse (not the doctor) who I want to talk to most. I get it–there’s a three-hour wait in the ER any day of the week. I’ll wait, and I won’t complain.

6. If you love what you do, you don’t need to make a million dollars (though I’m sure it’d be nice). My mom lives in West Virginia, the absolute worst state in the country for nurse salaries. Even though she’s been a nurse for over three decades, she makes the same amount of money now that some of my friends started making by the time they hit 30. But honestly, she rarely thinks about that. She loves what she does, is needed where she lives (and works) and wouldn’t want to do anything else with her life. As a writer who has struggled at several different points in my own career, that’s a passion I can understand and appreciate.

7. Laughter is the best medicine. Cheesy, perhaps, but true. As everyone knows, nurses have great senses of humor. I seem to have inherited my mom’s smart, weird sense of humor and always appreciate a little levity in my day. Another favorite trait? Her reactions to things are always priceless, too. I’ll never forget when she saw my first completed tattoo sleeve. Was she mad that her daughter covered her arm in tattoos? Nope! She just held my arm close to her face, genuinely concerned that a nurse would someday have trouble finding a vein to prick. THAT’S what you’re worried about? Oh, Mom! Love you.

8. Life is short. Sure, a lot of my mom’s patients were older or hadn’t taken great care of themselves. But many others were young and healthy and just unlucky. It was those stories that inspired me to seize my life and take full advantage of my dreams. Instead of creating a bucket list in my mind and forever putting it off, I tick things off my life list every year. I know that while I love living a healthy and proactive life, nothing is guaranteed to me or to those I love. I visit my friends and family around the world at least once a year and hug them a ton. If and when I end up as a patient of a nurse like my mom, I want to be able to say that I really lived and loved my life.

Calling all daughters and sons of nurses! Leave your own insights into being the child of a nurse in the comments below. And nurse moms, be sure to tell us all of your funny and sweet anecdotes about bringing your work home to your kids.



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5 Responses to 8 things I’ve learned as the daughter of a nurse

  1. htarceno

    thank you for this article. it was heartwarming. there is so little to read on the internet these days that’s worth even reading. I don’t care about the Kardashians, or whether Lindsay Lohan is in either jail or rehab, or whether Jennifer Anniston got a new haircut, or Justin Beiber got tattoo, or ‘real housewives’ drama, etc. Gimme a break.

    I am at a very rewarding age where my children are getting to the age, entering their 30’s, where they are starting to appreciate all the blessings of having a nurse for a parent. They are starting to realize the things you described in the article.

    Thank you for sharing

  2. A.J.

    I am just starting my journey into nursing school but can’t wait to start making memories like these with my children. Thank you for enlightening me with your memories.

  3. Kmalkema

    I am a 3rd generation RN. I truly loved this article. It was spot on. My mom is a retired nurse with over 35 years experience working antepartum and post partum nursing. When my nephew was born his umbilical cord snapped in half before it was cut, which caused him to lose a significant amount of blood. Mom was in the room and kept her cool. My sister didn’t even know how serious it was because everyone in the room kept their cool. The one that rings true the most is that money doesn’t matter if you do what you love. I have spent 15 years in nursing and agree completely. I use to be a nurse manager working Monday to Friday. I thought it was a dream job to have, but soon I dreaded going to meeting after meeting with very little one on one patient contact. When I went back to school, I had to stop working Monday to Friday, which meant stepping down from my management role. I have never been happier. I don’t make much per hour working pediatric home care, but that doesn’t matter to me because I am happy knowing I am making a difference in not only the quality of life of my client, but in the lives of the entire family. If I won the lottery, I can honestly say I would not give up my nursing career!

  4. Dawnsusannagy

    I remember that my mother often times would downplay my medical problems. I would eventually receive the care I needed, but every ache and pain or illness would not result in a trip to the ER or doctor. We took care of what we could at home first. I remember being quiet to allow her to sleep when she was on night shift. I remember many family and friends calling for advice. As an adult I too would call just to run info past her before jumping in the car with my own children. I remember calling her as I struggled through nursing school. She would state that it wasn’t going to be easy, but it would be worth it. I now call many times to talk shop and get her take on things going on at work. I many times get a view into something I really didn’t think about, or reassurance for the way I handled a situation. I am lucky that my mom worked in many different disciplines in the medical field, including management. I also have my own children that come to me for medical advice. Experience always gives wisdom, and nursing is a commitment to life long learning! Thanks mom!! :)