Many things are synonymous with nursing…stethoscopes, nursing caps and pins, a solid pair of shoes…but one of nursing’s unsung heroes is our steering wheel.
A day at work that has me on the verge of tears all day has me yearning for that moment when I can stumble to my car, close the door and sob all over my steering wheel. I cry out all of those tears that have been held at bay for the last 12 hours.
Those tears I couldn’t let fall on my face when we were coding that young woman and I couldn’t stop staring at her lifeless hand bouncing on the bed with each chest compression; or the tears I held back when the woman filled with cancer suddenly stopped breathing and her husband became belligerent with grief—so much so that any peace he could have with her death dissipated into that sterile hospital air; or the physical pain I felt when I was turning an emaciated man who was covered in painful weeping skin that was breaking down with every touch and turn; and when I just couldn’t win all day…from chasing a high blood pressure to patients in pain, admission after admission, unstable patient to unstable patient, and frustrated physician to angry family member.
No second could be spared for 12 hours, no moment could be wasted—every single thing I did for the entire shift was for everyone else to get what they needed…and I didn’t pee or eat the entire time. Even then I felt bad, because with each bite I was getting farther and farther behind. And somehow—somehow—it still wasn’t good enough. Something still wasn’t done, or done the right way.
I throw up my hands and step away, just to hold it together; just to hang on a little bit longer until I see that steering wheel.
It’s always there. Always ready and waiting for me to decompress; to mourn; to reflect; to ugly cry; to let go.
Ask any nurse where they tend to let themselves break down. It is always at the wheel.
So, from nurses all over the world…thanks Mr. Steering Wheel. Thanks for letting us get that initial cry out of the way so that when we call our spouse, BFF or mom on the way home and start to cry all over again, we’re already halfway cried out.
Learning how to be a great nurse at the bedside while maintaining your sanity at home is no easy task. Becoming Nursey: From Code Blues to Code Browns, How to Take Care of Your Patients and Yourself talks about how to realistically live as a nurse, both at home and at the bedside…with a little humor and some shenanigans along the way. Get ready: It’s about to get real, real nursey. You can get your own copy at at NurseEyeRoll.com (pdf), Amazon (paperback) or Goodreads (ebook).